Monday, November 17, 2014

Even if the Horse is Sober

As I mentioned I'd had a scheme to bikepack the 120 miles from home to Greenbo riding through Cave Run, Carter Caves State Park and Greenbo along the way in order to get to the KBBC (KY Bicycle and Bikways Comission) annual conference.  I'm still very glad, at this juncture in my fitness, that I chose not to make that big ride.  But what an incredible adventure it would have been!

Instead I rode over with local cycling legend—in his own mind and otherwise—Joe Bowen.  We had a good drive over.  It was a couple of hours, and we only saw one distracted driver plow into a guardrail.  But once we got into the park I was chomping at the bit to hit the trails at the state park.  Joe brought his road bike, but I think the allure of sitting in front of the roaring fire in the lodge with his book was too much.  I'm cursed with an ingrained override for that kind of allure.  It appeals to me, but it's not movement.

Close enough, I guess?

I tore away from the lodge at a Leadville and a half pace on The One.  I was dressed to the nines with my cycling tights, a thick long sleeved poly shirt under my new slick Kentucky Century Jersey, and shoe covers over my MTB shoes.

I found the Michael Tygart Trail easily but opted to continue on down to the boat dock and pick it up at the other end.  The lower terminus of the loop is on the lake and traces the shoreline.  Had to see that first.  It was well worth hauling the bike halfway across the state.

That initial section of the trail was more Skullbuster than Laurel Lake though, and it promised fine things to come.  Only a few moments into my ride and I was sporting a huge bug-eating (if it had been warmer) grin.

More Laurel Lake and less Skullbuster here though

I did NOT crash.  And the leaves were DEEP!

The most incredible thing was that someone had carved out a sliver of trail through the deep carpet of newly fallen leaves with either a leaf blower or—if they were insanely hard core—a rake for many miles of the trail I rode.  I assumed a leaf blower was used but there were places where it looked more like the leaves had been raked.  Anyway, as I rode I continually thanked my leaf removing trail angel.

Michael Tygart turned from the lake up a sometimes swampy drainage, but despite also sharing with horses through that long section the trail was in fine mountain biking condition.  While the creek/swamp section was my least favorite it was still a good trail and lots of fun.

There was a hike-a-bike slog up a long steep hill to connect up with the Clay Lick Loop.  I'd started looking forward to seeing what the ridgetop trail was going to be like, but first I had to manhandle my bike up the surprise climb.  Maybe with a 3x9 setup could I have climbed it, but probably not in my wretched state of mountain biking fitness.  But I slogged up it regardless and found myself toed up to Clay Lick Loop.  I had no idea what I was in for.

The first part is the stem of the lollipop.  It hadn't been cleared of leaves, but it was the most fun rollercoaster flow trail I've ever been on.  If it had been cleared I probably wouldn't have ridden the rest of the loop; I would have just pedaled it back and forth frantically until I died from bonking.

At the loop split the trail did happen to be cleared again and for the first time on the ride I got me ole trusty mountain bike up to ramming speed.  The speeder bike chase was on.  Flow was achieved.  According to local trail maven (and as I found out at the conference: leaf blower captain) Josh Qualls that part of the trail is completely natural despite appearing to be finely crafted by mountain biking gnomes.

Clay Lick Loop (with leaf blower treatment) is a great trail. It's a bit easier than the lower part of Michael Tygart and much faster winding in and out of numerous ridge fingers.  My bug-gathering grin grew and grew until the top of my head dang near fell off.

All of the trails are well-marked with signs and blazes.  One thing that really tangles my chain is a trail system with poor wayfinding infrastructure.  That is not a problem at Greenbo.

The conference was once again most excellent.  There were many great presentations.  I strongly encourage Kentucky cyclists of all persuasions to attend this conference next year.  The conference itself is free.  If it's near your community...bonus!  If not it's worth staying overnight, riding in the area where the conference is held, and meeting and networking with other enthusiasts from around the state.

While there is much networking and relationship building that can occur, you'll also learn a lot and have plenty to take back home.  For example: did you know that the bicycle is recognized as a vehicle subject to KRS and much like equestrians bicyclists can be charged with DUI if stopped while inebriated?

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