Monday, May 18, 2015

Bluffing Wiley

No matter how furiously I pedaled I was not going to outpace Jeaphre. It was not wise to take point into the Floyd County jungle in the deplorable state of fitness such as I have persisted lo these past few months.

Wait, how had I gotten in front? I let him go in first, and somehow I got ahead of him descending bermed switchbacks with painfully tight radii. My riding partner wouldn't be reigning in on the brakes like I am habituated to do. When we hit the nadir of the holler we were traversing I yanked myself to the side of the trail.

Jeaph started climbing like the beast he is. I trailed behind mumbling puns to myself for a climbing turn or two and then resigned myself to pedestrian progress. It wasn't that I outright surrendered to my inner wussitude. I rode when I could, but relentless upward progress was not within my 1x9 capabilities on that particular trail. Halfway up I climbed back in the saddle and rode consistently until I had gained the aesthetic ridge. That whole section from the parking lot seemed like a fresh cut. We'd find out later when we ran into local Don Fields that it was two months old.

Aptly named

A breeze wove through the dappled green canopy around us. The weather was perfect like you might dream of from your cubicle or a sick bed. Turning the pedals felt natural. True, I was shut down on the steep climb, but as we charged on through the forest above I felt strong. Mentally I was a bit stiff.  Synapses blew out the winter crud and fired in tight sequence as the miles passed through me.

“Huh?” Jeaph pulled up short at a hand painted sign indicating “The Bluff.” Each section's length and difficulty was indicated in rough lettering. Sections were categorized as “Fast/Steep” and “Tight/Technical.”

At first I didn't see how the sections that had been signified as fast and steep or tight and technical were exactly that. But the intensity built as we barreled along. I finally started to feel in the groove but that feeling was short lived as we tore through the last technical section and hit some truly steep and wickedly tight bermed switchbacks. They were too fast for my comfort so I walked them. Apparently I am not an “advanced” rider.

After the last challenging section the trail passed through what is typically known as a Cherokee Marker Tree. I am kicking myself for not getting a photo, but it was pretty cool to have to duck under the trunk which long ago had been bent to almost touch the ground making an archway.

Jeaph then got his sights set on this long steep climb that must have been part of the old “Mountain Bike Trails” that show up on the state park trail map. I tried to talk him out of it, but he kept going and going and going. I walked my bike up the long slog visiting dire deeds upon Jeaph in my mind.

Finally we turned back downhill. In short order we passed a campground. I begged off to visit the facilities. Unfortunately Jeaph saw a space shuttle jouncy toy at the campground playground. While his idea was funny, he actually wanted to go through with it, and that was a problem.

I fiddled around until a found the ten second timer in my cellphone's camera app. Then I absolutely failed to prop my phone up to take the photo. Jeaph was able to figure his camera out and the timer started to beep. We ran to the child's toy and both climbed on as fast as we could. What were we thinking?!

That it was better to use the timer than to ask the random stranger jogging through the campground to take the photo of us instead.

I know how this looks, but its not what you think

We finished our ride—sort of—and Jeaph wanted to explore one other fork in the trail near the parking area. I kept saying I needed to get home. I had promised to (try to) be home by 5pm. It was twenty to four when we reached the trailhead the first time. Jenny Wiley is a solid ninety miles from home.

“Do you think we can be rolling out of here by four?” I asked. There was really no arguing with Jeaph. So we took off up the ridge once again. But the second time we ended up looping back on that initial section and that's where we ran into local fitness and bike shop owner Don Fields. He was slogging up the new climbing switchbacks and we were bombing down them.

We chatted for a few minutes and Jeaph found out Don owned the shop in P-burg.  As we parted ways Jeaph offered: “We'll check out your shop on the way out.”

I cringed. Jeaph is a shopping fool. Be it first take retail or second hand glop he will pilfer through bins, comparative shop, harass employees for deals, and generally camp out in a retail establishment until I start getting angry texts asking where the @#$! I am and when the @#$% I'm coming home. My wife is not an angry person, but Jeaph can keep me out so long that she becomes an angry person.

When I gave him directions out of the state park he asked if the road we were turning on would take us to the bike shop.

“If you don't mind can we head on home? I told Mandy I would be home by five.” It was far too late to keep that promise.

“Really? What, do you have to get home and do dishes or change the oil in your car?”

I explained that I had agreed I would be home by five and therefore I needed to try and be home by five. Goodnaturedly Jeaph headed west. But as we were on the outskirts of Prestonsburg and I mentioned that we could stop and get a milkshake he was curt: “Nope, got to get you home.”

I took out my phone a little ways down the road to take a pic of the construction on the Mountain Parkway. Jeaph made as if to block my photo. “No! No time for pictures! We have to get you home!”

And that's the fundamental difference between Jeaph and I. I'm content to get in my ride and retreat back to the Bikeport. Jeaph likes to maximize his time away. Once he's out he's going to stay out until he has no reason not to go back home. And that's okay. But I am okay with missing opportunities. You can't do it all, and I got to do what I wanted.

The new mountain bike trails at Jenny Wiley are pretty amazing. I want to go back. That Bluff Trail is more challenging and technical than anything else I've ridden in Kentucky. It made me think of some of the rocky trails on North and South Table Mountain in Golden (that's Colorado). I miss grinding all over the mesas. I miss the trails out west.

And while I like Bluegrass flow trails I miss the amazingly good proprioceptie stimulation that is a good rocky, technical mountain bike trail. I think it's time I got started making it a reality in my neck of the woods.

More on flow trails tomorrow.

Closeup of my Strava track for the day

Trails in relation to lodge: lodge is below "Dewey Lake" on this map

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