Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Kentucky State of Flow

Who is Ben Hawes? Jeaph texted.

Had he heard a word I had said the day before? I'd told him I was going to Owensboro for a conference and had even asked him if he'd ever ridden at Ben Hawes. He'd said no.

His text was in response to my own text informing him that the trails there struck buttocks podiatrially.

We finally got it sorted out. I had wolfed down my conference fare and bolted for the trails during the lunch session. The Rudy Mines area at Ben Hawes was only about five minutes from the convention center. I made a quick superman change in the parking lot and tore off into the woods. The daily directional sign was easy enough to figure out and I was stoked there were only two cars in the parking lot. My mind and legs were somewhat loosened up from my ride at Jenny Wiley with Jeaph the day before. Right out of the gate I was carving and cranking!

I was somewhat sluggish for the first ten minutes, but I was still crushing the pedals like a madman. I eased into berms and kept a finger on my brake levers through each screaming descent. Finally all of my cylinders were firing, all of my synapses were blazing, and I stopped being so hesitant to let the bike roll through obstacles.

Nothing was technical like Jenny Wiley. It was pure flow trail. And find a state of flow I did. I knew I was deep in it when I almost started getting bored. I was so in the moment that I stopped looking around and seeing where I was. The terrain out there in Western Kentucky is a little different. The soil is different. But a trail is a trail is a trail. And I kept right on riding for all I was worth.

Where Jenny Wiley changed character constantly and was a technical challenge, Ben Hawes was fairly homogenous and the true challenge there was learning the nuances of the landscape well enough to anticipate what was around the next berm. I tried to open it up as much as possible. By mile four I was no longer thinking about the possibility of coming up on a hiker or trailrunner and trusting in providence to keep the path ahead clear.

Then the true state of flow enveloped me and I was one with the bike and the trail.

I rejoined the shorter easy green loop and was back at the trailhead in no time after that. I had ridden at least seven and a half miles in about an hour on a completely unfamiliar trail. I changed back into conference clothes and raced into town for the next session.

At the end of the day (after a great panel discussion on sustainable practices in Kentucky!) I decided to head back out to the trail for another go-round. I needed more food, but I hoped a gel and a sleeve of Clif Blocks would hold me over.

The second pass was much faster. And while the parking lot was jammed with people I didn't see another mountain biker once I got out of sight of the parking lot. I did see the same trailrunner three times, but he could hear my Hope hub coming and he was always standing to the side of the trail when I did come up on him.

That second ride around Ben Hawes was perfect. I went all out, pedaling like my life depended on it where I needed to build momentum, and standing on the pedals and gliding over the ground when I could maximize the well designed trail. Much like the day at Jenny Wiley the weather was perfect. It wasn't too hot, and being under the heavy canopy I was able to forego my sunglasses.

The one downfall of such a great flow trail is that for a solid hour I could hardly take a hand free of the handlebars to grab a drink from my bottle. But I rode without stopping for that hour with a big stupid grin on my face.

A second lap wasn't enough for me to learn the trail well enough to ride from memory, but I felt well-schooled on Daviess County topogragy and what I couldn't remember I was much better able to read on the fly as I absolutely tore it up on my second trip.

According to Strava I tore nothing up. But I was consistently in the top half—or close to it—of most segments.

Ben Hawes/Rudy Mines was my first foray into Western Kentucky mountain biking. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it—not that I didn't expect to—but I was thinking I'd find something along the lines of Veteran's Park. Ben Hawes was a level of quality better than VP.

Hawes just flowed better than VP. Where VP is a lollipop Hawes was a double loop, backtracking. The terrain is less homogeneous than at VP. It's all wooded where VP has the feel of a utility corridor (because it basically is).

I didn't ride any of the double track. And I'm not above riding non-singletrack. I was just jazzed to be on such fantastically built flow trail. But the singletrack alone was about 7.75 miles.

After a second go 'round at BH I retreated back to my hotel. I ate quite a bit. And I set my alarm for 7:15 so I could make the first conference session at 8:30am. I slept fairly well, but woke up around 3am before falling back to sleep. I woke finally to full sunlight. I sat bolt upright and grabbed my cellphone. 6:20. Being on the edge of an alien time zone had skewed my perception.

Since I was wide awake and had almost two hours before I had to be across town I decided to go out on my mountain bike and explore Owensboro's greenbelt trail. I couldn't get there straight from the hotel, but I managed to find my way to it easy enough. It's a nice trail along Horse Fork. I took photos to take back to good old pee oh cee oh.

I managed thirteen miles out and back on the greenbelt trail. I kept thinking it is facilities like that multiuse trail that we need to see in my small hometown. Planning for that type of transportation is what I truly want to do. I've educated myself over the past few years about the issues and why planning and building for active transportation is important. I think its time I focus on the second phase of my education: how to plan and build bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.

I'm off to a good start. I'm nearing pinning up the rough draft of the Powell County Bicycle & Pedestrian Master Plan. And before I even have a completed draft an opportunity has opened up. I'm not going to go into details just yet, but I have managed to evoke some positive change in my community. The seed is planted. The watering has begun.  

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