Monday, May 23, 2016

Dauntless on the Dawkins

We’ve been talking about it forever.  Mandy and I rode a small section of the Dawkins Line after the 2013 KBBC Conference at Jenny Wiley.  That was in November and the morning we rode it was…brisker than brisk.  Instead of doing the entire 17 mile trail out and back that day we ended up riding from Hager Hill to Swamp Branch and back. 
Dawkins 2013
And so we’ve kicked the idea around ever since.  The western end of the trail is only about an hour from home.  The logistics of moving two or three kids and bikes for four or five of us was daunting.  That’s the main reason we’ve kept away.  That, and Bean was too little to keep up on her pink princess bike.  But now she’s geared like the rest of us so it’s all different.  We can go as a group and everyone can have fun. We don’t have to leave anyone behind (You never leave a man behind!) and we don’t have to wait on anyone.
Well…she still the littlest, so we were moving at a bean’s pace.  But I jump ahead.
The night before Mandy said: “We should do the Dawkins tomorrow.”
I was all over that.  Except…I wasn’t.  At 8:30 the next morning she looked over at me as we both lay in bed and said: “I’m leaving in half an hour.”
I had done nothing to get ready for the ride.
Needless to say we didn’t get out of the door before 10am.  As we turned east onto the Mountain Parkway I observed that if we rode regularly we wouldn’t have had to spend so much time getting bikes ready and wrestling the logistics alligator and we could have been gone an hour earlier.  Mandy agreed.
We’re driving time halfway between the Legacy Trail in Lexington and the Dawkins Line near Salyersville.  One is urban and paved and one is rural and “natural” surface.  While I like the Legacy Trail just fine the Dawkins is more my cuppa tea.  I just don’t understand why we let small obstacles keep us away for so long.
The Smallest Obstacle was excited about riding the trail.  She wanted to see the tunnel and ride over bridges.  Until we were a mile from the trailhead.  And then she wanted to go home.  Big, heaving sigh.
She's riding a Specialized, but that look is all Surly
While the Dawkins is a nice fine aggregate surface there is a fair bit of horse traffic and the trail is not as smooth as some other similar trails I’ve been on.  And so it was jostling the Bean as she rode along with her 35 psi tires.  Finally I interrupted her meltdown with a simple yet firm: “Get off your bike.” I dropped about 10 psi from each tire and bode her continue on down the trail.  She took off like a rocket and didn’t complain so much about how much the trail hurt her after that.  Note to self…
We passed back through Royalton and solved the mystery of where was Tommy.  Instead of driving out with us he opted to meet us on the trail.  We’d seen him from the road as we searched for the trailhead, but lost him and figured he’d find us as we rode along chasing Bean.
Approaching downtown Royalton
We had parked at the trailhead just west of Royalton and Tomahawk had stabled the Jeep Beast at the main trailhead in “downtown.”  Again, we figured he'd catch us—or not—so we continued on toward Gun Creek Tunnel at a breaknail pace.
Dawkins is intimate with its community.  Homes are right up against the trail in places.  You definitely feel like you’re riding right through someone’s yard at times.  But at no time does it feel threatening.  I wondered continuously how it would feel to live on the trail so close to strangers moving back and forth.  But the reality is that we all live along roads with jackasses speeding loudly up and down past our homes.  The trail can’t be as adverse an impact as living alongside a busy road or street.
We finally reached Gun Creek Tunnel.  As we approached the tunnel it didn’t seem to be over six hundred feet long.  But then as you pass into the mouth the light at the far end seems to quickly retreat.  Out in the middle its dark enough that you can’t see the walls or the floor of the passage.  At the far side we opted to turn around and head back.  That would give us twelve miles total when we got back to the trailhead (we rode two miles west before turning back toward the tunnel to the east which was four miles from where we parked).

While it wasn’t obvious as we approached the tunnel that we had been climbing it was evident as we started picking up speed as we rode west.  Bean wanted to race.  So her mom and I gave chase, passed her, and settled into a comfortable cruise through the pleasant air.
We finally lagged to let her catch up, and as my tuckered little Bean pulled alongside me I noticed her front tire was alarmingly soft.  A flat.  And we had no 24” tube with us.  And, as it turned out, no Schrader compatible pump. 
I launched off toward the car as fast as the Slutty Single Speed would allow (at one point Lily asked me which gear I was in.  “All of them,” I replied).  Mandy hung back and they tried to ride as far as they could while I went for the SAG Wagon.
Tommy sat on the bench by the trail with his Niner leaned against the kiosk as I came pedaling furiously into Royalton.  I stopped briefly to explain what was going on but ended up having to get off the bike and look at the map with him while my wife (his daughter) and my daughter were left alone in the wilds of Magoffin County pushing two mountain bikes.  But then I was off for the other trailhead a mile hence and Tom began pedaling east down the trail to intercept my girls.
In the end it was a great day.  The weather was perfect and fun was had by all.  We’re already talking about going back soon.   

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