Monday, December 19, 2016

Gorge Gravel Grind

I didn't ride the Easy Rider Cycling "Gravel at the Gorge" ride this past Sunday.  At least I didn't ride all of it.  Jason had asked me if I would help out based on my familiarity with the area.  I drove a second vehicle to help herd the gravelly cats as they rode a tour of all the gravel roads in the Gorge proper.  The only part I rode was from the steel bridge to Indian Creek and back; about ten miles, and then I drove along with the group, retrieving wayward riders, and eventually helping to collect everyone at the posh lunch stop.
Jason provides food, drink, a camp fire, chairs, warm water for tea or hot chocolate, and the comfort of knowing your back is gotten.  On a cold day like this past Sunday an Easy Rider trip is just the ticket.  While you could go do this ride on your own it was nice to have a SAG stop partway through the ride to gather, warm up, refuel, and then press on. 
Six hardy souls rode down to the Red River Gorge from Lexington.  They were rewarded with steady just-above-freezing temps, lonely roads, and some of the best scenery in the world.  I know, eastern Kentucky in winter is a bit drab and gray, but with all the foliage off the trees you can see more of the infamous Corbin Sandstone that the Red is famous for.  That makes for unforgettable views.
The temperature stayed resolute at just above freezing and we were treated to a light snowfall up on the ridge while we sat around the fire.  For me that is the best way to get into the spirit of Christmas.  There’s nothing like being out in the woods when there’s snow a-flyin’.  Nothing.  And I would rather be nowhere else on earth on any given winter’s day than in the Gorge. 

I might have ridden more with the group if not for my late sickness.  My lungs aren’t back to 100% just yet, and the ten miles I rode taxed me enough.  I couldn’t keep up with even the slowest of the group—which is not like me at all—and if I tried to ride and talk at the same time my lungs burned.  I opted for a warm Jeep for the remainder of the day after coming back from Indian Creek.  I had a couple of tankards of coffee to sooth my lightly bruised ego as well.
The route was really good and Jason and I both agreed it would be a great staple gravel ride for the area. Thirty-five of the sixty-three mile route is gravel roads.  The rest of the paved roads are part of the Red River Gorge Scenic Byway and take you through the heart of the Red River Gorge past numerous trailheads and overlooks.  This route capitalizes on everything that is legally rideable in the area with the exception of a few mostly unknown singletrack trails.

For me this would make a grand front porch ride too.  The regular Gorge loop on the road bike is a fifty-three mile ride for me.  Doing the Gorge Gravel from home for me would translate to about ninety miles which would be a great distance for me to work back up to.
The other aspect of this is that people are getting more and more on board with the idea of cycling and mountain biking in the Gorge area.  Momentum is building.  With the increasing interest in the Sugarcamp Mountain Trails to our east in Prestonsburg, the resurgence of Cave Run as a mountain biking destination, and of the efforts of myself and a few others in the Gorge area to build trails and trail opportunities things are changing.  It feels like we're getting ready to hit critical mass as well.


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