Quick! Before Drumpf notices! I jam corpse-white legs into padded lycra shorts. I yank a long sleeve polypro shirt over my head and zip the XXL jersey over my belly. GPS beeps its acknowledgement. Let’s do this.
I step into the gray sunlight, look both ways from the mouth of the Bike Cave, and shove the New Bike outside. Outside! I rocket toward the Plateau at the speed of smell. It’s been a while since I rode, and it’s been an eon since I rode from home.
I plowed slow over Granny Moppet—segment “Granny’s Fanny” on Strava—and rolled up to the toe of Furnace Mountain. Once I was a climber. I cranked my way up and over so many Cumberland Plateau grinds. Furnace was the first. It was my first taste of blood. Well, maybe my own as parts of my lungs hacked up.
The lower crux goes easy as it usually does. It’s too early to give up even though the legs feel hollow. The 1x11 setup works; heck, maybe even better than my road bike with its 27t “granny” gear. A couple of cars pass at the worst possible spot—the second curve—but nothing is coming down the hill so it’s no problem. But then I’m on the narrow section before the upper crux. A quick glance over my left shoulder is all I need to take in the vista over my hometown. The trees are bare but the landscape is dull brown, gray, and the dull off-white of concrete and buildings. Not much to see anyway. It’s a better view at night anyway.
A truck jams past as another car descends. Of course speeding up is the only solution to meeting a bike on the road with an oncoming car. At least he didn’t point a gun at me. Or nudge me off the road. Or throw anything at me.
I keep crawling toward the summit. There’s really no doubt I’m going to ride the whole thing without putting a foot down. Short of trying to tackle the Furnace Mountain climb on the Stupidly Simply Bike I don’t guess there’s anything to really prevent my success at this point in life. Success is somewhat mental anyway. Oh, it’s no giveaway, but it’s also no Cobhill.
At the top I take a hard left off the pavement, duck under a rusty cable (failing to read the nearby warning signs) and pedal into the woods along an old road along a ridge. I pass two small stone buildings with no door. It’s easy enough to dodge the soft spots in the road. And I can’t help but think the broad, flat ridge would be a great place for a system of singletrack trails.
In just a few short minutes the already bare forest opens up. There’s a huge hole in the ridge. It’s an old limestone quarry at the end of the ridge. The hole has only a small opening on the western end. Otherwise is an oblong round-ish affair and probably thirty feet deep. The walls are crumbling vertical ramparts. I always thought the deepest part of the quarry would make for a great post-apocalyptic open air arena like Mad Max’s Thunderdome.
I ride around the perimeter of the upper level of the abandoned operation before descending the narrow road to the level of the lower “arena.” I give it a circuit, climb back to the broad artificial plateau overlooking town, and point my wheel toward home.
The sun is setting though it is obscured by watery clouds. I realize I’m racing the light. I didn’t bring a bike light at all, so I need to be off the road before it’s too dim to be visible. That shouldn’t be a problem as I drop like a space capsule on reentry down Furnace on my plus sized tires with low PSI. Not the best decision I’ve made in recent months.
Still, I survived, cut over Granny Moppet in reverse, and was back on the creek. I rolled up to the mouth of the Bike Cave exactly an hour after having left. Good ride.
I don’t know why I don’t do this more often. Round trip was 7.7 miles. There was little traffic. I only had one pitbull try to gnaw on my ankle. It was absent on the return trip. With some small hand tools I could likely open up a whole network of rough trails on the ridge. But I worry that the rightful owners have game cams and a poor sense of allemansrätten. I think I need to do some research at the PVA and make some inquiries.
Anyway, I rode in lieu of running. While I’ve not had problems enjoying my runs of late I decided to mix it up and break out the ol’ new mountain bike. I’m glad I did. I need to ride more. I’m never going to get back into climbing shape running flat at the park and sitting in the recliner composing creatively destitute blog posts about my mundane daily adventures.