Monday, March 20, 2017

Bike Culture Club

I may have become inspired to start riding again.  I mean, on the road and over longer distances.  Maybe it’s time to dance with traffic again.  Climb these many hills.  Shake off the shadows of gravity and climb into the sky…

I had a great weekend.

Friday I had invited anyone who wanted to come for the first ever Oddball Friday Red River Gorge mountain bike ride.  So far there are only two in the Oddball club, but I expect that number to climb.  

Kenny from Hazard showed up and he and I rode the west side of the Tarr Ridge 77 trails.  We didn’t get far and I showed him the hidden abandoned logging road I had found when I rode with Bean.  We wandered down and down and down that ol road throwing deadfall out of the way, riding our bikes a little ways, walking and chucking deadwood, and finally we left the bikes and hiked the last bit to the end of the ridge.  It was a full half a mile long from where it left the main doubletrack. 

When rode back up and continued on out the main ridge toward the “Dark Hollow” trail.  But shortly after getting back on track Kenny rode over a small stump and punctured his tire.  We spent a good bit of time trying to patch his tube and then changing to a fresh one, and as we finished up we heard thunder and noticed it was getting dark.  So the first Oddball Friday ride was cut short and we ended up just shy of two miles of riding and were chased out of the parking lot by a sudden heavy rain just after we were both loaded up. Kenny invited me to come down and ride around Hazard sometime, and I think I need to.  It sounds like he has a lot of potential in his area too.

Saturday dawned overcast and dreary.  There wasn’t much hope for warmth or sun on my Tarr Ridge tour ride.  I’d invited folks to come see what was there to ride and to talk about the potential and possibilities for future trails there.  But my little mountain bikers heart swelled when I reached the 77 parking lot right at 9:00am and saw it was full of cars with bikes hanging off of them at all kinds of odd angles.  Counting myself there were ten.

Kris was lagging—he’d forgotten his bike shoes and had to backtrack to Irvine—so we went out the east side of the 77 trails first because it was a simple out and back and I could text him the directions: “Ride the trail behind the RRG sign.”  The group moved pretty quick out the ridge. Dave and I stopped to clear one log as the rest of the mountain bikers continued on following Josh. He’s another Clark Countian and he’s been riding Tarr Ridge a lot lately too.

We all collected out on the cool overlook about a mile and a half out the ridge.  The group lingered there marveling at how good the trail was, how amazing the views were (the fog was clearing and the sun was peeking out), and exchanging stories and talking about bikes and gear and just generally having a good time.  Kris finally caught us just as we were heading back to the parking lot. Rinse, ride and repeat.  We did it all again, but finally we headed south toward the 77 parking lot and the final leg onto the “Dark Hollow” trail.

The view at the end of FR 173

We lost one at the trailhead as he was still having trouble with a leaking tube, but the rest of the group continued south along the doubletrack, left at the wildlife opening, and then onto the really cool user created singletrack through a dark stand of pines, tightly twisting amongst the trees, over small logs, and finally out a really nice narrow ridge to the final stout crank to the knob at the end of the ridge. Dave took a plunge into the rhodo but came up laughing as I snapped his photo before giving him a hand out.

We scrambled along the edge of the cliff at the end down to the top of Bedtime for Bonzo, and finally turned toward the parking lot for one last time.  We made the side detour that Kenny and I had cleared of deadfall the night before and eventually returned to our cars with about fifteen miles under our lycra waistbands and big smiles all around.  Along the way we all talked about other rides we've done and would like to do.  I think the demand for a Red River Gorge of-road cycling community is apparent.  The seeds have not only been planted, but are sprouting and thriving.

The race planning is going well.  Mandy and I went out Sunday afternoon to look at tow aid station locations.  I know them well, but I’ve never been at either location thinking: this would be a good spot for an aid station, I think it should be set up thusly. So we visited them both and stood there thinking this would be a good spot for an aid station, I think it should be set up thusly.  And we discussed some issues and had a couple of epiphanies and we’re certain we’ve got those two spots pinned down.

Afterward we drove over into Estill County and hiked the 0.7 miles down to Cottage Furnace from Marble Yard Road.  The access road is closed.  We poked around the furnace for a little bit and then hiked out.  It was a decent little outing and we had a good time hanging out.  That area is nice and has a lot of potential, but it seems like there’s a good possibility that maybe in the past it’s been ill-treated and that’s why the Forest Service has closed the facility.

On the drive out we discussed a hypothetical gravel bike ride that would incorporate all of the best / worst climbs in the area.  When we got home I mapped it out, discussed a few tweaks, and came up with a route that starts and ends in Stanton, covers 67 miles, and gains and loses 6,700’ of elevation.  There are eight pretty tough climbs on the route.  Most everything else is rolling terrain. The only downfall is that there are five miles of mandatory gravel and the rest is paved.  But it’s all adventure riding!

This might be more epic than the hundred mile race…

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