Thursday, April 13, 2017

Hump Day Hills

I know, it's the rare (increasingly less so) mid-week trip report.  This one goes out to Mark--the Crash Test Librarian--as he and I were just exchanging text messages yesterday and the subject of Tharp Ridge came up.  Mark is doing well in his new home in Montana and we still miss him though we are glad he is doing well.  He's bought a house so he's moving toward that eventual day when there are a slew of little Marklets running around stamping dates in books and correcting grammar on various outdoor message boards.  Or not.  Hey Mark!
Before there's too much more ado:
Bean's softball practices have started back up.  This week the weather looked promising for her Wednesday practice in Clay City so I planned a short but severe ride during.  The plan turned out a great crank over some steep little rollers in the river hills between Clay City and Stanton.  
As she shouldered her bat bag I eased the Dogrunner--my faithful sporty sport bike--into the grass next to the new paved walking path at the city park.  Bean hit the field and I hit the road.
Spokes in the sky
The short jaunt over to Pompeii Road (pronounced Pom-pee, aka KY 2026) through town was mellow and then I raced across the floodplain, made a right, and with three minutes of warmup under me started climbing the first short, steep climb.
There was little reprieve before the first fast descent and another steeper but shorter climb.  Rinse and repeat.  The third climb gained Tharp Ridge which rolls relentlessly and gains a little to boot while passing through undeveloped forest.  Then another free fall descent onto Paint Creek.  I turned left toward Upper Paint Creek.  
Ages ago when I first got a sporty sport bike (RIP Giant OCR2) I rode Upper Paint.  There was a chasing dog at the bottom of every wave trough. There's three or four such dips.  Or five.  Or six.  So I had avoided that leg of the loop for years favoring Lower Paint Creek which is flat and stunningly gorgeous without the canine delinquents.  Yesterday I turned my wheel toward uncertainty.  Upper Paint was dogless.  I think there were five short speed bumps.  As I grannied up the last one a car came up beside me.  Inside the SUV were two teenage boys.  The passenger--with a huge grin on his face--extended his knuckled fist out toward me and said: "Fist bump!"  I obliged, they howled with laughter and drove on.  It was hard not to smile after that.  And then I had maybe three miles of big chainring fun dropping out of Upper Paint onto Morris Creek Road (KY 213) racing toward Stanton before angling into Lower Paint at ramming speed.  
I felt fine as I turned the cranks.  There was no dread of the return crossing of Tharp Ridge and Pompeii.  Gaining Tharp Ridge from the Paint Creek side might be the longest, steepest climb on the ride.  As I crawled up I enjoyed the spackled white dogwood blooms mixed in with the still winterbrown woods.  Once the climb was behind me the ridge fell away fast despite the rollers, then then the Beech Fork climb, then the last Pompeii hill, then a speedy descent and I was putting pavement behind me fast as I crossed the river bottoms.  
I turned onto Main Street, took the lane, and turned out the last two blocks of a quick, fun ride.  Clocked in just shy of twelve miles with 930' of gain in about 51 minutes.  Not bad for an old fatty.
Back at the park there were kids riding their bikes on the new path.  There was a group putting kayaks in the river.  It just felt darn good to be finishing up a bike ride in Clay City in a fine spring evening.

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