Internal Detours
Saturday, April 15, 2006
  fixed-gears in warm weather

I was running late this morning, and wondering who would be waiting for me at the fountain this morning. At 9:05 I showed up for the 9:00 ride and found - no one. About five minutes later I saw Ainsley riding up from his office down the street. We chatted for a moment, and suddenly Kickstand Danny drove up with his new bike hanging off a trunk-mounted rack.

"I'll need your hood there, Danny," I said, and I spread out the enormous map on the hood of his car. Fabricated by photocopying numerous pages from the 1989 S.C. road atlas, it covered Greenwood, Abbeville, and portions of Laurens, Saluda, Edgefield, McCormick and Newberry counties. Ainsley made properly appreciative noises, particularly since he'd left his map at the office.

It emerged that Danny would be turning off early so he could attend a prior commitment, so I proposed a route he could turn off and do a short loop from, while Ainsley and I set out for a longer jaunt.

"Let's go down Rock House. You can cut off onto Whitehall, then hook a right onto Briarwood and head back into town," I said. Danny nodded - he'd done that route in reverse a couple of times. "Meanwhile, Ainsley and I will go on down to the end of Rock House, go right, then left onto Millpond. We'll go right on Millway, which becomes Cedar Springs, then go back through Promised Land and back to Greenwood. Sound good?"

Apparently it did, because we headed out. We went down the length of the trail, avoiding Mineral Court - there was a shooting there last weekend, and I figured I'd pass on ducking bullets - and we maintained a conversational pace. The wind was up, and I spent a lot of time in the drops.

I made the mistake of mentioning that Ana had made some oat milk last night, which led to the inevitable conversation about oatmeal that Ainsley and I always wind up having. We hadn't reached Florida Avenue when he said, "We're in trouble. We normally don't have this conversation until several miles later. We're gonna be hungry."

"Yeah, you're right," I said. "I'm sure we'll regret this."

The Rock House was its usual enigmatic self, a little less visible due to new vegetation. My hands were getting numb from bouncing over the bumpy tarmac, and I wondered how I'd feel in a few miles. A few minutes later, Danny peeled off and we headed for the Greenwood County Steppe - a ridge that had been clear cut and was only now starting to grow back. The wind was in our faces, of course.

I worried about Millpond Road. I had led a bunch of riders onto that road about five years ago and discovered it had been re-gravelled in the week between my scouting trip and the group ride. Today, there was some relatively fresh rock in the first few hundred yards, but it rapidly settled down to a tight, well-packed mix of red clay and sand. Later, I realized that the 1.8 miles of Millpond were an oasis of smooth road surrounded by miles of bumpy tar and gravel roads.

Our route went right, but we went left for a moment so we could check out Calabash Road.

"There it is," I said. "The Gateway to Troy starts here."

Ainsley looked at it. "Tempting. Wish we had time," he said.

"When do you need to be back?"

"Oh, a little before 2:00 if I'm to be home by 2:30," he said.

I calculated, then nodded. "Not today, but sometime soon," I said. And we will do it, because there are a whole mess of interesting looking dirt roads out that way.

We took some pictures, then headed out along what I am told was once a Confederate supply route that runs through Abbeville. The fierce dogs I remembered from past rides were gone, or asleep, or something, and we rumbled along over the bumps in peace. We did, however, spook a bunny. He darted out from the right side of the road and ran in front of us for 20 yards or so before he ducked into the underbrush to the left and disappeared. Our laughing chorus of "Kill the wabbit, kill the wabbit!" probably hastened his flight.

We crossed Highway 221 with not a car in sight and hit the rollers at a touring pace. The last time I'd done the descents on this road, I was on Belle, and had coasted down in an aero tuck. Today, I went slower, controlling the speed with my feet and and spinning steadily. The second descent let us out onto a bridge that spans a great little swampy wetland.

"I'm almost tempted to stop to take some pictures," I said.

"All right," Ainsley said. "Let's check out this little spur here."

The spur took us down to the edge of a pond surrounded by beaver-gnawed stumps. We both broke out our $9 pencams and went to town. About that time, Ainsley realized he had indeed lost a water bottle on one of the descents, so he doubled back.

I rode back out onto the bridge and took some more photos. I just missed getting a picture of an enormous snapping turtle - I saw him gliding ever deeper into the water under the bridge. I admired a beaver dam and watched the large black butterflies. Ainsley had earlier told me of the kamikaze Tiger Swallowtails that zeroed in on his head while riding, and we speculated on what would happen if you gave a male Tiger Swallowtail large doses of testosterone. Would you get a big butterfly that demanded beer and swatted women on the butt while demanding sandwiches? Hopefully, we'll never know.

I was beginning to think I would need to go check on him when he came back down the hill. The bottle had fallen out of the saddle-mounted cage two miles back. One more climb, and we passed Watson Hill Road and were back on our route from two weeks ago.

I had wondered if we would encounter anyone from the 10:00 ride, but they must have taken another route. We stopped to take pictures one more time - in Greenwood, Victory Road is a dead end - and wound up having a conversation in the middle of the road with Stephen Shenal, one of our faster local riders.

I was feeling the miles by the time we hit downtown, but it was nice knowing I could have gone further. Still, my water bottles were empty, I'd eaten my last sandwich, and it was time to go home. I spun along at a steady pace and was home a few minutes after 1:00 with 44.09 miles for the day.
 
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