rabbit tales and a lengthy ramble
Deer season - with rifles - opened Wednesday, which can make life challenging if you like riding off-road. Thursday, I tossed the Trek and its lights into the back of the truck and headed for the Rock.
Along the way, I passed numerous trucks parked at odd points along 505. Hmm. I drove on, and I wasn't terribly surprised that none of the usual suspects were parked at the trailhead. I turned up the iPod-through-iTrip-through-truck-radio combo and flipped on the Smiths. No, I wasn't playing "Meat is Murder" while driving past deer hunters, but I was amused by the way "How Soon is Now" combines the wimpiest whining lyrics of all time with a ferociously masculine guitar part. Oh, well - Morrissey was only human, he needs love like anyone else, right?
Ainsley was there, as well as the speedy guys from what Jim calls "The A-Team." I said hello to Tom, Milo, Josh, Mark and Ashby. Ainsley and I realized Jim and Campbell had already left, so we followed the fast guys out the gate. Of course they went faster up the initial hill - but not by as much as they used to. Josh had problems near the top of the hill, so Ainsley and I cruised on. The fast guys who were waiting at the T took off as we approached, aiming for the steel bridge (a.k.a. Gratin's Bridge).
A moment's deliberation, and we followed. Ainsley was suffering from not taking a rest day in more than a week, but I was feeling good and had warmed up. I closed in on Mark's rear wheel and hung closer than I ever had to the hammer crew. Eventually I had to drop back, if only to keep from killing myself by descending too fast.
At the bottom, we found the
fast crew taking a quick break. Another quick conversation and they were off. We followed at our own pace, finding Josh along the way. He was suffering from pinched nerves and was heading back in to the cars. We said goodbye and rolled on.
Near Memorial Bridge I told Ainsley about an incident I forgot to mention in the blog entry about Tuesday.
"I was on the last stretch back to the Rock when I had to slam on the brakes," I said.
"And why did you have to slam on brakes?"
"So I wouldn't collide with the rabbit on the trail. I figured it would be fatal for him."
"Couldn't you have just, you know, bunny-hopped over him?"
I shook my head. "I knew I was giving that to you, you know that?"
Ainsley laughed and did his Elmer-Fudd-does-Wagner "Kill the Wabbit, Kill the Wabbit!" A moment later, he said, "I think rabbits are in season right now."
"Maybe, but while there's probably rifle and bow seasons, when is it legal to hunt rabbits with bikes? Besides - you know how there's a five-round magazine limit? What if a game warden hassles me for hunting rabbits with 36-spoke wheels when the legal limit is 32?"
A few minutes later I had opened up a gap on Ainsley. I waited for him at a log crossing. He'd apparently had a spill along the way - it really wasn't his night. We pushed on to the road, turning around at the road and heading back in. It was time to switch on lights, and once again I found myself wishing I had a helmet mounted lamp.
A little while later, Ainsley made that same discovery. We were coming up the climb that leads into the switchbacks before the roller coaster when I heard an expletive, followed by silence. Uh-oh. I stopped and turned back around and looked back. No sign of Ainsley, so I turned and rode back down the trail.
He was on his back, head down, feet up, with the bike still between his legs, shaking his head.
"Yeah," he said. "My back wheel went out from under me. Look, you can see it right there."
Even in the dark I could see the groove. "Impressive. Sorry I missed seeing it, I'm sure it was an epic crash."
We finished up the ride at a gentler pace, winding up with 15.9 miles.
Saturday morning was very brisk and cold - about 45 degrees, the coldest morning I'd experienced this fall. I wore wool and lots of it - my old Sergal leg warmers, SmartWool socks and a black long-sleeved wool undershirt and long-sleeved Derby Tweed wool jersey from Rivendell, complete with the new yellow jacket and warm gloves. I had the Carradice Barley saddlebag affixed to Julius' B17 to catch any clothing overflow.
Ainsley was waiting with his old blue Schwinn World Sport converted to fixed-gear - built on a frame from a bike I bought for $5 at the Salvation Army a few years ago. Connie was our only other rider. She was a bit apprehensive about our proposed ride, but we assured her we would amend the ride for her benefit.
We set off for Rock House Road on what we originally thought would be Greenwood-Troy-Greenwood shortened. Somewhere past Stillwell Road I proposed that we take Dendy Bridge Road and go through Bradley and work around to Cedar Springs Road and back on in.
I rode along thinking about Dendy Bridge and wondering if I would be too greatly overgeared. When Ainsley stopped for a natural and Connie and I rolled on, I stopped us a quarter of a mile ahead. It's been a couple of years since I flipped my wheel on the road, but I managed a creditable job of it, snugging things down and dropping my gear from a 71-in down to a 67.
Much better, and I was grateful I h
ad done so when I made the turn onto Dendy and almost immediately felt the back end of the bike try to break loose. Apparently the road had been scraped recently. It was much softer than we remembered it being, and Connie found it all pretty dodgy. I had forgotten how steep the two hills are, but I did okay by sitting back and climbing in the drops in classical British clubman style.
After a strange moment on the short stretch of the highway before turning onto Cedar Grove Road, we outran a junkyard dog and went to the end of the road to see how where it ran into Highway 10. We turned back and headed down along Watson Hill Road. The dirt surface was better than Dendy Bridge Road, but not by much. A couple of times I had to dance on the pedals, but most of the climbs I managed while seated.
When we reached the big rocks, we stopped and congratulated Connie for joining the ranks of those of us who love dirt roads. In her case we were stretching it - I don't think dirt roads on road bikes are quite her cuppa, but she had managed pretty well. We mounted up and headed back to Greenwood via Promised Land. By the time I got home I had 41.24 miles for the day.
Sunday I tossed the Trek into the truck and drove down to the Rock. Jim was the only rider waiting there - Campbell had cancelled due to a conflict. We rode at a gentler pace due to Jim's damaged left knee, heading right down the long hills to the steel bridge. We had turned and started back when I had a slow speed uphill fall - my first of the year. Moments later, we cleared the trail as Milo, Tom, Sean, Pepe, Gratin, Ashby and some young guys I don't know came roaring by in the other direction.
I had a couple of chain slips and stopped for a second to reset the chain tensioner. Whups - I needed wrenches. Jim was on up the trail while I dug out my multi-tool and cinched down the SoulCraft - but I caught up to him near the next big fallen log. Apparently, he'd been talking to himself thinking I was behind him, and he hadn't realized he was alone until he stopped for the log.
We went out to the road and took the trails down past Memorial Brid
ge and through the next section. When we hit the road at the end of the trail, Connie and Donis were waiting - they'd apparently set out after we had. After a very brief chat, we headed back to the Rock in an attempt to keep Jim's knee from cooling off and seizing up.
We were overtaken again by the fast guys, who had apparently done the grand loop of the trails. They were going uphill on the trail about as fast as I ride flat terrain on roads. Once more I fell back behind Jim, feeling Saturday's fixed-gear ride in my legs, but I caught up to him on the last stretch. I wound up with 16.1 miles for the day and was glad to finish the ride in one piece.