Saturday, June 18, 2011

Day 5: Let the mt climbing begin

Day #5) June 17, 2011. Moorefield, WVa to Judy Gap WVa – 55 miles in 5:01 hrs.

Ok, so you’re not going to get the blog on time. Just zero service out here in the Judy Gap area. This is a cellular dead zone for sure. So I’m hoping to post Saturday afternoon after our ride to Cass, WVa. The cell service is a huge issue out here. I mean you’re good on one side of the mt and dead on the other. It makes riders and support vehicle almost a guessing game.

So with that in mind, here’s the scoop on the route. Due to the major gaffs in the WVa county maps from yesterday, and the several very sketchy situations that could have presented themselves today, not to mention the total lack of cell service in nearly every hollow and valley we’ve been through, we decided to make our way to Cass, for the Greenbrier Trail on marked roads - asphalt. I’m finding out real fast that to do this right you need: satellite cell and internet service to stay in touch with the support vehicle at all times, and a 4-wheel drive machine to negotiate all the terrain you’re trying to ride through. I’m also finding out that the maps I have for all these WVa counties labeled 2008, have not been updated in decades. They just keep reproducing the maps with no amendment to the road systems. It’s pretty crazy. Ditto with anything that’s on google maps. Google earth maps are actually worse than the county maps.

Hell I checked out my mapping from yesterday in the motel and it was all correct – according to my WVa County maps and google earch - but as Nick had told me: “don’t believe any of the crap on google earth.” He was right on. So many of the supposed “thru” roads are now just a part of people’s private property, or just totally deadended at a certain point.

So I had a route scanned out last night and Bill had a route. We went with Bill’s route today. Because honestly, either of us could hit a homerun or totally strike out. No mater. So we got going out of the motel with the sky looking really black to our south – the way we were going. Weather was calling for the chance of scattered thunderstoms throughout the day, so it was a roll of the dice. I rung up the local Doppler on my computer and it showed the storms moving out of our path within the hour. So we beat feet and got on the road by 9am. Took a main road to start with, Rt 220/28 and then veered off to a very nice little township rd. I was pure paradise. Judy was up first to ride with me, and she just loved it. Darned near zero cars and just a super wilderness feel to the ride. We took this to Petersburg, and then jumped on another small county route – again, a homerun with respect to the sights and traffic. Nary a car passed us every 15 min. This section was through a valley with a gazillion climbs – some stiff, others gentle and long. But it was WVa for sure – wild and wonderful.

Bill jumped on the bike at about 3 hrs in, just in time for the boatload of climbing – the climb from Kline to Upper Tract, and then the 10-mile gradual climb through Monongahela national Forest. This section of riding was just off the charts stellar. Talk about no traffic, I mean we were devoid of anything for nearly an hour. The road was asphalt, but it was about a lane wide and just narrow and winding along this little run. We climbed the whole time, but very gently. Made for total enjoyment. This is all part of Spruce Knob/Seneca Rocks Nat. Rec. Area. I had told both Judy and Bill how rides like that, through such spectacular areas, those were what kept me doing this cross country stuff. It was just surrealistic riding through that stretch of mountain road. I felt so alive and aware of my surroundings. It was like a wake-up call on life.

Bill was just in awe of the ride to. Now we were not dogging it, but with all the climbing averaging any more than like 10 mph was pretty difficult – and that’s with NO load to haul! This stuff was middle cookie almost the whole time – and I found this to be the case because I just got totally sick and tired of shifting into the big ring for descent. So I went low gears on the middle ring for descents and big gears on the middle ring for climbs. That rhythm felt way better then going in and out of big and middle ring. And let me tell you, on some of the stiffer climbs, it was middle ring with the pie plate on the back . No hero stuff here, not with 5 hours of riding to do through the mts.

So this stretch through the National Forest I had figured at about an hour, and all of a sudden we’d gone past a sign for Rt 33 and descended 2 miles down to Rt 220. We’d finished way too early. Worse yet I had signaled Judy to just go on ahead of us instead of following us, so I feared that she made the right turn while we had made the wrong turn. And no cells out there – it was deadsville. So I was hoping that Judy had made the same wrong turn as we had. If not things could get shaky. Well, turns out she did indeed make the same wrong turn, and was waiting for us at the Rt 220 jcn. Didn’t take me but a second to suggest that Judy ferry us back up the 2-mile climb to where we screwed up so we could continue from there. Hell, no breaking the chain, no foul! So back we went to our gaff. From there we climbed for nearly 45 min, some portions gradual, some just gnarly steep. And by then the temp had climbed up to the low 80’s. We continued to climb the rest of that road, all the way to the jcn with Rt 33. By then I had to hit the van twice to get some ice cold water. The heat and constant climbing was beginning to run me down.

My big concern was that we were going to descend all the vert that we had gained by the time we jcn with 33. Such, luckily, was not the case, because as soon as we got on 33 we were into a climb to one of the highest mts in WVa – North Mountain – at 3650 ft. It was funny because I’d told Bill that we were in for a climb somewhere on 33, but damn, as soon as we turned onto it you could look up and see this thing just go off into the Stratosphere. Years ago we’d done a backpacking trip on the North Mountain trail, so I was familiar with the Rt 33 climb, but from the opposite direction. Nonetheless, from any direction, it’s a biggie! We hit truck lanes, switchbacks, and straight ramparts, going up, up, and up. Finally hit the top right next to the hiking trailhead after about 30 min of climbing. Now add that to all the climbing after we made our wrong turn and it added up to about 1:18 hrs of solid climbing. Let me tell you: I’ve lived in Colorado and the climbing out there is stiff, but this WVa climbing is tough and relentless!

Our descent was 4.5 miles into a headwind, and thus, never did we get any faster than 33 mph. At times the HW was just a hand against you as you descended. Other times it gusted hard and kind of blew you from side to side. I was amazed at how slow we were descending. And that was a gonzo descent for sure. Made it to Judy’s Gap and we were done – I was done, totally blown out after just 55 miles of riding in 5 hours. That was an 11 mph average! Welcome to WVa!

Found a beer store at a dairy whip – yup! And then went back and got a primitive campground just S of Circleville. Nice little old lady came out to greet us as we pulled in. Cost to camp – 10 bucks! Now this ain’t no Jellystone Park for sure, but it’s quaint, quiet, and clean. We set up at a pavilion, having it all to ourselves, and then cooked up dinner on the NASA blaster. Next up was a dip in the North Fork of the South Branch of the Potamac River. Nope, not a river by any means, it’s more of a stream that’s about 20 feet across. It’s clean as heck and cool and refreshing. I used Judy’s flip flops and waded out to the deep end and did my typical push-up. Then just kind of splashed water around rinsing off. Bill did the same. It felt absolutely awesome, that cold mountain water after a hot day of riding.

Right now Bill is crashed out on his towel on the ground sleeping while Judy is reading another cooking magazine. I’m about to hang up the computer and call it a day at 7:30pm. We tried to use my short wave radio, but can get NOTHING – no short wave, no am no fm. It is dead out here! Ok I’m about to have my 5th Yuengling Lager. To another day on the road!!!


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