Sunday, June 19, 2011

Day 7: Greenbrier River Trail

Day #7) June 19, 2011. Cass, WVa to Caldwell, WVa – 77 miles in 5:15 hrs.

Our night in Cass was pretty uneventfull. I mean about all there is to do in that tiny place is to ride the train up the cog railway for 20 bucks/head for a 4 mile train trip, sit in the Rt. 66 restaurant/lounge and down Budwiser beers, or munch ice cream cones in the Cass General store while browsing for ticky tacky junk and souvenirs . Small little tourist town for sure, and definitely not enough to keep you busy for more than a couple of hours. We ended up just kind of taking a walk around town and then back to the motel room to veg out on HBO for 4 hours. Woke up to a steady rain in the morning, and it just kept raining for 2 solid hours. We kind of stalled a bit with our getting ready, just hoping the rain would dissipate in the meantime. By 9am it was still sprinkling, but we decided to just go for it. No sense in hanging in Cass for a second day. Think I’d rather ride in the rain than spend another hour in Cass.

So it was Judy and I for the first 24 miles on the Greenbrier Trail. Now the GBT is an old rail trail. I’d been there about 15-16 yrs ago to ride with a bud, and Bill had ridding on it back in 08 – in both of our experiences were that it was a tough and rugged trail. I was hoping the passing of over a decade had given the state a chance to improve upon what we’d experienced so many year ago. And that was exactly the case. The trail had been crowned numerous times with a kind of course gravel. It’s definitely tougher to ride on than the C&O was due to the gravel size and the softness of the crown. It’s just not packed too well, so it makes doing like 14+ mph a bit of work (and the reason it’s not packed too well is that there’s hardly a soul on it!). Other sections are just lightly packed dirt and mud. Judy and I cruised along at a fairly good clip in and out of some small sprinkler and spritzing rain. After about an hour the sprinkling cleared up and we were good to go. I was amazed that on a Sunday, the light rain notwithstanding, there were zero people on the trail. No one!

The trail is very nice, running right along the Greenbrier River on the old rail bed. But it just wasn’t as striking and impactfull as was the C&O. It’s really no different than the towpath along the Cuyahoga River – just the surface is a bit tougher to ride on. We did hit a tunnel that was 500 feet long, with just a small spot in the middle for about 100 feet where you could not see any light on either side. I popped on my headlamp so Judy wouldn’t have a fit. We made it through with no problems.

Also hit a few bridges over the river that were really scenic, but that was about it. Made it to Marlington in just under two hours to meet up with Bill and make the hand-off for my riding partners. Now in Marlington the trail is paved for about 3.5 miles, and there, about 24 miles into the trail is were we saw our first biker of the day. Hadn’t seen one in the first two hours of riding! Bill and I got it rolling a bit faster up to about 15 mph, and let me tell you, I was working to keep it there on that soft gravel. From there onward the terrain and the scenery was nice, but not noteworthy. Maybe I’d embellished my visions of it from yesteryear, but it just did not live up to what I remembered and expected. Bill agreed.

We hit the Droop Mt area and another tunnel of 400 feet. Again, no biggie and totally anticlimactic compared to the Paw Paw tunnel of 3000 feet back in MD. Now the trail was damp for a night and morning’s worth of rain, so we had some puddles to dodge, and some deadfall to cross over. So after hours of riding we were pretty covered in mud and gravel. Drafting was pretty much a no-go unless you were into rooster tales of mud and gravel. And sunglasses were pretty useless due to the high humidity – they’d fog up constantly. So we were without eye protection. As such mud and bugs were just nailing us left and right in the face. By four hours in my eyes were red and swollen from all the bugs and dirt. They were watering like crazy and stinging and itching non-stop. At times I could only see out of one eye.

Then we hit the hell section. Yup my Waterloo with respect to my great patience and virtue. That’s when we hit these petrified horse tracks in the trail. Yup, so numbskull group of outfitters had evidently taken clients out onto the trail when it was very wet and sloppy. Thus, the horse hoofs had cut deep ruts in the trail, that when dried, resembled petrified dinosaur footprints. Riding over those were like riding over a gnarly washboard – for four freaking miles! I mean it cut our speed down by an easy 3 mph. You almost had to stand up such that your guts wouldn’t get giggled loose! That’s where I was talking to myself and Bill out loud. No check that, I was using a string of profanity in a very boisterous voice. Our worry was that we’d have to finish the last 20 miles with the petrified horse track.

The track finally dissipated four miles later, and when we saw an outfitter lugging some tourists down the trail in a cart and a group of two on horseback, I just couldn’t be cordial. I just gave him a surly stare and rode past. My anger translated into a pace that got up to about 17 mph for the last hour of riding. So we finished with about a 14 mph average for 77 miles of cycling. Judy did the Hershel thing by having an ice-cold six pack ready for us when we pulled into the southernmost trailhead. By then the weather had changed to sunny and torridly hot with the humidity.

We agreed to drive into Lewisburg and bag a motel. Good news was that we had cell and internet service after nearly three full days. Got a Super 8 and then went straight for the Chinese buffet. Judy was outvoted 2-1. Tomorrow we’ll look at my AM DT route, but again many of the roads listed in my 2008 county maps as gravel, are asphalt. We saw one of them on the way out of Caldwell. So we could improvise again and look at some different routes. I joked this eve to Bill and Judy that American Dirt is more like American Jerk – and that’s me! We’ll see how it goes tomorrow.

On to Virginia…….Pete

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