The heat finally broke, and with it the drought. That is to say, it rained for much of the weekend. I was planning on going mountain biking on Sunday, but I thought things might be too muddy, and hit the road instead. It’s just as well, because I haven’t done enough road rides lately.
I wanted to do a long ride, but I got off to a late start and knew it would be getting dark on my way home, so I decided I should ride up to Morgan-Monroe State Forest, which is about a 35-mile ride — not the 50 or so miles I would have liked to have ridden, but also a longer ride than I can really fit in after work.
I started riding, and felt very sluggish from the start. I simply haven’t ridden enough lately. I was getting a little concerned about this, since I have two big rides coming up and I need to be ready, but I felt a lot better once I had ridden a few miles. I got in the swing of things and actually started riding pretty well.
While I rode through the State Forest, I debated which way to go back. I usually go down Beanblossom Road, but I thought it might be fun to try a new route and take Low Gap Road down. I had ridden on Low Gap before, during my Mahalasville Ride, but this would let me ride on a section of Low Gap I’d never seen before. I decided to go for it, thinking it would add only a couple of miles to my ride. It was a very rough descent down Rosenbaum Road — this is a back road that doesn’t see much traffic, or much maintenance. I have some hope that they’ll resurface it sometime, though, because the main roads through the forest were repaved recently and are extremely smooth.
I didn’t mind the rough descent, except for my little toe, which I smashed the night before — it felt every bump. Once I got to the bottom, I rode a flat portion on Catholic Cemetery Road. I kept my eyes peeled for cats on fenceposts, pants on pickup trucks, and girls chastising donkeys, but I saw none of those things this time around. Alas! I did see some pedestrians on Catholic Cemetery Road again, in the exact same place I saw others walking last time.
I turned on Low Gap Road and enjoyed a few miles of flat but curvy roads through beautiful forests. Low Gap is appropriately named, as it turns out, I just hadn’t been on the part from which it takes its name until this ride. The road spends several miles following a creek through a valley, with big ridges on either side. As I rode, I was surprised to see dozens of limestone sculptures along the side of the road. There’s a sculpture garden on this remote road, which I later learned is also the artist’s studio. I want to take Sarah there sometime so we can visit the sculpture garden. I didn’t have time to look at anything last night, nor did I have my camera — but it sure was surreal to stumble upon something like that on a remote country road. I later found the artist’s Web site here — it’s worth checking out.
On Low Gap Road, I also passed a parking lot for the Morgan-Monroe Backcountry area, then went up a pretty decent climb and rested by an access point for the Tecumseh Trail. Low Gap is also very smooth, and I was rewarded for my effort with a fun, fast, straight downhill through more beautiful country before making a slight climb up to Anderson Road.
Low Gap added about 10 miles to my ride, which was more than I expected, but it was well worth it. I had brought my rear blinker, so I put that on my bike. I didn’t bring the headlight, and probably should have. I was feeling surprisingly energetic and decided it was time to attempt to climb Boltinghouse Road again, which is one of the steepest hills in this area. I tried to climb it once before and failed. I hadn’t even attempted it for at least a couple of months. As I approached the hill, I saw “READY SUCKAS?” spray-painted on the road. I took a deep breath and prepared myself for the climb.
The first part of the climb is fairly easy, and it gets even easier momentarily, but then it goes to about a 20% grade for a while. I managed to keep turning the pedals, but just barely. I was moving so slowly that it was hard to keep my balance. But I kept turning the pedals, and kept breathing the best I could. It got steeper and I almost lost control of the bike, but kept turning those pedals for what seemed like forever. I was glad I had clipless pedals or I never would have made it — I was using all of my strength, pushing down and pulling up, just to keep the pedals turning. Finally, I made it to the top. By this time, I was wheezing in a way I hadn’t since shortly after I quit smoking. There was more climbing to do, but it was pretty gradual. It was so rewarding to have conquered this evil hill. It’s not a long hill, but it’s extremely steep, and it feels long when you can barely even turn the pedals.
As I rode back on Bethel Lane, I reached back to adjust my blinker and accidentally knocked it off my saddle bag. It fell to the road, and I stopped to go back and get it, but a car was coming. I had to wait. The jerk in the car hit the blinker as he drove past! Somehow, it didn’t get caught under his wheel, and instead went spinning down the road. Two other cars avoided hitting it, and the thing somehow still worked. I put it back on my bag and rode home. It was about a 44-mile ride. View the route on Bikely. It’s worth checking out the elevation profile (go to Show -> Elevation Profile).