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Riding the Helmsburg Loop with Dave

Monday, April 7th, 2008

Dave called me on Saturday to see if I wanted to ride with him. I was literally in the process of trying to figure out where to ride when he called, so it was perfect timing. He suggested we ride what he termed the “Helmsburg Loop.” I took him up on his offer, and furthermore rode out to his place to get some extra miles in. I rode my old mountain bike since I figured we might hit some gravel, and I knew he’d be on his mountain bike. We met at Unionville Elementary School, which is near Dave’s house, and also where I met Dan On Bike when we rode together back in November.

It was a perfect day, in the 60s and sunny. Our ride started down State Road 45 through part of Yellowwood State Forest. There wasn’t much traffic and it felt great to ride without a jacket. Dave has only been on a few rides since his spinal cord injury at the end of December. Each ride he does better. I know he can’t wait to get back on the trails, but you can tell he’s thrilled to be riding again, even if it is on the road.

Curvy section of 45
Inviting country road

Dave riding on 45
Dave is happy to be back in the saddle

We turned onto Lanam Ridge road and sprinted up the hill to try to outpace the dogs that live up there. They really wanted to catch us, but we flew past them and once we crested the hill, they didn’t have a chance. There are some nice rolling hills on Lanam Ridge, and some climbing.

Goats
Goats along Lanam Ridge

The climbing pays off with a great descent down to Helmsburg Road. We took this into Helmsburg.

Zebra Fire Engine
Zebra firetruck in Helmsburg

We headed back on 45 a bit and took a detour on Indian Hill Road. This is a gravel road with a nasty climb. We didn’t do that climb, though, we just took a break by the creek, which was very high and partially covering the road, while water rushed beneath it.

Crossing the tracks
Approaching the train tracks

Water flowing out from beneath the road
Indian Hill Road

Sturdy
This railroad bridge didn’t look too sturdy

We got back on 45. Soon we reached South Shore Drive, and rode across Lake Lemon. We saw a lot of turtles on logs in the water, and evidence of some beavers.

Riding across Lake Lemon
Riding across Lake Lemon

Tressle
Trestle

We climbed up Shuffle Creek Road. I stopped at Dave’s for a few minutes, then rode home. My total for the day: 33.6 miles. Here’s a map of the route:

Dave is back in the saddle

Thursday, March 27th, 2008

Back on January 3rd (wow, it’s hard to believe it was that long ago), I wrote about my friend Dave’s mountain biking accident. Since then he’s been making a gradual recovery. He fortunately didn’t have to have surgery, and he’s been hiking increasing distances the past few weeks, and riding increasingly long sessions on his trainer. Dave is a mountain biker, but as part of his recovery, he’s going to have to do a bunch of training on the road before he can go mountain biking. Last night, he called me and said he wanted to ride, and felt ready. I headed out to his house, and we rode a good 10+ miles. Dave did great job. The doctors said his balance might not be too good, but he didn’t have any problems. The only real problem he seemed to have was a little numbness in his left hand and leg. He said he couldn’t feel the wind on his leg, which must’ve been weird.

It was great to ride with Dave again, even if it was on the road. Now he can ramp up to longer rides and before long, hopefully he’ll be back on the trails! And the doctors initially said he might not ride again — BAH!

Riding to Fairfax with Chris

Monday, March 17th, 2008

I fell behind in blogging, mostly because while I did ride late last week, I simply did my Mount Gilead Road route a couple of times. I ride that route frequently, and there wasn’t much to report. Then I was working from home, so I missed some commuting opportunities.

Anyway, on Saturday I called my friend Chris, who I’ve known since at least high school, if not middle school, to ask if he wanted to go for a ride on Sunday. We had only hung out once in recent years, and we used to ride together a lot in high school. He said he was available, so we planned to ride.

I rode over to Chris’s house at the appointed time, and he showed me his new bicycle, a GMC Denali-branded bike his brother got him for Christmas. It turned out this was going to be the bike’s maiden voyage. It’s a pretty sharp-looking bike, but a few features surprised me. It’s a road bike, but it has grip shifters — something I’d never seen. And it has deep section rims but schrader valves. I don’t see any inherent problem with this, it’s just unusual.

We headed out, at first intending to do my Water Works route. But then I learned that Chris’s work schedule had changed and he had more time than I realized, so we decided to ride down to Fairfax State Recreation Area instead.


Rolling hills on Snoddy Road

Chris hadn’t ridden a bicycle in about 5 months, but he works out regularly, and it shows. He rode quite well. We rode at a conversational pace and caught up during the ride. Chris has always been a walking trivia book, but that’s even more true now, since he has driven tour buses all over the country and worked as a tour guide in Las Vegas for a few years.

It was a beautiful day to ride, in the mid 40s or so, overcast, and breezy. We had the roads mostly to ourselves, although we did see some other cyclists and some light traffic. We rode really close to some turkey vultures on Snoddy Road and saw several deer frolicking by Harrell Road.

Some rain late in the week washed a lot of the sand off the roads, except for Strain Ridge Road which was in pretty bad shape and had thick layers of sand in parts. There’s a pretty long downhill section, and then a big climb. Chris and his new bike handled both pretty well, although he did have a few shifting problems. I’m sure that some derailleur adjustments will help there.


Strain Ridge Road

The bridge in the above photo goes over a creek, which was very high, and there was some flooding off to the left side. If we get the heavy rain that’s predicted in the next couple of days, things could get interesting in this and other low-lying areas in the near future.


Smithville Water tower


Riding

Before long, we reached Fairfax. The office wasn’t open yet so we got in for free. We rode down the big hill, nearly hitting 40 mph on the downhill. I’ve ridden this much faster in the past but with bulkier, warmer clothing 38.5 was as fast as I could get. We rode to the end of the road, which is on a small peninsula on Lake Monroe.


Lake Monroe


Chris’s GMC Denali bicycle


My bicycle

We saw a few boats, a houseboat, and we also saw a flying boat take off from the lake and fly by overhead, but very low in the sky. I tried to get a photo but it was out of sight before I could get my camera ready. We hung out by the lake for a while and caught up some more. It was a great day to be outdoors with an old friend. I’m used to riding being the primary focus of my rides but in this case it was something to do with a friend. Conversation and riding alternated as the primary objectives.


Chris checking his tire pressure


Chris and me

We stopped at another place near the lake and watched the seagulls, ducks, and geese, then rode back. Chris had some more shifting problems as we climbed toward the exit to the recreation area, but after that his bike did pretty well. We took our time on the way back and stopped a little more frequently.

It was a great day to be out riding, and cool to ride with Chris. We hadn’t ridden together in probably about 10 years, possibly more. Hopefully we can ride together again soon. At the end of the day we rode a bit over 30 miles. This gave me almost 90 miles of riding for last week, and I’ve already ridden more in March than I did in February. I can see my mileage increasing already, and it feels great.

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