Sunday, October 13, 2019

The Dirty Apple: Rotten to the Core

I got to Golden's Bridge around 8 AM and it was a mad house.  It was impossible to find the check in line because they put the signs in front of the tables instead of behind and in view.  I recognized a former work colleague from my days at IBM, Gail Blumenfeld, that I said hello to, but she was crazed and couldn't spare any time.

I was supposed to meet Steve Taylor, only he was running late and was only doing the 50 mile course. I figured we would run into one another while out on the course so I headed out solo. 

I wore my D2R2 jersey and had someone take my picture so I could send it to Steve so he would recognize me. It was my first time wearing the jersey since I bought at this year's D2R2 that I couldn't ride due to a back strain back in August. It is a nice jersey!

First Dirt occurred about a mile and a half into the ride on Nash Road. Westchester Cycling Club stopped running the Dirty Apple some years back and only started it up again last year. I had heard about the earlier events and after cataloguing all the Westchester County dirt roads on my Roubaix to Brew dirt road map created my own route that renamed as the Dirty Martha. Will and I rode the Dirty Martha route on two consecutive Veteran's Days and the weather was less than optimal. Today, however, you could not have asked for a more beautiful fall day!

The route selection was pretty good but had some route regurgitation, meaning you went out on a dirt road and you came back on the same dirt road.  It's not bad to do that because you are on dirt but it definitely lacks creativity.  For example, the route descended Turkey Hill and then went out on Baxter and then came back that way but only on Baxter. If you are going to do that then we should have climbed Turkey Hill again. Just saying.

The funny thing about riding these roads is how often you will find sculptures popping up out of no where.  No offense, but some big red, bendy metal sculpture in the middle of pristine horse paddocks seems out of place. What were they thinking?  

Just past that ungainly sculpture I struck up a conversation with a guy who was from NYC but rode mostly in Vermont and never knew about these roads.  When we turned onto Norton Lane there was a guy at the intersection who couldn't inflate his tire so I stopped to lend him my pump.  We tried to inflate his tire but my pump didn't seem to be working. I have ridden almost two thousand miles with that pump, never had to use it, and found out on this ride it doesn't work. Wow! Actually, it does work because I tested it when I got home later that day. The guy with the flat had a bad tube.

A stark and frequent reminder on these dirt roads that you are in horse country. Ironically, I didn't pass any horses.

On Baxter Road there was a water stop of sorts but I wasn't really sure what that was and didn't need to stop anyway. I was eight miles into the ride and still had full bottles anyway.  At the main rest stop, however, there was a bountiful cornucopia for consumables and a bucket of pickles!

The funny thing about today's event was the fact that at the same time WCC was running the Golden Apple, as well, so there were road cyclists all over the place. Additionally, to a varying degree the 40 and 50 mile Dirty Apple routes had cyclists coming and going all over the place.

While riding back on Baxter I struck up a conversation with David Schwartz from Mahwah, NJ and we stuck together all the way through Mountain Lakes park. There was another fellow hanging with us that I didn't get his name but he was wearing mountain biking kit with Long Island logos so I asked him if knew John Young. He did and said John was here. Little did I know but John was about a mile ahead of me the whole time.

The gravel road in Mountain Lakes Park was greatly improved

Dave and I stopped at this causeway to take a few pictures

The fall scenery was awesome

Dave took this one of me

Then we started climbing again

And climbing

The climb up Mountain Lakes Road maxes out around 1,400 ft, same as Hunt Road and on the route they are pretty close to one another. I am slow climber and after awhile I lost sight of Dave and in fact never saw him again until the end of the ride.

The next rest stop was at Ward Pound Ridge Reservation.  Of course there was a bucket of pickles along with bananas, oranges, bars of various sorts, plenty of cookies.  

On the way out of the park is when I came upon Donna DiCacco and she was riding her first Gravel Grinder. We rode together for bit on Route 121 but then I headed off on the Metric Century route while she was riding the half metric century.

Rounding a bend on Twin Lakes Drive in Bedford I met up with John Young. He was stopped and taking a picture at a palatial estate up on a hill and I didn't recognize him at first but then I turned around and said hello.

Heading north from Bedford we tackled some pretty steep hills, one of which was Indian Hill road. It had an average grade of 8.5% for a half a mile.

John and I had just stopped at the final water stop when who of all people show up but Fred Harris!  Fred was riding with friends from NYC and John and stayed with them till the conclusion of the course.

We rode over the Cross River Dam

Righter after 9/11 the route over the dam was closed but apparently it's open again.

The last serious climb on the route was on Mt Holly Road.  There was a 12% section followed by another 8% grade.  At the top there were people cheering us on and directing traffic.  From this point, it was 5 miles to go that was mostly down hill and flat riding!

I finally met up with Steve who was attired in more Laser Cat kit.  Steve told me that he is launching his own energy bar, which I have had plenty of already, while riding with Steve a few times.  The bars are so much better than what you can purchase commercially right now and can't wait for his product launch. Might have to head down to Philly for it and some riding.

What I didn't know was that there was food after ride.  There was soup, chili and wraps!

Afterwards, John and I headed over to my car where he chatted some more and drank beer!
That was an awesome ride and I can't wait for next year.

Sunday, October 06, 2019

Rough Road Ahead: Tighten your bra strap and remove your dentures (F2G2)

If you rode F2G2 last year then any threat of rain would probably make you a bit nervous. I think the first time I did the ride in 2014 it rained in the morning but that was nothing compared to what it was like last year (2018 post: I got lei'd at F2G2). This time around there was some rain in the forecast today but it was a 20% chance starting around 2 PM. Otherwise, the weather at the start of the ride was your typical fall day in New England, overcast and in the mid 40s.

This year's ride had a big change in that it wasn't starting from the Cantebury Farm, rather the Tyringham Fire Dept pavilion and the route mirrored the 2015 route.  I have a Google Map of all the routes:  Fall Foliage Gravel Grinder Routes. I spent the night before at Will's place in Spencertown, NY and the drive over to Tyringham only took 25 minutes.

Photo Credit: William Mansfield
Naturally, today's ride started off with climbing George Cannon Road, which is 1.5 miles log and has an average grade of 8%! Hitting it right out of the gate took the chill out of you at the start of the ride.

We started out riding with Eric, who I have ran into at various Gravel Grinders in the area and whom I know from Instagram but he's fast and he was gone.

Will is a fast climber and in no time he was gone, too.

I am a slow climber and soon I was all by myself. I caught up to Will at the intersection of Goose Pond Road and then we were off again. 

Dave is on the left
While on Goose Pond a rider by the name of Dave, who was from Sudbury, joined up with us and stuck with us throughout most of the ride, until we lost him in Southfield.

The Girls' Track Team from Pittsfield High School was operating the first rest stop.


The night before there was modification to the route and a bypass to Viets Road was added. Viets Road was the only part of the route I have ever walked. The bypass, however was no walk in the park either.  It was 1.5 mile climb with an average 5% grade.

A little dual track before next rest stop at York Lake. On this part I ran into Fabian Esponda.

At the next rest stop it was the rest of the Pittsfield High School Girl's Track Team. The emphasis at York Lake was the New England Patriots. Here I also ran into Laura Kelly and Gail Harris, who I met (in person) at the Ashford Adventure Ride last month.

We got back on the bikes and as luck would have it there was a mist in the air. At this point I was wishing that I brought another set of gloves, like the waterproof ones that I left in the car, and maybe a jacket.  The mist got heavier but with all the climbing we were doing I never got cold.  Dave had gotten ahead of us but we met up with him at the intersection of Rhoads & Bailey and Keyes Hill.

At the top of the hill, though, Will asked what happened to Dave? I thought he was right behind us. Will thought with the rain that maybe he decided to bail and ride back to his car.

By the time we got to the last rest stop it was indeed raining but there was nothing that I could do. Ironically, however, I really didn't feel cold. As we were getting ready to leave Dave showed up. He thought we had a mechanical or something but it turns out when we caught up to him at that intersection we didn't recognize us.

Even though it was raining being in the woods lessened its impact.  More climbing helped to keep warm, too, and there was plenty of that going around.

There was one last really big climb that led us into Beartown State Forest, called Fairview Road. It was almost a 3 mile long climb at an average grade of 5%. No fear of getting cold because of the rain, now. In fact, it had stopped all together.

The last jeep road/dual track trail before the final few miles back to the rest stop is called Brace Hill Road and this year there were very few big puddles. There was some mud though.  Last year my brakes were shot and I had to drag my boot on the ground to slow down. Not the case this time.


I flew down the trail and then waiting for Dave and Will.  Dave came shortly but Will was a bit longer.

Five more miles and we were done. After changing, Will decided to leave.  Dave had changed pretty quickly and went down to the food. I cracked open a PBR and headed down the hill to the food only to learn it was all gone. Guess they didn't plan that aspect of the ride very well. Overall, it was a great ride.

Hopefully there will be another ride next year. Starting from Tyrningham like they did this time around there are plenty of roads to travel. It would be great to see a route in the opposite direction sometime. That's something that never happened. 

Tuesday, October 01, 2019

Palm Trees in Pennsylvania?

Headed down to Carlisle, PA to visit my daughter for Parents Weekend at Dickinson College.  My wife insisted on me bringing my bike because I am an early riser and she likes to sleep in. I asked around the interwebs for routing recommendations and only one person from USMES suggested that I ride to the top of King's Gap.  I had also found some routes on RideWithGPS, too. What I really wanted to do was ride to Gettysburg but that was a little too far.  I ended up creating my own route that included King's Gap and tried to stay off busy roads.

After a delicious Hotel Breakfast of what tasted like powdered scrambled eggs and unappetizing mini breakfast sausages I headed south along some backroads towards Boiling Springs. I only saw one store along the way for the first 5 miles but it was way to early to stop.

One of the fun things of not knowing the area is thinking that a road goes through but it really doesn't. Not sure why Ride With GPS didn't pick this up. Fortunately I was able to walk across the bridge.

Another routing surprise was finding a dirt road instead of a paved one. Should have checked the satellite photo.

Always have to stop for a picture with railroad tracks.

So this is where Land-o-Lakes butter comes from! Remember the old packages that if you folded it right you could make the Indian woman's knees look like breasts? That was a hit back in the 1970s!

Up until the turn off for King's Gap, the roads that I were riding were small rollers and I thought now came some real climbing.  It wasn't so. The road to the top of King's Gap never got above a 3% grade!  Still, it was worth the views.

I was expecting a big climb and seeing my average speed take a big a hit

But it wasn't bad

Even if it did the views of the Cumberland Valley were worth it!

The only other store I saw on my ride was the King's Gap General Store

The store, however, was pretty sparse.

I really wanted to buy an orange hunting cap but didn't think I could carry it back on my bike.

The snack selection was pretty sparse. I found this lone back of BBQ potato chips and a few Slim Jims.

Then it was back to riding rollers along rows and rows of corn and soybeans.

The center of the road was really scratched up and I couldn't figure out why

Until I passed an Amish farmer riding up the road. The road was scraped up from the horses and their metal horse shoes.

What I found truly astonishing was that not once did I see any sings of solidarity for Trump. No bumper stickers, signs, or flags. However, there was one flag that was on a fence however everything was cut out. I guess this farming community was is really helping to win the trade war with China that Trump started.

These potato chips were not exactly bursting with flavor

I took a wrong turn and came upon Palms Ct

And found Palm Trees!

Bolting them down must be a way to protect them from getting stolen.