Monday, December 31, 2018

A sign of Happiness

Cycling lets you enjoy the local sights that you often miss in your car driving at much higher speeds. I am sure others have found amusing road signs and sayings displayed for all to see on their rides. I was fortunate to discover a gem of my own while riding in Monroe on New Year's Day Eve.  Right before the intersection with Knapp Road in Monroe there was a sign attached to a tree that made no sense given the direction it was pointed. 

The sign makes no sense as the road up ahead turns left and then turns right and there is no road coming in at a 45 degree angle, either. Did someone at the Monroe Highway Department screw up? What ever the case it gave us a chuckle on our last ride of 2018.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Buckeye Turkey Burner

Before getting on the bike for what was going to be our biggest ride of the week I, once again, hit the Waffle House next to the hotel for a double order of hash browns. Just the right amount of food to get me going for a long ride.

Once again, Will and I headed out from the hotel along Johnstown Road out to Gahanna and mirrored part of the route that I did when I rode out to the Galena and the reverse of the route that I first did on Tuesday.

We rode out to Jersey and Columbus suburbia quickly transformed to rolling Ohio farm land. Jersey was also the highest elevation on the route, topping out around 1,200 feet. The roads here incredibly straight and there were a few descents. Eventually the terrain flattened out as we turned when we turned onto State Highway 37.

It was a busy 2 lane highway that was really flat for 12 miles. The only elevation change came from the I-70 overpass. Will pulled for the first 6 miles and then I pulled for the rest. The head wind made riding slow as molasses. In reviewing the route, it was probably not the wisest routing decision. I should have pulled the route to go closer to Buckeye Lake.

Turning onto Carroll Eastern Road, another state designated bike route we headed east towards Carroll, OH. 

This was an intersection for two major canals in the 1800s, the Ohio-Erie and Lancaster Canals.  

In Carroll is where found a great bar that served awesome pizza. It was served as shared style, which is cut into squares.

Once we left Carroll it was 24 miles back to the hotel through some interesting areas and neighborhoods. On the outskirts of Bexley a passerby took a liking to my bike and asked me if he could take it for a spin. Ignored the comment and pedaled a little faster.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Another Thanksgiving Day Massacre

Our Thanksgiving Day feast was planned for early afternoon so Will and I decided to ride the bikeways out to London, Ohio. Little did we know that the bikeway we would be riding was actually a famous one for Ohio that linked Cincinnati with Cleveland and it ran through the heart of Columbus. Heading out from the hotel we had to ride downtown on part of the Alum Creek Trail, and then through the center of the city to pick up the Scioto Trail, after a short bit of road riding we crossed over some railroad tracks and then picked up the Camp Chase Trail.


It wasn't until we got on the trail did I realize this was actually a rail with trail! It would be great do something like this in my town since we have a freight line through town that has minimal train traffic and connects to an existing rail trail.

There is a rail with trail in nearby Brewster, NY, that I haven't had the opportunity to try yet, however, I have seen it a few times and seeing it gives me hope that maybe something can be done through the neighboring towns, too.

There is pretty good separation between the trail and the tracks but the one surprising part of the trail was how many times the trail crossed back and forth over the tracks.

Camp Chase was a Civil War training camp for the war and later served as prison camp for Confederate soldiers

Once we got out of the city limits the trail was just long and straight. Fortunately for us, the cold weather was keeping many of the folks that would have been on the trail at this time of day inside.

Every couple of miles the trail switched sides, that is until we got further out and then is seemed to stay consistently on the north side of the tracks.

There is a big break in the trail that took us out on the road and down through a river valley but then we were back on the trail again.

In a little hamlet just past Georgesville called Lilly Chapel we came across the long line of tanker cars. It turns out there is a huge soybean harvesting operation there and they use the tanker cars to transport the soybeans to producers. 

The tanker cars went of for ever

Well, at least for a mile or two

Will was riding with his bar mitts, something I have yet to try. I am like my lobster gloves.

At the end of the trail in London there was this plaque commemorating some trail users that I thought was pretty unique.

The downtown area of London was dead as a doornail

We had hoped to find a cafe or a McDonalds that was open for a bike to eat

But nothing was open

We stopped at the London Food Market, which was open, and the Indian couple running the place probably thought we were crazy.

We had made pretty good time down to London but it wasn't until we started riding back that we discovered there was a head wind that slowed us down somewhat. The wind made it a lot colder, too.

The Ohio to Erie Trail, or OTET, is 326 miles long and 280 miles is on paved trails

This mural depicts the trail

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Dammed Hoover

Since Will wasn't due to arrive till later on Wednesday, my kids were staying with their cousins in Bexley while my wife and I were in a hotel by the airport. I am a morning person and she is not so I planned to ride all morning and hopefully find somewhere midway on my route for breakfast. That destination was a town called Galena which was at the northern point of the Hoover Reservoir.

There are many bike routes around Columbus and plethora of bike ways so I designed this route to use as many of the bike routes as I could find and then to try a bike way later down the road. The first part of the route from the hotel paralleled the airport and I found what might be a good place to have a beer after the ride, but there weren't any bike racks and I wasn't sure if they would let me bring my bike inside.

I rode out to Gahana again only this time I headed north. The weather forecast called for a partly sunny day reaching into the 40s. When I started my ride it was 27 degrees and I don't think the temperature ever got above 32 degrees the whole time I was out.

I did see the sun for a few minutes but it wasn't enough to warm me up, not that I needed any more warmth. I had my winter cycling jacket on, with a balaclava, lobster gloves, Smart Wool socks and my Lake 303 cycling boots. I was plenty warm.

I don't think I have ever ridden roads this straight before. With the roads being so flat, all you do is pedal so I tried to keep my cadence high and enjoy the country side. At times when I was exposed to the wind coming from the west it was a lot colder and slower if I was riding into, too. That is something we don't really experience too much in New England.

I stopped in this cute town called Galena and had breakfast at the Galena Diner. There was a coffee shop in an old bank that looked trendy but I went with my gut figuring I would get some typical midwestern fare. That I did, a filling breakfast that consisted of Biscuits and Gravy, with eggs and home fries. It was just what I needed for the trip back.

After Galena, the route I was riding south on had a bike line which lasted a few miles and then turned towards the reservoir to become a full fledged bike way. I decided, however, to stay on the main road because it was straighter and I figured I would maintain better speed. Along the way I came across this sign that reminded me of watching M*A*S*H, and listening to Corporal Klinger (Jamie Farr) talk about the Toledo Mud Hens. While being an actual Minor League Baseball Team, it turns out that the Mud Hen is an actual bird that is somewhat akin to the duck and is called the American Coot. Didn't see the actual bird, though.

When the road I was riding got closer to the city the congestion and traffic lights started to slow me down so I hopped on to the Big Walnut Trail (bikeway) and then rode across the Hoover Dam. There were many walkers and it was really cool to ride across and then back again.

Eventually, I picked up the Alum Creek Multi-use trail and I wouldn't say that it was my best routing decision but it was something I wanted to try. It was twisty and winding, with a lot of board walks with signs saying to dismount and walk.  

The trail criss-crossed the Alum Creek using many bridges that were ornately designed, some where wide and others were kind of narrow.

Before getting off the trail I found this historical plague that moved me. I never knew Ohio was part of the Underground Railroad but it makes a lot of sense since Kentucky borders the state to the south. 

Not a lot of climbing after 50+ miles. On my daily rides before work of just 20 miles I climb more than I did on this route today. Then again, Ohio is flat.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

And they said that was a hilly route?

Last summer we made plans to go to Columbus, OH to celebrate my Father-In-Law's 80th Birthday with his family for Thanksgiving. Will, my Brother-In-Law, riding occasional riding partner, said he was going to drive out so he could bring his bike and I said I would, too. Originally, my youngest son said he was going to go with me but then backed out a few months prior. 

Two weeks prior to my departure I researched routes on Ride With GPS and chatted with a few folks from the area via Facebook to get the lay of the land.  When I left on Monday night my plan was to drive to State College, PA, stay the night, get up early and get in a 20 mile ride before driving the rest of the way. The next morning, however, it was wet from the overnight rain and was snowing, so I figured I would just drive to my Sister-In-Law's house in Bexley, Oh, and go for a ride from her place. After 5 hours in the car, I nice 20 mile ride would do just the trick to wake me up after sitting on my butt for that amount of time. I had a route pre-selected, which I had found on Ride With GPS, that was some local bike shop's weekly ride and was supposed to be hilly? I modified it a little bit because I only wanted to ride 20 miles instead of the 30 I would have to do from my start point.


Was it ever flat! I rode from Bexley out to point between Gahana and Jersey and I was in the big ring the whole time. Not one to follow a scripted route I called my own audible and went out looking for some incline. Never found any. One thing I did notice was how all the cars passing me were so courteous and always gave me at least 3 feet clearance while passing. It was a nice temperature, 35 degrees and the same weather I had just left in CT. Only, back home they were getting hit with a cold snap with temperatures well below 20 degrees this week.

I was surprised to not see any other cyclists. Seeing that Columbus seemed to be a big cycling community I figured I would see someone out on two wheels but there was no one.  Maybe it was the temperature or the fact that it was midday on a Tuesday. Never-the-less it felt great to be riding after being cooped up in the car for five hours. 

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Roubaix de Putnam dans la neige

It's been a 4 years since the last time I rode the dirt roads of Putnam County so I planned a course for Will and I to follow that hit a lot of what we rode last time only from a different direction. I posted the ride on the Northeast Gravel Riders Facebook group to see if anyone else was looking for a dirty ride this Saturday. There was one taker.  

I met Will and Curt at the Clarence Fahnstock Memorial Park parking lot off of Rt 301 just west of the Taconic Parkway.  This was the first time I got to see Will's new Cannondale Slate, and it was quite impressive. As we headed down Rt 301 to the first dirt road, Old Forge Road, it was a lot colder than I had anticipated. However, I was dressed perfectly, and figured once we started climbing it would warm up. The interesting thing about this route is that the big climbs started early on and they were huge!

The first climb was Miller Hill and it has an average grade of 7% with a max grade of 14% but it's not quite a mile. The descent on the other side is crazy steep and the only down side is right after you cross under the Taconic Parkway, the course turns abruptly west onto Hortontown Road.  

The next climb is Long Hill and it's aptly named. It's an average 10% grade with a max of 15%. After crossing the Appalachian Trail it actually started to flurry!  And the last big climb, and the longest of the three is East Mountain Road that has an average 9% grade and a max of 13% for almost 2 miles.

Then the route got interesting. I had found the Trial map for Clarence Fahnestock Memorial Park on line and noticed that there was a multi-use trail on the west side that was open to bikes. I was hoping that it was going to be an old woods road but when we rode up on it turned out to be single track. We headed down it any way because it was petty nice.

Photo Credit: Curt Cess

There was a stream crossing that I navigated easily by walking over the stepping stones and pushing my bike through the water but the guys were having a much harder time. They started out first trying to look for alternative route.

Will tried one way while Curt resigned himself to finally go the way I went.  Will wasn't having much luck on the crossing point he chose and finally followed Curt across.

After the stream crossing there were a few sections of the trail that were rideable but it was quickly becoming evident that this route was turning into a Napoleon's Death March.

Will was carrying his bike most of the time. Since Curt had a bad ankle he wasn't enjoying this hike-a-bike either, and neither was I. We had gone a half mile and there was still another 3.5 miles of trail to go. It was clear that we had to go back. 

So we turned around and headed back to East Mountain Road.  After crossing the stream again we were able to at least ride out with our heads held high after making a valiant attempt. Anyone looking to to try School Mountain Road (Trail) I would recommend a full suspension mountain bike.

Getting back onto East Mountain Road we began the long and chilly descent down to North Highland.  We headed into town and stopped at the B and L Deli to get something to eat and warm up a bit. When I asked if I could get my water bottle topped off the guy at the counter said he couldn't do that. I didn't feel a need to ask why because I could tell by the way he looked at me that he thought I didn't belong there or something.  I made sure to leave a comment on their Facebook Page and update Roubaix to Brew with the same information.  The next time I do this course, I am not stopping at the B and L Deli.

From the Deli we headed back on Rt 9 and then veered off onto Jay Cox Road, which turned into a narrow, and winding dirt road punctuated with short but steep climbs. Along the way we passed two gravel riders coming from the other direction. When I looked on Strava Flybys they were riding a lot of what we were riding, too. 

Photo Credit: Will Mansfied

Turning onto Lane Gate Road began the long climb back to Rt 9.  The wind also seemed to pick up a bit, then clouds came in, the temperature dropped and it started snowing, only this time pretty hard. 

We came out on Rt 9 and headed south and then turned off onto Old Albany Road, which is a 6.5 mile dirt road that takes us down to the southern most section of the course.  Right after the intersection with Indian Brook Road, which is a wicked fast dirt road descent, there is a formidable climb. It's a little over a mile and has an average 10% grade with a max grade nearing 13%.  At the bottom of Old Albany Road we came out on a paved road called Spruce Brook that we took to a dirt road called Horton Hollow.  

Coming back out to pavement we continued north and turned off onto Bell Hollow, which to my disappointment appeared to have been recently paved. It wasn't a few years ago. Bell Hollow turns into some rough dual track, 4x4 trail, that eventually leads to Sunken Mine Road. Some sections were more rideable than School Mountain Road (Trail) but there was still some hike-a-bike.  It wasn't, however a Napoleon's Death March. 

Photo Cred: Will Mansfield

Sunken Mine Road was a treat. It had some punchy climbs but the scenery was awesome, especially the pond. After the pond, the route was supposed to pickup the old Sunken Mine Railroad bed but we were done with trails on this ride. We headed out to Dennytown Road and then Rt 301 back to the parking area.

We ended the day with a trip down to Elmsford, NY to the Captain Lawrence Brewery for some rice bowls and beer. Their Oktoberfest/Marzen Beer and the food was perfect after the ride. The brewery was packed, and there were so many kids! They even had a beer tent open.