Monday, September 26, 2022

Maple City Gravel Grinder and the Three Bears

This year's Maple City Gravel Grinder was a blast despite the weather. Leading up to Sunday we were nervously watching the weather forecast as each day it kept changing and the predicted rain for Sunday moved earlier and earlier. There was no doubt it was going to rain so you just had to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Today's ride marks Will and I's second visit to the Maple City Gravel Grinder, the last one was in 2019. 

First Dirt

Today's route was very similar to the one we rode in 2019, only in reverse with some changes. The first one being starting from the center of Honesdale and a nearly 4+ mile lead out to First Dirt on State Route 1003. If you think the gulf of hard ball to the first dirt road takes away from the quality of this ride it was a welcomed relief compared to the quarter mile, 14% climb, right out of the gate, up Oregon Turnpike we did in 2019.

Will and I left early hoping to get more distance in before the rain came. It was a cool start and I probably should have brought a wind vest but I rationalized that if I got cold I could put my rain jacket on and in all likelihood I would be putting in on later anyway. The first climb, on Hancock Highway remedied my chill. 

When we turned onto Niles Pond Road, I immediately recognized the surroundings from the 2019 ride and felt comfortable we were in familiar territory.

This was the first significant dirt road segment, nearly 6 miles long and climbed a little over 700 feet.

I remembered this road from 2019 because it was originally Chip Sealed with some awfully big chips, that were actually rocks.

Those rocks were gone and it appears this road was reverting back to dirt, something I haven't seen all too often.

On the shoulder was were the good dirt was at.

Looked like the road was torn up since we were last here, maybe due to the snow plowing, but still better than pavement.

The storm clouds were looking a little ominous as we rode by these cows but they weren't laying down so I was still hoping for the best.

A little gratuitous cow porn  

After Niles Pond Road we were on paved road for about a mile with a punchy 7% percent climb until we turned on to Duck Harbor Road and next 7+ mile dirt segment of the ride.

Great dirt road decent after that climb. 

However, in the middle of this part of the route the dirt got black buttered.

It was here were we got overtaken by the first group of riders but I think they were all riding the 100 mile course.  Will and I chose to leave early with hope we would be further down the course when it rained.

Then we hit this 4x4 road, which was the only one of the course and it was rough to start and a little wet here and there

and it had its share of mud holes, too.

It comes out to a superfast dirt road decent back down to Hancock Highway

By the looks of those clouds, hoping for the best was turning into a lost cause

I switched over to my rain attire, jacket and gloves, soon after leaving the first rest stop.

The rain really came on strong about a mile from the rest stop and soon afterwards we hit the first major climb of the ride, Bush Road. Climbing in the rain was actually good because as slow as I am it meant the weather would pass quicker and there was no chance of getting cold.

As such, the rain did pass quickly but it also turned the top layer of this red clay into the consistency of baby shit, which of course splattered over everything. 

Good thing we brought fenders!

While descending Cooley Creek and few seconds after I took this picture, three bears crossed the road 50 yards in front of me. It was a mama and two cubs. I shouted bears to alert Will but he was too far behind me and missed them.

I forgot from the last time we rode through here how hilly it was until you actually got to the river.

Also, along the way we stopped where there was ongoing timber harvest

Finally we were riding along side the Delaware River


And we stopped to take a few pictures

When we got to this cascade I knew we were about to hit the second most significant climb on the ride

This would have been a good time to take off the rain gear with next climb coming next

This climb reminded me of Pennel Hill, that Will and I rode on this year's D2R2, which is on the 115K route.

Leaving the flat River Road and turning east you start out on an 8 percent grade that ramps up to 15% by the time you get to the first turn then it eases up and stays around 11 to 12%. I should have taken my jacket off at the waterfall because I was cooking half way through the climb.

A few riders overtook us on this climb.

Then there was three more miles of pavement.

Then more red clay dirt road roads

and turning onto Swago Road it started raining again so I put my jacket back on

and it was a little ways down that ill got a double flat!

This why I always bring two tubes on any extended ride. We lost about 30 minutes changing his the flats.

On Flat Rock Road the rain stopped

but Flat Rock is anything but flat because there's a 14% climb.

I call this kind of climb a Rainbow Roll Sushi Climb because when viewed on Garmin Climb Pro, the various colors of the rainbow showing up for the difference sections indicating different grades.

  And then there were sheep!

Lots of them.

More climbing in the rain

At Valley Ridge I checked the radar and it looked like the rain was going to be south of us so the jackets came off.

Then we found ourselves climbing again on Oregon Turnpike, which is the road we took from Smallwood, NY to get to the start of the ride.

There were some amazing views once we got to the top.

We turned onto Eighmy for a 4+ mile dirt road descent

There were more cattle and these two heifers were butting heads.

Turning onto Skinner Road we caught up to a group of guys from Lake Placid that passed us while we were changing out Will's tubes.

Lastly, there was a one and half mile descent into Honesdale and then we were on Main Street, and the sun came out as we rode back to the start.

Once the bikes were put up on their bike racks and we changed we got $20 food vouchers for dinner at Scarfalloto's Towne House Diner where Will and I split a pizza and had cokes. We grabbed a few cans of beer that were being offered from the Wallenpaupuck Brewing Company to enjoy when we got home. Will headed back to NYC and I drove back to Newtown. Despite the rain it was a fantastic ride and I really liked this route.

This is such a great ride and the value is amazing. Great rest stops and food at the end and it's only $60 bucks. In 2019 we got 64 oz growlers, empty of course. This year there were coozies, and if you registered early enough you could get a jersey for $50, as well as beer to take home. There were hoodies for $24 and I picked up one, too.  Can't wait for next year!

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