Thursday, June 14, 2012

Butt busting on the Buckeye Trail

Vincent, OH to Burr Oak State Park, Ohio. 42 miles of riding in 6:33 hrs.

Got it rolling at about 9:30 AM today. On this trip I’m trying to work in the early morning and then ride for the day, work a bit more in the evening after dinner, blog, girlfriend time, beer thirty, and bed. That’s the order for this trip. The riding is just extremely hard, and very slow going. So anyway, I made a cue sheet for both Judy and myself to get us to Chesterhill to where we’d jcn the Buckeye Trail. What we did on this section is have Judy drive ahead and then just shout out the window the next turn when I’d catch up. I worked well, and be damned if we weren’t on about 70% gravel roads the whole time. When we would do a stretch of asphalt I’d do the berminator and then get right back on a gravel road.
         The gravel out here is not what we have back home. This stuff is a sandy gravel, not a lime gravel, and thus the sandy gravel is round vs angular for the limestone. And you know what… riding on this sandy gravel is like riding on marbles. The descents are just sketchy  to be sure, and I usually just let the front wheel drift and go with it rather than fighting it and ending up on my butt. That and you just have to use body English to kind of lean here and there to get the bike to respond in the direction you’re hoping to go. 
         The gravel roads out here are ass-kicking hard, short and steep and/or long and gradual. And they’re non-stop and tough. You pretty much cannot stand up while climbing due to the loose sandy gravel, so I’m forced to little cookie in the easiest gears I have and do the climbs seated, kind of hunched forward to keep weight on the front wheel so that doesn’t pull off the road with my pedal strokes downward and my pulls up on the bars. Stand up and you just completely loose traction on the back wheel. Now you can kind of lean back on the back wheel and climb slightly hunched over. But this really still gets the back wheel chirping on the gravel.
         The scenery is spectacular. It’s farm country, rolling and hilly, with stretches of woodland that’s as primitive as you can get. This is totally what I was looking for on this trip, and today was a great greeting to dirt road travel. Down side is that I’m just putzing along sometimes at 3 mph. Really, 3 mph going up some of those steep climbs. I take care on the descents not to let the bike just run like hell in case I hit a patch of thick gravel and wash a wheel. So, we made it through all these tiny gravel roads that most people in this state NEVER see. They’re just so tucked away off the beaten track that you’d never know they were there.
         Made it to Chesterhill in just over 2 hrs. Grabbed a coke and two turkey & cheese sandwiches and then gave Judy directions to meet me at a jcn of the Buckeye trail and paved road. Now that I’m on the Buckeye there will be many sections that are off road in the woods and through fields that are single track. So we did just that, Judy driving to our meeting area by asphalt and me by gravel and eventually off-road. And my sections were just totally off the charts amazing. These gravel roads are just so beautiful and so bloody hard that it’s a joy and challenge to do them. I got to a very primitive off-road section, with a single track descent that I let run a bit and ended up way the hell down in the middle of the woods. Kept following the Blue Blazes (the symbols of the BT). Finally got to a farm section alongside some plowed land, went over a condemned covered bridge, and then the blue blazes just disappeared. And lo and behold there were all these signs that said “No Trespassing – this is NOT the Buckeye Train nor any other trail.” And I’m like WTF? I just did like an hour of riding for this thing to die out on private property – just like some of the roads I’ve been on.
         And I’m at wit’s end as what to do next…go back, move forward, WTF. So I crossed over the covered bridge, stayed off the private property and rode up a gravel road. No blue blazes. Then I came to a Y in the road with a second gravel road. Great. Like an idiot I’d left my maps in the van thinking that the good old blue blazes would be just fine. Yea, should have figured that one out. So I rode back down to covered bridge, retraced to last blue blaze, and still no idea where to go. The blazes just died out. Went back up the gravel climb to Y, and went to right hoping to kind of go in the direction of where Judy and I were to meet. I climbed, and climbed and climbed up this gravel road, on and on and on. No blue blazes. Ok, time to ask for directions. Asked one guy cutting his lawn, and he sent me next door to his neighbor.
         Now this guy and his wife had never hear of the Buckeye Trail. But they did know where the jcn of Rt 555 and T102 were. The guy ended up giving me a lift in his pick-up back to Buckeye Trail where Judy was wating. But I know for sure that I’d done a ton more riding than I should have. Even now, sitting here at camp and gazing for a half hour at the maps, I cannot for the life of me figure out what the deal was. I’m wondering if in the last year or so someone has taken over that area where the trail had gone sour and it’s now private property. Sometimes the trails are allowed to go on private property as a courtesy. So things may have changed. I hope this isn’t  a reoccurring theme here with the BT!
         Slammed a coke, refilled on water and then began another section of BT. The next section was stellar, with crazy hard gravel road climbing and great scenery. Met Jude back at our next meeting spot and then decided, having wasted so much time on that lost section, to berminate the rest of the way to save time, as the day was getting pretty long already. Jude went ahead to get a campsite and I berminated on Rt 78. This was a long and hard grunt of treacherous berm. I had to get on asphalt several times only to keep from running the bike down into 4-ft deep gullies where the berm just totally disappeared. The berm climbs were pure torture, so maybe I should have taken the longer BT way? Don’t know, but wow, gnary stuff to ride on. Judy picked my up at the jcn of Rt 78 and Rt 13 in Burr Oak State Park. Very pretty area indeed. Our campsite is up on a high point so I have meager wifi and cell service.
         Had dogs and a salad for dinner. Will attempt to listen to the finals game tonight on wifi radio with a few ice cold beers in hand. Tomorrow I’m hoping to take the BT close to Logan, OH. That should be a pretty tough day. We’ll see…….Pete

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