Sunday, June 10, 2012

I've been working on the railroad

Fairmont, WV to Shinnston, WV 41 miles of riding and bike-a-hike for 4:45 hrs, but only 20 miles of forward progress.

This is my dream and nightmare at the same time. What an incredible challenge it is to even find some of these trailheads, let alone ride on all soft surfaces. We left the campground in Fairmont and drove straight to Shinnston so as to nat have Judy mulling about at the trailhead at Prickett’s Fort for hrs on and, and secondly so we wouldn’t have to double back again, and thirdly it actually is taking two of us to navigate to these completely hidden trailheads around here. I have to do the map work while Judy drive, and sometimes we’re just going in circles. So I couldn’t have Judy Drop me off back at Prickett’s Fort, and then drive solo to this Mary Lou Retton trailhead. Such was the case this morning when we decided to drive to the Mary Lou Retton Park in South Fairmont so I ride back to where I finished yesterday via AD ethics and then ride road back to hook up with Judy again. So I’d double distance on this first stretch of the day.
Now finding the trailhead at Mary Lou Retton park was a pretty futile exercise. We just drove around and around. No signage, no nothing. And I DID ask for directions to the place, and the guy reiterated like 6 times. But lo and behold, we just couldn’t find the place. Finally, after looking for the better part of an hour we came down this steep hill to a ratty old road which was right next to the trail, but no trailhead parking, just this skid row place that reminded me of so slums of Mexico. I mean this place was scary nasty. There was a pit bull dog on a chain who was sleeping right in the middle of the road. And when I drove up to him he slowly go up and got out of the way. The homes were disheveled and there was garbage all over the place. And there was just nowhere to park. Jude was just totally spooked.
Nope, that was NO place to have her wait for me for my double back to North Fairmont. So we eventually drove up to a ballpark about a mile away from the trail. It was in the open, safe, and had some facilities for her. I got it going at about 8:30 AM and the temp was already 80 degrees. Rode back down to the trail area in the ghetto, and then headed north back to Prickett’s Fort. The trail was asphalt, so I rode on the earthen berm for about a mile, and then the trail turned to gravel and went up a steep access road and ended on an asphalt road in a small development. There were signs for the MC Trail (Marion County Trail) so I knew it was time to “berm it” again. And that I did up to a shopping mall where I saw a guy getting a bike out of his car. Asked the dude about the trail back to Prickett’s Fort, and he told me it was all road – asphalt. He gave me directions and wished me luck on my mad-ass plans.
Bike-a-hiked down through a just heavily concreted and asphalted section of Rt 250 for about a mile. Then, having done recon last night, I spotted the RR line that runs along the Monongahela River and right past Prickett’s Fort. I hiked down to the RR tracks and jumped on a gravel access road that runs along the RR, and the line ran right under the city of Fairmont. I was feeling pretty good at that point by there being a gravel road down there….until I came to a point to where a train was parked across the road I was taking. So I shouldered the bike and climbed up the ladder of a train car and traversed to the other side to get back on the gravel access road. Yes!! Until I rode another half mile and came to the engine of the train, with two guys up in the engine looking at me. Not good. I’ll always claim ignorance, but too early in the trip to get RR folks PO’ed at me. So I ducked to the right down this little gravel road to a pumping station. And down there I ran into a fellow fishing. I stopped and talked to the guy about the whereabouts of Prickett’s Fort in relation to where we were at on the RR and river. He told me it was just around the bend. But he said there were no roads across the river to Prickett’s. I told him the RR line branched off with one side crossing the Monongahela. And he looked at me like I was a ghost! “You crossing a RR bridge?” he asked. “Across the river?” Yup I answered. Then he replied, “I don’t know about that”. By that time the engine started pulling the cars and getting the hell off the tracks. I jawed with the guy for a few more min to let the train go by, then I bid the dude farewell and walked the bike back up to the tracks and continued riding.
Now the tracks did indeed branch off, with my end going up the long rampart, some 20 or so feet above the other set of tracks. And this thing had these “escape platforms” every 50 yrds or so. I guess they’re there for workers who need to get out of the way when a train is on the rampart and the bridge. I shouldered the bike and walked gingerly on the ties as this thing eventually rose up to about 40-50 feet above the other line, and then swung right across the river. But I was within striking distance of Prickett’s! Did the last section of RR over the river, a span of about 1000 feet, and then got down off the RR and onto the Prickett’s Fort trail area and bingo bango, I had bridged North and South Fairmont. Got back on the road that Judy and I had taken out of there yesterday and headed back through the city to where I’d started up by Mary Lou Retton Park.  Did the round trip in just about 2 hrs flat. But by then it was torrid hot out.
Next up was to drive to Shinnston to find that trailhead and then ride up the Mary Lou Retton Park for a second double back for the day. And finding the Shinnston TH was just about as hard as finding the MLR TH. But we found it. Now on this one Judy rode with me, for there was no RR or gnarly berm stuff to do. The first few miles were nice dbl track gravel, but then when we rode north from Harrison Co. to Marion Co the trail turned to asphalt – and back to the earthen berm riding for me. Judy eventually dropped me because I just counldn’t go faster than 7-10 mph on that stuff. Some of it was perfectly flat and fast, and other portions were cambered and rough.
I bermed it for about 10 miles. With about a mile to go Judy whizzed past me on her way back. And I was just feeling totally cooked from the day, with the temps now topping 90-degrees. Made it back the ghetto, did my U, and headed back on asphalt. But I just couldn’t hammer. I was just toast from the earlier ride and then the ten miles of earthen berm. So I just tried to keep it under control without feeling like I was pushing it. Made it back to Judy and the van feeling like a wilted weed. Hammered 2 cokes and strategized with Judy on the next section – Shinnston to Clarksburg. I told her to stay there for 45 min in case the trail turns to nothinness in the short term. That way I wouldn’t be smoked, dead tired and overheated and have the trail turn to nothing, as many of these have. I guy we met in the parking area said the trail went all the way to Wolf Summit, but I’d read on the net that this is just sections of non-trail and trail – unkept and often just a bushwhack. So I didn’t want to end up with her driving to Clarksburg and me finding nothing within a couple miles of riding.
And wouldn’t you have it, but the trail died out within a half mile south of Shinnston. Met an old feller at a point where the trail is just totally overgrown. He was sitting there listening to country music and talking to his dogs. Asked about the trail and he told me that this spot was the terminous. That’s all I needed to hear. No way was I going to fight through brush and bike-a-hike with the heat the way it was, especially feeling like I was pretty smoked. Rode back to the parking area, loaded the bike in the van, and I’ll deal with this in the morning. I’m bloody well done for the day. We each got a milkshake at a DQ on the way to Clarksburg and that was it. Next up finding a cheap motel for the night because there was zero camping within the area. I mean zero!
And again, as fate would have it the prices are like ridiculous here – nothing under 60 bucks. We ended up getting this place outside of Clarksburg for like 70 bucks – which means we’re eating leftovers from last night tonight for dinner. Now I’ve been looking at maps for the two different sections that I need to bridge to get to the North Bend trail – Shinnston to Clarksburg, and Clarksburg to Wolf Summit. Could be that just ONE of these will take me all day tomorrow. I hope not, but hey, this is the way it’s going. Got to do this dbl back stuff so that Judy isn’t doing both driving and navigating at the same time to these impossibly hard places to find. I’d rather she stays put in one safe area while I do a dbl back ride. Got to do this until things change and the navigating is way easier.
Ok, time to sign out, it’s beer thirty………..Pete 

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