Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Living the high life

Wednesday, June 20. Shawnee State Park, Ohio to Russellville, OH. 55 miles of riding in 5:22 hrs.

Another just pure toaster outside today.
         Intensions were to get up at 5 AM, but sleep got the best of us and we were an hour late. So Jude did the coffee and fried me up 6 scrambled eggs, I packed all the gear and she got me back to my end point from yesterday. Got on the road it 7:30 AM. Judy went back to Shawnee SP to get in a run and a workout while I got to the riding. Then we scheduled to meet at Bentonville at 10:30 AM. I hit the gravel from the get-go for a great descent of about 3 miles down into a valley, then more gravel, and more gravel. The temp was just so nice and cool, with my riding mostly under a canopy of tree cover the majority of the time. Reminded me of my early starts on trips gone by.
         The riding was tough, with some just brutal climbs on gravel, but the trade-off was just total solitude and the amazing scenery of Southwestern Ohio. I’d gotten to the point right now where I’m doing most of my shifting from the left side – the chainrings – rather than give myself trigger finger with the right hand shifts all the time. I mean it’s just non-stop shifting over undulating terrain and big, big climbs. So to save my right thumb, I just decided to go little cookie, middle cookie, big cookie for the majority of the shifts and either spin or push a Z3 kind of gear/effort. But when I do climb right now, especially with a 25 lb backpack on, I tend to go easy and not spend myself on the climbing efforts. I think that this will get me further than the other way around with this kind of heat. Will sacrifice a mile per hour for an overall average so that I can get longer days in.
         So for about 1.5 hrs I was on a vast majority of gravel, and then I got on this section of ATV track, and it was just so bloody cool to be way the hell out in the forest descending and climbing and doing these moguls and ruts like a kid at the local BMX course. Most all of this section looked to be part of a massive ATV area, with spin-off trails going everywhere. Thankfully the trail was often marked through this. Got back on regular gravel, and then some pavement after that. Now I did get screwed up on this first section today, but that was because some of these BT markers are just so hard to see. Sometimes the blazes are covered up with vines and plant growth, or worn and barely discernable, or just so unevenly spaced that you whiz by and never so them. So I did that on this one section, and ended up going like 2 miles down the road without seeing a blaze. Then came to the end of the road (which was unmarked) and figured that I was just NOT in the right place. So I doubled back and sure enough I missed this blaze that was just so tough to see. It had me go over a condemned bridge, and then through a field.
Did a ton of climbing today, and some of these were just amazingly long and steep. I mean these are not even county or state routes, but they’re more like primitive township routes. Many of these roads have no markers, no signs, no nothing. Some just look like farmer’s access roads – one lane of dirt drifting off into the woods. Did more climbing out of the saddle today just to kind of stretch the legs out, but the problem with climbing this steep gravel stuff OTS is that you have to lay your butt back to weight the rear wheel down so it won’t “chirp” on the gravel. Makes for a much different way to work the legs and low back that’s for sure.
By about 2 hrs into the ride I could just feel the heat and humidity creeping in in a big way. Went from cool morning to just under the torrid side by then, and the sweat began to flow in a torrent, down the nose such that I could blow the drops off the end of my nose as I climbed. The final climb into Bentonville to meet Judy was just a zapper on the energy, not to mention the heat just sucking the life out of me. This pup was asphalt, so I could really stand a lot and stretch the legs out on each pedal stroke. I probably stood for a good 15 min on that climb as it just continued to go up and around and up and around. Met Judy at just 20 min over the time I had told her. She was parked at a church parking lot in Bentonville – with zero shade. Damn was it hot, and it was just 10:45-11 AM. Got two ice cold cokes down the hatch and Jude made me two cheese, cucumber & tomato sandwiches on 9-grain bread.
I tried to keep it a fast one so I could get going again and put in more miles before that magic 95-degree number would pop up for the day. In Bentonville it was already 87-degrees. Set up the next meeting point and got rolling. Now this second section was all asphalt, and the climbing was WAY, WAY easier than the first. I guess because I was now traveling northwest and out of the Ohio Valley area, the terrain got a bit more gentle. This was pretty much all exposed to the sun, and pretty much all farmland – dairy farming and crop farming. Gone were the deep stream and creek valleys from the first section I did in the morning.
So with the terrain gentling out and the surface being all hard, I was able to make good time on the second section and meet up with Judy about 30 min earlier than I had told her. Good thing about today was that she only spent about 30 min waiting at each of the meeting spots. So time to make the call for the day: move on for another hr with the temp at 91 degrees, or bag it? I looked on my phone for camping and/or motels in the area and there was just nothing close to us. Closest place was in Ripley down on the Ohio River, and they only had one campground and one motel. So rather than riding further into the abyss with no lodging available, we decided to go to Ripley and find something and just chill for the rest of the day.
Our drive from my end point of the day to Ripley was about 10 miles. Now Ripley seems to be a nice little place along the river – a typical rivertown – with pubs and docs and such. But the campground we stopped to check out, shit it was like on this strip of land that had zero shade and about 20 lots. I just couldn’t stomach the though of parking the van in 95-degree heat and sitting there for the rest of the day, with me trying to work, and Judy trying to cook and do her thing. Now we did locate another campground along the river but that was full. They gave us directions to yet another campground out of town, but on our way we passed a motel.
We stopped, found the price to be 35 bucks. DONE. Hell, camping would likely be 25 bucks. Now this place pretty much freaked Judy out – it’s your prototypical cockroach motel. The kinds I stopped at on occasion in my previous two trips across the country. The room is the size of a prison cell; the bathroom – ditto on the prison cell; the d├ęcor – NONE; a frige with a cockroach inside (Yes really), a microwave (with a dirty pizza box still inside); furniture that needs to be sitting in a junk pile for the rubbish service to dispose of; and carpeting that is so grim that we’re both wearing flip-flops so as not to pick up any funguses. But it’s home for the night. We did check the bed for kooties and we’re good there. We did dispose of the bedcover. Matter of fact I’m using it as a chair cushion as I’m here on the computer.  Funniest thing about the place is the owner. He showed us the room, and the whole while he’s spaying this air cleaner around in the room. It was hilarious. So each time I look at Judy I make this “PFFFFTT, PFFFFT” noise as if I’m spraying air freshener. She’s doing quite well actually considering what a total and complete dump this place is. Not the Hilton Garden Suites my dear!!
And the real kicker of this place, well, the owner that is, is that as he was spraying and showing us the room – er…the dungeon – he told us we could rent by the week or month. And I’m like, no thanks, we’re just passing through, one night is just fine. And we were goofing on that one for a bit, like, “yea, let’s stay here in Ripley for the week honey, what a great idea in such a wonderful motel”
Ok, time to sign off and go cook chicken on the grill on this picnic table out in the front of the place. Can’t wait to see if any of the “residents” in this joint come out to greet us what with the smell of fresh food wafting through the 95-degree air out here. “Chow time everyone!!”

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