Some may find it premature but I have decided to cancel Saturday's ride early so you all can seek other cycling opportunities...with chains on your tires. A group of us are cross country/snow shoeing at Slate Run Park at 1:00pm on Saturday and probably Sunday too!!!! Shoot me an email if you want more information and hope to see you next Saturday.
As some of you have heard, my house was robbed on Friday afternoon, stripping us of everything of significant value except for 3 items, my Bike, my Garmin and my map copies! I half believe the thieves must have been cyclists who took pity on me. Despite this setback, I was not going to let down my many fans and not show for the Saturday Roving Ride, especially when the carpenter called at 8:45am and postponed installation of a new door and frame until the late afternoon. That's all I needed to hear and off I went to Canal.
Largish crowd of 21 showed for the ride including Todd L (Grand Poobah), Steve O, Craig B, Pastor Mark, Kenda Janet and Kenda Paul, Rick H, Canal Susan, Dentist Brad, Scott, Dennis, Flyin Tuna, Ryan R, Triathlete Nate & two friends, Engineer Mitch, Dude who rides a trainer before the ride start and joining us out on the ride was Triathlete Andrew and 1-2 others whose names I forget.
Pleasantly surprised to see Mitch there, having recovered from arthroscopic surgery to his knee but riding well and Nate unveiled his new Felt time trial bike. The bike is light and very, very fast, when ridden by a fast rider. Nate apparently is ahead of his triathlon training schedule and eyeing Andrew, I thought I heard him refer to Andrew as “low hanging fruit” to be dispatched in some future triathlon. I could have misunderstood and probably did but I thought that’s what he said but I am no pot stirrer and I’ll say no more than that.
I maybe created a route that was a little too hilly for the first half of the ride with the ascent of Slough, cutting over to Pickerington and taking that new road with big hill before dropping back down to Winchester via Kauffman. We motored into Carroll and proceeded out Plum and that nice hill and then made our way over to Rainbow. I was playing the good host and sweeping the route but I somehow lost Ryan R and could not prevent Susan, Brad and Scott from taking a small shortcut but otherwise did a fine job, if I say so myself. Todd later accused me of using this as an excuse to relax on the outbound route to be rested for the return but my motives are pure.
Stopping at the end of Mud House and Coonpath, we said our goodbyes to the Kenda Janet and Paul who had to take the cut-off. I noted Janet is riding particularly strong but so too are others who are clearly not relaxing much this winter. We reached the Rushville Coffee Shop and there, Steve O’s parents were waiting to join us for the break. I let Steve’s parents know that my association with him has made me a much better person and he is generally regarded as a saint by his fellow cyclists. They beamed with pride. At our booth, Dennis regaled us with stories about visiting prisons and observing shower routines while installing heating or alarm systems or something. That Dennis can be one odd dude some times.
We had been riding in some modest sunshine for the last half of the ride and exited the Coffee Shop in fairly warm temps. I got started first and after coasting down the hill turned onto Gun Barrel, was soon joined by Dennis and Todd and where the road dead ended, we found a Walker racing guy (forget the name) and the four of us drilled it from there, an effort I named the Grand Poobah Express. The four of us worked tirelessly with I, Dennis and Walker Dude taking 1 mile pulls and Todd, at his turn, riding in the gutter. I have so much to learn from the wily veteran. We stayed out in front of the others and rode a fairly strong tailwind, ending with 55 miles and 2850’ of climbing. NOTE: I will be unable to lead the Roving Metric Century Ride next Saturday but there will be one, weather permitting. If anyone wants to host the ride next Saturday then let me know.
As I peered outside into the pea soup this morning, I wondered if anyone would show for the ride. It was the type of weather that under normal circumstances, I would have never left the house but as the excursion initiator, I had to at least show to say I had shown. As I was loading my car, Cindy B emerged from the fog bank on her bike, ignoring the signs posted at my driveway barring entry to solicitors. The batteries in her tail light had expired so she asked for a new pair, which I was able to find and after installing, disappeared back into the fog, bound for New Albany.
On the drive over, Kevin H called me to confirm he was in the correct parking lot so that made 3 of us able to ride but I doubted I’d see anyone else but by the time we were on our bikes ready to roll, there were 16 of us; Kevin H, Dennis, Woody (the famous winner of the Granville Climbing Challenge), Larry P, Theresa, Ginger, Recumbent Nathan, Jeff S, Bob and Patti W., Kenda Dave, Ryan R, Cindy, Nick v and one other guy whose name I can’t recall. Unfortunately, Bob discovered his cleats did not match his peddles so he and Patti had to leave.
Because of the conditions, we thought we would stay in two groups since no one should get dropped and have to ride alone. However, everyone was able to stay together for the first few miles until we hit the hill on Alward, which stretched things out a bit but we regrouped prior to 310. Recumbent Dude Nathan can no longer be referred to as RD because he has abandoned the recumbent for a road and time trial bike and is training for a triathlon in Florida later this year. Currently averaging around 15 hours a week for bike, run and swim training, he has the look of someone who will do well and if everything works out, he intends to compete for the Kona Ironman. I can see it now, Roger Twibell doing a human interest story on Nathan, “Nathan, a formerly sad, pathetic cyclist who lacked the coordination to ride a real bike, grew tired of seeing himself parodied on an obscure cycling blog and turned himself into an Ironman!”
10 miles into the ride, the sun broke through and blue skies dominated. It was great and what a relief to ride in warm sunshine. We cruised down Gale, turning left on Granview, right on Hayes and after crossing #37, hit Canyon and that series of hills. Here, Larry P, riding a cyclecross bike with 5” wide tires, turned up the screws and it was particularly discouraging that I could barely hang with him. It does not bode well for us when he switches to a road bike. Egads! We descended down to #16 and crossed the marshy center and onto River Road in Granville. The River Road Coffee House was sold out of bagels so we hit the Village Coffee House and sat inside refueling. Kenda Dave elected to keep going and Cindy had previously headed east and home.
Surprisingly, after 26 miles, while there were some fence sitters, the majority wanted to take a direct route back and we headed out Raccoon Valley Road into Alexandria and into a kind of strong head wind and sunshine. We jumped onto Jersey Mill and for some reason, the dreariness of the fog reappeared and we rode back in these conditions all the way into New Albany via #161. We finished with 44 miles. When I drove back to Granville, I noted that the sun reappeared so for some reason, the Columbus area stayed in fog all day. It was a fun ride and a great group of people with whom to spend time. We wondered how our friends were doing at the brevet in Florida where Grand Poobah, Julia, Roy, Amanda and others were competing in the warm temperatures and probably sun.
Ahh, cross country skiing, one of those activities I had watched every 4 years during the Olympics, looked like a good workout and fun but I had never actually tried it. Circumstances of crummy and extended winter weather, an invitation, borrowed skis and available time finally presented the opportunity. I boned up on it by watching Youtube videos, which gave me plenty of confidence that learning through ossmosis would work, plus I gave myself a trial run at a local park on the day before Sunday’s official event. Fell a few times on the downhill sections but otherwise I thought it was not too hard, just shuffling the legs back and forth.
We gathered at Slate Run Park and had a good turnout of Peggy, Butch, Cindy, Craig B, Jeff S, Evie, Al and Kevin K. We all had cross country skis except for Craig, who jogged with us on snowshoes. For laughs, I put on my cycling helmet and had I known the perils that were to come, I would have/should have kept it on. Slate Run has over 23,000 acres of land and a beautiful mix of meadows and woods. We shoved off on the Five Oaks Trail into the woods. Soon we came to a steep downhill with a 90⁰ turn to the left at the bottom. I was amazed at Flyin Tuna’s bravery as she began gliding down the hill but soon realized her plan was for a series of controlled falls to brake her speed. After 3-4 collapses into the snow she reached the corner where she continued to scoot for an extended period on a delicate balancing act of two skis and rear planted firmly to the ground. It was slow going but it worked and not knowing any better, I thought that was how it’s done so I aped the technique and got to the bottom the same way. The more experienced skiers, having waited for someone thus allowing us to temporarily get ahead, came to the top of that hill and promptly took their skis off and walked down. Huh, had not thought of that. Kevin K had been with us at the front and he skied down and stayed upright but not without running into the railing. Still, impressive to have almost made the bottom turn.
The problem with going down one of these hills into a gully is there is another hill coming out and there I learned how to get up a really steep hill. I swam fruitlessly around, grabbed the wooden rail at the side of the trail and began pulling myself up. Craig, feeling sorry for me, came down and shoved me up the hill…what a guy! At the top of one hill, I navigated down to a point where, if I took the correct approach, I could take a straight line to the bottom. It is of this "effort" that Peggy made into a video and has now uploaded it to Youtube, where future cross country beginner skiers can watch and be persuaded not to ski. More hills with turns were ahead and the trail was a little too technical for some (most?) of us so at some point we veered onto the Bobolink Grassland Trail. Now this was much more fun and my style of inconsistent staggering slowly morphed into somewhat of a smoother shuffling of the legs and yes, kind of like how it is supposed to be done. We came to a terrific overlook and paused to refuel but soon headed down a long but not steep hill and I felt so confident I even pulled the skis under my arms and crouched like a downhiller would, even though getting into an aero tuck offered no real benefit when going 4mph. Hey and I stayed upright. All that Youtube training was really paying off.
We had gotten onto the Kokomo Wetland Trail and Peggy began to worry the park ranger would lock the gates on us so we turned around and headed back. The group had paused and I went ahead, soon overtaken by Butch who gave me some additional pointers that refined my style even more. I think I was finally getting the hang of it but also thought my erratic style of before made me work harder and burn more calories. Kind of like switching from a hybrid bike to a road bike. We reached the parking lot and because there was still some daylight, most of us headed off to do the Shagbark and Covered Bridge trails to give us 6.5 total miles. It was an odd experience. I never found myself breathing hard nor felt my heart rate had gotten very high but my t-shirt, sweatshirt and even part of the outer jacket were soaked with perspiration so unless I was grossly overdressed, cross country skiing is a good workout, just not the cardio benefit of trail running or cycling. It is fun and a great alternative to sitting on an indoor trainer, which I have yet to touch this off-season.
The forecast is looking good for the end of the week and I’m planning a route for cycling this Saturday. I also noticed on the drive out of Slate Run that the passing of the clouds revealed a sunset that is much later than it was a couple of weeks ago. I think I can see the light at the end of the winter tunnel.
In what can best be described as the new year's most obvious call, there is no ride tomorrow. However, we are cross country sking on Sunday at Slate Run. If interested to join us, shoot me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll give you details. I've never cross country skied before but I borrowed a pair, watched many Youtube videos so believe I'm now between expert & professional level no. Nothing should change once I get on the skies for the first time.
Cave with no name.
We gathered at a remote parking area off Big Pine Road. Wasting no time because of the arctic winds sweeping the area, we quickly made the introductions, hosted on our backpacks and headed into the bush…but wait, a pair of sweatpants caught my eye in the back of my car. Thinking they may be needed to supplement the cold weather cycling tights I already was wearing, I asked Ryan to grab my keys from my pack. Ryan was also nice enough to insert the sweats into my pack and rezipped it. By now, Mark C and two others were bushwhacking their way up a steep climb but Ryan and I eventually caught on.
Approach to grove of cedar trees
We soon began a long walk across the face of a slope before coming upon the first of the day’s many sights. A large crevasse of unknown name so we called it the unnamed cave. Pretty neat with ice formations but we barely paused because the next feature was fairly close, a thick grove of cedars. Pushing through the thicket, again on a fairly steep slope, revealed Mark C’s boots had lost some traction and so he fell frequently. Soon, someone yelled they found a pair of sweatpants and thus it was revealed the contents of my pack were spilling out. I quickly rezipped everything and made a mental note not to again entrust the important job of pack zipping to Ryan. We pushed on to Airplane Rock, a distinctive outcropping of rock that extends above Long Valley (I think that’s the name). We stayed well away from the edge, respecting the slick conditions.
Ryan carefully works his way down the 'trail'.
Somewhere, we made a brief stop for a snack before heading down a gully and avoiding getting our feet wet. We were required to cross a stream and while we found a few boulders to walk across, Ryan, spotting a large tree lain across the stream, chose the path less traveled. Scooting across the tree worked ok until the tree branches thickened and the going became very difficult but eventually he emerged, no worse for the wear. So far, the route had been fantastic with tough climbs, seat scorching slides down steep hills, scaling of kind of steep rock faces, working around massive rock formations to reach the top of a ridge, everything I had grown to expect from one of Mark C’s off-trail hikes. We were relieved to find ourselves on a real trail that led to “21 Horse Cave”, a real cave and not just a cavern. It got very dark towards the back and we were afraid of stumbling over a sleeping Griz so we declined to explore the very back of the cave.
At the Airplane Rock Overlook.
The final stop was the “Cave with Two Falls”, another fantastic area. We decided to go off trail once again and were soon skidding down an embankment short of a creek. Ryan, displaying amazing fearlessness (or craziness) opted to try sliding across a petrified log to gain the final bottom of our route but slid off and somehow landed on his feet rather than his head. Soon we had reached the parking area having completed a long oval of a route of around 4-5 miles and 3.5 hours of hiking. Doesn’t sound like much but Mark’s routes require you to use every muscle in your body and it’s a great workout.