This past Saturday I did a reconnaissance of the second-day course for the ride I’m hosting in two weeks – the Lucky Masochist’s Gravel Deuce.
This course takes us through two off-pavement sections that are part of active timber sales which are not on state land, so there is the possibility that they’d be rendered impassable by various factors. Even last year on the first rendition of this ride there was some question, as I hadn’t ridden the route since the previous year. Some washouts made things interesting, but other than requiring a dismount, it was all good.
It wasn’t until fairly late on Friday evening that I decided to do the recon ride on Saturday. With an eye on the weather forecast, I opted for the better day, at my wife’s gentle persuasion. And so my preparations were pushed into early Saturday morning. Grabbing food, navigation and repair gear, clothes, bike, wheels…
I made the drive to the Lucky Eagle Casino, departing from my house at an almost-early 7am, and with clear traffic arrived at the scene of the crime in just over an hour.
The shenanigans started as soon as I was preparing to ride.
Tire levers? Oh, those were in my locker at work along with my lighter arm warmers, left over from an urgent get-to-the-restroom loading of the bike on Thursday (I usually leave them in the car, but kept them in my jersey pocket to save a few precious seconds). Well, at least I could use a quick-release skewer if needed, and I’ve pulled these tires off without tools before.
At least that seemed to be the only thing missing. Until I turned on the Garmin to load up the day’s route. “Lucky Deuce Day” was listed, but only once. I knew that the unit I have truncated off the last digit of the course name, but I’d always had two on there, for each day’s course. I tapped the screen to bring up the course, and sure enough, it was the day-1 route.
Turns out that with one of the latest updates, that truncated character wasn’t even in the memory any more, so it now assumed that these were the same course and discarded one of them. What to do?
I looked at the hotel across the street, where I’d planned on doing a check-in to reserve the room for the ride weekend after today’s ride. Maybe they have a computer that I could use to download the day-2 route? I had the cord with me, so off I went to hopefully save the day.
Well, yes, they have a computer, but with security set up such that I couldn’t download Garmin Express to connect to my Edge Touring device. Stymied!
I had a flash – I’d also duplicated the routes on RidewithGPS. A quick load of that onto my phone, and there the route was… Saving grace! Or so I thought.
Until I got on the bike and went to turn on the navigation. “Not supported on your account.” What? I’ve used it in the past. I tried another function. “This function only supported on paid accounts.” Ah, so that was their thing – functions that had been part of the free offerings were now only available if you paid them for it.
So what to do?
In the true spirit of adventure riding, I put my phone back in my pocket, said “here goes nothing” (okay, that’s not really what I said, but this is a family-friendly blog), and started off on the day’s ride, hoping that memory and luck would guide me through.
I pushed out east and south, into the first climb that would take me to the gated gravel road of the initial off-pavement excursion. The first turn came sooner than I expected, but the distance to the forest road felt like it was expanding. Did I miss it? Or did it just not exist any more?
Finally I arrived at the turn-off, ducked under the gate, and journeyed into the wilds. It all looked familiar at first, but then opened up into a very large clear-cut. Nothing looked the same. What had been dense and fairly dark forest was now wide open stumps with scattered piles of slash. The roads all looked different as well. I hit the steep uphill that I hoped was right (it felt right, but with everything looking unfamiliar, I wasn’t sure), then took the middle fork of a tree-way intersection… It wasn’t until another mile later that I was assured I was on the right path.
Right about the time I hit a sharp rock with my front wheel, and heard that “hiss-ss-ss-ss-ss”. The tube change was uneventful, and the tire hadn’t sustained any damage, so I was on my way again quickly. The last half-mile of this section, after a good mile long descent, was a bit overgrown, long grass bent into the double-track making a fairly narrow path. Last year when I’d ridden this, the grass looked the same, but was soaked from the rain. Today, while the rain had been light, the grass was somewhat dry, so I didn’t get the soaking that the last time I came through here produced.
I was feeling like a navigation rock star, having made it through the first section with no wrong turns, in spite of how the landscape had changed.
On pavement again, I turned west and north, quickly arriving at the entrance to the second off-pavement sector.
The gravel was in good shape, with just the occasional blackberry vines encroaching into the roadway. As I ventured deeper into the woods, I scared up deer multiple times, and one owl. I passed several turn-offs, some of kept count in case I needed to turn back and re-route. Four miles in, a downed maple provided a challenge. How to cross through? I mentally tried two paths before arriving at the conclusion I’d have to break some (rather large) branches to make it. I like traipsing through the woods in silence, mimicking the natural fauna as much as possible. The snapping of the branches might as well have been a brass band announcing my presence in the solitude. But at least there’s a somewhat clear path through this obstacle now.
Back in the saddle, I pushed on, arriving at the last descent sooner than expected. More deer (with fawns this time) dashed off the road, just before the first of four wash-outs. It wasn’t until this point that I truly knew I was on the right path. Anyway, last year, there was a sign warning of the road being closed due to these wash-outs. That sign wasn’t there this time, and though I didn’t think they’d been repaired, I was hopeful that they at least weren’t worse. Turns out my hopes were right, and some quick dismounts got me through.
Up a last hill, and onto pavement again, I checked the time, and opted to drive out the last section to the Brooklyn Tavern (worth a post all on its own) rather than ride the 22 mile out-and-back, and rode back to the casino.
Thirty miles, two off-pavement with the potential to get lost several times, and no wrong turns. Memory, luck, and instincts got me through the ride safely.
That rock star feeling swelled.
But I renamed the routes and loaded them onto my Garmin as soon as I got home.