An admitted shoe geek waxes philosophical about running, triathlon, and life in general.
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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Enjoy the Silence

Some days it's nice to just get out and enjoy the silence and solitude.

Today was one of those days, getting out on my mountain bike on a beautiful but cold day on some new terrain.

This past summer I took a long lunchtime ride that had be skirting the roads just east of Joint Base Lewis McChord, looking at a lot of empty land with occasional dirt roads leading in, and thinking it would be great for a gravel ride. I looked at maps and satellite imagery, and started planning a large loop. I asked people who I ran into that might know about how accessible that land was (and how likely it would be that I'd be shot at or end up in a military prison). 

All indications were that it would be okay, but that given military exercises were often done on this land, I'd have to pay attention to any signs warning of unexploded ordnance.

So when the weather forecast said that today would be clear, no chance or rain, and I just happened to have this week off for holiday, it provided the perfect opportunity.

I loaded up the car in 26 degree temps, and headed out.

At 9:00 I hit the trail, or gravel road actually, the first several miles siding along the paved road and then turning into the woods. As the miles ticked by, I found myself breaking out into clearings, meadows hundreds of acres vast.

With the cold, my water bottles quickly got slushy. Having to stop often to check navigation (and having to restart Cuesheet each time) added a significant amount of time to the ride. And even though there was little in the way of elevation change, I was wishing I'd gone slightly lower with my gearing on the single speed. But none of that dampened the enjoyment of the ride. Sun, nice gravel, seeing only 3 other people the entire ride (and they were training their hunting dogs). 

There were only two points where I needed to portage around large pools of icy water. And only one point where I had to re-route when the road I'd mapped crossed a stream. Had this been summer with temperatures in the 80's instead of freezing, I might have ridden through it. I back-tracked to a bridge, and re-joined my route, not missing much mileage.

Sometimes you run into unexpected things out in these areas. The sad part is that I could always tell when I was getting close to the paved roads - dumped trash.

My choice of going with a monster-cross bike might have been overkill, but I had no idea what I was going to run into on this route. Next time I'll ride the 'cross bike.

And there WILL be a next time. I don't think I touched 10% of the gravel roads that lace this area.

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