Sunday, August 29, 2010

The first scratch is always the worst.....

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This report is going to be different than previous ones, it was a much different day of riding. The map above really only shows my path via paved roads. The map below (taken from the Land Between the Lakes Motor Vehicle Usage Map) is also quite incomplete. Today was my first big day of gravel and offroad trail riding. Many of the paths that I took are only partially represented or not even on the map. I'm not even 100% that some of the marked spots are valid for where I went, partially due to the fact that I forgot my new LBL map (that I bought yesterday) in my car.


The first road to the North of the Welcome Station is 229. The map shows this road connecting to 229, but in reality that road is blocked with "No vehicle beyond this point" signs. I remembered this from when I brought my Jeep out here before and expected to use this road to stretch my legs, so to speak, on gravel, dirt, and a big mud puddle. I took the center path on the really deep mud hole. The bike bogged into the mud, but never stopped. This was really cool to me. I turned around and headed to points north. I took 227 to 228 and took a long detour to a cemetery off of 228, and then another road up a quite steep hill to Dennis Cemetery. I decided here that going down a hill is actually not as fun as going up a hill. I felt a lot less in control.

I then took a left on 229. Where 229 meets 387 is a road pointing to Gillam Cemetery. I took this more technical road toward the cemetery. It was a lor of downhill, and for some weird reason at one spot I came to a stop, I think I was trying to avoid a rut or something. As I put my foot down, gravel rolled out from underneath it, and I rather gently dropped the bike onto the right side. I stood it back up (light bikes at WAY easy with the proper squat and lift behind your back technique) and surveyed the damage. Nothing immediately jumped up, but then as I through my leg over I realized that the front brake lever was bent out quite a bit. DANG! Guess I need to get some hand guards soon.

I continued down the hill, passing the turn off for the cemetery and continuing down to a small camping area where the road dead ended at a pretty gnarly creek crossing. After looking at a map later, I realized that this was probably pretty close to where 229 used to connect through.

After turning around, I headed up to Gillam Cemetery, climbing a steep slick hill on the way up. I almost slide off the bike at the top, but caught it at the last minute. I've got to work on better stopping points, the left side cannot be lower than the right side. I stopped here for a bit and rested before heading back to the junction.


I decided to follow the road on the right (turned out to be 387) not quite sure if it was a valid road or just another agricultural access road. Many of the roads in LBL were constructed to access either farm land or cemeteries. This road actually went down to the water as well.


I went downhill carefully, a bit spooked by my dropping of the bike still, and came to a pretty rutted muddy area at the bottom where the dead end meet a big creek. I turned around and coming back up the hill I decided to puch myself a little bit. There were three decent sized yumps (Rally speak for small jumps) that I took a little faster than I had taken previously. On two of them, I think that the front and rear wheels came off the ground, the bike stayed very much in control and I felt pretty good. It was a big confidence booster after dropping the bike.

Once I got back to The Trace, I headed North, noting a few potential roads on both sides. I turned onto the road for Brandon Spring and was greeted with "Authorized Groups only." I turned back onto The Trace and then took at right onto Tharpe Road.I have no idea what number this road is, and the map doesn't have it named. I followed Tharpe down to a fork and then followed both of it's forks to water. Nothing crazy, but the lower fork was a bit more rutted. I headed back to The Trace and went South. I had seen two roads I was interested in. The more southern of the two was a very odd road that sort of paralleled The Trace. It was paved in the style of pea gravel embedded in concrete for a good bit of it, but in a state of disrepair. The pavement ended, the grass got taller, and the a trail started, just as the road looped back up toward The Trace. It sort of ended at a big concrete drainage ditch, really close to The Trace. Fifteen feet of driving and I was back on the main road.


I headed North again, looking for a road on the West side that dropped down from The Trace a bit and had a huge mud hole at the beginning. I came across it shortly and headed down. I crossed the flooded hole without much problem at all, throwing water up my legs in the process. I headed down this road for a good bit, the further I went the worse it got. Eventually, I got to a very large hill, probably 4-5 miles from pavement. At the top of the hill was a large tree that had fallen onto the trail.


I could see a decent trail on the other side of the tree, but I could not see a good way around, and there was no way I could get over the tree that was nearly 24" high. I cut my losses and turned around, but I'm very interested to check this route out some more. As I headed back, I passed a steep climbing trail on my right going South.

I climbed this hill, getting enough speed to make it up the fairly long hill without having to stop to get around obstacles. I hit a spot were there was a deep rut caused by a 4x4 and got a little bit of a scare as bike went were it could, but not were I was willing it to. After I got to the top, I followed the trail through 4 miles of woods and a few open fields, snaking around several downed trees and finally coming to the North/South hiking trail where the trail ended with posts to keep people off the trail unless they are hiking. I had been here before as some point, I've hiked the entire trail from end to end.


I turned around, starting to think I was going to get rained on as the wind picked up and the sky darkened. As I reentered the woods, it seemed as if I might stay dry for a while longer. I made it to nearly the top of the hill with no problem. I was taking the other side of the two-track trail on the way back, and near where the hill started going down again I ran into a really deep rut much like the one earlier, only deeper. I had not run through many of these, except at puddles, and had been able to ride through without problems. This time was different. I was doing about 15mph (indicated, probably more like 12mph) and hit this rut. The bottom wasn't flat, and as I tried to get the bike to slow down within the rut, the front wheel caught the edge of the rut and nearly came to a stop. I new I was going down, and I did. When I got back up, I quickly checked myself and then killed the bike. I was fine, but the fuel cap on the bike seems to leak if it is layed on it's side. So My first goal was to get the bike up. As I bent down to lift the bike, I realized that there was glass around. Dang it, I broke the right side mirror. Not cool.

I got the bike back up and made it to The Trace and then the South welcome station again to consult the map. I was a bit bummed about the mirror, and that fall in general, but I'm not hurt so it was a good learning experience. The first fall seemed out my control, for the most part, but the second was my fault. I have learned how to take this ruts for the future. I scarfed down two grilled cheese sandwiches, a bottle of water and an apple.


I checked out the big map at the center and realized that I had mostly completed the roads around 229, but didn't actually get to the end of 229. I thought this road continued North previously, but seeing that it did not, I decided to make one last blast to the end before heading home. The campground and fishing area on this road looked really cool and I saw several ducks and herons on my way up to the boat ramp.

I returned to Dover with the intention of regrouping and seeing if I wanted to ride, on pavement, somewhere else. I had been in LBL for about 3.5 hours, and while I don't think it was too much dirt riding, it seemed like a good start for me. I stopped by The Dip Dairy Freeze in Dover and got a vanilla cone before heading home. The sky opened up on me before I got back to the edge of town, and then as I dried out I realized I was going to get wet again. I decided to stop by Karen's parents house to avoid the rain and hang out with them for a bit before heading home.

Once I got home, I had a bit of a mess on my hands. Spent some time hosing down and them washing the bike. I realized that this bike will never be as clean as it was yesterday!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

It's all about the ride.....

Matt (not me) and I decided to finally ride together this afternoon. We had planned to previously, but other obligations, my old bike not doing great, etc, keep pushing it back. With the new bike, it almost seemed like we had no good reason not to.

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I left the house around 1:40pm with the plan to meet in Palmyra at 2:00. I go just a few blocks from home and the bike died. I could get it restarted, but revving it killed it. Not sure what was happening, and then I remembered I know have a functioning reserve, so I flipped to it, and bingo, all was well. Stopped for gas at the next station and got to Palmyra at about 2:05. I pulled over, checked my messages, and Matt let me know he would be there around 2:15. At 2:30, I decided to head down the road with three names, quickly realizing that the route was not as clear cut as it looked on a map. I decided to turn around, just in case Matt had come out on Shiloh Canaan Road (B) and when I got back to Palmyra I had received a test message from him. He was somewhere on TN-13, turned around and out of gas. I started hunting down a gas can and making my way to where I thought he was.

I received another message and then we talked, he was on TN-13, closer to Clarksville and the bike was running again, but he was waiting on me just in case he didn't make it to a station. I headed back toward town, and then south on 13. I found him a few miles south of a couple of gas stations and after a failed first attempt at getting gasoline, we were back near TN-149 fueling up. We decided to head toward Cumberland City, Erin, and finally get to TN-232, the so called "Baby Dragon" (C).

We made surprisingly good time to 232, and just as we turned on to it, a couple of guys on trike choppers where turning off of it. We headed North on the Baby Dragon, enjoying the 13 minute ride. We both agreed that the name Baby Dragon was a bit far fetched, it was not nearly as curvy as the Tail of the Dragon at Deal's Gap in East Tennessee, but it WAS a very nice ride for our corner(?) of the state. There was a nice, and unexpected, elevation change, some very nice views of surrounding valleys as we continued upward, and the tree cover cooled us down some. Matt really surprised me in one turn by how far his bike (a custom) was leaning over, I guess his training on the real Dragon paid off.

As we reached TN-79, we headed into Dover to snag some grub. We stopped at Dover Grille, which I remembered being a Tex-Mex joint, but had sort of transformed into more diversified restaurant. The still have some Mexican though, and it's not bad at all. I had a veggie wet burrito, and Matt had a steak. My food was pretty good, and I think Matt liked his too. I purchased a seat pad this morning and had it on the bike, and while it helped a lot today, I was still a little sore. Neither of us seemed to be in any sort of rush to get back on the bikes, and an hour off the bike really seemed to give me a second wind. I think I could have ridden another 100 miles after that break.

We finally did hop back on the bikes, and headed toward Cumberland City on TN-46. I had been on this road, in a car, but not for more than a few miles. I really enjoyed this road a great deal. It was fast compared to 232, smooth, and car free. The temperature had dropped several degrees, tree cover was nice a thick, and it was a relaxing ride. I wasn't expecting it, and it opened my eyes to some potential new rides that could be cool in the area. We headed past the Southern Annex of Cross Creek Wildlife Preserve and then into Cumberland City.

I don't think Matt had been to Cumberland City before, at least not very close to it, he mentioned that he didn't realize how much coal it took to keep a coal-fire plant running. It really is a lot of coal. We gassed up at the bigger gas station across from the industrial complex and then headed South on TN-46. This is a nice light jaunt through some woods and farmland. Once we crossed into Houston county it was apparent we had just missed some rain.

Matt and I went different ways once we arrived at TN-13. Matt said "He a safe ride home" and I replied "Okay." What a jerk! I realized what I said the moment I pulled off. I was distracted by the fact that he had his right turn signal on but was supposed to go straight on 46. I continued on 13 back to Clarksville without much happening. It did hit some rain, but it was mostly just a handful of really fat raindrops and it stopped after a short period.

As I approached the water and fire tires in Cunningham, near where Matt ran out of gas initially, A woman in a minivan pulled out of a driver in front of me. No one was behind me so I got ont he brakes pretty heavily to avoid hitting her. It wasn't real close, but sort crazy. I guess she didn't see me do to the light hills in the area, but it sort of ticked me off. On top of that, she pulled into the very next driveway, so she didn't get up to any sort of speed. This allowed the car that was a good ways behind me to catch up to me and they continued to ride a bit closer than I'm comfortable with. Less than 2 miles down the road an older small pickup truck also pulled out in front of me, and then continued to do maybe 40 in a 45. This caused the car behind me to get ticked off and was even closer to me than before. I was glad once they got to a spot that they were comfortable passing both of us (across a double line, no less) and my 6 was clear again.

I got no pictures of today, I wish I had at least gotten 1 or 2 of both of the bikes, but it was definitely about the ride today. It's not easy to take pictures from the bike, and I've only been carrying my cell phone which is touch screen and doesn't work with my gloves on.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Adams has a Dollar General!

Karen had Open House tonight and I worked overnight, so when I was finally up and awake enough to jump on the bike, I decided to swing by her school before open house and take her some food and flowers. I left the house and hit the grooved construction zone on Fort Campbell Blvd. before stopping at the Taco Cart for some burritos. The road was a bit wild, the grooves sort of pulled you around some, but not out of control.

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After stopping at El Tarasco, I headed down Tiny Town and stopped by the school. Karen was surprised, and seemed glad I had brought both the flowers and burrito. She hadn't actually eaten lunch yet, so now she has food for Friday's lunch already at school. After seeing her for about 30 minutes, I jumped back on the bike. I quick glance at the map and I decided to head to Pembroke, Kentucky and then looping back around through Elkton to come home. Just as I arrived in Pembroke, I saw a sign for the Jefferson Davis Monument. I hadn't been there in years, so I figured I go snag some pictures of it. I took a split in the road, just north of Pembroke, and went a bit out of my way, but it was a nice detour and I ditched some trailing traffic in the process.


The monument was being locked up when I arrived, but I've seen it before, so I just snagged a few photos and then headed down the road. I meandered around on some back roads, lots of farmland, tobacco, feed corn and soy beans. Corn was being harvested and tobacco was being worked all over. I was also in Amish/Mennonite areas and saw quite a lot of bikes propped up against trees to prove it. I saw a horse and buggy just outside of Trenton. I never tire of seeing Amish buggies, and I am always awed by the way these people choose to live. I'm very interested in their way of life and always surprised by the new things I hear about them, such as this recent story on NPR about the worldwide Amish/Mennonite newspaper, The Budget:

Back to the ride, once I hit US-41, I realized that there was a cool tunnel under a train track once I crossed back in Tennessee, so I kept my eyes open for it. I found it and snapped a few more photos.


I decided to ride down to Adams, TN. This small community is world famous for the Bell Witch the haunted the Bell family in the early 1800s. It is rumored that Andrew Jackson himself fled the site of the Bell Family's house due to the haunting. I passed through the small community, briefly thinking that one day I need to take the cave tour and see the house more closely then simply driving buy it. Today I didn't even see the house.

I passed through Adams without event and headed back home. I had to get Karen from school, and my behind was starting to get sore. I've GOT to either a better seat (Corbin makes one for way too much money), or I've got to get some sort of a seat pad. I've read amazing things about the Alaskan Sheep seats, but I also understand that there is a $20 ATV seat pad that fits the bike well and helps tremendously. I hope I can find on soon, I'm not sure I can stand to be on the bike for a full tank of gas. I did about 90 miles today, and close to 80 of it was with only 2 very brief stops.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Climbing Hills is COOL!

So, Karen and I have been discussing (a.k.a. me bugging her) getting a dual sport bike. The CX needs work, obviously, and I've not been riding it, at least partially due to the fact that I can't get above 50mph on it. Yesterday (Saturday) Karen told me that we could consider getting a bike that I want. I've been reading up on several bikes that I thought I wanted, and I had sort of convinced myself that the Suzuki DR650 was the bike for me. After a last bit of looking around, test fitting a Honda XR650L, and then strictly on Karen's insistence, I sat on a Yamaha XT250. It's a smaller dual sport that is really light weight, got a decent suspension and gets 73mpg. A few hours later, I road one home! Today was my first chance to ride it, and I've already got more than 1/4 of the miles that I've put on the CX500 in 3 months. I went on a 153.3 mile ride today. Google Maps doesn't acknowledge that the ferry near Big Sandy is running again, so I've had to break the trip into two parts.

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The first part is self explanatory, but at point B I decided to follow a gravel road that I saw. This road was really quite sandy, and the bike felt funny on it. This was literally the first non-paved road I've ridden on. It wasn't two long of a road, I didn't want to head North again, and so I turned around at the split as the road in became a private drive. On the way out I resolved to take the MSF DirtBike School course ASAP.

I continued on down to the Cumberland City Ferry. Near the ferry are a few bottom fields that hold water and I saw a duck swimming in one of the marshes. I wish I had a camera on me besides my phone, and at the ready, it would have made a great shot. The duck was swimming through a spot with a lot of algae on the surface, sort of like an ice breaker busting through green ice.

When I arrived at the ferry, I was the first vehicle there, so I rolled up, shut the bike off and took my gear off to cool down some. The ferry had just arrived at the far bank, so I knew I had a few moments. As I was waiting, a younger guy rolled up in an older Ford Ranger blaring, at first, really bad numetal and then country. As the ferry rolled up, he turned the music down. Two SUVs rolled off of the ferry, and then we rolled on. As I got on, one of the two SUVs that had just exited turned around and got right back on. Local counties pay $0.75 for an all-day pass, so I guess it only cost them 75 cents to ride both ways, but I found it amusing. I actually understand the desire to ride back and forth for no reason. I enjoy riding ferries.



Once I got off of the ferry, I stopped just outside of Cumberland City to get some water to drink, and then set off toward Erin. I was planning on riding TN-149 to TN -49 and then taking TN-147 to the river where it ends. I was then going to take TN-232 back to Dover and eventually head home. When I arrived at the end of TN-147, I discovered that the ferry service was in place again. I had to ride it across, I think it's one's civic duty, or something.



I found this river crossing a bit funny. the old bridge is out, but just south of the last span that still stands is this weird building in the middle of the water. not sure what it is, but it's obviously not in use any longer. Satellite view photographs seem to show a dock on the building. The other thing I found funny is that the there are houses built right along the former train tracks that lead to the bridge. It was sort of weird, but neat.

One the fairy I spoke with a nice gentleman that was headed home after a weekend of trailing riding. He was towing a large trailer with 2 or 3 ATVs, a buggy and a Lifan G20Y dual sport. He got out and asked me if it was hot and offered me a drink. I was still hydrated from the huge water I drank in Cumberland City, so I declined, but we discussed some trails in the area. He said that anywhere on the west side of the river that there was a gravel road or a trail that was not posted as private property I would have no problems riding. He also pointed out that I could catch the old railroad bed just past the ferry exit and ride it into Big Sandy. The ferry operator also clued my into several roads south of Erin that were gravel, basically saying that following TN-232 South of TN-147 for 4 miles and then taking any gravel road would lead either to Erin or Waverly eventually. He also told me that there was a 160 bike gathering happening on September 12th of light trail riders. I'm going to look into it, but that is our Wedding Anniversary.

I got off of the fairy, thanked both guys and took the first gravel hill immediately on the left. This lead to a short gravel loop with a few small hills. Nothing major, but not nearly as sandy as the last spot I was in and I felt much more under control. I actually rode down a fairly steep hill (for me) and felt great doing it.

I turned back to the road and rode into Big Sandy. I passed the turn off the first guy tipped me on to, but I wasn't 100% sure if it was the one. I should have taken it. Oh well, in the future.

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I found another short gravel road, Lindsey Cemetery Road and rode up to the cemetery and back. I felt more confident and was able to ride a little faster and in more control on this road. I think a class and some more seat time will get me to were I want to be.


After this, I basically cruised home, stopping in Dover to get something to drink. I ran out of gas on TN-79 just before BJs gas station. I had a hard time finding the fuel valve, and even though I was doing 50 in a 45, through a construction zone, I had a car riding my butt and two cars immediately behind them, so I pulled over, flipped the valve and rode to the gas station. Filled up (1.9 gallons, the tank was not completely full when I left the dealership) and then headed home. It was a great day!

My ODO shows slightly more than Google Maps does, i might have missed a side trip, and I turned around a few times to go back to other roads.




Sunday, August 8, 2010

Quick Run to Port Royal

Decided to jump on the bike and run out to Port Royal today. I believe that my fuel deprivation issue is fixed, but I still can't get above 55mph, and I think I'm getting really bad gas mileage. Was planning on running out to Adams and back, but the bike just didn't feel quite right past Port Royal, so I turned around and went to the park instead. I had no problems after that. The map is not 100% right, Drum Lane and Little Hope Road actually join up and I was able to ride into that neighborhood and around, after making a complete loop on Drum. There is something to be said for getting lost on the bike. If it's light out, it is almost no worry at all.

I've only got about 375 miles on the bike so far, but I'm going to make an effort to ride it more this summer, as long as it's a 55mph or slower trip.

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