Sunday, August 29, 2010
The first scratch is always the worst.....
View Larger Map
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!