After screwing up my ride in hunt country earlier this week, I decided to go back out and finish the job.
I rode The Mule, partly because two of my bikes are out of commission. Another reason is that The Mule has a granny gear (a wee gear that makes grinding up hills a bit easier to take, especially on the knees). And the granny gear is super low after I had it replaced in Salida, Colorado last summer.
Unlike my recent attempt which started in Middleburg, I switched my ride start to The Plains. The reason was that I knew that the route from The Plains to Middleburg climbs Bull Run Mountain. It made sense to get the hard part out of the way while my legs were fresh.
And so I ride a few rolling miles before turning up the mountain. The ride up wasn’t so bad. The overcast kept me from overheating and the views of the farms and estates diverted my attention away from the huffing and puffing.
I turned and started to descent. The pavement had a thin layer of loose gravel on it. As I sped downhill trying my best to avoid the gravel, the rush of cool air brought tears to my eyes. Everything was a blur. The road was bunpy. The ride down was downright scary. I feathered my brakes hoping not to skid at 30 miles per hour.
Of course, it wasn’t a straight downhill. The road climbed back up the hill a few times. Then back down. Then back up. The ups were rather steep so I called granny and she helped me out.
The road ended in Middleburg where I picked up the ride from where I started last time. After a few minutes on busy US 50 (yes, the same one that’s called the Loneliest Road in America out in Nevada). I turned on to Zulla Road. Rolling hills through horsey country made me smile. Stone walls, nearly all in pristine condition lined the road. Sometimes they were replaced or accompanied by brown board fences.
I turned right onto Frogtown Road, a truly great road name if you ask me. Three and a half miles of mostly downhill led me to Rectortown Road. I stopped at the T for a snack of pretzels and nuts. Refueled, I headed north through Rectortown, an old 18th century town. After that came a curvey ride through grassy, rolling hills.
At Rokeby Road I stopped for more snackage as the energy bump from my previous nosh had expired. Onward I rode over hill and dale. Fences and fields and stone walls. Then a deceptively long uphill. As I climbed I spotted a woman running up the hill near the top. She seemed strong. After about five minutes I passed her. She didn’t seem to be working all that hard. Tough stuff!
At US 50 (again), I headed east for a couple of miles before turning off at Atoka where I spotted this odd sign, perhaps erected by fans of Get Smart.
Foxes and hounds and horseys, oh my.
Atoka Road took my back, nearly to Rectortown. Oddly, it seemed nowhere near as hilly as Rokeby Road despite running parallel to it.
Along the road I spotted a huge vulture in the road. It looked to be almost the size of a dog. As I approached it didn’t even flinch, too busy tearing at a possum carcass. Another vulture was perched on an adjacent rock wall. A car passed me and the road vulture launched. He barely cleared the front of the car and banked high into a tree.
Once Atoka Road gave out, I was backtracking for about five and a half miles. It turns out that Frogtown Road is mostly a hill. From this angle, the road descends to the base. As I was flying down the hill, a silver, two-seater Mercedes pulled up along side me. I was having trouble seeing because my eyes were tearing up so I really didn’t need a car riding next to me at nearly 30 miles per hour. The passenger side window was down and the driver was asking me something. The wind in my ears made hearing him an impossibility. He dropped back then came forward again. I waved him away. He dropped back and tried again. WTF! Finally, I yelled, “I can’t hear you!” and motioned rather demonstrably for him to pass. At last, he roared ahead. I recall that he had a handicapped vanity plate. I have no idea what he was after but I was glad he was gone.
I started the climb and, after 10 minutes, spotted a man in a wool cap walking a dog on my side of the road. I moved to the far side of the road, nodded, and the man smiled and said in a refined British accent, “Almost to the top.”
Liar. It was another mile of climbing but I appreciated his optimism.
At the end of Frogtown I turned south. Four more huge vultures awaited. They didn’t bother me as they were feasting on a small deer lying quite dead on the side of the road.
I turned onto Milestone Road, another beauty. A shiny, beign antique truck was parked inside a small garage made of weathered wood. It looked like a painting.
I continued on with one more hill to climb. My legs were beat. I cussed them then looked up to see a gray haired lady walking her dog. Sorry for the profanity.
Soon I arrived at highway 55 with its welcome smooth pavement. This took me one more mile into The Plains where my car awaited my return.
I’ve done this ride every few years for the last 25 years or so. The hills appear to be getting longer and steeper. I can’t imagine why.
I think my next long day ride will be on the mercifully flat Eastern Shore of Maryland.