One type of riding that intrigues me is the all day gravel grinder. if nothing else, because it's all about turning the gears over and over, not having to worry that much about the terrain, but having to definitely watch out just enough that it doesn't classify as a road ride... In my current state of lack of fitness a gravel day was exactly what I needed. Time to ramp up the cardio a bit and not worry about rock gardens. My route for the day: from Bent Creek Gap->5000->1206->to 276 then back. 35.6 miles, 4310' climbing.
I started at 9:15 after dropping baby Zoe off with the neighbors. I'd guess the temps were in the high 20's based on the ice on the road and the fact that my waterbottles were already freezing. I had to stop almost immediately to put on every bit of clothing I had with me. The descent to North Mills River was slow and sketchy because of more ice than I had anticipated. Every place I wanted to be had a quarter inch layer of ice covering it. However, by the time I was at Spencer the ice gave way to frozen gravel and I was able to let it go and hammer all the way to the campground. The temp was steadily falling as I descended into the valley so I started the climb up 1206 feeling freshly frozen to the core and my legs didn't want anything to do with climbing to Yellow Gap. I passed the gate and suddenly had reason to push, two dogs. At first I thought, how cute, let's get a photo of my new friends...
but then the bigger one bit my hand. Then nipped my calf. Not hard but.... enough to make me put it in high gear and stomp. 'Wake up legs it's time to GO!' I looked back and hadn't gained 5 feet on them. I did it again with more resolve. I WAS going to drop these dogs. Was a minute of full force sprint enough? No way. These two had me. If it was a more primitive scene I would have been eaten by the wolves. Luckily for me it's not primitive times. I am a human on a bicycle and I was dealing with golden mixes, not wild animals. When the bigger one bit my hand hard enough to be truly concerned (3rd bite? 1/4 mile?), I stopped. I dropped my bike. I scored a direct hit with the first rock I could pick up and started chasing them back down 1206 screaming and yelling and waving my arms. They decided that, you know, I didn't want to be friends, and went on their merry way down the hill.
OK, while I have a moment, the photo below may not be the most striking but it recalls a specific moment in time for me. I was at the halfway point and my hands were painfully cold, like, I-can-only-imagine-thumbtacks-being-nailed-into-my-fingertips-as-the-only-thing-more-painful cold. I made the decision then to retrace my steps rather than gain another 1000' or so by returning via the parkway.
Ok, another moment to reflect. Why then, if I have to deal with dogs, freezing fingers, and nearly bonking (more later) do I think this is fun? The droid has the best answer I can give. Somewhere along the way I reached 43.6mph on frozen gravel road under my own power. f'yeah.