New route: Meridale Forty-Three

I’m in the Western Catskills for a couple of weeks, and continuing to discover dirt road cycling gems. Before embarking on vacation, I discovered that Bing maps has this wonderful undocumented feature of distinguishing paved and unpaved roads when zoomed in to 1000ft scale and closer. Unpaved roads are traced in brown (how appropriate!) while paved roads are in white. What a valuable resource for charting out dirt/gravel roads!  To test the accuracy of this feature, I focused on an area just west of my home that I’m not familiar with, one which I’ve driven through once or twice but never ridden.  All new cycling territory.  I made note of all the roads marked as unpaved in Bing maps, then went into ridewithgps and charted out a loop of 43 miles roughly bounded by the towns of Franklin, Walton and Delhi, taking in as many of those roads that would fit in the loop, and at least one place to stop for food and water.  This region is particularly secluded, so options for provisions are slim.

route

To my delight, Bing delivered with impressive accuracy! And unlike some of my other routes which take in sporadic stretches of dirt roads, this route spreads them out evenly, alternating dirt and quiet paved segments with regular periodicity (dirt segments are shown in green).  I was never on pavement for too long before another delicious stretch of dirt road presented itself in front of me. And even more enjoyable, many of these dirt stretches were little more than old carriage trails, narrow, tree-lined, isolated.

The route starts and ends at the Dutch Deli, a small deli and convenience store nestled in the valley village of Meridale, on Route 28 halfway between Delhi and Oneonta. The owner, speaking with a Dutch accent, kindly agreed to let me park my car in the lot for a few hours. Out of courtesy, I would recommend to anyone contemplating doing this route to check in with the owner to confirm that this is okay.

A few days before doing the ride, a Riding the Catskills reader contacted me to inform me he was going to be in the area and would like to do a ride.  Our schedules worked out, so Ben and I met in Meridale to ride the loop together.

From the parking lot, the climbing starts immediately– the route has 4600 feet of climbing in 43 miles, with very few flat segments. The shark-tooth elevation profile illustrates this:

Not two miles into the ride, we experience the first dirt road, Sutherland Rd. As it climbs to the top, it narrows into a tree-lined, single lane road with cut pastures on either side.

Notably, there were more working farms, and less abandoned barns, on this route compared to other areas I’ve reported on.

The other regular site for me, besides dirt roads and barns, was Ben, who, being a stronger climber than I, was always ahead of me in the climbs.

The only road that seriously tested the traction limits of my Compass Babyshoe Pass tires was Pomeroy Rd in Treadwell.  Here, the usual smoothly graded dirt turned first to rocky double track, and then to muddy logging trail, which continued upward for what seemed like a long time. At one point I had to walk as the smooth tire tread began to sink and spin in the mud.

From Pomeroy Rd, a smooth and fast paved descent whooshed us down into the adorable village of Treadwell, the first and only rest stop along the route (and indeed, the only village along the route other than Meridale).

If you’re in Treadwell, be sure to stop in at Barlow’s general store and try their incredibly good homemade donuts! From Treadwell there were two more dirt segments before merging onto Rt 28 for the last mile back into Meridale. (This was the only stretch of state highway in the entire route!).

This cute abandoned storefront could be something wonderful… too bad it’s literally a couple of feet from the highway.

Admittedly, while engaged in good conversation with Ben throughout the ride, I didn’t pay much attention to where I took these shots, so here are just a bunch of random scenes from the ride, in no particular order:

I’d definitely consider this route a ‘must ride’ for anyone in the area.  And finding another wealth of dirt roads and amazing cycling in another little corner of the Catskills just over from mine reminds me just how much more remains to be discovered.  I’ve barely scratched the surface.

To the Hudson!

Hi all! I know the blog has been pretty dead recently; John S says he doesn’t want to “contaminate” the blog with racing reports (although I told him to go ahead), and of course Anton isn’t a full-time Catskills resident, so he only posts when he’s here. I’ve been traveling, working, and riding a lot, but no major adventures. Mostly daily 20 to 40 mile rides, and you don’t need to hear about that, do you?

However, I had an amazing ride today. Only 30 miles (with getting lost), 27 actual miles. I expected the ride to, well, suck but it turned out to be one of the most beautiful rides I’ve been on in the last few years. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves. Sure, it lacks the isolation and majesty of the Catskills proper, but the views are lovely, the traffic mostly absent, and there’s only about 1700 feet of climbing. I recommend it highly if you’re in New Paltz and want a shorter ride, or if you want to incorporate it into a longer segment.

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And don’t forget, all of my routes are here. I went through the effort of deleting (most) of the bad ones, so you really can’t go wrong. Sort by distance and pick!

Also: As much as I hate promoting Dutchess County over Ulster, if you live in NYC you’re missing out if you don’t do the summer classic. I perfected this route over about 10 or 12 repeats, and it’s the most fun you can have on two wheels, I promise. One of the few things I miss about living in the city.

John

medicalwriter.net

Delaware County Summer Solstice Dirt Classic (D2S2C2)

In what’s becoming an annual ritual, we grabbed the kids out of school a couple of days before school was officially out (our district’s school year ends late compared to most), loaded up the car until the suspension protested and sagged, and headed for the hills. For the past few years we’ve done this the weather has been perfect for ushering in summer– warm and sunny, green and lush. This year was no exception.

Building on my previous loops around my summer home, I set out on my most ambitious Catskills ride yet. I had planned it for months. I mapped out a 150k loop that would take in my favorite roads from previous, shorter loops, while exploring a few new ones. It would take in three covered bridges, 70k of dirt roads, seven major climbs, and it would have strategically placed rest stops at well-spaced intervals to enjoy excellent food in pleasant, rustic village settings.

Alas, that plan got derailed midway into the ride, but I still managed to make this my longest Catskills ride yet, at 116k, or 73 miles, with 6500 feet of elevation gain. And it was still an amazing ride, the kind that resonates in my mind for days after and keeps me yearning to come back for more (which, thankfully, will happen soon… I’m returning in August).

I started out from my house atop a steep hill in Bloomville, and within five minutes I was bombing down the first of many 40+ mph descents, a speed easily attainable on most of the descents around here since I’ve switched to the new Compass Babyshoe Pass “Extralight” 650x42B tires. These are the third 650B tires I’ve experienced, and clearly the fastest. Highly recommended!

From Bloomville, I headed onto the Catskill Scenic Trail–one of the common launching points for my Delaware County rides–for a short mile, getting off at Kiff Brook Road via the tractor path shortcut off the trail. First climb of the ride.

Onto MacArthur Hill Road, past the former one-room schoolhouse-turned-private residence, past the Alpaca farm, onto a couple more dirt roads before the rapid descent down Braehead Road into Doonan’s Corners.

From Doonan’s Corners, the next climb is Turnpike Road, another favorite road with some spectacular views.

Turnpike Road takes me down into West Kortright and Meredith, with another steep climb up Ehlermann Rd before a deliciously steady and continuous four mile descent down Houghtaling Road, a dirt road I hadn’t yet ridden (John F had, in his Delaware 85 ride from last year).

Dirt roads are common here, but 4-way dirt intersections are less so.

I wonder how long this VW microbus has been here?

Dilapidated farm structures, vestiges of a dried up dairy economy, are iconic around here.

One more steep climb up Warner Hill Road before descending into Treadwell, a tiny village I discovered last year and fell in love with.

One of the things I love about Treadwell is its charming old general store, where I’ve gotten lunch before (I mentioned Barlow’s in my Columbus Day ride report from last year). To my dismay, they were closed! This was the first of several setbacks leading to the shortening of my planned route… I had a limited amount of food with me and had planned on stopping.  Not a big deal, yet, but I did need to refill my water bottles.  Across the street I spotted a sweet old 19th century neoclassical building with intriguing sculptures in the yard. The front doors were swung open invitingly, and I noticed the unassuming sign propped up against the mailbox post: “Art Gallery Open”. Great! I could stop in, look around, and get my water bottles refilled.

Upon entering, I was blown away by the prolific collection of sculpture and paintings. A magazine stand filled with years of newspaper clippings, essays and photocopied reviews of the artist’s work revealed him to be Joe Kurhajec, an internationally renowned sculptor who’s lived in Treadwell for 43 years. Here’s a YouTube interview with him, and his work will be on exhibit at the West Kortright Centre from July 18-August 25.

After a chat with Mr. Kurhajec, I was back on my way, heading up the hill to an area known as Arabia, with stunning mountaintop views.

At the top, Douglas Hall Road ends, and Ridge Road, a narrow dirt road, follows the ridge along the top of the hill for miles.

This is where the second setback occurred. Road crews were rebuilding the road, dumping truckloads of fresh dirt down before grading and compacting. The un-compacted dirt was several inches thick, and too difficult to pedal through with the fine tire treads of the Compass tires– knobbies or cyclocross tires would have been more appropriate here. One of the men yelled to another, “Hey, there’s a guy on a BIKE over there. You think he rode up the mountain?!” I yelled back that I had, but that my tires weren’t optimized for soft dirt, and how far down the road did the fresh dirt extend? 1/2 mile, he replied, and I decided I didn’t want to schlep it.  The next stop would be Hamden, with a farm store/cafe I could stop in for food, but now I’d have to detour.

Fortuitously, the road work started at an intersection with Gray Road, another dirt road I hadn’t been on, but which had been on my radar for awhile. Gray Road would be my detour to Hamden, although it would eventually lead me to Route 10 closer to Delhi.  I’d have to ride on Route 10 for four miles back to Hamden–much less desirable than the planned route along Ridge Road to Launt Hollow Road, which would whisk me down five miles of smooth pavement all the way down to Hamden, avoiding the highway. Route 10 is hostile to cycling. A major 55-mph highway through the northern Catskills, it sees lots of truck traffic, and the shoulders are usually in rough shape, sections of which are completely unridable. Fist-sized chunks of broken asphalt litter the crumbling shoulder. When you see that fully laden logging truck fast approaching in your helmet-mounted rear-view, the idea of ‘taking the lane‘ is not very appealing! (I conjured this image a few minutes before arriving at Route 10, and sure enough– within a minute of turning onto 10, a loaded logging truck came barreling down the road, albeit in the opposite direction.)

As I approached Route 10 between Delhi and Hamden, I realized the third setback of the day, the coup de grâce to my original route plan– I had forgotten my cash and credit card at home!  No chance of stopping for food in Hamden, or Delhi, or anywhere for that matter.  With only 41 miles covered, I’d have another 53 to go with only one Clif bar left.  So instead of heading west toward Hamden, I detoured east to Delhi on Route 10, in the direction of my home, cutting 35 miles off the route. If I felt up to it, I could add another loop closer to home to recoup some of the lost miles.

I stopped in Delhi to refill my water bottles again, and to finish my last Clif bar. Delhi has some wonderful old store fronts, like their beloved Dubben Bros. Hardware, chock full from floor to ceiling with vintage artifacts and ephemera:

Past Main Street, Delhi, I continued on the flat Back River Road and past Fitch’s Bridge, toward Bloomville (at least I got one of the three planned covered bridges in this ride!)

Re-energized by the last Clif bar, I felt I could take on another loop before heading up the last climb back to my house.  So before Bloomville, I turned onto Bramley Mountain Road to cross the mountain to Bovina. This would give me some more lovely dirt roads and another 15 miles– a fair compromise between the original 94 miles and the abbreviated 58. I’ve written about Bovina before, so I’ll just show you some of the delightful views I enjoyed from this loop:

Pink Road provides a really smooth, fast descent back into Bloomville (before I have to tackle the final climb to my house).  Thanks to the Compass tires (a stable bike helps, too), I hit a new personal speed record of 49 mph!

In all, the route clocked in at 73 miles with 6500 feet of elevation gain.  Although a big chunk of my planned route got deleted (I’ll reattempt the full 150k version in August), the ride was nonetheless magical. The only highway segment was the short Route 10 detour to Delhi, and despite the heavy traffic and dicey shoulder maneuvering, the views were still sublime.

Detoured route, including the additional Bovina loop. Food stops are indicated. Dirt segments are shown in green:

D2S2C2_map

–Anton

From steep trails to smooth sails – Catskills Outdoor Guide 2014

Coming up shortly, I’ll have a nice ride report from my Summer Solstice ride in Delaware County, in which I took in 73 miles of wonderful mixed terrain: some familiar, some new, and as usual, all of it hilly and breathtakingly gorgeous. Here’s just a teaser:

In the interim, I’d like to point Catskills area readers to the 2014 Catskills Outdoor Guide in which you’ll find a short guide to cycling around the Catskills by Riding the Catskills co-authors John F., John S. and myself.

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The Watershed Post did a great job of putting together a comprehensive guide to outdoor activities in the Catskills, from hiking to boating to cycling (and eating! With a separate food guide as well). So many wonderful reasons to visit…

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–Anton

The Land of Ya Hozna!

And now, for today’s brief counterpunctual post.

Here is a heatmap of every road I’ve cycled in the past 2 years, centered roughly on John F’s new house.  The darker and redder the line, the awesomer the road.

Although, to be fair, some roads are well-ridden because they are merely conduits to awesomeness, rather than being inherently awesome qua awesome.

Capture

 

And here are a few photos from today’s lovely, meh-free ride.

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Smiley

 

- John S, aka globecanvas

 

 

The Land of Meh

Today marks my 6-week anniversary at the new house. Compared with Olivebridge, pretty much everything is better. We’re much closer to town but still in an extremely rural setting (in fact, cattle graze just behind our house). We have real internet, and not that crappy satellite internet that only worked 75% of the time, and then slowly. Our cell phones work. So everything is great.

Sadly, the riding just isn’t as good out here as it was up in the Catskills. Don’t get me wrong, this is grade-A cycling country, and I think the vast majority of cyclists would probably prefer it to the Catskills. But I miss the mountains, extreme isolation, and adventure of riding in the high Catskills. Then again, it’s nice to know that I won’t necessarily die undiscovered of extended exposure if I end up in a ditch some day.

The Catskills are still easily accessible, it’s just a minimum of a 60-mile round trip to get up there–not really feasible for a weekday ride.

So…I’ll stop complaining. Really I am blessed.

Here’s a short and fun route for you. You can start out of New Paltz or Gardiner.

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My camera is pretty much dead, but I did manage to get a few non-blurry photos of the route (Amazon says my new camera will be here by June 5). The route mostly passes through farm country, and there’s a convenient stop around mile 20 in Walden, which has a range of options for food. This route is easy as can be: Only about 1300 feet of climbing over 31 miles. Take a moment at mile 9.5 to go down the dirt road on the left to the Shawangunk Grasslands National Wildlife Reserve. It’s beautiful.

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This picture is from a previous ride. This is the Aumick Road entrance to the Shawangunk Reserve, a park that John S has written eloquently about. If you’re interested in riding up there, I’ve mapped a route to the entrance for you here.

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Aumick Rd Entrance

That’s all for now. New routes should be coming fast and furious in short order. Also coming soon: The return of Rene!

Rene

John F

medicalwriter.net

Back in Gear

It’s time to get back in gear. I’ve been riding ~100 miles/week, mostly in short 20-mile bursts. I’ll have a report and new routes for you this week.

Until then, some photos of my most recent work trip. Sadly, the best part of this trip was being delayed in the air over a thunderstorm.

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Until later (today, hopefully!)

John

medicalwriter.net