Category Archives: Uncategorized

Andes Memorial Day ride, Or: how I lost my climbing legs and haven’t been able to find them

Here in Boston, we had record snowfall this winter:  over seven feet of snow fell in three and a half weeks, and it was brutally cold.  I did not commute by bike for the whole month of February, and even over the next couple of colder-than-mormal months, I did fewer rides than usual. Essentially I only commuted. By Memorial day I had fewer miles clocked in than I normally do by April.

I was up in the Catskills for Memorial Day weekend, mostly to do yard work (yes, John F, home ownership is a ton of work!). Many of our mature garden plantings had gotten decimated over the winter, not directly because of the extreme cold but indirectly: the deer were desperate, and began eating plants they normally don’t prefer. I set aside enough time from my garden work to get one short ride in, one that I had mapped out one cold February day as the snow drifts imprisoned me in my house.  I’ve written about Andes in my Tale of Three Hamlets post, but there is an abundance of dirt roads in the township that I haven’t explored. This short 31 mile route would explore many of them– 23 miles worth (dirt roads are annotated below in green), and add to my growing network of vetted dirt roads of Delaware County, which I track old-skool style with a marker and a big wall map. One day I will transpose it to one large digital map, and make it available to the public.

andes-31

Despite the forecast for temps in the 70s, it was 36 degrees when I started! I wore every layer I brought with me. Starting in the town center, you pass by at least a dozen antique stores and cafes. An interesting historical anecdote: I’ve heard, but have not been able to corroborate on the interwebs, that this building, formerly a bank, is in the history books as being the last bank in the US ever to be robbed by robbers on horseback:

IMG_5933

In less than two minutes, you’re out of the village and the first turn off of Main street takes you to farmland:

IMG_5935

The early morning light created dappled patterns along the tree-lined roads.

IMG_5916

Despite the above-average snowfall this winter, the spring has been unseasonably dry. Creek beds that normally run high in May looked liked this:

IMG_5909

View from Gladstone Hollow Rd:

IMG_5910

First climb, up Hyzer Rd, and I had to start shedding layers. Within an hour, I had shed all of my layers. Two hours later, the temp had risen to 70!

IMG_5911

The characteristic pink-red shale dust of the county’s dirt roads. Being so dry this spring, the roads were particularly dusty.

IMG_5926

IMG_5927

By the time I reached the last climb on State Rd, my legs were officially shot. I can’t remember the last time my legs actually felt like they were on fire after only 4200 feet of climbing, but they were. This time last year I had ridden longer and hillier rides. First priority: get more climbing miles in!

On a related note, I recently rebuilt my Rawland Stag with a mix of SRAM road and mtb components, basically a Rival 10-speed road group but with an XX mtb double crank and X9 front derailleur, and designed in an extra low, sub 1:1 gear (28×32– previously my low was 1:1, 28×28). I have to say, the sub 1:1 was utilized, and in fact truly appreciated, on this ride. I’m also pretty impressed with SRAM. I’m new to SRAM, but so far I find it rock solid, and it hasn’t skipped a beat.  It’s also very quiet, far quieter than the Dura Ace 10-speed group it replaces.

IMG_5928

IMG_5930

A humble old farmhouse. Simple and tidy, with nice proportions. I wish they still made them like this.

IMG_5932

Did I mention animals? Despite clocking in only 31 miles, there were plenty to see. Sheep…

IMG_5913

horses…

IMG_5921

geese… beavers (ok, I didn’t see beavers directly, but note the beaver pond and lodge)…

IMG_5922

and even a second beaver pond…

IMG_5920

The highlight of the ride was the continuous 5-mile descent down Wolf Hollow Rd, which looked like this for much of it:

IMG_5931

I probably won’t have another report until July when I am up there next. For my next ride, I will explore either farther east toward Roxbury and Margaretville, or west toward Franklin and Walton.

Andes 31 ridewithgps route here.

–Anton

Garden Break

Home ownership is such a pain. Why didn’t you guys tell me? It’s one thing owning an apartment in the city. Having a house with a yard takes exponentially more work.

But there are some rewards. This is the mess that has been made in my front yard.

Coming this week: A report on the Otisville 80.

John F

Almost time!

I’m back and it’s time to get back on the road!

In years past, I rode right through the winter–in fact I remember navigating deep snow drifts on the west side bike path on my recumbent* in mid-January in temperatures far below freezing.

This year, I took a different tack. On December 1, I officially retired my road bike for the winter, and instead dedicated myself to some, uh, vigorous indoor training. It’s pretty clear after 8 years of winter riding that it does little to contribute to my ongoing fitness, since the rides tend to be short, slow, and damn cold.

I am happy to report that the indoor training seems to have done something, although I’m not sure what. My formerly golf ball-sized calves are now the size of tennis balls, and I can run 10 miles on a treadmill 5-6 days a week. I’m hoping that some of that fitness will translate into improved on-bike speed. Not that I care much about speed other than the fact that it allows me to go further.

I’ve been obsessively doing maintenance on my bikes, reorganizing the bike closet, putting on new cleats, loading routes into the Garmin, and all that other preparatory stuff. I’m so ready to get out of the house again.

So Monday is the big day to get back on the bike. I’ve also resolved to take a more logical approach to early-season training. Instead of starting with something stupid like a 110-mile ride including Platte Clove, like I did last year (and was subsequently unable to walk for about 3 days after), I’m starting slow to avoid broken knees. That means week 1 is two 20-mile rides and a 40 on Saturday. I’m going to up the weekday mileage to no more than three 40-mile weekday rides over a month or so, and add 10 miles to the Saturday ride each week until I get to 200 miles. Then it’s time for the Vermont Special: a 324-mile ride that you are all welcome to join me for! I should be doing it around the time that my friends are suffering through PBP.

As always, all my routes are here. And if you have any questions or want to join me (I should be up to 80 mile Saturdays by the end of March) you know how to get in touch.

John

*Yes, I briefly had a recumbent. I injured my neck in a bike crash–and what’s worse, really, not riding at all or riding a recumbent?

Where’s John?

Still here! Mostly hiking and killing myself with indoor training, although I’ve gotten a few good rides in.

Yesterday, Margot and I and our two minions hiked to the top of Aumick in Minnewaska preserve. It was slippery, foggy, and generally a glorious hike, made five times harder by the slippery slush–particularly on the way up.

I also bought a new bike, but it doesn’t arrive until mid-April.

This last year was a bit of disaster in terms of riding: only 3500 miles. I blame the big move and tons of travel for work. For comparison, I rode over 8000 miles the year before.

My primary goal for this year is a reasonable 6000 miles, with a peak 300-mile ride. I think that should be relatively easily accomplished if I can keep the work travel miles under 100k this year. I’m also going to focus on increasing speed–not because I care about winning a race, but because that means I can expand my range. If you’ve been following along on the blog, you’ll know that my usual approach to 100-mile plus rides is puttering around at 15 mph or less and exploring all the side roads, with lots of breaks for pictures and food. More focus is desperately needed, and that’s part of the reason why I’m staying indoors for a few months and focusing on intensive training.

I’m going to be building up to weekend centuries starting at the beginning of March. Provided work doesn’t interfere, I should be up to centuries again by the second week of April. I’ll announce where and when prior to each ride, and if you want to join me, please do!

John

medicalwriter.net

PSA: Have you Gotten a Flu Shot Yet?

A brief digression from your regularly scheduled programming.

Those of you who know me know that I do a considerable amount of work on vaccines. Among all the revolutions that have come over the past century in modern medicine, I think I can safely argue that–at least from a public health standpoint–vaccines have had the greatest impact on disease burden.

I normally don’t write posts on health topics, but here’s why you should get a flu vaccine this year, aside from the obvious reason that you don’t want to get the flu: The symptoms of the flu mimic the early signs and symptoms of Ebola. Depending on how bad the situation gets (or, alternatively, how paranoid your local health authority gets), you could walk into the doctor with the flu and end up getting screened or even quarantined.

If you live in NYC, go here and follow the instructions to find a vaccination site.

If you live elsewhere, go here.

At most, it’s $35 for a shot; you can even get them for free at some clinics.

Even though I work on vaccines, I’ve never gotten a flu shot before. I’ve scheduled an appointment for Friday!

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.

cover

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…

page

–Anton

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.

1 2 3 4 5

Until later (today, hopefully!)

John

medicalwriter.net

 

Water? Yeah, we’ve got that

– By Somervillain

After a brutally long, cold and snowy winter, I had been itching to get back to cycling. I bike commuted the short distance to work through most of the winter, but that type of cycling is insignificant and serves little more than utility. It doesn’t count. Cycling for the sake of cycling largely ceases during winter in New England, and I was eager to get back into doing long distances, to take in scenery, to have no deadline to be someplace, to explore. I happened to be up at our Catskills home for the weekend for other reasons, and the weather was promising to be perfect for a spring ride.

I had been wanting to try a new route that I mapped last year, which would take me to the Pepacton reservoir. It would take me over a couple of mountainous dirt roads which I’ve ridden before, but other than them it would be mostly new territory. I was keen on doing this route not because I was particularly drawn to seeing the reservoir, but because the route takes in a 10-mile, continuous descent, and the thrill of the descent is, primarily, what compels me to climb hills.

I had done only one long ride this season, just last week, so I wasn’t in good enough shape to tackle a mountainous ride of too much distance, not this early, but I wanted to get in 100k. Typically my Catskills routes average 1000 ft of elevation gain per 10 miles, but 6200 ft would be too much this early in the year– that’s like D2R2, a ride I spend all summer preparing for! So I cut some of the mountains out of the route, and incorporated 10-15 flat miles on either end, leaving some pronounced hills in the middle (and that 10-mile descent!) for a more reasonable 5000 ft overall elevation gain:

I started out in Bloomville, after having an excellent breakfast at Table On Ten, just down the hill from my house:

From there I followed the Delaware River, West Branch, along the flat Back River Road for 15 miles through Delhi to Hamden. But the flatness ends abruptly with the turn onto Basin Clove Rd, which takes you over the mountain separating Hamden from Downsville, shown in this photo:

Tapped sugar maples line Back River Road:

On to Basin Clove Rd, the first major climb: cat 3 with an average grade of 9.5% for more than two miles.

I’m never good at capturing the intensity of a climb looking up a hill, it always appears more accurately steep looking down it, so this is what it looked like behind me:

Initially, I lamented the lack of flourishing tree buds and other signs of sprouting greenery that mark the progression of spring.  A little early for that in these parts. I’d have to settle for the residual shades of grays and browns from a retreating winter. But I soon realized that early spring in the Catskills is the season of water– equally beautiful in its own right, and what I missed in terms of emerging spring color was made up for by the tumbling kinetics and sounds of water, everywhere and all around me. Mountainsides turn into waterfalls, drain ditches into mini rapids. It occurred to me that it was perhaps most appropriate that I was riding this route in early spring, because the visual (and audible!) cues to just how impactful this region is to New York City’s water supply were unavoidable.  You see, NYC gets its water from a network of man-made reservoirs located in the Catskills, built between the 1940s and the 1950s. The Pepacton is the largest of these. The water from the reservoirs is channeled through a network of aquaducts and tunnels to the city more than 100 miles away. NYC prides itself in its water, routinely judged among the finest municipal waters in the nation, and the city goes to great lengths to ensure the quality of its water is maintained through extensive land conservation efforts.

And it was here, climbing up Basin Clove Rd, that I first realized how much water drains down the mountains.  This is what the drain ditches looked like:

The sound of running water created a soothing wall of white noise, which helped me settle in to that meditative zen-like state you need to get into to help you focus on getting up the mountain.  Of course, stopping every so often for a break to take photos helps, too.

Eventually I reached the top of Basin Clove Rd, and got to enjoy a similar view to what I just showed you, only this was taken without turning my head backwards: the start of the 10-mile descent down, down, down Gregory Hollow Rd to Downsville:

More water along the way.

Did I mention water?

The sound of water was so pronounced, I took a recording of it:

Eventually the descent ended in Downsville, a small village with a convenience store, convenient for filling up my water bottles and using the restroom. The Pepacton reservoir’s western tip is in Downsville, less than a mile from the Downsville covered bridge.

From the Pepacton, there’s no way to get back to Bloomville without going over another mountain with at least one cat 3 climb. For the return I took Huntley Hollow Rd to Fall Clove Rd to Maggie Hoag Rd– each of these roads is a milder climb than Basin Clove Rd, but the first two still qualify separately as cat 3 climbs and collectively the three roads accounted for 2/3 of the total climbing, in just 1/3 the total distance of the route.

Fall Clove Rd is a beauty. Long and winding, with lots of moderate ups and downs, none too intense, and lots of pleasant pastureland views.

Maggie Hoag Rd, the last dirt segment and last climb of the route, was hard. Not according to the elevation profile, but because by now I had exhausted my reserves. Here it is (head turned backwards again):

Back in Bloomville, I realized that in just a few more weeks the dreary remains of winter will have finally vanished, having yielded to spring’s new growth, and by the time I get another ride in, everything will look different. And just as slowly as spring marches on toward summer, the sound of water will diminish.  And I’ll miss it.

Full route, with dirt sections in red.

pepacton

The Big Move

Hi all–John F here!

It’s finally time. I’m moving on April 16th to my new place outside of New Paltz, New York. It’s only 25 miles from where I currently live.

The good news is that it gives me a whole new area to explore. Although I’ve ridden over the ridge many times, I haven’t spent nearly as much time over there as I have in the Catskills proper. In general, it’s flatter (unless you ride over the Shawangunk ridge, of course) and maybe a bit more populated. Nevertheless, this is good news for all you NYC area riders, because it’s much more accessible from the train than where I’m at now. Even though the hills are fewer and much less severe, it’s still gorgeous.

Van Alst

Now that the house hunt is done, I’ll be getting back to my regular twice weekly posting schedule shortly after the move. New routes and pictures!

John

medicalwriter.net