Monday, March 19, 2012

Late Winter? Gravel Grinder

Perfect Century Weather-

After a long Saturday at the shop during the 50 degree sunny day, I reckoned it was time for a long gravel loop through the greater Rothrock area. The weather was looking like high 30's,  moderately sunny, with strong winds, a perfect day for long gravel miles. With the winds supposedly exceeding 30 mph gusts the gravel roads offered welcomed shelter from the regular exposed ridge roads and long flats through farm country.

Last weekend Paul Tony and I traveled (by plane no less) to Minnesota for a weekend at our distributor, Quality Bicycle Products headquarters, for some seminars, clinics, facility review, and product introductions. A bit out of place in an entry about a ride in Rothrock but here I was exposed to a number of different mountain touring set-ups and products. Already convinced by Salsa Cycles mantra of "adventure by bike" I was anxiously anticipating the set-ups for the ever intriguing and versatile Fargo. Their mountain touring set-up- wide drops, upright and relaxed geometry wonderful rigid steel bird (they fly) with more braze-ons and rack options than a Bilenky Tinker Tandem. As I am a self proclaimed bag freak I can accross a rather simple affair- Outdoor Research Bottle Parka #1 - Having never heard or found the need for such a device I had never envisioned such a thing.

A perfect fit in a Salsa Anything Cage
In my effort to keep all the weight possible of my back these simply bags have provided near endless storage for second layers, light systems, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, and just about everything else. Slightly insulated and sorta water proof with a rubberized top and bottom. The bag was stuffed with a Canon D10 camera, Light and Motion Seca 300 Light, Sport Legs vial, and an extra wool base layer. On the opposite leg 24oz of water. On the main frame two 24oz bottles of water, an old fav. the Jandd Mountaineering frame pack stuffed with nutrition and Purple Lizard Rothrock map.

I headed out Route Penn Street and jumped on 26S at the State Correctional Institution Prison  and took Alexandria Pike. With Alexandria Pike passing by two state prisons, the wardens house, Pulpit Rocks, and ending with a gravely switchbacked downhill into farmland, it is a phenomenal way to start a day of riding. The surface is largely pocked and cobbled tarmack with no lines and minimal traffic. I hate road riding so if I'm going to do ride it better be exciting.
River Road all the Way to Alfarata.
Alfarata to Water Street On the Lower Rail Trail.
Jump Onto 45 towards Spruce Creek.
Just after the massive farm mansion on the left make a right onto the unmarked road heading into A portion of Rothrock State Forest known as Colerain. The road quickly turns to gravel and climbs up the back of Tussey Mountain just above with great views of Spruce Creek as the road winds up the mountain. The gravel goes from better to worse as you get to the top eventually intersecting with Tram and Mule Roads. They where just that. Tram Ways and Mule Roads.

Back in the golden age of central Pa's mining and timbering activities. Fortunately trams and mules done like overly steep grades, so they are long and gradual but demanding none the less. The #4 gravel and occasional washout made for a great grind up Tram, than Harry's Valley all the way to Pa 26 North. Here is where the first snow started falling. Giant quarter dollar flakes fell on the road suddenly I was in 2" of fresh wet snow. It was a WTF I'm wearing knickers and mid spring gloves and have only one extra layer in the Jandd kangaroo pouch.

After bombing 26 to Pine Swamp the snow stopped, the roads where clear, and the sun came out.  Climbing up into Bear Meadows onto some mountain bike trails back on to gravel roads I made it to the top of Bear Gap Road and watched a white out storm blow in.

The storm took this grey gravel road and left it with another 2-3" of giantic wet white flakes by the time I made it down the mountain. The elevation here is approximately 2000 feet the descent is back down to 800 over the course of several miles. Back at the bottom only dampened roads and spirits. Despite the snow, rain, gusting winds, and my poor attitude,  I still was able to make it out to Penn Roosevelt, Allen Segar, and Greenwood Furnace.

After getting this far I figured it was probably time to start heading home before the storm started heading east as it appeared to be blowing. I made my way out of Greenwood up Turkey Road towards the Martins Gap Area, another long relentless gravel climb that is as deceptive as the come with several quick switchbacks ending the climb at Allensville Road.

I eventually took Murray Run make to route 26 South headed into Huntingdon. The ride despite the weather was a absolute success. Chalking up just under 96 miles of gravel during the daylight in February was a much welcomed release from life at the shop and night riding day in and day out. I must say the stand out device of the ride aside from Shot Bloks and fresh bake goods was my new rear fender.

After despising fenders for years because of rattle and wobble issues on any fendered gravel/ mountain bike, I figured I'd craft something functional for this rides specific needs light fast and functional. Bits and pieces of several old take-offs left me with a sensible sized hardly noticeable spray killer.

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