Going With Plan "A"- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Going With Plan "A"

    Get yer readin' shoes on. There is no short version here.

    Really great ride this past weekend, and not for the usual reasons.

    For 1, the trails have ALL been closed since 10/28 due to steady rain.
    2nd, the trail fundraiser/group ride/singletrack foliage tour that we've been anticipating for weeks had to be cancelled (and this was the peak weekend - and I was really looking forward to riding these particular trails with full leaf cover - it's a HOOT!).

    The organizer opted to do a gravel grinder, but the route did not suit me, so I went with plan "A".

    That's right - no change - except for the singletrack part.

    Weeks ago I had suggested to park at the local brewery beforehand, ride ~8mi. of scenic riverside rail trail to the event, then ride back to the brewery post group ride. Woulda been 25+mi total.

    I got 1 taker. I'll call him "O". O is a good guy. We are about a dead match for riding, and we like the same kind of rides. O was in from minute 1.

    Well, with the singletrack closed, I suggested the same route, but with more added to the end beyond the singletrack turn-off. O was still in. I know the man's time is not all his own, so I sensed, more than his usual enthusiasm, almost an urgency to do this particular ride. During our ride I found out he was sorting some things out with work - to his advantage - but it had worn on him. He needed a day to decompress. Also, he'd never ridden in this area at all. So that designated me as the "ride leader".

    Me? I've had a stomach bug all week. Things were, let's just say, unpredictable. I himmed and hawed with myself all week and finally decided Friday night that I was going to make the ride. Twas a non-issue.

    So I awake early Saturday morning to steady rain and check the forecast: s'posed to stop by 11a. Yeah right. If I had a nickel for every incorrect weather forecast....
    Full rain suit...Check.

    Loading the truck in the rain. 44F.
    Driving in the rain. 41F, and slush on the window.
    About 1/2 way there and the clouds start breaking up.

    I arrived at the brewery and took stock of my gastrointestinal comfort: good enough.
    The sun was breaking through, with 20mph winds and still 42F, but no rain.

    Happy to see O arrive about 15 min. late, we suited up quickly, shoved off and lowered our heads into the wind.

    It wasn't far to the trailhead, but just traffic and wind to start was sorta rough.

    As usual, as soon as we escaped the traffic we were in a different world. O liked it a lot. The sun had come out full-on, with just small, fast clouds to remind us of the winds overhead above the trees. In the places where the winds found a gap in the forest, we found ourselves riding through cascades of yellow leaves irradiated by the sun. Still wet, we often had them stuck to our jackets, handlebars, and cables up front. The trail is a little rough and narrow as rail trails go, and any elevation we gained was just from going down into and coming back out of countless long mudholes and puddles. O could appreciate the roost coming off my 4" tire. The swollen river was almost hypnotic in that it seemed to push itself in every direction rather than dutifully follow its course. It flowed right at the brim of its banks, threatening everything nearby.

    As we pedaled I recalled to O that one short section of trail was very close to the river and I wondered if the trail would be passable. There was only one way to find out. Negotiating slick, leaf-covered mossy bridges we eventually arrived at the submerged section. The marker post along the trail suggested it "wasn't too deep". If you consider "just below the axles" as "not too deep", then no, it wasn't too deep. Ratchet pedaling kept our feet dry, with just a little splashing. O was thrilled with the challenge of keeping dry feet (it's kind of a "thing" with him), and I could hear him hooting and yelling behind me at riding over unseen debris in the murky water while trying to maintain forward motion (without getting his feet wet!). Where we rode up onto a bridge ramp that took us back onto the high ground, several startled deer simply leaped off into the water to avoid us. They were completely land-locked on the rail trail, and with nowhere else to go (why not back the way they came???) they went into the canal on the "high" side of the trail. What a racket!

    Despite the improved weather and beaming sunshine, the farther we went, the wetter it got. Sometimes there was a solid base, sometimes mush. Sometimes ruts tried to get your front and rear tires going in different directions. Sometimes there were hidden branches and roots smashed into the muddy trail. Passing a few gates we had to ride or cross the ditch. ...All features that kept the old rail trail as interesting as any singletrack. We tried some slicked out climbs and succeeded in nothing more than trench digging with our tires. We stopped at a dam to see how high the water had risen and found a huge pile of debris blocking more than half of the narrow spillways. O is also a paddler and wondered out loud if the water might still be rising... and who has to clear the debris if it gets too bad?

    We rode to the end of the trail and took stock of the situation. Even with all of our goofing around, we were still on schedule to meet up with the gravel grinders so we headed for the brewery. By now, there were actually some people hiking and we saw 2 other riders. As we approached the submerged section another deer was running ahead of us. It seemed by his posture that he was quite displeased. He actually stopped and turned to face us for a moment, but I think 1 against 2 in the animal kingdom, no matter how pissed you are, exceeds acceptable risk. So he too reluctantly leaped off into the water and splashed out of sight. At this moment we reconsidered the water level. I volunteered to go first, because my boots were still damp from my rain ride 2 weekends ago. I rolled down the bridge ramp and as the front tire kept going down I figured I must've found a hole - and I would soon level up...
    NOPE! The water was now 4" above the axles! It had some push to it, too. There was no ratchet pedaling. Full-on get-me-outta-here pedaling. I could feel the chilly water pouring into the tops of my waterproof boots. O had followed me too closely to have a second thought about it and found himself with very wet feet as well. He just started laughing at the absurdity of "dry feet" and followed me up the trail making paddle wheeler sounds until we hit higher ground. "That's the deepest water I ever rode in!"

    The return, of course, was uneventful, unless you count the constantly evolving scenery: peak foliage illuminated by beautiful sunshine in a crystal blue sky on a blustery Fall day. And turning back onto the road stretch, the wind was at our backs and we flew into the brewery parking with an extra bump from the bike gods.

    After emptying the water out of my boots and drying my socks a bit...
    The brewery was great. The gravel grinders arrived. We reinforced some acquaintances and made some new ones. And the fundraiser wasn't a complete bust.

    -F
    It's never easier - you just go faster.

  2. #2
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    Sounds like an amazing day!

  3. #3
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    Fun adventure!

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