I’m the one who in May dreamed up a Indian gravel ramble, taken in by the grandeur of the mixed-terrain mythos as bandied around by those from NoCal, NB and VT. I originally planned a route beginning in Carefree, IN, right off of I-64. The first design was that of a 58-miler which would include lots of gravel; Dave later lengthened it to a 68-miler. Unfortunately, we saw neither of these totals.
The usuals came- Dave and I- and we were joined by a trepidatious ‘L’ (I don’t know her view of using here name). She thought it sounded interesting and she’s training for the 150m/2day Tour de Cure. We three set out with some support from Dave’s fiance ‘K’ and his daughter ‘D’, who would see us at different portions of the ride, much like a tour stage with the team car. The first portion almost immediately hit gravel, and downhill gravel at that, as we swept down into the Ohio River Valley, taking us by the small town of Leavenworth. Dave flatted within the first 3 miles of the ride. Remember that. After a quick descent into Leavenworth, we found our 2nd gravel of the day on the nice little stretch of Indian Hollow Rd., although the little stretch became a little climb which became a steep climb at the very top. We were greeted there by a very nice homeowner. I was first up the climb. Please remember that for future reference.
Our ascent put us on Freedonia Rd. Dave had a 2nd flat, replaced the tube, experienced a valve stem malfunction and used his 3rd tube of the day. Needless-to-say, we were behind schedule. Now settled, Freedonia road gave us a nice path which followed the Ohio R. for several miles. I’m accustomed to river roads on the KY side being down on the floodplain, but this one was on top and gave us great views on occasion. We passed through Freedonia and Cape Sandy and made our descent into Alton where we encountered what I would call the worst bridge I’ve ever been on, and I still can’t believe we crossed it on bikes. The road bed was a flurry of splinters, holes, screws and raw, old, rotting wood and I’m amazed nobody flatted!
Climbing out of Alton brought us to our 2nd hill climb and shortly later a 3rd hill bringing us to the high point of the day, elevationally speaking. I was first on these 2 climbs as well. Shortly after turning on to Buzzards Roost Rd, I had a flat. Mind you, Because of the gravel portions I was on the LHT, and I had replaced the front SON wheel with its original and a 2″ Serfas front tire that I had called “Little Dummy”, naming it after those 4″ monsters on Surly Big Dummys. Studying the tire, I came to find that the rim had no strip, so the flat was on the underside by the nipple holes. Oops. Big problem, especially with many miles to go. The “McGuyver” solution was to use the old tube as a rim strip and to put the new tube on top, all facilitated by the monstrous volume of the Serfas. Strangely, it worked. By this time, though, we were very off schedule. This road, right amidst a searing downhill, had a turnoff to Buzzards Roost, which is a hiking trail and scenic lookout, fodder for a later visit, I think.
From Magnet we descended down in to the river valley and found some nice, manageable gravel, a portion not unlike the many side roads I had just seen on a trip out to South Dakota. My own LHT was in its element, but Dave and ‘L’ were quite game on these portions. Kudos to ‘L’ b/c she was only sporting 700x28c or so tires, but she barreled through quite well.
Climbing out of the river valley a bit, it was decided that we needed to stick to the main- PAVED- roads for our return. Given the mechanical problems (I think Dave had another flat in there somewhere), we were very behind schedule and there was little way we were going to make 68m in a reasonable time. We took 66, which would take us all the way back to Carefree. Our decision when to turn onto 66 would be fateful, at least for me. What had been descended would now climb. Later inspection gave our climb a distance of around .75m with a gradient of around 9.5%, these numbers coming from mapmyride+bikeroutetoaster. The climb had a very steep portion, but one that was not terribly long. Then, having thought it would be over, the distance provided the reality that after indeed flattening a bit, it went up a good while longer at a very steep gradient. I have personally ridden many of the climbs in the SW portion of Jefferson Co., as well as those in Oldham, but I had a much worse time with this one. Dave took the lead, but stopped briefly most of the way up. I chugged on and “finished first”, but it would be the last time of the day. 66 from here rides the ridgeline through Hoosier Forest, passing Oriole Trailhead, and eventually links with 62. Right before that junction, we had a thrilling downhill into Sulpher ; Dave reached 40mph and at the bottom of that we took a short break. What descends must… We had a tough-but-short climb out of the creekbed. Dave cleared it well (‘L’ smartly was apportioning her efforts, taking rides when absolutely necessary), but I walked for the first time. I was cooked. Very cooked. We followed 66/62 for what became a roller coaster ride, with 2 more climbs up and down creek valleys. At this point I personally had some dizziness and sloshy stomach. Dave’s stubborness took him capably up each of these climbs and I believe ‘L’ climbed each of these as well. She seemed to be coming ’round, but I was getting worse and worse. Shortly thereafter, we had a flatish run into Carefree, finishing our day at 50 miles total. The return via 66/62 negated much of our mixed-terrain through the Hoosier Forest, so there is no simple way to compare what might have been. For me personally, it was near death march from the top of the 66 climb home, but ‘L’ and Dave both finished a tough day in the saddle.
I would like the RCCS to do another mixed-terrain gravel ride in this area, but something will need to be modified, or I’ll just be in a fetal position somewhere in the middle of the forest.