I admit the day’s warning or so of a mixed-terrain adventure was just plain, old, quickie planning, the kind that most can’t deal with in their busy lives. That said, I’d say our Sunday country, MT ramble was one of my favs, and one I hope to replicate in some capacity in the future. I pored over various map sites, atlases and googlemaps streetview to put together a ride which connected as much gravel as I could find in the areas north-east of Charlestown, building on Dave’s previous rides along C.R. 850 W. We started in Charlestown and casually made our way to New Washington for a store stop, where Dave decided to have lunch, and where I made the fatal mistake of not eating.
North of N.W. we put together a patchwork of roads to arrive at our first gravel, but before anything dirt, we first found the strange sight of what looked to be an unused railroad right-of-way on both sides, to the west it was marked “no trespassing”. A little research yielded the possibility of being an unused RR from the defunct Marble Hill Nuclear Plant, closed in ’84 before opening. This screams for further exploration in the future. While not on the original cue sheet, a goal and attitude is/was to take the unchartered turn to see if it yields good results, which Little Egypt Rd. brought us. did
We searched and found our way back on route and, after passing, Paynesville, we took a right onto S. Taylor after a brief stop at the mouth of the road. I enjoyed the surface of this road and the farm sights on either side. Towards the end it even provided a shaded portion just before we turned left to return to Paynesville for a re-watering.
After S. Taylor we headed east to find a short portion of a road labelled 475, 750, 500 and with a sign as 550. What a mess! The only thing of note, aside having to turn around b/c we missed the turn due to the signs, was the at the top of the “horseshoe” it had a nice, fund little down-n-up hill, quite different from the table top flat roads previous. We then turned south to find the southern terminus of S 450 W, which I hypothesized after seeing its nothern point on googlemaps. I enjoyed S 450 W very much due to its tidy yards, sunflowers and winding nature.
Our next appointment (Hinault talk) came after Reed orchard at the top of Saluda Hill. This was spectacular near 1-mile gravel descent through the shaded canopy. Both of us commented about hand tiredness after white-knuckling the brakes. Saluda Hill emptied in Lee Bottom, with its river flatness and field airstrip. The climb out on Prospect road was an interesting, albeit difficult, climb for its changing grades. The road had recently been repaved and probably rebuilt, but unlike many other local steady climbs, this one vacillates between very steep and not so much. Other than a dog chase at the top it was “fun”.
We linked up with more farm roads at the top before hitting Reardon Rd., before which I saw a Dan Henry turning south. Too bad that club ride didn’t go straight onto the rough stuff. Reardon was dead straight; I powered ahead and let Dave catch up in the shade. Again, he ate. Again, I didn’t eat much. Errr.. Reardon cuts ride through the middle- as we found- of Chelsea Flatwoods Nature Preserve. This portion of gravel, as you can see, was nicely shaded and a good change of pace from the constant fields of soybeans.
A turn northward took us back into the wind and to our most northern point, at the entrance to a road listed as S.Hutch Rd., S. Hutchinson Rd. and C.R. 900W. I initially included the road only to have Dave inform me that, as best as he could tell on streetview, it didn’t really seem to be a road. I became very enthusiastic! The early surfaces of S.Hutch were softer, boggier, than anything we had ridden. I was afraid I had a tire or brake prob, but no, the surfaces were deteriorating. How little did we know? At some point we left the gravel behind and found what I call double-track, and Dave two-track. It was basically a grassy path through the woods.
We found a muddy crossing, which I daintily passed by on the left amidst the weeds. Dave, more manly than I, stated that he thought otherwise. This is why he ended up with muddy feet and I didn’t. Just past the pit we found a mown bypass. I assume that a couple times a year a farmer or road worker mows this. It wasn’t that overgrown given its location and towards the end there was evidence of cinders in the double-track before emptying out at a farmer’s barn. It was my first real road-not-road and it makes me want to find more.
As we headed south it became apparent that the food Dave had eaten was sustaining him for a strong 2nd half, while I was quickly running out of gas. I struggled between miles 50 and 60, although Arbuckle Rd./700S was as nice a gravel patch as we would find, following creek along tobacco fields and more shade.
Turning south from 700S put us back on known roads, and from there we headed straight to New Washington, with Dave pulling ahead of me on 62. In N.W. I had a Coke, a food bar of some sort and a substantial amount of water from a cold gallon at the corner store. Our final leg took us along the the bumpy New Market-N.W. corridor, where I began to feel a little better. We finished our meal off at Charlestown Pizza, although I was too tired for beer. For shame! This area begs for more exploration and more miles, as you couldn’t find much emptier miles in the Louisville metro area. And it’s closer that H.N.F. Great Stuff! We’re sad you missed it.
(My wife doesn’t drink PolarPops. She had never heard of one until a month ago.)