Towards the end of December, I received a late Christmas present. I finally pulled the trigger on a new frame and it arrived. I wanted a bike that would handle just about anything. With all-road, cyclocross and gravel bikes being mass produced from every major manufacturer, each with a specific application, I craved for something I could ride on gravel, singletrack, grass, dirt and pavement, without too many limitations.
As you know, I am a fan of rim brakes. I love the simplicity. But Northeast Pennsylvania’s short, steep, gravel hills call for a little more stopping power. My search ended at Black Mountain Cycles in Point Reyes Station, CA. Well, on their website. Owner, Operator, Mike Varley, designs quality steel bikes. There are currently 4 different frames to choose from. I went with the Monstercross Disc.
When I called, Mike explained that the sizing is a little different than the 59cm rim brake version Monstecross that I purchased in 2013. So, at 6’2”, I went with the 53cm frame. Available in 2 colors, Classic Blue and California Gold. I opted for the latter. It looks rather yellow on a computer screen, but once the frame was out of the box, It was clear that this is not yellow, just a perfect shade of pure California.
I’ll save build specs for another post and concentrate on feedback from the first few rides. So far, this bike has been a dream. First, the head tube feels a bit taller, allowing me to raise the handlebar height without spacers. On a few steep downhill, rocky trails, it was very compliant. The tall head tube and sloping top tube, puts the rider in a more upright, relaxed climbing position. And, did I say smooth. The tube spec and long wheelbase make for an extremely smooth ride.
I’ve been able to sneak in 3 rides in the Delaware State Forest and on the McDade Trail. I can’t wait to spend more time on this bike and do a few longer rides and maybe an overnighter. If your looking for that do everything steel steed with a price tag just over $800 for frame and fork, look no further.
This past weekend, the warm November weather sent me outside for two full days. Unfortunately, not to ride, but to catch up on some yard work. The shed needed to be cleaned out and reorganized, patio furniture needed to be put away for the winter and firewood needed to be stacked and brought up to the porch.
I did manage to squeeze in a ride on Saturday. Conscious of the hunters in the Delaware State Forest (it’s rifle season), I opted for a road ride. I headed out at about 8am, down Rt. 739 towards Lord’s Valley. While freshly paved, Rt. 739 is by no means conducive to bicycles. The surface is narrow (no shoulder), with cars moving at around 50-60 mph. A steady cross wind was pushing me into traffic. A right on Rt. 434 provided me with a little more room to work with and the head wind, although brutal, was a lot safer. 434 is a roller coaster type road with 4 foot shoulders. A left on Rt. 6 (PA State Bicycle Route) and I found the cross wind again. Then it poured for about 25 minutes. Then the sun came out to play. Still undeterred, I made a left on Rt. 739 and finally I had the wind at my back, albeit for only a few miles.
I hung a right into the main entrance of Hemlock Farms and immediately began climbing past the gate and over the hump that is Hemlock Drive. I took a coffee break on a picnic bench at Elm Beach and enjoyed the sunshine and quiet. Refueled and ready to go, I took Forest Road back to Rt. 739 for the return trip. While a private community with a lot of security, I have never been stopped for riding my bike through. However, good luck trying to drive in if your not a resident.
What’s Playing (What am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding), today – Squeeze – If I Didn’t Love You
Sometimes, you just have to fit your rides in where you can. Being away so much, I look for any opportunity to spend time with my family. On Thursday, I had about a 2 hour window. So, I rolled out of the driveway and into the Delaware State Forest. Everything seemed to be clicking. I felt like I could ride forever.
But, a 22 mile gravel sampler would have to do. There would be other opportunities to squeeze some miles in before the end of the week.
With the beautiful weekend weather upon us, I knew my pedal time would be limited. I got up early this morning and headed out for a short spin through the overgrown hiking trails near my house. The ungroomed trails were covered with leaves and fallen branches were scattered throughout. I took it slow and decided to enjoy the quiet time spent in the woods.
Riding slowly, breathing in that crisp autumn air, really takes you far away from all the stress of daily life. It’s a great way to get you in the perfect mood to start the day.
So, give it a try. Splash some water on your face, go out for a morning spin and see how you feel. I promise you, it will be a positive experience.
Whenever I return from an elongated work trip, I immediately jump right back out into the Delaware State Forest. Pedaling from home, gives me the freedom to pick my routes and decided just how long and how far I’ll ride.
This summer, I’ve found some new roads and trails that have sparked my interest. This ride was no different. I set out at around noon and rode through my community to the deer trail that leads to Five Mile Meadow Road. A new layer of gravel made for a slower journey, as the loose surface had not yet been packed down by the many trucks that will populate the forest in about 5 weeks (hunting season). A right on Silver Lake Road, a half mile climb and a right onto Little Mud Pond Road.
I crossed Silver Lake and dropped into the Burnt Mills Trail System. After about 4 miles, most of the Rip Rap is gone, except for the last half mile. Right before the trail crosses Bushkill Falls Road, I hung a left on Thunder Swamp Trail. A Jeep Trail, that has a sand surface in spots, Thunder Swamp loops back around to Coon Swamp Road and onto Flat Ridge Road.
I headed back on Five Mile Meadow Road, after looping through Little Mud Pond once more and made my way home. It Just happened to be a beautiful day. After a month in the Midwest, it’s good to be home in my backyard gravel playground. I’ll make another trip. This time to Missouri, in three weeks time. I’m told that the Katy Trail, which traverses the entire state, goes right through my base camp, Maryland Heights. I’ll have to figure out how to get my gravel bike there to explore this iconic trail system.
What’s playing (what am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding), today – Joe Jackson – Look Sharp
Working from home the last three months has found me riding all too often, the same roads and trails. While I was traveling, I couldn’t wait to get back to my little piece of heaven. Now don’t get me wrong, for this mid 50’s pedal pusher, this is cycling nirvana. But every now and then, I like to spread my wings and venture out a bit farther.
I’ve parked in the gravel lot at the trailhead for the Maple Run ATV/Snowmobile trails, before heading up to the High Knob on occasion. Today, I decided to venture in. To my surprise, the trail, a loosely packed dirt and gravel road was pristine. I experienced a small sample of this trail system, taking in 11 miles of thick hard woods, a pine forest and steep steep hills under the power lines.
While there are many more trails here to explore, I jumped across Rt. 402 to climb to the High Knob. It seems the PA DCNR has covered the road with fresh gravel, making the climb a little more difficult than usual. The views at the top never disappoint, neither does the descent. I cruised back to the parking area, excited to add this new wrinkle into an all day gravel ride.
What’s playing (what am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding), today – The Pretenders – My City Was Gone
My last post summarized my ride through a section of Irish Swamp Trail. Part 2 could and should bring the navigation of this byway to some sort of a conclusion. It does not. My routes have all but eliminated that area for now. Fortunately, I decided that I would ride to the beginning of Five Mile Meadow Road and across Rt. 739. This gravel roadway goes another mile past the State Route, all the way to I84.
About a half mile from the end, a new road appeared. On the left hand side, I noticed a road cut out along the power lines. It was extremely hilly, chopped up and looked like it went for miles. I took the left and made my way up the heavily traveled roadway. Most of the road was large, 4-6 inch stone. This makes it difficult to glide over. Both sides of the road appeared to be recently logged.
That section of Five Mile Meadow Road has been off limits to bikes for a couple of years now. I’ve stayed off the road since, but Friday was different. I looked but did not see the sign, so I guess I took advantage and pedaled down to check out an old haunt. This is also accessible from the mountain bike trails that sit between Sunrise Lakes and I84, near Rattlesnake Creek. A mtb would be a little more suitable as there is some technical singletrack that connects these two gems.
After riding back into the center of the forest, I ventured up Silver Lake Road and to my surprise, a white horse stood where 2 dogs normally alert the entire county that I’m climbing up that hill. It was a malnourished looking beast, appearing like it was content being nursed back to health. A quick rip up Standing Stone Trail and back through the deer path to my community, left me satisfied that I hit a good portion of this magical natural beauty without touching the Northeast section or Irish Swamp. More fun to be had….
What’s Playing, (what am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding). Today – Ike and Tina Turner- Proud Mary
Are you wondering when this will end? Do you dream about getting outside and riding through the woods? Is riding a stationary bike or trainer getting to you? For most people who read this, the answer is yes. But, unless you live in the few areas that strictly prohibit outdoor activities, it’s healthy to get outside, just do it alone or with someone you co-habituate with.
It seems now that each state is going to decide when business can open and which businesses can open. The medical profession thinks it’s too soon. Some say this is not going away and getting back to business, sort of speak, will hopefully help the herd build an immunity. I do not know what the answer is.
What I do know is that sitting home, whether you’re working from home or not working at all and not getting any exercise in, is not good. A sedentary lifestyle breeds depression. You don’t have to be a psychiatrist to figure that out. Staying inside all the time is not good for the mind or the body.
So, escape to the woods. Ride that patch of trail you’ve always seen but didn’t have the time to explore. Hike up that mountain near your hideaway and take a stroll around the neighborhood, just to get some sunlight and see where you live from a different perspective. Make sure you wear a face mask or cover, don some light gloves and cover the top of your water bottles.
In hope you like my throwback photos
A few days ago, I was pedaling through the incredible state forest that I’m lucky enough to live less that a mile from. I couldn’t help but think how lucky I was to be sheltering in place, yet able to do the one activity that I love. I am riding way more now than this time in previous years. Don’t get me wrong, I wish this had never happened and I hope it ends very soon. But until it does, get out there and grab some vitamin D.
Please remember to thank any employees in the medical field, first responders, delivery men, supermarket and pharmacy employees, restaurant employees, utility workers, plumbers, electricians and anyone that keeps showing up for work, so the rest of the world can self isolate. Do your part. Wear your mask and gloves when you must leave the house. Do not ride in groups or hang out with anyone that you do not live with. If everyone cooperates, we can slowly integrate back into society in the near future.
What’s Playing (what am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding) Today – Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – The Waiting
It’s been quite some time since I’ve pedaled through the old Boy Scout Camp off Five Mile Meadow Road. Closed since before I was born, this swath of forest sits between Five Mile and Rt. 739. The Pennsylvania DCNR purchased the property a few years back from a developer and in the last few years, they’ve removed every structure or any sign that a camp ever existed, annexing it into the Delaware State Forest.
Since, the removal of materials, the old Jeep roads and walking paths have made some really nice mountain bike trails, from the road, out to the copper field, back through the camp and down the hill to Rock Hill Pond, a serene body of water, surrounded by a lush, green forest.
I love incorporating the camp into a ride, usually at the end, just before I exit the woods and enter my community. Recently, with the lake communities experiencing large summer like crowds, due to the pandemic, the camp area has seen lots of hikers and visitors, trying to get outside and enjoy the fresh air.
You could park at the gate, right on Five Mile Meadow Road, across from Standing Stone Trail and hike in and have lunch by the lake, but you know I’m an advocate of pedaling in and seeing the entire swath of woods. There is even a parking lot, just off Rt. 739. The road from the lot leads up past the copper fields, past where the old bunk houses were, connecting to the main camp area. Check it out. Here’s some old pics from previous posts inside the camp, when a lot of the structures still stood.
Some pics from previous posts inside the camp
What’s Playing (what am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding), Today – Gino Vannelli – Living Inside Myself
If your anything like me, for the most part, your avoiding the daily news like the plague. I’ve found that constant exposure to the negative, can be quite depressing. Although, living in the northeast with my roots in New York, I hear everyday about people I know that have the virus or who have passed away due to the virus.
I am, however, adjusting to the way we have to live, during these uncertain times. I’m having my food delivered from the supermarket, sanitize everything before bringing it in the house, wash my hands constantly and keeping away from anyone that does not live under the same roof.
I usually work until the late afternoons, sneaking some yard work in at lunchtime, then outside for a ride or long walk, complete with face mask and gloves. At night, I’ve been working on a few projects, to keep from watching too much television.
I stripped my Kona Honky Tonk down to the frame, to build up my Ritchey Breakaway. All parts were switched over, except for handlebar, stem, seat post, brakes and headset. This frame received a 9 speed Shimano 105 drivetrain, Mavic Ksyrium SL wheelset and a new Brooks B17 Cambium saddle. Of course all new cables, housing and bar tape rounded out the build. I kept the Continental Grand Prix 23mm tires that were on the wheels for now.
My rides have been a real uplifting experience. I’ve been reading that the trails and parks are full (the ones that are still open), but my little slice of heaven seems to be completely void of people. I can ride gravel roads and not worry about passing cars or trucks. Road rides are a little trickier, but I can get creative and pedal along an 8 mile loop a few times, without hitting the main roads.
Please remember to thank any employees in the medical field, first responders, delivery men, supermarket and pharmacy employees, restaurant employees, utility workers, plumbers, electricians and anyone that keeps showing up for work, so the rest of the world can self isolate. Do your part. Wear your mask and gloves when you must leave the house. Do not ride in groups or hang out with anyone that you do not live with. Hopefully, if everyone cooperates, we can slowly integrate back into society in the near future.
What’s Playing (what am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding), today – The Police – Don’t Stand So Close To Me
Ok, I have not been able to update this piece every week. Not because I cannot ride, but because my family lost our beloved Mom. Social distancing has made mourning difficult to say the least. Not being able to mourn with my siblings, was hard. But, I’ve learned just how strong my brothers and sister really are. All 3 are my heroes! Everyone is suffering right now. The world has changed and will continue to change as we navigate through this. Sitting at home, I’ve been able to spend quality time with my family. I’ve even video chatted with my daughter, whose staying with my brother and her cousins each and every day. I’m taken aback by the generosity that is all around us.
Being fortunate enough to still be working (from home for the time being), I am able to get outside and turn the pedals a little. I prefer riding from my house to the gravel roads, but an occasional road ride is in order as well.
In my last post, I mentioned riding with a friend. That has not happened since and won’t happen again until it is safe. Nasal droplets coming from a rider or runner can travel 4 times as far in the wind or slipstream compared with a person that is standing still. Besides, it sends a negative message to other people that cyclists are not practicing social distancing. Unless you live under the same roof, you should not ride together. I realize I might catch some negative comments to that statement, but if you really stop and thing about it, it makes sense.
What I have been happy to see is that people are still getting out there. As a matter of fact, IMBA has been reporting that trail systems across the country have been getting a lot more use. I think this is where I should say that riding with a mask is a good idea. Anytime your outside your home is a good time to wear a face covering, especially when your on a bike or on the trails.
I thought about creating some sort of virtual challenge on strava to help pass the time and keep people riding, but decided against it, as this is not a good time to crash and go to the hospital. So, ride on, but be careful, they’ll be plenty of time to set PR’s and race your friends when life returns to the new normal. Stay healthy!
It’s been a few months since I’ve had any real content to post here. If you’ve read my other page, cyclingtravelguide.com, you know that I’ve been traveling quite a bit. I finally spent more than a week at home. Twelve days to be exact. With time on my hands, I’m always going to find that window to get out and ride.
The Delaware State Forest and McDade Trail are my go-to places to grind some gravel. I managed to get a few rides at each venue while at my home base. I have been lucky enough to enjoy the warm late February weather we’ve been having, never donning the winter gear. While much of the country has been hit hard with snow and cold temperatures, Northeast Pennsylvania has been spared this year.
I won’t bore you with details of my ride, but I was excited to get back in the woods, climb some hills and dream about long days in the saddle. Here are some pics from the past week and a half.
What’s Playing? (What am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding) today – Journey – Wheel in the Sky
Recently, I found out just how important riding a bike is to me. For many years, I’ve been able ride on a fairly regular basis. My family has been very understanding of my need to get outside and pedal for a few hours on most days and work has always allowed me to get enough miles in to satisfy my urge.
You see, the last few years have been about getting out on a bike as much to clear my head as it was to purely ride for the fun of it. There may be better ways to relieve stress, but I sure can’t think of any.
About four months ago, I took a job that requires a good deal of traveling. It took about 4 trips of about 2 weeks each, for me to learn my craft and get comfortable in my new environment. Now I had to figure out how I was going to be able to squeeze in some miles while on the road.
Since the stationary bikes at the hotel gyms were completely out of the question, I investigated the breakaway frames from Ritchey and Surly. Both would do the trick but would prove rather costly to check with the airlines.
A recent trip to a midwestern bike shop, revealed that most big city shops have been refraining from road bike rentals due to the growing “City Bike” market in just about every urban environment. While in that shop, I noticed a folding bike. I even took it for a test ride.
I purchased one for my daughter when she was in college. A simple phone call revealed that she hadn’t used it in a couple of years. All I had to do was pick it up.
My first trip to the airport was Golden. The airline checked the bike for free. In it’s case, the bike weighed only 30 pounds and was under the oversized bag limits. Feeling like I’d solved the transportation issue, I was free to explore Kansas City on two wheels.
I won’t go into details or outline my routes, but I will say that I was able to set it up to fit my long, lanky frame and managed four rides in 12 days on a recent trip to Missouri. Not ideal, but better than an indoor suffer fest on a spin bike.
A few weeks later, I managed a few rides in the Dallas area with a few more in the San Bernadino, CA area. I really think I’m in love with the mountains on the west coast.
Mt. Rubidoux in Riverside was the highlight of my trip. Climbing on a folding bike proved no easy task, but riding in the shadows of Big Bear and Baldy was an incredible experience. Big Bear sits above 7,000 feet and Mt. Baldy is the iconic climb used in the Tour of California. Both were snow capped, just adding to their stunning beauty!
Stay tuned for a year in review post, coming up in early January. In the meantime, check out some more pics.
On Saturday, I met up with Brian and Nate for a guided tour of Eastern Wayne County. It was the first cold day of the year. 25 degrees at our 10:30am start. Gearing up for a mixed surface ride, I brought the Van Dessel WTF.
We pushed off from Whitney Lake, a beautiful, private lake community, just west of Lake Wallenpaupack. The gravel surface led us through several segments of pavement, well maintained gravel and dirt.
Brian mapped out an excellent course that was certainly not lacking in hills. 35 miles and about 3,300 feet of elevation was enough to satisfy my urge to climb. The short but steep ascents took me by surprise. It’s been quite a bit of time since I’ve really had to bear down. For the first half of the ride, I simply hung on to Nate’s wheel on the way up. Once I settled in (and it took me a while), I was fine. The descents were fun, although the biting cold air made you want to go uphill more than down. Although, it did warm up to about 33 degrees in the sun by the time we finished.
Wayne County is rural and ruggedly beautiful. It seems that every road leads to creeks, lakes and bridges with barns and rustic buildings as far as the eye can see. Most gravel roads, roll right through communities and you will not find an open business on the entire route. Cell service was a bit scant as well. As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts about the Maple City Century, you better bring plenty of food and water and a few spare tubes if you plan to ride here.
I plan on coming back in the spring to ride this course without the extra layers. I’m sure it will be a lot more green and every bit as beautiful. Here’s a few more pics from this gorgeous area:
What’s Playing (what am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding) today, Led Zeppelin – Black Dog
Recently, I had some free time. I took advantage by….. You guessed it, gravel grinding! Usually, I plan my rides at least a day in advance. When opportunity arises, I normally just pull out of the garage on my road bike and hammer around the community. However, this time was different. I had an appointment later in the day in the Stroudsburg area. So, I loaded my gravel bike in the car and headed out to the McDade Trail.
It was a bit cold, but at 38 degrees, about right for November. I decided to incorporate some hills, so starting in Bushkill and pedaling out to the end of the trail seemed to make sense. I parked at the Roost (a deli, situated across Rt. 209 from the trail), used the facilities, grabbed a water and shoved off.
I wrapped around the old gas station and dropped into the trail in just enough time to start climbing right out of the gate. At this point, the gravel is thick, making it loose and hard to pick up any traction. It took all I had to keep my weight back and grind up the hill. The next few miles were a series of steep climbs, switchbacks and soaring descents, all on gravel, tucked neatly into the woods, between Rt. 209 and the Delaware River. What a great way to spent the afternoon!
I crossed over the huge bridge, hammered along the river and cruised into the parking lot at Hialeah. After a little confusion, I made my way back over to River Road for a short tour through the tiny but quaint hamlet of Shawnee on the Delaware. I turned around and zipped back to the trail.
The ride back was just as pleasant as the ride out. A slight breeze and no sun, combined with all of Autumn’s amazing colors provided a beautiful setting for a fall ride. I have always liked this section of the trail, as it has a whole different feel than the middle portion from Dingman’s to Bushkill. If you have the extra time and climbing legs, bring your camera, a sandwich and coffee and enjoy one of the jewels of the Delaware Water Gap Nation Recreation Area.
What’s Playing (What am I listening to while writing and what’s dancing around in my head while riding), today – America – You Can do Magic
A few months ago, I decided to sell one of my hardtails. I have been considering a Surly dirt road touring bike for some time. I just did not have enough room in the garage. I really liked the Ogre and the ECR for their ability to carry a heavy load over a big distance on rough terrain. But, I decided to go with the Karate Monkey which allows you to instal a suspension fork if you really want to hit some technical singletrack.
Surly frames are made of 4130 CroMoly Steel. This is especially dear to my heart. You can find lighter bikes for sure, but nothing rides like steel. The fork is also 4130 CroMoly steel and has enough bosses for all types of touring and bikepacking. The frame has ample bosses for 3 bottle cages or oversized gear cages. The Karate Monkey has rack and fender mounts, making it a more than worthy commuter. Modern touches, like thru axles and hydraulic disc brakes, really round out this solid offering.
After more than a handful of rides, I think I can supply opinion. First, as you know, I’m fond of steel bikes. Not in the way of vintage, but modern steel with a classic look. I’ve owned plenty of carbon and aluminum bikes. They are stiff, light and fast, but I prefer the plush ride of quality steel. I’ve pedaled through some rough, technical singletrack, gravel roads and Jeep trails. The ride quality is there. It’s pretty quick when it needs to be and smooth over rough terrain. The only drawback might be the weight. Loaded up for a weekend excursion, it probably wouldn’t be first up any hill. But that’s not why you buy this bike. You buy it because it’s versatile. It can be set up as a 29er, 27.5, single speed, geared or as Surly says in about 487 different configurations.
I was between sizes, so I decided on an XL frame. I did not want to be cramped on longer excursions. Because of the larger frame, I needed to shorten the stem, so I opted for an 80mm Salsa Guide. SRAM NX 11 speed shifters, 30t crankset and rear derailleur, paired with Sunrace’s 11-42t cassette make for a more than capable drivetrain, however, the SRAM Level brakes could probably be upgraded. The 27.5 X 3” Surly Dirt Wizard tires are up to the task. After a few rides, I purchased and installed a Surly Moloko handlebar. It offers multiple hand positions and handles just about any bag you throw on it. To spice it up a little, I slapped on a set of Kona Wah Wah pedals and Van’s Grips, both in purple.
If you want a rig that can handle singletrack, touring, bikepacking, gravel roads or Jeep trails, the Karate Monkey is your next bike!
What’s playing (what am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding), today: The Animals – It’s all Over Now, Baby Blue
Occasionally, We have a guest write a product review or share their experience at an event. This time around, we are treated to Eric M’s fun description of the unPAved gravel race:
Commonly referred to by it’s shorter alias, the unPAved is indeed “Hard on the Legs, Easy on the Eyes,” a sentiment as accurately descriptive as its name. In only its second year, the unPAved has become an event that has riders asking when registration opens for next year as they wander around the finishers area in a haze of dust and happiness. The unPAved mastermind, chief cook, and bottle washer, Dave Pryor, along with his main cohort Mike Kuhn and a legion of amazing volunteers, friends, and mischief makers have produced a top tier event that drew nearly 1,000 registrants from 3 dozen states. This year’s event spanned the entire Columbus Day weekend with social rides, the Lewisburg Fall Festival, and even a Wooly Worm petting zoo. The Susquehanna River Valley should be near the top of everyone’s list as a destination for fun in the great outdoors.
A few notes on the 90 mile distance Plenty unPAved–
Last year I opted for the 50 mile category, now called the Proper, and vowed with a fellow cyclist that we would return for the 90 mile version thinking more climbing and descending hills, gravel and dirt roads, and chowing down on the highly sought after finishers whoopie pie was a great way to celebrate this cycling pursuit called gravel grinding. The Plenty unPAved category was all we hoped for and so much more. Dave Pryor, event brain-child, and his band of cohorts designed a course that rewarded all riders who toed the start line at 8:00AM on a foggy and chilly Sunday morning. Riders started the adventure along the Buffalo Valley Rail Trail for a few miles to get the blood to extremities and conduct some idle chat.
An early morning start in this area of Pennsylvania rewards the visitor with the sights and sounds of the local faithful clip-clopping their way to Sunday observances. All riders gave a wide berth to the trotting horses and no pictures were taken; we were all focused on our respective tasks at hand. For the riders, the first test begins about 14 miles in with the significant climb up Jones Mountain, a combination that proves to be steep with some elevation sections measured greater than 12%. This was an unrelenting climb and longer than I remembered from last year. Most riders take the time to regroup and refuel at the summit before beginning the downhill section followed by minor rollers that lead to “The Ranch.” This first aid station located at mile 27 was a true party atmosphere where riders were greeted by cowbell ringing volunteers in all manner of hoedown garb including inflatable horse and ostrich costumes. Somehow I missed the espresso guy but not the vast array of snacks, hydration offerings, a perfectly overcooked-to-order hot dog, and a bio-break. The next 18 miles was a grinning descent through the Bald Eagle State Forest. Eighteen miles of blue skies and a full palette of autumn colors greeted the riders as we headed past a couple of small hamlets towards the base of the second of the day’s four signature climbs.
Siglerville Millheim Pikeounds innocent enough when the sun is shining and the thought of the second aid station called the GU Energy Oasis is just a 10 mile click away. Well, easier said than done, but do it we did, and what lay waiting for us at Poe Paddy State Park was perhaps the best rest stop I’ve ever encountered. Drop Bags were neatly set out in rows for riders to pillage through their belongings, or leave items behind to then be delivered at the finish. I propped my bike, a Lynskey GR250 with a newly installed Lauf Grit SL fork, against a handsome hemlock and took my water bottles for a stroll to get refilled. What I encountered changed my whole perception on mid-ride food possibilities. There in the middle of the forest was gentleman decked in overalls creating culinary wonders from a cauldron and a skillet. Most people know him as Evan from Nittany Mountain Works fame, a local company making some seriously great bags for your cycling life. I called him a magician, for how else did he know at that moment that I would most definitely be resuscitated by perogies, bacon, fried potato wedges, and fresh pour-over coffee? I was so distracted by a second and third perogy that I nearly forgot to refill my water bottles. On the way back to my bike, after some sincere high-fives to Evan, I spotted the bottle of TUMS. Who else but a magician would think to have TUMS on hand?
Having checked off a few boxes at the aid station it was time to saddle up and ride on, so off we went to face the second half of the day with two climbs yet to go. The event’s elevation profile depicts Cherry Run Road as a pyramid followed immediately by “the molar” which starts with Sheesley Run Road and incorporates a few more smaller undulating roads before a swift downhill on Old Shingle Road for a final test of wits and braking acumen.
For the riders on the 90 and 120 mile courses there was a chance to have a brief respite from the bike saddle in the form of the now infamous Salsa Cycles Chaise from their #chasethechaise campaign which began at the Dirty Kanza event years ago. It was nice to take a quick sit on something soft (finally), smile for the camera, remount the bike, and head down the mountain towards the Buffalo Valley Rail Trail.
There was a final pitstop available and I’m still stumped why I did not stop at the Rusty Rail Brewing Company aid station in Mifflinburg, where tasty beverages, snacks, laughs, and restrooms were on offer before the last 9 miles leading to the Miller Center for Recreation & Fitness where we all began our respective rides.
It’s been a while since my last post. I’ve been dealing with a curve ball that life from time to time can throw at you.
That being said, I did spend some time off the bike. This has been time spent with family and friends and it’s also been time spent overthinking things. I could go into this in greater detail, but this is a cycling blog and I miss taking long adventurous rides and capturing cool pics of bikes in nature.
This past week, I threw caution to the wind and hopped on my gravel rig for a spin through the woods. Pedaling from the house, I figured the Delaware State Forest would do. And, oh, it did nicely. I hit some old haunts and found some new corners of this incredible natural wonderland.
The next day, I did a relaxing paddle around the local pond. Felt good to be out in the sun. The paddleboard is great cross training for cycling. Give it a try, your core will thank you!
I took a couple days off and yesterday, I decided a road ride was in order. I left Milford at 4:30pm and flew down Rt. 209 to Mountain Ave. in Matamoras. Crossing the Delaware (George Washington, I’m not), I cruised through the West End neighborhood of Port Jervis and up to Rt. 97. I wanted to do go uphill a bit, so I climbed up Skyline Drive to Point Peter. I’m not sure what I like more, the climb or the furious descent.
Back on Rt. 97, I navigated Port Jervis and passed into Montague, NJ, making a right on Clove Road. Passing some cool farms, I hammered the roller coaster like pavement, all the way to the Milford Bridge.
After riding back to Milford, I wanted to climb some more, so I hit the other Skyline Drive. From Old Milford Road, this alpine like skyway, puts you up above the trees for a beautiful view of the entire valley. It’s good to be back!!
What’s playing (what am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around my head while riding), today – Train – Drops of Jupiter
June is what I like to call the start of adventure season! The temperatures really start to warm up and being as far from civilization as your circumstances will allow, makes you feel invigorated when you get back to the daily grind. With the threat of thunderstorms, it was not looking good for a Friday night bikepacking adventure. But, once the bike is packed, you go and hope for the best.
Steve and Rob G. joined me for the overnight excursion through the Delaware State Forest. Fortunately, the storms held out and after a few hours of humidity, the tempature dropped into the 60’s, making for a really comfortable evening.
We started out at the Rt. 739 parking area for Five Mile Meadow Road. Rob’s bike was a sight. Loaded with every item you could imagine. He certainly carried what Steve and I forgot. We climbed for a couple of miles and decided to turn right on Standing Stone Trail. Standing Stone gives you a little respite after the climbing endured by Rob on his 75lb plus bike.
After 3 miles Of a slight descent, we turned left on Silver Lake Road for a 1.5 mile climb then right onto the Burnt Mills Trail System for a few miles. We veered over to Flat Ridge Road for 3 miles, then jumped back on Burnt Mills to connect up to the northwestern side of the forest. The double track trail is made up of a loose gravel surface with sections of 3 to 4 inch rip rap. The first half is downhill to the wooden bridge, then up hill to the parking lot on Rt. 402.
The paved descent, brought us to Pine Flats Road, a pot holed, gravel roller coaster, that drops you sharply to a beautiful creek.
Steve wasted no time removing shoes and socks and hopped into the water. From there, we pedaled a few easy miles to our reserved camp site. The Forest Service simply requires a phone call to the local forestry office to reserve one of 39 camp sites spread throughout the forest.
After setting up camp, we opened a few well deserved beers and made dinner. Bikes, beer, fire and food, only the essentials. The Forest Service provides pic nic tables and fire rings at each site making it an easy destination.
The crackling of a camp fire, taste of dehydrated food, smell of tent material and symphony of crickets, let you really get the outdoor experience. This may sound a bit off, but if you’ve gotten out there, you know what I mean.
We slept in before stoking the fire, making coffee and cooking breakfast. I chose a Bannana, Raisin, Oats and Quinoa cereal. Rob actually made pancakes for him and Steve. So, we were well fed before getting back in the saddle.
We decided to take a slightly shorter route back, eliminating the Burnt Mills Trails, taking out a little bit of the rough stuff. The trip back to cars, gave me time to think: what is a S24O. Well a Sub 24 hour overnighter is the best way you can get into bikepacking or the outdoors, with little time commitment. It’s a great way to shake out those bugs if your planning a longer trip or simply to try out new gear. Here’s a few more pics:
I could give you a year in review. I thought about that. I could tell you about some fantastic rides, good times with friends and complain about all the rain. But, 2018 is in the rear view mirror and 2019 is upon us.
I met up with Eric today to get the year started on a high note. A gravel ride through the Delaware State Forest. We departed the Rt. 739 parking area around noon and immediately tackled the hills on Five Mile Meadow Road. At 43 degrees, the weather finally cooperated. After about 2 miles of climbing, we turned right on Standing Stone Trail.
A mile in and we had to dismount to jump across the creek crossing. It was a little too deep after yesterday’s monsoon, but we managed. The hard packed gravel that makes up the surface of Standing Stone, drains extremely well. We cruised through the deer management area to the gate at a nice clip. A left on Silver Lake Road put us on some pave until we turned right onto Flat Ridge Road. Mostly dirt, Flat Ridge was mushy for most of its 4 miles.
We rode up Bushkill Falls Road and eased into Minisink Lake and onto Whitaker Trail. Up and over the hills and around the switchback, we came to a swath of private property. There were more that a few “no trespassing” signs, but the newer looking gravel road was too inviting. This private country resort is tucked deep in the woods with a beautiful roadway complete with wooden bridges and a scenic pond. The road loops around the property and ends with a tour through the main house and smaller cabins.
On Whitaker, we pedaled back to Flat Ridge to push through the mud one more time before screaming down Silver Lake Road and onto Five Mile Meadow. We chose the long way back to toss in a few more hills. My legs did not thank me. They were a little rubbery after maybe indulging a little too much last night. As we capped the last of numerous climbs, we descended back to the parking area, with a really nice ride to start the new year. You get the longer rides in when you can, so this was a plus for January 1st. I hope it’s a sign of things to come for the winter, but I doubt it. Full winter gear and shorter rides are right around the corner.
What’s playing (what am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding) today – Dave Davies – Susannah’s Still Alive
Although winter does not officially begin for another week, Mother Nature gave us a sample of the upcoming season.Today, 25 degrees with a light covering of snow. Perfect for a little adventuring!
I met up with Eric this morning at the foot of Dingmans Falls for a scramble through the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. We hopped on the McDade Trail and pedaled past the general store to Hornbeck’s Creek. We took Rt. 209 back to Chestnut Ridge Road.
I’ve never had the pleasure to ride here before. Chestnut Ridge is a one lane, gravel road that jets upward for a little over a mile and a half. It might be one of the quietest, most serene roads in the area.
About half way up, Eric noticed a small house about 100 feet back in the woods. We headed up the driveway to investigate. The house was a bit neglected, but the property, which looked way down to Hornbeck’s Creek, was quite beautiful.
We continued the climb and turned right on Wilson Hill Road. A left on Mary Stuart, put us on a quiet country road with a tar and chip surface. We took a chance and dropped down Johnny Bee Road. This old blacktop Road that is grass and rock covered, is an adventure all by it’s self. The road is closed about halfway down.
Beyond the gate, the road turns to trail. The storms from last March, left Johnny Bee littered with large oak trees spilled alongside and across the Path. After hike a biking over some of the larger ones, we made our way down to Dingmans Falls Road.
We pedaled up to the Falls, which only opened about a month ago (they too were decimated by trees last March). The newly constructed boardwalk served as a pretty capable path. Surprisingly, the snow helped create some traction. After a few photos, we turned around and rode back to the cars.
What’s playing (what am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding) today – Bryan Adams – Cuts Like a Knife
On Saturday, Jason and I decided a full assault on the McDade Trail was in order. I’ve never before, ridden from one end to the other, without deviating from the trail, to avoid the steps and technical section between Milford and Dingmans.
At 55 degrees and sunny, the weather certainly cooperated. We began at the Hialeah Recreation Site, with the intention to ride all 32 miles to Milford Beach, turn around and ride back, without leaving the trail. At 9am, we departed, hitting all the hills south of Bushkill.
10 miles in and we pedaled through the Bushkill Access. From there, the trail is flat and fast for 13 miles to Dingmans. Crossing Rt. 739, we hammered the short, steep gravel hills leading up to the Bald Eagle Nesting area, where the singletrack and hiking only sections begin. We were able to ride most of the singletrack, but had to hike a bike the staircases.
The river, currently higher and wider than normal, was moving pretty quickly, creating a gorgeous green pool, just off the trail.
We cruised past Raymondskill Road, through the corn fields, under the bridge and landed at Milford Beach. Time constraints and sore legs, sent us back via the pavement. We crossed the bridge and took Old Mine Road to the Dingmans Bridge, shuffled across and landed on Rt. 209 for 12 miles. In Bushkill, we hopped back on the trail, just in time to climb every hill and roll into Hialeah at about 4pm.
I cant wait to make this trip again. Hitting all sections in one ride, we got to experience all the beauty that McDade has to offer.
What’s playing (what am I listening while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding) today – The Alan Parsons Project – Eye in the Sky
The previous 3 years, I traveled up to Honesdale, PA for the Maple City Century, an off road/gravel/adventure ride. This year, I was joined by Eric, Darrin, Joe and Andrew. If you haven’t heard about this incredible event or read one of my previous reviews, by the end of this post, you’ll be eager to take on the back roads of Wayne County, PA.
Honesdale is the Maple City. However, this year’s start and finish, took place just outside of Honesdale at the Bluestone Bar and Grill on Rt. 191. With a plus size parking lot and clean bathrooms, the Bluestone was a perfect host. This year’s edition, offered a 62 mile(metric century) and the full 100 mile “shabang”. Doing the 100 the previous 3 years and finishing the last 2, we geared up for the metric and were not let down.
First, it was 46 degrees at the start. Last year, 90 degrees and humid, made for a long day. This year, real autumn temperatures prevailed as it really made a difference.
This is the one event I do each year that is completely grass roots. Zach and Stacey Wentzel are the faces at the sign in, they are there to give pre-ride instructions, they are all over the course, they are there at the finish and at the post ride party. Stacey even baked the incredible oatmeal raisin cookies found at the rest stops. Sure, other rides are bigger, but this is the what you’ve been waiting for.
As far as the ride goes, if you want dirt, gravel, long climbs and the most beautiful scenery Northeastern Pennsylvania has to offer, then this is definitely the ride you’ve been waiting for. Loads of farms, stream crossings, waterfalls and even some singletrack is thrown in for good measure. And did I mention the hills? Yes, your climbing needs will be met!
The rest stops, as always we’re stocked with water, drink mix, cookies, trail mix, gels, fruit and sandwiches. The volunteers are second to none. They do not just serve you, they evaluate you as they are checking you in to see how your doing.
Starting at the Bluestone really made for a nice loop as riders were able to get right onto the back roads. I’ll say this, when you think it’s over, remember, there’s at least a few more climbs.
Next September, alert your friends and come up to Honesdale and experience the ride you’ll never forget!
Cycling Pike County can open many doors, create new experiences and set the table for a fitness lifestyle. Over the past century, bicycles have been used by children and adults as transportation, leisure and fitness. These days, riding a bicycle can take on many different forms. There is mountain biking, road racing, gravel riding, touring, bikepacking, BMX, cafe riding, commuting and just about anything you can imagine.
Let’s start with one of the most family friendly places to ride, the McDade Trail. Starting at the Milford Beach Trailhead in Milford, this multi use trail stretches 32 miles to Hialeah Trailhead in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. The trail surface is crushed stone and remains primarily flat for the first 21 miles, with a few small hills sprinkled in. After The Bushkill Boat Access, the trail climbs sharply into a few switchbacks before rolling on to Hialeah. During the summer months, the Pocono Pony, a free bus service, is available with bike racks going north and south at 7 locations along the trail. At many points, the trail runs along the Delaware River, traversing farms, pine forests, camp grounds and boat launches. Spotting a Bald Eagle, a Black Bear, White Tailed Deer and Wild Turkey is not uncommon.
For mountain bikers that love being on singletrack, Promised Land State Park has numerous multi use trails that range from beginner to expert with varying terrain. Just to the north of Pike County lies the Port Jervis, NY Watershed Trails. These multi use trails offer some of the best mountain biking in the northeast.
Rt. 6 is on the Pennsylvania State bicycle route. With it’s wide shoulders, Rt. 6 offers road cyclists the opportunity to ride safely into and out of the wind. Winding through the Delaware State Forest and past Lake Wallenpaupack, Rt. 6 links with many bicycle friendly roadways, creating hundreds of different routes both epic and casual. You can even connect routes through neighboring New Jersey and New York for a tri state tour of the Delaware Valley.
Next, the Delaware State Forest is filled with emergency access roads and snowmobile trails that allow a mountain bike or a “gravel bike” to glide over the gravel surface through protected natural areas and past glacial lakes. All sorts of wildlife and plants can be spotted in this scenic forest of more than 83 Acres. The Delaware State Forest has 29 campsites complete with pic nic tables and fire rings, making bikepacking (camping from a bicycle) a modest adventure.
The 2016 Kona Rove TI More on that in another post
If you are not into pedaling deep in the woods, then Maybe a casual ride around Milford, the county seat, would satisfy your urge to spin the pedals. The Borough of Milford is laid out with a grid of streets and alley ways that make riding in town a breeze. There are many cafes, eateries and historic place to visit by bicycle. From town, you could ride up to Grey Towers, the home of Gifford Pinchot, the first Director of the US Forest Service or pedal over to the columns museum for a look at the history of Pike County. Pedal over to Rt. 209 and hike up to the “Knob” for a wonderful view of Milford. Cruise down to Milford Beach for a dip in the Delaware River.
Wherever you bike, Pike County has trails and roads that make for a safe, enjoyable sport. Get outside and ride. You can see more from a bicycle that you can from a car and riding a bike is a healthy activity and a great release from everyday life. Hope to see you out there!
On Saturday, Steve, Jason, Darrin and I, ventured out on a bikepacking trip. June 23rd was the worldwide solstice bikepacking event and what better place to camp then the Delaware State Forest.
We met up at the Rt. 739 parking area at 5pm and pedaled up Five Mile Meadow Road. A right on Ben Bush Trail to Standing Stone Trail brought us through the logging area and over to Silver Lake Road. A short climb and we hammered the 4 miles down Flat Ridge Road.
We hooked up on the Burnt Mills snowmobile trail system over to Rt. 402 and dropped down to Pine Flats Road. About 2 miles in, there is a water source. This is convenient, because we were camping only about 2 miles further. We filled our bottles and headed to our campsite.
I reserved the campsite from the PA DCNR. The Delaware State Forest has 29 designated campsites. Ours was perfect. With a stream running nearby, the campsite sat just off the gravel road.
After setting up sleeping quarters and making a fire, it was time to prepare dinner. I opted for a quick dehydrated meal of Louisiana Red Beans and Rice, cooked expertly on a Jetboil stove.
We relaxed with a few beers and enjoyed the incredible night afforded us by Mother Nature. The forecast called for a humid day followed by thunderstorms. What we got was a nice breezy day with perhaps a slight drizzle. Perfect weather for a loaded S24hour adventure.
The next morning brought more beautiful weather. After breakfast, we packed up and retraced our route back to Silver Lake Road, where we turned right to take Five Mile Meadow all the way back.
Sub 24hour adventures get you out in the woods without a big commitment. Give it try. Until then, check out more pics of our adventure.
As spring comes to an end in a couple of weeks, we welcome summer with open arms. After riding through rain and cold for most of the spring, we were treated to a beautiful day.
To test the early season legs, I hooked up with Eric, Andrew, Joe and Dave for a 50 mile gravel ride through the Delaware State Forest. At 61 degrees, it was just warm enough for short sleeves.
We departed the Rt. 739 parking area and headed up Five Mile Meadow Road, over a recently resurfaced dirt and gravel roadway. After the Silver Lake climb, we dropped into Little Mud Pond and into the Burnt Mills snowmobile trails. We crossed over to Flat Ridge Road to Lake Minisink and back to Burnt Mills where we hit some rough Jeep Trail and rip rap.
We regrouped in the Burnt Mills parking area and crossed over Rt. 402 to Pine Flats Road for an easy 2.5 mile descent.
At the bottom, we hung a sharp right on Highline Road and began the 6 mile climb up to the base of the High Knob. Highline rolls gradually up to Hobaday Road, creating just enough fatigue to make you pull back a little before the big hill.
We regrouped again at the gate and started up the High Knob Road. For about 1.5 miles, the road circles around the hill as it get steeper and steeper as you get closer to the top. The views were spectacular today. With no fog and plenty of sunshine, you could see forever.
We had lunch, took a few photos and enjoyed the descent down High Knob and all the way down High Line to Pine Flats. It was just enough to recuperate before climbing back to Rt. 402. Through the rough section and up Flat Ridge to Silver Lake. We took Standing Stone Trail through the deer management area, back to Five Mile Meadow, over a few more hills and down to the parking lot.
This is one of my favorite rides. 50 Miles, 4000 feet of elevation, 95% on gravel. Joe and Dave are heading to Canada next week for a ride up the Novia Scotia coast. I hope we helped prepare them.
I leave you with a few more shots of this fantastic ride.
Is it ever going to stop raining? After a snowy, cold winter, the spring has been equally as wet. Weather reports are even calling for flooding this weekend. Well, today offered a short respite with lots of sunshine.
With the pavement still very wet, I opted for a tried and true gravel route, Heading out of Action Bikes and Outdoor in the heart of Milford. After slithering through town, I hopped over to Milford Beach and jumped on the McDade Trail. The first 4 miles are so nice. That being said, it looks as though the Park Service has done everything to keep bicycles from going any further than Just past Raymondskill Road. This forces you to walk up to Rt. 209 and ride a few miles before crossing back onto the trail.
I opted to turn onto Zimmerman Farm Road and ride the horseshoe back to Rt. 209 and go back into the 2nd section of the farm.
This time, I was met with a few obstacles. Trees were down everywhere. I crawled under and over the trees and made my way to the farm houses. An orange construction fence blocked the road. I rode around and up to the barn for a photo.
I never noticed a cool old gas pump at what must have been the garage.
I pedaled out to Rt. 209 for 2 miles and back on the McDade Trail. I rode up to Tom’s creek, turned around and headed back towards Milford. After another stint on Rt. 209, I jumped back on McDade and cruised back to Milford. I really wish that trail was accessible by bike the whole way through.
As I passed the icehouse, I turned on the gravel section that winds along the river to 3rd street and climbed back up into town.
What’s playing (what am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding) today – The Doors – Roadhouse Blues
Went out today to workout some Kinks. Pedaled out to Lake Minisink via Five Mile Meadow Road, Little Mud Pond and Flat Ridge Road. Just wanted to jump in the hammock, without mosquito enclosure or rain fly.
Took a little nap, made some coffee and scouted out a new route around the lake. I’ll be venturing out on June 23rd to participate in the 2018 Swift Campout – Solstice Overnighter. You can check out the event at swiftcampout.com.
I’ll post details later in the month. Mostly just a sub 24 hour overnighter. Probably 25-30 mile ride, a little dinner and campfire. Tent, maybe hammock, then a nice breakfast followed by a return ride of 25-30 miles.
What’s playing (what am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding), today – Yes – I’ve seen all good people
This past weekend, Jason and I took the long drive up to Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom to sample the Rasputitsa Gravel Road Race, a 40 mile trek over some of the toughest roads the Green Mountains have to offer. With over 4500 feet of elevation gain, the course challenges the most adventurous of riders.
The event was everything they said it would be and more. Themed after David Bowie’s “We Could Be Hero’s”, it was a world class cycling event, complete with top notch pre and post ride festivities, including a Bowie cover band that was spot on!
At 45 degrees and sunny, things seemed to be shaping up quite nicely. Starting at Burke Mountain in East Burke, the course dropped into town and after a couple of miles, made its way onto the hard-packed dirt roads. The first 10 miles seemed to pass by extremely quick. I was starting to think, all the talk about muddy roads and snow covered trails was all hype.
Then, came Cyberia (why it’s spelled this way, is another Rasputitsa mystery). As we were climbing up the mountain, a volunteer said there was a lot of snow on top. He wasn’t kidding. A half foot of snow turned the joy ride into a hike a bike. If you were able to ride through, you couldn’t, as riders hiked single file down the narrow trail for about 1.5 miles. As advertised, Rasputitsa (Russian for “the mud Season”, when roads become difficult to traverse) was starting to hurt. I don’t know who that young lady was that was giving free hugs at the end of Cyberia, but she certainly brought a smile to many tired souls.
As soon as we were out of Cyberia, the bottom fell out as riders shot down the mountain. Jason got away from me rather quickly. His mtb skills were on full display, as was the case for most of the day. Wherever you were on the course, mountains were visible, near and far. The next 25 miles, were more of the same: Beautiful scenery, monster climbs, amazing volunteers and fantastic rest stops. Some might say the maple shots were the best or the Rasputitsa bottles and Clif bars came at a much needed time or the craft beer was cool, but, what did it for me was the little girl that handed me a donut as I chugged up that monster hill past the last rest stop. It believe she knew I was struggling.
Coming down the back side, you could see the ski resort. All around me, grimaces turned to smiles, well for only a few minutes. That’s when we turned left into what seemed like another Cyberia. I couldn’t help but think, why would they do this to me as I kept falling while trying to ride through. Coming out of it, snow became blacktop. Blacktop became snow and the finish line was in sight.
What a great feeling as hundreds of finishers hung around to cheer on the riders coming in! We dropped our bikes at the car and joined in the celebration that is Rasputitsa. Tired and fulfilled, I will be back next year, I can’t wait!
Occasionally you just go out for a pedal. By that, I mean, you scrap all plans and just pedal. I planned to do a long ride with lots of hills as kind of a last ditch prep for the Rasputitsa Gravel Race on April 21st in Vermont.
By late afternoon, when it appeared that the forecast of a warm day was not going to happen, I decided to enjoy an easy jaunt through the High Knob section of the Delaware State Forest.
I met up with Mike at the Maple Run parking area on Rt. 402 and pedaled down Hobaday Road to Highline Road and past Pine Flats. We explored the Hay Road Extension (all gravel roads) until it abruptly came to an end at a gate with numerous no trespassing and keep out signs. That deep in the woods, that’s as far as I go.
We turned around and headed back. Before we made the turn on Rt. 402, we decided to climb to the top of the High Knob. The loose gravel and muddy surface ascends as it winds around a large rock formation, providing incredible views this time of year, from the top. An easy descent and smooth cruise to the parking lot, capped a really nice ride. Turned out to be just what I needed. When Mother Nature throws you lemons, make lemonade!
Weather patterns have shifted the last few years. What this means long term, I’m not sure. What I do know is that in the northeast, we are able to ride our bikes much later into the year. Our winters have spilled into March and April, bringing us some late snowstorms and chilly spring weather.
However, this holiday weekend, was warm and for the most part, sunny. With a series of weird snowstorms coming up this week, putting in some quality miles was high on my list of priorities.
Saturday was a group ride. I met up with Eric, Joe and Andrew at Action Bikes & Outdoor in Milford and set out on a mix of B roads, dirt roads and gravel. We slithered through Milford, dropped down past the Metz Icehouse, up to Rt. 209 and over the Milford Bridge. A bumpy ride down what Eric coined “Old Mine Field Road” (due to the many potholes) across Tuttles Corner and up the Peter’s Valley climb.
About a mile past Peter’s Valley Crafter’s Village, We veered left onto Brook Road, a dirt path that cuts right through the Walpack area. Brook Road becomes Mountain Road after going through a gate and over a small bridge.
Midway down Mountain Road, the crown jewel of our ride appeared. Buttermilk Falls cascades almost 100 feet off the Kittatinny Ridge. With the Appalachian Trail passing across the top, it’s a popular destination for local hikers and sightseers.
We pedaled back out to Haney’s Mill Road and hung a right on the Walpack Flatbrook Road for a climb to the top of the Walpack loop and dropped back down past the Walpack Inn. We took a quick breather at the Peter’s Valley store and continued back over the Peter’s Valley climb.
Eric peeled off and over the Dingman Bridge as we cruised back along Old Mine Road and back to the shop. It was nice to finally get in an extended ride with good company.
Easter Sunday started out on the dreary side. Rain and snow flurries in the morning turned to sunshine in the afternoon. I went out for a jaunt through the Delaware State Forest. It seems the winter wreaked havoc on the roads, as potholes are everywhere and most of the gravel is off to the sides. Melting snow created a muddy surface that made pedaling feel like a leg workout. My bike and I were covered in mud. It was so much fun!
Riding through puddles and creek crossings, turns a dirty ride clean, well, almost. The only way to get your bike dirty is to get out and ride. So what are you waiting for, put down the tablet, laptop or phone and pedal into the woods.
What’s playing (what am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding), today – Queen & David Bowie – Under Pressure
Although I’ve written about this beautiful swath of land in previous posts, I’ve decided to detail certain rides again in 2018 for new readers. With that said, I consider everything north and east of Rt. 402 to be the northern end of the forest.
This morning, I decided to start at the parking area on Rt. 739. At 40 degrees and sunny, with a warmer outlook, I dressed down and headed up Five Mile Meadow Road. From Rt. 739, the gravel surface climbs for about a mile and a half. I zipped through a mix of gravel and mud sections until I reached Bald Hill, one of many communities nestled in the forest. Your climbing needs will certainly be satisfied on Bald Hill as the gravel goes skyward for 1.25 miles, then drops down for 1.5 miles to the end. The hill seems steeper from the back end.
Turning left, back on Five Mile Meadow, I dropped down to Silver Lake Road, turned right and tackled the one paved hill I would see all day. I hung a right into Little Mud Pond, a lakeside community with well groomed gravel roads. A horseshoe that comes right back out, I followed Silver Lake for a mile to Standing Stone Trail.
Pedaling up Standing Stone offers a completely different view from the previous winter. Loggers took out a big portion of trees, changing the landscape along the right side of the road. The forest is dotted with hunting cabins, some merely shacks, but some have a real rustic appeal.
After 2 miles, you drop into a creek crossing. It’s very rideable and a lot of fun with a little speed coming off the hill. At the end of Standing Stone, I turned right on Five Mile Meadow, rode up about 2 miles and made another right onto Ben Bush Road, a new road built by the loggers over an old snowmobile trail.
Ben Bush Road loops back around to Standing Stone Trail. I guess I just wanted to rip through the creek one more time. A left on Five Mile Meadow and before I knew it, I was climbing back up for a mile plus, before descending back to the parking area.
It warmed up to the mid 50’s by the time I finished, so I was glad I left the jacket in the car. Except for 1.75 miles of pavement on Silver Lake Road, the rest of this Ride was on gravel. Well, gravel and mud.
What’s playing (what am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding), today – The Kinks – Lola
A couple of weeks ago, that dreaded groundhog saw his shadow. Whether that means six more weeks of winter or not, I truly do not know. What I do know is that these past few days have been warm, 50’s and 60’s. With a snow storm looming for Saturday night, the pressure was on to get a ride in.
Being sick since late January, has kept me off the bike. Feeling weak, with constant headaches and swollen legs, has kept me on the shelf and not thinking I could ride, until today. I peeled myself off the couch and ventured out for a short spin. I’m glad I did. With a 60 degree day, snow and ice disappeared and water was everywhere.
Streams and creeks appeared in culverts and roads. It was a lot of fun. The pace was slow, the bike got real dirty and my backside got wet. I hope this is a sign of things to come. I would like to stop talking about how cold it’s been and start detailing new rides and adventures.
Whats playing, (what am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding), today – Foreigner – Feels Like the First Time
It’s been awhile. Although I have been riding, my tolerance for single digit pedaling has weened to about once a week. After a warm autumn, winter hit the tri-state area with temperatures hovering around 0 for nearly 3 1/2 weeks. The last week or so, it’s been getting warmer and with a 45 degree day, yesterday, it was game on for a rip down the McDade Trail.
I met up with Eric at Dingman Falls. We jumped across Rt. 209 and headed south towards Bushkill. The recent rains and 2 days of thaw, melted just about every bit of snow and ice that’s covered the trail for the last month or so.
However, the ice chunks that sit between the Delaware River and the McDade Trail, at the Bushkill Boat Access, was absolutely amazing.
After a strong ride to Bushkill, I bonked on the way back. Probably overdressed and under hydrated. No matter, it was still amazing to be able to get out there and turn the pedals for a couple of hours.
When temperatures reach the freezing levels, keeping your bike clean never seems to be easy. This winter in particular has presented riders with sub-zero tempts, throughout the northeast, midwest and abroad.
In past years, I would fill my wife’s largest pot with water from the kitchen sink, drench my bike out on the driveway, soap it up, brush and rinse. With hose bibs shut off this time of year, we are left with few options to keep the road salt, mud, snow and ice off our steeds.
Recently, a couple of local riders have brought their bikes inside and cleaned them in the shower, which I’m sure is probably very effective. However, I don’t think I’m the only one to say, that would not go over well in my house.
Another option, which I’ve tried, is the self service car wash. Again, effective, but with two drawbacks. The high pressure hose, if not kept far from bike can damage paint and small parts as well as get into bottom bracket shells, head tubes and hubs. This can cause all sorts of issues that quite frankly, you want to avoid. Also, the hot water at the car wash freezes in colder temps before you can dry your bike off. You need to get at least the salt off your bike, what to do?
Through internet research and trial and error, I’ve found a better way. Not full Proof, but a cleaner, more precise method of cleaning your bike, far from a hose or electricity. Simply fill a 2 gallon pressurized sprayer with warm water, wet bike down, spray on some bike wash, I like Finish Line Super Bike Wash, scrub bike and rinse.
The pressure is not high enough to damage your bike, but effective enough to clean it off. You can do this in your garage, basement, driveway or before you leave the trail.
After you fully clean and dry off your bike, don’t forget to lube your chain. Liberally pour on chain lube as you back pedal and run through all your gears. Then, back pedal again, as you hold rag to bottom of chain to get the excess off. Give it a try, it has worked great for me!
When the days are short and the nights are long, the weather dictates when and where your outdoor activities take place. Two days before winter starts, and the temperature jumped from below freezing to 51 degrees. Having had two snowfalls already, I was fully prepared to break out the snow shoes.
With Hanukkah over today and Christmas, Kwanza and Festivus right around the corner, family obligations and holiday preparations take center stage when not at work.
But, since this is a cycling blog, you know I found a window to get outside and pedal. I attempted to roll into the Delaware State Forest, but with little sunshine in the woods, the roads were still pretty iced over. So, I simply hit every back road in my community that I could find.
It looks like the weather will stay somewhat warm throughout the weekend. Before winter prevails, I hope to get a few more rides in. Mtb, gravel or road doesn’t matter. What bike I ride is of little importance. I simply enjoy being able to ride this late in the year. I hope you get to ride as well.
Entertaining the notion that riding outdoors ends in the fall, is sort of giving in to Mother Nature. Well, that’s easy to say, when the temperatures in late November, early December are still in the 40’s. Anyway, I thought that it would be a good time to get in some road rides, mountain bike rides and gravel adventures.
I started on Tuesday with a commute to work. When I left my house, it was 19 degrees. I layered up and dealt with the wind. I was just happy to be on my bike.
On Wednesday, I did a unique ride, mixing in some gravel, pavement, dirt and grass. It was 50 degrees and I took full advantage, riding in shorts and shortsleeves. I rode up to Five Mile Meadow Road, grinded through the loose, new gravel until I heard the first gunshot. I thought I’d leave the hunters alone and head back into the community for an unauthorized spin through Seneca Lake Park.
I had a few extra hours on Thursday morning, so I looped around my community on the road bike, hitting every hill I could find.
On Friday, my son joined me for a mtb ride through the Watershed. Another 50 degree day, allowed us to dress down and enjoy a few hours of rocks, roots and beautiful singletrack.
Saturday morning brought some gravel grinding through the Delaware State Forest with Andrew. This time, I opted for a mostly orange getup. Action Bikes and Outdoor, produces an orange jersey each year, making it easy to get out in the wild, during hunting season.
On Sunday evening, my son and I went back into the Delaware State Forest for a spin under the stars, powered by our Bontrager Ion 800 headlights. A full moon helped illuminate the woods. We took a couple of cool new roads that I’ll detail in a later post.
Monday morning was cold. 20 degrees at 6:30am. I grabbed a quick ride on gravel, dirt and grass. The hill I’ve been practicing my grass descents on, was covered with a thin layer of frost, making for a few slippery ups and downs. Easy to deal with, when the fog is burning off the lake at the top of he hill.
What’s Playing (what am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding), Today – The Greg Kihn Band – The Breakup Song (1981)
Each year, it seems, we get treated to something different. This year, summer lasted until mid October. I’m not complaining. However, with Halloween just a few days away, we need more than just a few leaves to fall.
Most places are beautiful in the fall. Milford and the surrounding area benefit from sitting between the Catskills and Pocono Mountains and along the Delaware River, making for a gorgeous place to pedal.
If you want to see for yourself, get out on the McDade Trail, ride through Peter’s Valley via Old Mine Road, climb up to High Point or traverse the many gravel roads that make up the State and National forests that encompass our region. If you ride a mountain bike or want to learn, look no further than the Port Jervis Watershed Trails. Fall can be seen here at its fullest, with vibrant colors reflecting off the 3 reservoirs, creating a magical atmosphere.
Oh, and the trails are second to none. Visit Action Bikes and Outdoor in Milford for large scale paper maps with color coded trails to guide you along. A ride up to the Hawk’s Nest on Rt. 97 provides breathtaking views of fall foliage along the river and Route 6 in Pike County has far from a shortage of colorful places to enjoy all that fall has to offer.
After your ride, sample the many cafes and restraunts throughout the Delaware Valley. It’s a great way to cool down, reflect and replenish.
What’s Playing (what am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding) Today – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – American Girl
Hi folks, this is guest blogger Mike. I’m a riding buddy of Rob’s and he asked me to share an experience my wife and I had last week riding the GAP. For those of you who live in Milford, PA, when someone refers to the “GAP” you know they are talking about the Delaware Water Gap. To those in southwestern PA, the GAP is the Great Allegheny Passage, a nearly 150 mile rail to trail biking and hiking route that retraces the former B+O Railroad line through the Allegheny Mountains from Cumberland, MD to Pittsburgh, PA.
The start in Cumberland, MD
The GAP today uses the series of tunnels, bridges and viaducts that were built in the early 1900’s to connect the Chesapeake Bay to the Ohio River. A separate trail, the 185 mile long C+O Canal Trail, connects Washington D.C. to Cumberland, MD. The GAP trail fully opened in 2013 after years of work rebuilding the tunnels and bridges, and then paving the entire trail with crushed limestone. The last 15 miles of the trail into Pittsburgh are paved with asphalt. Logistically, the GAP is very easy to access and travel on. Each town that the trail passes through has parking and toilets for day riders. Some towns have water fountains available and
a few even have a small bike repair stand fully equipped with tools and tire pumps. Each mile of the trail is marked with a concrete post so you always know how far along you are. There are also dozens of campgrounds along the way for those who chose to camp vs. staying in hotels or Bed and Breakfast Inn’s. Many of the campgrounds are free for bikers and are even stocked with free ﬁrewood. The larger towns on the GAP have B+B’s that specifically cater to cyclist. There are also many outﬁtters that will plan your entire trip, complete with a guided support vehicle so all you need to do is pedal to the next destination. Amtrak also operates the “Capital” Line which has a train car with a bike storage room that stops in Pittsburgh, Connellsville, PA, and Cumberland to transport you and your bike before or after the ride.
My wife and I decided to try this ride the ﬁrst week of October to take advantage of the fall foliage and the cooler riding temperatures. We started in Cumberland, which was about a 300 mile drive from Milford. There are a few hotels in Cumberland near the trailhead and they all cater to the cyclists. We were allowed to bring our bikes into our room. There is also free parking near the trailhead, under the interstate overpass, and it was a safe place to leave your car for a week. There is also a local bike shop only a few yards from the start just in case of any last minute adjustments or needed supplies. The National Park Service has an information
center at the trailhead with maps of the trail and brochures of each town along the way to Pittsburgh.
I planned our trip to ride a total of 4 days, with a day off in the middle. My wife is a novice rider and had never ridden further than 30 miles in one day. She had no problems conquering the GAP. The trail is nearly ﬂat with the exception of the ﬁrst 23 miles from Cumberland to the Eastern Continental Divide. The total climb to the Divide was 1800 feet with a nearly constant grade of only 1.6%. My wife handled the climb without any difﬁculty. The scenery was breathtaking and we stopped several times for photo ops. We stayed the ﬁrst night in Myersdale, PA (32 miles). Our B+B was one block from the trail and had secure bike storage in the basement. We met several other riders during our stay and had fun exchanging stories.
Myersdale, PA The second day was an equally scenic ride to Ohiopyle, PA (40 miles). We spent an extra day here to visit Frank Lloyd Wright’s “Fallingwater” and also to do some hiking around the Youghiogheny River. Ohiopyle is also a great place to do some white water rafting on a day off. The 3rd day of riding followed the “Yough” to West Newton, PA (42 miles). The rain was off and on this day which made for a muddy ride, but the scenery was still amazing. My wife’s bike had
a minor mechanical issue we were able to get ﬁxed in Connersville at a bike shop right on the trail.
The ﬁnal day to Pittsburgh (35 miles) saw the trail change from a scenic ride in the woods to an urban feel the ﬁnal 15 miles. Multiple bridges over the Monongahela River made for several more photo ops with the city of Pittsburgh in the background. Our son, who is a student at the University of Pittsburgh, joined us on his bike for the ﬁnal 7 miles to Point State Park, where the GAP ends. This is where the Monongahela and Allegheny Rivers join to form the Ohio River. After an evening in Pittsburgh, we rode the Amtrak “Capital” back to Cumberland to retrieve our car.
Overall we had an amazing experience on this ride and would deﬁnitely do it again. It is something that even a novice rider could do easily. Meeting other cyclists along the way was one of the highlights of the trip. As for the song that would best describe this journey…. it would have to be “She’ll be coming around the mountain when she comes”!!! For more info on the GAP visit: http://www.GAPtrail.org
Autumn has decided to play hard to get. With the unseasonably warm weather hanging around, why not find time for extra miles? All I can think about is which bike to ride!
Our time is valuable. When you get a chance to get outdoors, make it count. Go out one day and just ride for hours. Ride as far as your legs will take you. Ride a road bike on a dirt road, a hybrid or cyclocross bike on a mountain bike trail or a Mtb on the street.
Forget everything and just pedal. Take pictures, get a flat, change your tube, finish your ride. Get dirty out there. Ride through the mud, the rain, the snow, the wind or whatever Mother Nature has to throw at you!
Stay up late and map out a ride or just read a shitty novel and wing it the next day. Either way, ride your bike. Ride to the cafe, the pizza parlor or the tavern. Fill up on whatever delights you, then ride some more. Get a headlight and ride at night.
Every now and then, I’m off the bike for a few days to a week for whatever reason. The first ride back always feels like the best ride of the year. You get the idea, just get out there and pedal!
What’s playing (what am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding), today – The Pretenders – Middle of the Road
Last year, I wrote in detail about what a wonderful event the Maple City Century turned out to be. Based in Honesdale, PA, the event offers rides of 30, 62 and 100 miles, all on gravel and dirt roads with a little pavement thrown in to connect the sections, What I didn’t tell you was that this grass-roots gravel ride, is a family run event. Zach Wentzel, the founder and director, operates with a tight knit and dedicated crew. He, his wife Stacy and his parents are intimately involved and it shows. All riders and staff are treated like first class passengers on their flight around Wayne County.
Zach and Stacy personally sign everyone in at the registration table. After a pre-ride meeting, the 100 milers are sent off with a Police escort out of Honesdale and onto some of the nicest gravel roads in the northeast. An hour later, the 62 and 30 mile riders receive the same send off.
This is my third year doing the 100 mile ride and I have seen the route, which is marked with clear color coded arrows for each distance, gets better each time. The aid stations are well stocked and staffed by the friendliest volunteers, who encourage the riders and supply them with a wide variety of fuel, ranging from water, Pb&j & Nutella, Gatorade, fruit, pickles, packaged energy bars, and homemade goodies in sandwich bags.
Zach took matters into his own hands, taking over photographer duties this year and always seemed to be in the right place at the right time. Stacey was everywhere on the course, making sure riders had a safe passage back to Honesdale.
Riding with Eric and Darin proved to be the right call, as they motivated me to drink and waited at the top of the hills amid unseasonably hot temperatures. We hit Brown Trout Trail, a 5 mile section of rocks and roots, that as I explained last year, is anything but easy. However, the waterfall and creek crossing were rather dry, enabling you to ride right through it.
After stopping as rest stop 2, you could really feel the heat and the hills. The cold Coca Cola and pickles helped me forget about the pain. Pedaling out, we hit a series of hills that seemed to go on forever, a tradition of sorts at Maple City; rest, then climb again. As we approached rest stop 3 at 75 miles, I saw the Action Bikes and Outdoor tent from around the corner and it was like I was wandering in the desert and found an oasis.
Mike and John were awesome, they fed us everything we could eat and after packing up, they caught up and provided an escort complete with lights as we struggled through the last few hills in the dark. At the finish, Zach was there waiting to hand us our gold medals, the well earned traditional finisher’s MCC beer growlers. Which are happily filled at the post ride host, the Irving Cliff Brewery.
There are so many big endurance events out there and some claim to be grass roots, while they continue to grow and make registration a lottery. The Maple City Century is truly a grass roots event that I hope grows, but feels more like a hometown ride that will be on my calendar for years to come, although the Metric Century might be next years best course of action for me. Check out some more pics from this really cool event:
Sometimes you learn a new route and fall in love. Matt told me about a ride he did with his dad last week. Being a mostly gravel route, I have to say it peaked my interest. Yesterday afternoon, I hooked up with Eric at Action Bikes and Outdoor to make a trip from the shop to the Buckhorn Fire Tower.
We departed at 5pm, zig zagged out of town and climbed up Rt. 6 to Schocopee Road. Schocopee is a newly paved road that continues to go skyward, especially as you bear right onto Fire Tower Road, where he gravel starts.
We took Fire Tower Road until it ended in a gravel parking lot. About a half mile before the lot is a left on Buckhorn Ridge Trail. A short trip on the trail and you’re at the Fire Tower. I’m not sure if this relic is still in use. It’s pretty wobbly and most of the nearby pine trees sit a bit higher than the tower, blocking views of he forest. From the looks of things, this was quite a party spot, some time ago.
We descended back down to Schocopee Road, made a right and climbed up to Lily Pond. This section of Schocopee is gravel, pave, gravel, as it dips and rises through the forest, bringing you to a beautiful park. You could ride around the lake, although time did not allow it.
We did a lot of climbing on our way up to the fire tower and again as we reached Lily pond, so you can imagine just how delightful the descent back to town was! We ripped down to Rt. 6 and cut through Old Owego Road as we snaked through town and back to the shop.
No music today, just some more pics of the his really pretty area.
With the Maple City Century quickly approaching, Eric, Darin and I took advantage of the unseasonably cool, late August weather and grinded out a 40ish mile gravel ride. Starting just after dawn gives you enough time to get miles in and still have most of the day with the family.
We Pedaled out of Dingman Falls and over the Dingman Bridge. Needless to say, it was quite foggy. We climbed just above Peter’s Valley and dumped into the gravel section of Old Mine Road. Besides the many potholes and puddles, this a very fun section. Downhill on gravel for the better part of 6 miles, makes riding along the Delaware River a cool experience.
We turned left on Pompey Road, climbed up, making a left into Ridge Road, a dirt trail littered with rocks and roots for the first mile. It then turns to high weeds on a broken up double track (leaving spools of grass in cassettes and around pedal spindles).
Ridge Road comes out onto Thunder Mountain Road. The transition from overgrown forest to gravel road was sort of a relief. After 45 minutes, you realize you only went 3 miles. Bonus, the fog was burned off by the bright sun, one day before the solar eclipse. Thunder Mountain runs up to Kuhn Road and right through the heart of the Peter’s Valley School of Craft. We turned right on Kuhn and left on Walpack Road, over the hill and back over the Dingman Bridge.
Back at the cars, we changed out our water bottles and headed down to the McDade trail for the 2nd part of the ride. About 2 miles in, a half eaten fish falls from the sky, or the trees. Darin spotted an Eagle that flew directly above us and over the river. Apparently, we interrupted the eagles’ breakfast.
We continued at a pace that was probably too fast for me, but I needed the punishment. We arrived at the Bushkill Boat Access and after a brief rest, turned around and rode a torrid pace back to our cars. Apparently, we weren’t the only ones enjoying this beautiful day. There seemed to be quite a few people hiking, bird watching and trail running.
This is not the first time I’ve pedaled either of these routes, but I never put them together before and I’m glad we did. By he way, most photos while riding are taken by Eric, who always seems to have his phone on the ready!
What’s playing (what am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding) Today – Jigsaw – (you’ve blown it all) Sky High
Another ride through the Delaware State Forest. It never gets old. It has a large network of gravel roads that throw everything at you from pea gravel to 4″ rip rap and everything in between.
The weatherman got it right on Sunday. 70 degrees and sunny with no wind. An absolutely beautiful day. As you probably surmised, we took advantage of it by planning and executing an adventure that took us from Lord’s Valley to the High Knob.
We met at the Rt 739 parking area at 6:30am, Joe, Alex, Jason, Jess, Mike, Eric, Anthony and yours truly. The initial push up Five Mile Meadow Road started with a 1.5 mile climb and took us all the way out to Silver Lake Road and up a steep hill, before turning into Little Mud Pond Rd. We came back out onto Silver Lake and onto Flat Ridge Road. At the end of Flat Ridge, we said goodbye to Joe and Alex as they turned back and headed for home to attend to a day at the pool with family.
We pedaled up to Minisink Lake and ducked into the Burnt Mills Trail for a short stretch to the Burnt Mills parking lot. Coming out of the parking lot and out on Rt 402, we turned left on Pine Flats Road. We cruised down to the Bridge at the Beaver Run Hunt and Fish Club for a photo op, refueled and pedaled up to the fork where Hay Road leads to Highline Road and turns into Hobaday Road. For 8 miles, you climb from the fork to the High Knob.
We regrouped at the base and began our assault on the hill. The climb is about 2 miles of loose gravel and winds around the core of the hill, getting steeper towards the top. The High Knob if a good halfway point for any ride and a nice place for lunch. Most reached into their jersey pocket for a sandwich. Eric pulled out a BBQ chicken leg. Yes, you read that right. It seems that Eric enjoys good food, no matter what. I really wish I would have gotten a photo of that fine gourmet atop Pike County’s highest peak.
The descent was fast and fun. That continued as most of the way back on the Hobaday, Highline, Hay Road link is downhill. After retracing Pine Flats Road, we turned right on Rt. 402 and a left onto Bushkill Falls Road and rode back to Flat Ridge. We dropped back onto Silver Lake Road and hung a right onto Standing Stone Trail. We ripped through the deer management area and back out on Five Mile Meadow Road. After a few more short hills and nice descent to the parking area, we were loading our bikes on our cars by just a few minutes after noon. Here’s a few more pics of this awesome ride:
What’s Playing (what am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding) Today – Billy Joel – Modern Woman
Well, it finally happened. I wrote about an upcoming ride and it went off without a hitch! The Weather forecast was bleak at best. Rain and cold all day. Everyone showed up enthusiastic and ready for the rain. But, as luck would have it, we were spared for most of the day, save for a little drizzle the last 12 miles.
We departed Action Bikes and Outdoor in the heart of Milford at 8:30am, pedaled down to The Delaware River and hoped on the McDade Trail. The first 5 miles clicked by rather quickly. At Raymondskill Road, we opted to ride on Rt. 209 and veered in and out of both sections of Zimmerman Farm. We re-entered the McDade Trail at Dingman’s Falls and stayed on gravel for the next 23 miles. 6 or 7 miles in, Jess got her first flat of the day. The tube change made for a needed rest.
We continued on towards Bushkill, when just before the boat launch, Eric had a nice liquid surprise waiting for us. After a few minutes, we pushed off (Jess caught her second flat here) and hit the Bushkill hills. Just past the boat launch, the trail becomes narrow and hilly. Not hike a bike stuff, but enough to get your attention.
It started to rain a little and got cool fast. We picked up the pace a bit in an attempt to out run the rain. It never came down that hard. Hitting the parking area at Hialeah Trailhead, we jumped on River Road and made our way to the Gem and Keystone Brew Pub for a delicious lunch.
The McDade Trail winds through nature, in the form of corn fields, the Delaware River, pine forests and thick brush, all within a few hundred feet of Rt. 209. We were lucky that the heavy rain held out until after the ride. When we arrived, we were greeted by our families, had a few beers, laughed and enjoyed the rest of the day.
Some pics of the day:
What’s Playing (what am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding) Today – Electric Light Orchestra – Strange Magic
On Sunday, June 4th, a group will be leaving Action Bikes and Outdoor in Milford and ride to Milford Beach, where we will enter the McDade Trail and pedal 30-35 miles south to the Hialeah trailhead. We will come off the trail briefly to cover both sections of Zimmerman Farm.
Depending on the weather, it should be a fun ride at an intermediate pace. Adventure bikes (cyclocross, gravel, etc…) and mountain bikes are ideal for this type of surface.
We are meeting at the shop at 7:30am for an 8am rollout. The plan is to reach the end of the trail by noon and have lunch at one of the 2 Brew Pubs in the Shawnee area. You can either have a ride pick you up and/or have lunch with the group or take the Pocono Pony bus back to the shop. The Pocono Pony is a bus service that has a line that runs on the weekends along the Delaware River. A one way fare is $1.50. This includes transportation for you and your bike. Each bus has bike and boat racks, making it a convenient method of transportation to and from all your Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area adventures. You can check the schedule at http://www.mcta.com, click route and select the DEWA Park route.
You’ll need funds for lunch, extra tube, helmet and a lot of enthusiasm. Hope to see you there.
What’s Playing (what am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding) Today – Elvis Costello – Watching the Detectives
It’s been a while since my last post. This was supposed to be about my experience at the Lu Lacka Wyco Hundo gravel race. Unfortunately, life got in the way. I’ve done a couple of rides the past few weeks, however, nothing of any length or significance.
On Tuesday evening, I was just looking to clear my head, so I pedaled out of Action Bikes and Outdoor and headed out to Milford Beach, via the gravel section, below 3rd street, along the river. Once at the beach, I jumped onto the McDade Trail. The first 3-4 miles on the trail are so serene and peaceful. Easy rolling, gravel terrain tucked away in the woods with the Delaware River gracefully flowing along to the left.
I rode past Raymondskill Road and through the single track, to the steps (where the bridge washed out). I shouldered my bike and hiked up to Rt. 209. A half mile on 209 and into the first section of Zimmerman Farm. After cresting the hill, you stay left at the fork, avoiding the Conashaugh horse trails. Another mile and back on Rt. 209 for a 1/4 mile and back into Zimmerman Farm. This section climbs a bit and drops sharply down to the farm. Riding by the dilapidated structures and past Marie Zimmerman’s home, I sped down the dirt road that leads back to the pave. I took Rt. 209 to Dingmans Ferry and hopped back on the McDade Trail to The Dingmans Campground General Store.
I used the General Store as my turn around and took the McDade Trail back to Dingmans Falls and onto Rt. 209 (out and backs are soooo boring). Jumping back on the McDade Trail to Milford Beach, I past a few couples riding along slowly taking in all that this beautiful stretch of land has to offer.
Back at the shop, just before dark, I realized that I am lucky to be able to get on the bike and pedal, whenever time allows.
What’s Playing (what am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding) Today – Eddie Rabbitt – I Love a Rainy Night
On Sunday, I’ll be saddling up for my first long gravel ride in 2017. The Lu Lacka Wyco Hundo is an all road (gravel, dirt and pave) adventure in Northeastern PA. They offer 50, 75 and 100 mile routes. I’m all in for the 100.
Registration opened on January 1st at 12:01am and filled up in a few hours for this 5th annual ride. While others were waiting for the ball to drop, I was patiently waiting at my laptop for the clock to strike midnight, to see if I’d get in.
Honestly, I knew that it would be tough to get in enough miles this time of year to properly train for what’s billed as a grueling ride. What I did not realize was that my longest ride would be 45 miles a couple of weeks before. I’m trying to make up for lost training with good nutrition. I’m a vegetarian who also enjoys some baked goods. I’ve been eating as clean as possible the last few weeks and adding some stretching and yoga and trying to get in some extra sleep.
I hope to have lots of cool photos and a great story for the blog…..
On Sunday, we were treated to a beautiful spring day. High 60’s and sunny. After a monumental thaw, followed by 3 days of torrential rains, spring is finally here and it couldn’t be better.
Wanting to get a longer ride in with a couple of weeks to go before the Lu Lacka Wyco Hundo gravel ride, I met up with Mike at the Rt. 739 parking area and headed up Five Mile Meadow Road. The roadway was filled with potholes, but dry for most of the way (the state normally lays a fresh layer of gravel across the road in late September). We turned right on Silver Lake Road, climbed the chopped up asphalt and slipped into Little Mud Pond Road, where we picked up Eric, to join us in this gravel adventure.
We came back on Silver Lake a little and hung a right on Flat Ridge Road, which provided a little respite. We were heading into the deep woods soon after. A left on Bushkill Falls Road and a right on Minisink Road, put us into the Minisink Lake Community, at the fork, the pave turns back to gravel and then to double trail jeep trail. Whittaker Trail was muddy and soft. For about a mile and a half, we worked our way through the woods until the trail came back onto gravel and the road was now fittingly called Whittaker Road. About a mile in and Eric’s rear tire went down. Being set up tubeless, he had to remove the valve and pop a tube in. We learned a valuable lesson: a 23mm road tube will not make due in a 36mm cross tire. Luckily, we had a cross tube, inserted it and off we went.
Whittaker Road comes out to Rt. 402. We turned right and pedaled up to Silver Lake Road. At this point, Eric and Mike rode back to their cars (Eric’s at Little Mud Pond Road and Mike’s at the end of Five Mile Meadow Road). I made my way up to the Maple Run parking area to meet up with Matt for some extended saddle time. We headed north to the High Knob Road and turned into Hobbaday Road and down to High Line Road. This is basically 7 miles of pure down hill gravel except for a few little bumps along the way. We hung a sharp left on Pine Flats Road and rode out to Rt. 402 and onto Silver Lake Road.
After a few miles, we were back on gravel on Standing Stone Trail. A few easy miles to Five Mile Meadow Road and we floated back down to Rt. 739. I was pretty tired and glad to be back at my car. Matt still had to pedal up Rt. 739 to Blooming Grove Road and back onto Rt. 402 for about 15 more miles to his car. Anyway you slice it, it was a beautiful day of riding! Hopefully the big event will be just as nice.
What’s Playing (what am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding) Today – Terence Trent D’arby – Wishing Well
On Tuesday night, I left work about 4pm and decided on my way home to turn around and head for Dingman’s Falls. I had my bike and gear in the car, just in case. The sky was overcast and gloomy, I knew I had this chance to get a ride in before Mother Nature poured down on us for a few days (according to the weather forecast).
By 4:30, I rolled out onto Rt. 209, made a right on Rt. 739 and glided over the wood planks of the Dingmans Ferry Bridge. A right on Old Mine Road and I immediately started climbing. At the top, I hung a right onto the gravel section of Old Mine Road. For six miles, along the river and through the fields, the grade was primarily downhill and flat. Except for a few washed out sections, the surface was in pretty good shape.
At the end, I turned left on Pompey Road and climbed out of the Walpack Loop. I saw a trail I’ve been wanting to explore. I thought it came out in front of the Walpack Inn. It probably did, but I took a wrong turn in the woods. I tried to find my way out, but it seemed the trail just kept dropping down. I checked the map on my phone and found my direction. By this time, it was almost dark. The map showed what looked like a road a few miles away. I turned my headlight on and bounced down the trail, hoping I wouldn’t have to sleep under the stars, without camping gear or a jacket.
Out in the distance, I saw a light, it sailed by pretty quick. Thankfully, it was a car. Another half mile and I finally found the road. I turned on navigation (what would I do without a smart phone) and pedaled back to Old Mine Road. On the ride back to my car, I was happy I didn’t panic and just kept moving forward. I was happier that I turned around and was even luckier still to have this brief adventure!
What’s Playing (what am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding) Today – The J Geils Band – Centerfold
This last week has been pretty amazing, with temperatures ranging from the 50’s to 73 degrees today! Just when it seemed like the ice and snow wouldn’t stop, we are treated to 7 glorious days in February!
I know the cold weather will eventually come back, but this little teaser is just the thing that could help shake out those cobwebs and get you ready for a year full of adventures!
Do something nice for someone, when no one else is looking.
I had a window on Saturday. I got out from Action Bikes and Outdoor in the heart of Milford at 3pm. It was chilly, but the sun was out and I’ll take 35 degrees in February anytime. Not knowing what to expect, I took the Van Dessel WTF, just in case the roads and trails had snow.
I winded my way through Milford and dropped down Metz Road past the Metz Icehouse and into Milford Beach where I jumped on the Mcdade Trail. I was surprised how dry the surface was. Very little snow.
I pedaled past Raymondskill Road onto the single track to where the trail drops down the wooden steps. A quick hike up the side of the hill put me over the guardrail and on Rt. 209. From there, I jumped onto Zimmerman Road, rode up and around the old horse trails and back out on 209. Another 1/4 mile and I was back on Zimmerman and climbing up to the Zimmerman Farm (I detailed Marie Zimmerman’s farm and home in a couple of previous posts)
After a quick photo op, I pedaled through the farm, past the house and down the trail and back out to Rt. 209. Crossing over Rt. 739, I shot down the McDade extension, over the wooden bridge and back around to 209 for a few miles before jumping back on the Mcdade Trail. As I got back to Milford Beach, the sun just started to set over the Delaware River.
Although I long for warmer days, I’ll take 35 in February anytime!!
What’s Playing (What am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding) Today – Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show – The Cover of the Rolling Stone
All this ice is enough to screw up a few good gravel roads. Well that’s a little extreme. But, seriously, I wish it would just snow already. A foot of snow would be a whole lot better than an inch of ice.
With winter more than a third over, it was time to get out at night again and navigate through whatever Mother Nature decided to leave on the ground this week. I met up with Eric at 5:30pm at the parking area on Rt. 739 at the foot of Five Mile Meadow Road for a cold gravel ride. Well, maybe not a gravel ride, more like an ice ride.
Not all rides are epic and although we got out and pedaled for a while, this was a ride that could have waited for a much warmer day. You see, slush and mud may be dirtier, but it’s sure a lot safer to ride through.
Anyway, we climbed up the first section of road for about a mile and a half, using the truck tire tracks that rip through the snow and ice. Another mile and a half and the tire tracks just about disappeared. It started snowing and we decided to turn back. The last thing we wanted was the snow to cover what little roadway was not already covered in ice. The ride back got me thinking that an investment in studded tires might be a good idea!
Mixed in with the snow, rain and ice, we were treated to a 40 degree day today. In fact, the forecasts are calling for warmer weather for the next 3 days. To take advantage, I stuffed my bike(Van Dessel WTF) in the car this morning, charged up my headlight and prepared for an after work ride through the trails off Old Mine Road, just over the River on the New Jersey side.
I parked at Dingmans Falls and rode across the Dingman Bridge, making a left on Old Mine Road. About a mile and a half later, I turned right on Van Ness Road. Van Ness is a paved road that has seen better days. There are no pot holes, really, just chunks of roadway are missing. It winds nicely through the woods, with a short but steep climb up to Upper Ridge Road. Turning left, you immediately see what appears to be a wall or the side of a mountain. As you approach, the gradient seems less steep and the climb, although not easy on the loose surface, was not as daunting as it first appeared.
The road was covered in leaves, making it difficult to see the rocks and roots. The mud was unavoidable! Every few feet, soft, loose terrain gave way to puddles and mud. Halfway through, the road turns to trail and goes upward, leaving me wondering why I wasn’t on a mountain bike. It’s all good though. A wet, muddy, cold ride is still better than a day spent inside.
Coming out onto Jager Road, I hung a left and descended down to Old Mine Road. On the way back, I tried going down Mettler Road and turned right on Van Auken Road. Both were covered in ice. I pedaled about a mile and turned back as ice was still on the gravel surface.
Maybe today was just a little taste of things to come. Who knows, a longer road ride might be in the near future.
No music today. Just the sound of the temporary thaw as streams and creeks roared like rivers and everything melted in the road.
At 7am, my little girl decided that her morning walk was going to be on the trail instead of the road. I would like to think she wanted to be in nature to start the new year, but it turns out that she just wanted to follow the deer tracks. She’s the only dog I’ve seen that chases a deer into the woods and comes running back out with the deer chasing her.
Eric and I managed to get in a ride on the Mcdade Trail. With the weather expected to be below 30 degrees, we layered up and pushed off at 10am from Dingmans Falls through the mostly untouched snow, towards Buskill. I figured the cross country skiers would have packed it down by now, but we were lucky enough to have the fresh snow for traction. Honestly, we would have been better off on mountain bikes, but hey, that would have been too easy.
Around 11:00 it warmed up to about 35 degrees and the powdery snow started to turn slushy. Thankfully, the Mcdade Trail has very few hills, because Eric’s cantilever brakes were non existent for most of he ride.
In Bushkill, we found one of the cool log benches that are all over the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, next to a creek that was a perfect spot for a coffee break and it was a good time to shed a couple of layers as well as changing from lobster claw gloves to wool liners.
From there, we turned around and headed back to the parking area where we were surprised to find about 10-15 cars. People asking about the XCountry ski conditions and others hiking up to the falls. A nice ride to kick off the new year!
Coming soon, we will have a few reviews: Eric will review his new Endura Booties and the Bontrager Ion 800 headlight. I’ll review a couple bikes that got me through 2016.
What’s Playing (what am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding) Today – Billy Joel – The Ballad of Billy the Kid
Just across the Delaware River from Milford, sits an old rail bed, formerly used by the Erie Lackawanna Railroad. Today, it is a multi use trail, used primarily by hikers and cyclists. The Sussex Branch Trail, travels from Branchville to Byrum Township, approximately 20 miles of primarily flat, gravel, dirt, grass and cinder. It crosses lakes, swamps and the Paulinskill River. It intersects with the Paulinskill Valley Trail at Warbasse Junction. The Paulinskill, formerly used by the New York, Susquehanna and Western Railway, is also gravel, dirt, grass and cinder. It goes upward from Warbasse at a 1-2% grade, making the return trip extremely fast.
I hooked up with Eric at 7:30am at the Branchville Fire Department parking lot. At about 28 degrees, we were in for a chilly start. As we shoved off, we missed the trail head and pedaled in circles for 3 miles before hopping into the woods. Immediately, I knew we were on a pretty cool piece of real estate.
The Sussex Branch Trail is 4 feet wide with trees overhanging the six inch rut that serves as the best line to roll through. Wooden bridges cross the wet land that separate the many farms that dominate this beautiful county, tucked away in northern New Jersey.
We took a coffee and nature break at Warbasse Junction, and stayed on the Sussex for a few more miles. When we turned around, a few cyclists on fat Bikes came motoring by. In fact, we passed more than a few hikers, people walking their dogs and a group of women that were out running their way to warmth.
When we reached Warbasse Junction again, we hung a left onto the Paulinskill. Although, the Sussex Branch Trail is beautiful, quiet and rustic, it is not as well groomed as the Paulinskill, which is wider with and even surface from left to right. We pedaled up for a few miles, until we reached an area that was saturated from the recent rains, with water overflowing from a pond, right across the trail. This seemed a good place to turn around and head back to Branchville. As I previously stated, the Paulinskill has a slight grade and after the turn around, we really picked up some speed as we made our way back to the Sussex Branch Trail. We followed the trail all the way back into town, realizing where we missed the turn at the start.
Either of these two trails can be covered on a cyclocross bike, mountain bike or even a hybrid bike. They both travel through a few small towns with ample opportunities to refill fluids and stock up on food supplies. Now go out and ride!
What’s Playing: (What am I’m listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding) Today – Steve Windwood – When You See a Chance
It was pretty cold on Sunday morning, tempts in the high 20’s around 9am. I’ve been battling the flu for the better part of a week and was not sure I could deal with the cold air well enough to enjoy some time on the bike. I really wanted to join those who opted outside on Friday, but just couldn’t pull myself out of bed.
I got a text from Anthony in the early morning, asking if I was planning to ride today. Feeling a little better, I decided to take him up on it and venture out. We made a plan to meet and ride through the Delaware State Forest for a little gravel adventure and enjoy the emergency access roads as Sunday is the only day that hunters are not occupying the entire area.Anthony is a strong rider with a lot of speed, so I though it would be cool to get him out in the woods and try to chase him a little. He is riding a brand new Lynskey Titanium bike that was expertly built up by TC at Action Bikes and Outdoor. The bike is light and looks like a true gravel or monstercross beast. It appeared to roll through the loosest gravel and hard pack dirt with ease.I won’t bore you with roads traveled. However, I will say that it felt great to get outside. It was cold for sure, but being off the bike , even if it’s just for a week and a half to recover, felt like forever. I know we need some snow this winter, but I’m certainly hoping for at least a few rides a month to keep the juices flowing. That being said, if the weather is so terribly horrible, I will run, snowshoe or make snow angels, but I will not ride on the trainer. I haven’t for 2 years now and I’m sure it will survive without me. We’ll try a few more product reviews to keep the blog active and take the extra time to properly plan out some exciting adventures for 2017.
What’s playing (what am listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding) Today – Robert Palmer – Bad Case of Loving You (doctor, doctor)
It may be mid fall, but it felt like winter on Saturday morning, with temperatures in the low 30’s. So, I layered up and joined Steve, Eric and Mike for a ride through the Delaware State Forest, with a lakeside cafe diversion.
We met up at the Five Mile Meadow Road Parking Area on Rt. 739. Pedaling the 6.5 mile distance of Five Mile, past numerous trucks parked off the road, we were careful to be loud enough to let hunters know we were not deer!
When we reached Silver Lake Road, we turned right, climbed the pot holed hill and made another right into Little Mud Pond Road, another gravel horseshoe, with a beautiful lake or shall I say pond. The boat launch, while blocked by a tree that was chewed in half by a beaver, served as our cafe this morning.
The wind off the lake made it difficult to light the gas stove and it never really got super hot. Oh well, cool coffee is better than no coffee!
We headed back out to Silver Lake Road and cruised over to Standing Tall Trail. One of my favorite roads, Standing Tall winds through the deer management area, staying at an almost even grade for three miles with one creek crossing. The gravel is loose this time of year, but you can still pedal rather quickly back to Five Mile Meadow Road. A left and we dropped back down to Rt. 739 and into the parking area.
Afterward, Mike, Steve and I enjoyed a “hot” cup of coffee at a local deli in Lord’s Valley. I’m gonna breakdown and pick up a Biolight stove. With colder days ahead, it’ll sure come in handy!
What’s playing (what am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding) Today – The Doors – Break on Through
Tuesday, after work, I met up with Eric and John for a night ride on the McDade Trail. I did not want to go home and watch any more of this election. A lengthly spin on the gravel surface was just the right diversion.
A couple of hours of pedaling appeared to be a good idea and it seems as though a few other people agreed. With headlamps mounted, we entered the trail from the Dingmans Falls parking area and rode towards Bushkill. It was still light out as we rode past the General Store and through the corn fields. You know it’s hunting season when your tires are crushing shotgun shells instead of corn. Maybe it’s me, but I’m not sure they’re biodegradable.
It was at times a challenge to keep our bikes on the trail as the leaves were piled a few inches thick in some areas. We decided to turn around at the bridge over Tom’s Creek. We turned our headlamps on and pedaled toward home. We laughed most of the way as a descent or sharp turn is not as easy to see at night. I say this because it was me that missed a turn and rode into the woods. Eric did the same, but recovered before he got too far off the trail.
Night time riding is different and although you can’t get lost on an out and back trail, pedaling in the dark helps create the adventure.
I went home, ate, showered and went right to sleep. I wasn’t going to let politics ruin my night. I didn’t find out who won the election until I got to work today. Whether or not your happy with this election, channel your energy by going outside. Ride, hike, paddle or run!
What’s Playing (what am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding) Today – Blood, Sweat and Tears – Spinning Wheel
Every now and then, you are presented with some unexpected free time. What you do with that time is totally up to you. You could do some yard work, catch up on sleep or depending on the weather, crank out some extra miles. I took the day off from work today, to accompany my wife to an out of town, late morning doctor’s appointment. When my alarm went off at the usual 6am, because I forgot to reset it for later, I hopped out of bed, grabbed a quick cup of coffee, splashed some cold water on my face and jumped into my cycling clothes.
I won’t detail my entire ride, just that I pedaled out to Five Mile Meadow Road for a morning gravel spin. I touched Standing Tall Trail and attempted to ride up to Minisink Lake via Flat Ridge Road. That did not happen, as a Road crew was spreading some fresh gravel across the road. The new stuff was too soft, like riding on sand. They said that after Flat Ridge, they were going to hit Five Mile. It will probably be about a week to 10 days before the stone is compacted enough to ride on. I spun around and headed home, satisfied with just over 22 miles. With this week’s Indian Summer still hanging around, any ride is a good ride! Get outside and take advantage!
What’s playing (What am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding) Today – The Doobie Brothers – China Grove
There is no better way to take full advantage of the incredible fall foliage than a bike ride. On this picture perfect day, a gravel ride was in order. So I hooked up with Eric at Action Bikes and Outdoor for a late afternoon ride through the Zimmerman Farm and the Conashaugh Horse Trail.
We left the shop and cruised through Milford, to Milford Beach and onto the McDade Trail. At Raymondskill Road, we hopped onto Rt. 209 and made a right at the second Zimmerman Road entrance. Zimmerman Road goes through the Zimmerman Farm and onto horse trails that lead up to Raymondskill Falls. We made a right at the horse trail and went through two creek crossings before climbing an extremely steep and winding hill with loose gravel that made the climb doable at best. I walked up the middle section as my rear wheel was all over the place.
After crossing a rather deep, dried up creek bed, we beared left and that’s where the real climbing began. The roadway, full of gullys from water run off, became an obstacle course that just kept going up. Somehow, we both managed to grind it out as we capped the hill and turned left on Conashaugh Road, a hard packed pea gravel road that goes from Milford Road to Long Meadow Chapel Road.
After about a mile, we went around the gate and onto the Conashaugh Horse Trail. This was new territory for me. Immediately, we dropped down they rail, which was just a bit wider than single track. The trail surface contained wooden steps, every 50 feet or so for almost a half mile. The road came down in a swampy valley and went back up for a little bit and dropped back down to Zimmerman Road, right at the driveway of the Marie Zimmerman Estate. We cruised onto the property and rode around the house and through the gardens.
We pedaled out of the he estate, down Zimmerman Road and made a left on Rt. 209 and back to the McDade Trail. Finally, some flat terrain. Although we were moving pretty quickly we talked all the way back as we rode from daylight to darkness, from open trail to hidden forest. Rolling off the trail, we rode past the Metz ice house and down the gravel trail along the river (Delaware River). The trail, only a half mile long, ends at a steep, paved hill that puts you right in the middle of Milford.
Every bike ride gives you the opportunity to explore new areas. Today, we were lucky enough to find a new loop through the horse trails and see another part of the Zimmerman Farm. Here’s some more pics:
On Sunday, I traveled to Honesdale, PA with Eric, Matt, Bob and Kyle, to do the Maple City Century, a mixed terrain 100 miler that consisted of about 85% gravel and dirt roads and just over 9,000 feet of climbing. The route brings you through most of rural Wayne County and borders the Delaware River and New York State in several sections. If you haven’t been to this part of Northeastern PA, check it out, it’s beautiful, especially during the fall foliage season.
100, 62 and 30 mile options are offered. Each route different, but challenging in their own way. The 30 mile option gave riders a glimpse of what pedaling in Wayne County is all about, on mostly dirt and gravel roads.The 62 and 100 mile routes include long, steep climbs through farm land, logging roads and every kind of back road you can imagine.
It was chilly at the start, about 36 degrees, but warmed up to the mid 60’s at mid day. I did not get a chance to sample the 30 and 62 mile routes. I was up in the air about whether to do the 62 or 100 but made a game time decision to push through the 100 mile course. I was rewarded for my efforts with amazing views, awesome rest stops and a chance to ride with some fantastic people. Matt and Bob rode the 62 miler as Matt took care of repairs for the riders at the start and had to wait for the masses to depart. Kyle and Eric joined me on this epic journey.
The 100, left from behind the Post Office in Honesdale at 8:20am and rolled through town with a Police escort. 2 miles later, the gravel adventure began. I compartmentalized the ride into 4 sections, divided by the 3 rest stops. The first section was hilly to say the least. But, anyone who cycles in Northeastern, PA knows there are no flat roads here. Just ups and downs and ups and downs.
The ride organizer made all routes available for download to a GPS enabled device. Cue sheets were also made available. However, the course was expertly marked out with easily visible color coded signs at every turn. At mile 33, we arrived at the first rest stop and were greeted with friendly volunteers and an array of energy bars, gels, fruit, trail mix, water and energy drink. Volunteers signed in all riders, to ensure they reached the checkpoint safely.
The next section began with a hill, just up the road from the rest stop. Another 15 or so miles or gravel and we hit Brown Trout Trail. This extremely technical, section lasted for five miles. With the side of a mountain to the right and a cliff to the left, the six foot wide trail seemed suited for a full suspension MTB, Fat Bike or ATV. With a waterfall coming right through, a washed out portion of the trail required a little hike a bike. This was the most challenging part of the course.
Just as we pushed off Brown Trout Trail, we arrived at rest stop #2. What a welcome sight after bouncing around for more than 40 minutes. After filling bottles and devouring everything in sight, we saddled up and headed out into the beautiful countryside. We saw some odd old homes, rustic churches and more than a few cattle.
At mile 75, we pulled into rest stop #3. This seemed like a great place to sit down and stretch a bit. With only 25 miles to go, finishing certainly seemed like a reality. Just a few more hills and a lot more gravel!
I kept telling myself that the big climbs were behind us. That didn’t work very well as hill after hill punished every weary leg that pedaled on. I have to say that Eric really got me through this ride. He kept me going when I wasn’t feeling too good. As for Kyle, we only saw him for a few seconds at the start. Every time we hit a sketchy section of trail, I did imagined Kyle laughing and riding right through. It was still light out when we rolled back into Honesdale, 8 hours and 47 minutes later. A quick clothing change at the car and a brief walk to the Irving Cliff Brewery for a well deserved post ride feast.
Kudos to Ride Director Zach Wentzel and his staff for putting on a first class ride. The course markers were spot on, the rest stops were fully stocked and the volunteers were friendly and helpful. The course was everything it was supposed to be and more. It’s already on the calendar for next year. September 24th, 2017. Save the date!
It’s 8am on a Sunday Morning. I’ve just unloaded my bike from the top of my car. I’m doing some last minute checks to make sure I have enough food and water to get me through the day, as I’m about to embark on a 30-35 mile bike ride through mostly gravel roads in the Delaware State Forest. That day, I rode through the state forest, onto the pavement for a couple of miles and back into the forest, with a couple of diversions on dirt roads and grassy trails to end with 32 miles of an all road adventure.
This type of riding is most commonly called “gravel grinding”. Some call it “adventure cycling” and some refer to it as “all road riding”. Whatever you call it, it’s just plain fun.
Gravel Grinding has been popular in the midwest for the better part of a decade. Many of the big gravel races in the US are found there because of the extensive network of gravel and dirt roads that sprawl across the region. Here in the northeastern part of the country, gravel grinding is catching on. In this area alone, we have access to numerous gravel roads that are part of the state forest as well as the McDade Trail, which is a 32 mile gravel and dirt trail, connecting Milford to Stroudsburg as part of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, along with many other off the beaten path options.
The best part about gravel grinding is that you don’t need a specific bike to get you going. You can pedal across gravel or dirt on a mountain bike, road bike, cyclocross bike, dual sport bike, comfort bike, whatever, just make sure you have enough tread on your tires to shed a little mud and stone. However, most bicycle companies are now producing “gravel bikes”. A good choice for people who just want to have 1 bike. A bike that allows a lot of options for two wheeled adventure. You can hit the gravel, ride in a gran fondo, throw racks and fenders on for loaded touring or just use it as an everyday commuter. Action Bikes and Outdoor, right in the heart of Milford, stock several models of gravel bikes, along with every type of bike and accessory as well as kayaks, paddles and most things for the outdoor enthusiast. Stop in, they are happy to offer advice on where to ride. They even have great paper maps and resources to help you on your journey.
The beauty of gravel grinding is it gets you out of traffic and puts you right in the middle of nature. There’s no need to hammer through the woods. Slow down, enjoy the scenery and take in everything that nature has to offer. You won’t regret it. In fact, there seems to be a growing number of riders in our area that love having the opportunity to pedal in areas that until recently seemed foreign. On both sides of the Delaware River, there are trails and roads that lead to waterfalls, farms, corn fields, breathe taking views, wildlife sightings, streams, creeks and lakes.
If you are up for the adventure, try one of the areas local gravel races. The Maple City Century, on September 25, 2016 starts in Honesdale and takes you through beautiful and scenic Wayne County on mostly dirt and gravel roads. In October, Action Bikes and Outdoor sponsor the Erie 80. An 80K gravel, dirt and paved MTB ride that shows you all
that Port Jervis has to offer. If you are not looking for an organized race, there is usually a group riding from somewhere. Mostly from the shop parking lot.
So if I’ve peaked your interest just a little bit, get out and pedal a quiet country road, you’ll be planning your next gravel ride before you load your bike back on the car.
Getting out today was harder than I thought. I got up at 6:30am to meet Eric for a morning ride. I took the dog for a walk and got wet as it rained hard for about 10 minutes. I text Eric and opted for a few more hours sleep over a wet ride. He manned up and went out for a rain ride. I waited until 3pm, when it was dry and the forecast looked clear to venture out into the woods.
I’m planning to ride in the Maple City Century next Sunday in Honesdale, PA. It’s a 100 mile gravel adventure with lots of climbing. So, I wanted to just get a few extra miles in on some loose gravel roads to help prepare for the event.
I rode out of my driveway and up through my community, then veered into the woods via a deer trail and onto Five Mile Meadow Road. I haven’t been on a bike since Tuesday, so I took it easy as I let my legs warm up to the hills. I headed out to Silver Lake Road and climbed up the monster hill before turning left onto Flat Ridge Road.
About halway up Flat Ridge, I met up with Bob, another local cyclist that was also training for the Maple City Century. He was doing almost he same ride that I was doing today. After, pedaling up to Minisink Lake and turning around, I came back down Flat Ridge and took Bob’s advice when I turned right on Coon Swamp Road. Coon Swamp is gravel and loose packed dirt. It continues for a couple of miles and comes to an end at the top of a hill, with a cool camping spot, over looking Coon Swamp Lake.
Coming out of Coon Swamp, just before I got back to Flat Ridge, I was startled as I noticed a black shape in the roadway. It was a huge black bear. I fumbled for my phone to take a photo, but he scampered away as I tried to get closer. Probably better off for me. It never ceases to amaze me what beautiful creatures they are.
Back on Flat Ridge, I rode on, knowing how lucky I am to have this incredible state game land, with all the gravel emergency access roads, right in my backyard. I descended down Silver Lake Road and hung a left back onto Five Mile Meadow Road. From there, I pedaled through the deer trail and home.
I’ve written about this area a few times before, but I felt compelled, as a new road or trail, especially one that ends high above a lake, providing superior views, needs me to tell you about it, so you can go ride it and see for yourself!
What’s Playing: (What am I’m listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding) Today – The Babys – Isn’t It Time