Monday, September 30, 2013

Country Highways

"Country highway" is a useless term. Let's first break down exactly what a "country highway" should be. I propose that a road  which is paved and runs through an area that has less than 5.851 inhabitants per square mile (the population density of Wyoming) is a country highway. In reality, this is just a dream. I've ridden on country highways that are magic carpets of freshly laid smooth asphalt and others that much less enjoyable are gravel roads. On my Sunday ride, I had to yet again re-adjust just how unpredictable these roads can be.

It all started with me looking at a map and thinking to myself "Google says it's a road. I should be good to go,"  so  I set out to complete a 28 mile loop that would take me through the amazingly scenic Jefferson National Forest. The first 11 miles went swimmingly, but then I went down a really steep and long decline. (I really don't like steep descents that twist and turn. especially when there are no guard rails: see previous post.)

After two or three miles of decline, I hit the bottom, breathed a sign of relief, and realized that the pavement was turning to gravel. Faced with the prospect of crawling up the climb that I just came down, I decided to continue forward. The houses along the road quickly turned into hunting shacks without electricity and plumbing. Yes, there were outhouses! 

Then the road kind down graded itself again and I wasn't sure if I was on a road or riding on the dried up portion of a creek. At some point, I crossed the Appalachian Trail. This made me nervous enough to try and call Liz, but there was no cell service in this part of the country.

I was too far out to turn around, so I didn't. I didn't really believe it in my gut, but I knew that the map said this"road" would eventually connect to a real highway which would take me home. Then the river jigged and the road jagged. This ride was the first river crossing I've ever had to do on my bike. I wasn't sure if Liz would be able to find me if the woods people kidnapped me and stole me away to West Virginia.

Once across the river, life improved quickly. Houses started looking like people lived in them. The gravel was packed enough to support a little speed, and I was starting to feel like I might come out alive.

Then the moment of Triumph!!! This stop sign marks the return to pavement. Never before have I been so happy to be on a real road.

I still had a ways to go after this point, but it was uneventful. Some kids on a trampoline dressed in full camouflage waved at me. Talk about collision of cultures. 

No comments: