Sunday, June 5, 2011

Rattlesnakes, Mosquitoes and Bananas

Thirty-five glorious, hard miles this afternoon, about 60% of it dirt/gravel. The first half was nearly all climbing, some long six and seven per cent hills, and some oh-so-lovely ramps of 15 and even 17 per cent. My first extended dirt ride on the Vaya was a delight. That bike is an albatross on paved road, and a rocket on gravel. It was built for it, and you can feel it wanting to fly the moment the road turns gritty.

My first time on three of the dirt roads, and were they fun! Well, all but Rattlesnake Gutter Road, a local legend I had to try to believe. The first quarter mile or so was more vertical than anything I've ever ridden on a bike -- and on a washed-out, loose-rock road. It was devilish -- straining along at 5 mph, standing on the pedals, tires slipping, going slow enough for the mosquitoes to swarm me. To escape the bugs, I went so anaerobic I had to get off the bike and walk up the 17% pitch, swatting all the way. Oh, joy!

I will bathe in DEET before my next gravel ride.

No regrets, though -- just the opposite. You see things you won't see any other way when you ride the "unimproved" roads. Observe:

Classic New England small-town burying grounds

Cue ominous music...

Cliff walls along the eponymous gutter
As a reward for the brutal climb, a gorgeous little falls at the top

Still Life with Banana

Leverett Co-op's sundial sign, and stained glass windows

Cranberry Pond, Mt. Toby looming behind

I'd never even known the pond, cemetery, falls, or rock formations existed, though they are all just off of roads I ride all the time. The beauty of dirt is that you get off the beaten tarmac.


BIGWORM said...

I've been taken with the gravel roads of N. FL and S. GA myself, lately. 20 years of riding, and I've only discovered these gravel beauties in the past year! They're a nice compliment to the pavement and singletrack I've haunted all these years. I've never ridden in the NE, though I lived in Vermont for a year as a kid. Lately I've been feeling more desire to head back that way, and ride these areas. Your pics just added to the draw. Thanks for sharing.

Velosopher said...

Yeah, gravel really broadens my perspective. If you're planning on heading up to the Pioneer Valley of Western MA, give a shout, I'll point you to some great rides!