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Douthat: Part II  //   Friday - April 22, 2005

Wednesday night was another fine ride, 80 degress F in April, you can't beat it. The trails were so dry and dusty that it was sketchy railing the turns at high-speed. Can you say two wheel drift? The 29er Exiwolf seems like it could bite a little better in conditions like these, Give me a 2.4 Motoraptor in the big wheel size and I will be real happy. WTB, are you out there??? Email those guys if you want one too. But back to the ride. Six riders on the fast ride, mixed it up some from last week. Kept a solid pace except for the two breaks from 1) a lost wallet (found) and 2) a flat tire, neither of which were mine. Just a great day to ride trail.

Douthat: Part II
Saturday saw a bunch of early risers despite many of us staying up later drinking malt and hops energy recovery drinks. Black coffee and then an eventual breakfast feast and we were rolling out to the trails around 11am. Packed myself a fat
sandwich for the all-day ride. We broke into 3 groups, two heading out to do a big loop around the park in opposite directions and one all ladies group doing a loop of some long climbing and descending.

The two groups starting on the super-sized loops headed out together but soon parted ways shortly after the climbing started to get rocky and steep. Hmmm I think, a lot of work alreay and we are just getting started. Can already feel some of last night's climbing in my legs. Big thanks to Joe Foley for leading our group. He's been training, slimmed down to his fighting weight and has a spanky new FS, and he was riding stonger than I've ever seen him ride. He tells us the next section is some rollers, but it's more like out of the saddle climbing the whole way. Uggg, no big deal but the mental games kill me. Inside my own head I'm saying rollers, outside my legs are saying "no, these are hills". But after we get through that we get to rip the contour of the ridge, losing most of the elevation we just gained. Once again, tight bench cut singletrack, beautiful ribbons of brown that eventually lead us to Blue Suck Falls. Cross the falls, play in some technical stuff and rip another long stretch of contour losing the rest of our elevation before beginning the big climb to the Tuscarora Overlook, Eight switchbacks, we climb it non-stop for about 45 minutes. Meet up with Scud's group that came in from the other direction and take in the mountain views. Sunny, clear, just beautiful. Chow sandwiches and saddle back up, our group heading out to climb a bit more before we get on the ridge line of Middle Mountain. Then we start ripping the rocky spine, trail so tight that tree branches swat your legs and arms like hundreds of little whips. High speed, dodging in and out of the bigger trees, plowing through rocks, arms starting to feel it as the minutes tick away on the descent, soon I'm alone, Ricky had been on my wheel but he's gone now. The ridge soon gives way to the switchbacks that take us off of the mountain, the terrain gets rockier, the turns tighter. At the bottom the riders dribble in and it's reported that Ricky flatted. I guess 20 psi, even on the big wheels doesn't cut it. It sure wouldn't for me.

Next up, a short run down the fire road to, refill water bottles and start climbing once again. Same story as before, tight trails, steep drops on the side and long climbs. Some more ridge riding the contour, some more climbing and eventually we end up where we were last night, just from a different direction. This time we get to scream the descent in the day light. Trees don't have many leaves yet so the views are good, but distracting when all attention should be focused on the trail. Steal glances when you can though, because it's worth it. When we get back to the lodge we've got 24 miles with 3600+ feet of climbing. More food and beer are the order of business and some bike repairs are needed.

Douthat: part III later.

- riderx

Douthat: Part I  //   Tuesday - April 19, 2005

Where to start, except to say I've been wanting to get down to Douthat State Park in the mountains of southern Virginia for a few years and never seem to make it. Well, that's been pretty stupid of me. Under normal traffic it's 4 hours, I picked up Julie and Becky from Columbia a bit after 3pm on Friday and it took us 5+. DC traffic is an evil mutha and it starts early on the weekend.

When we got in almost everyone was there, we had about 20 people in a big lodge. Sweet digs that were pretty cheap to boot. I've barely gotten in the door and Erin is talking about a night ride. I'm game, we unload the car, put down a couple of beers and 5 of us suit up. The trail starts about 100 yards from the back door. We start climbing tight singletrack right away, leafy stuff with rock stream crossings. The climb quickly starts to increase and we start the switch backs, some so tight and loose you can't clean them. Out of the saddle climbing most of the way. The night has cooled but it's still nice. Crisp, the air is clean, the sky is clear, the mountain air tastes fresh and good and I've quickly forgotten about the traffic we were sitting in a few hours earlier. I get down to business turning the cranks, looking behind me once in a while, seeing the other riders lights on the switchbacks below as everyone finds their own pace that will get them to the top. As we climb the mountain gets steep. The trail is a skinny bench-cut with steep drops off to your one side. Working the legs, arms, the stomach. I can feel it as I grind away, no idea if the next switchback is the last and, despite the growing pain in my muscles, no desire to stop until I've reached the top. The beers were good for helping with this, the right vibe for a night ride in a foreign land.

Eventually I top out at a trail intersection with a bench and a trail map. The others roll in shortly. We aren't at the top yet though, a right turn and we are soon climbing again until we eventually get to an overlook. Nothing much to see tonight but a black valley and a handful of lights in the distance. After tightening our group back up we climb just a bit more and then start the descent. I'm leading but have no idea what is up ahead other than the vague warning that the switchbacks are tight. What I do know is the trail is tight and fast and for the moment is fairly straight and all I want to do is fly. So I do. Brakes off, cranks churning, I wind it up and let it go. You can hear the rocks and trail debris flying up in my wake, tears stream across my face from self-generated wind. When the first switchback comes it appears out of nowhere. I'm damn glad for the front disc and the HID light as I check my speed and unclip for the loose turn. With a bit of a fishtail I'm stomping the pedals to accelerate again. The scene repeats itself over and over with the occasional leaf pile completely obscuring the trail in some places, leaving you with no choice to blast through them and hope nothing fatal is hidden beneath since a rock could shoot you off the trail and down the mountain. As I continue to push the speed I wonder if anyone would even know if I overshot a switchback and wrecked. Probably not, they would be worried about navigating their own ass down the trail and would never see or hear me. Luckily I don't have to find out.

By the time the steepest descent is over my arms are hurting, but we haven't stopped and it's not over yet. The switchbacks are done but now the rocks peak their head out of the soil. Rat tat tat, boom boom boom, the tires, the arms, the legs suck up the bumps, still hauling ass, still not wanting to stop until this thing peters out. And finally it does. It's dark and I can't see anyone's face but I know everyone is smiling, you can hear it in their voice. Amazing that no one ate it on this. Zero casualties. We cross a swinging bridge and pedal the flats back to the lodge. More beer waits for the night and a lot more trail for the morning.

More on the trip later...

- riderx


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