RTR/Unison to RTR/Lost River

Garmin Data:

It’s not that we’re tough or gluttons for punishment even though we are.   And it’s not about having something to prove even though proof now exists.  It is more about something presenting itself and us wanting to be in it.  The word adventure maybe comes to mind.  Motivations and outcomes are peripheral.  At the heart some effort and some unknown are required to ultimately and often only vaguely get to the quote-unquote, fun, but with completion the details that are acquired and the terrain that is now embedded more that settle that tab.

This ride started at the under-development Raw Talent Ranch Annex in Unison, Va.    It is a restored circa 1800’s General Store at a crossroads village in the shadow of Mt. Weather .  The objective is point to point routes from the respective RTRs.  Store to Barn – Va to WV.  Routes to put in the ride rolodex.

There are a host of options, ranging from big to much bigger, and we wanted to start laying them out.  Chuck Hutcheson and I had planned to do it the previous week but the first of season snows knocked that down.  This week, and for pretty much all December, the winds have been blowing.  Not breezes.  Big gusts.  Wailing across plains and through gaps.  Peeling roof shingles, blasting screens and knocking stuff over.

Our go day/yesterday they were, according to all the worried weather forecasters, going to be ‘diminished’ but that was untrue.  Chuck had done a ride the day before from Lost River to Unison with tail winds.  Beside the prevailing westerly winds there is significantly more climbing heading back to Lost River as the ridges plateau and step up.  Chuck had started on Dec 23rd as part of the Rapha 500 contest, which is a call for holiday miles.

So, this was to be our day and that is why we had ‘chosen’ to ride into a head wind for 95 miles.  Not ideal but in the, ‘if not now when category’.  Sometimes you choose direction but more often than not direction chooses you.  I guess it is like that with much.  You can plot and plan scenarios but the variables inevitably come fast and furious and at that point all you have is your experience and your ability to shift and rebound.  To call audibles and maintain composure while still keeping emphasis on your initial course; something like that…..

I was reminded of this early on.  We were riding side-by-side on a very flat, very scenic, rock wall lined, dirt road.  We already know we have head winds and there is no point dwelling on or calling attention to the obvious.  It is not denial for the awareness is inescapable.  It is practical.  Just two heavy hitters riding into a day long head wind conversing about anything but wind.

Going into the wind you try and get over the top of a big gear.  Create some momentum.  This was working for a while but the road stretched out and the wind kept increasing.  Eventually we both dropped into the small ring and kept bearing down.  The wind got louder and more violent.  We were getting moved around.  In and out of the saddle trying to stay on the lane and keep moving.  My heart rate was at 190 in the small ring on a flat!   We finally came to a turn with some tree shelter and stopped to shed outer layers.  The effort had kick started the body heat.  It was all so ridiculous we were laughing, especially when I told Chuck we had only gone five miles.  Only ninety more to go and we weren’t even near any of our impending four ridge crossings.



This was one of the biggest gust or sheers and the conditions were in flux all day.  If we were headed dead west it felt like uphill even on flats while angling south was at best a steady crosswind that by contrast felt easy.

The terrain was incredible.  We found a route that was mostly backroads except for brief pulls on Routes 50 and 55.  Approximately a fifth of the ride was on dirt.  It may be more.  We didn’t keep track.  Rolling horse lands.  Cattle country.  Lanes lined with evergreens.  A section alongside the Shenandoah River .  Rollers through apple orchards and of course the ridge crossings that come with the turf and finally the dirt climb finish to the barn.

We rode steady but the wind kept our speed down and we lost some time to flat tires so when, like a beacon, the Helmick Rock sign appeared, which is seven miles to the barn, darkness was almost full.

This is the steepest hardest climb of the day.  There really aren’t any cars to worry about but the dirt road has snow patches and because of the steepness it is important to read the lines and surfaces even in full daylight.  In the darkness this would not be possible.  Yet despite the dark, the cold and the impact of being over six hours deep a strange calm hit us as we went up.  I say we but I don’t know if Chuck felt it or not.  It seemed that way.   The thing was going to get done.  We just had to keep pedaling.  Breathing.  We were in the woods and completely out of the wind.  All of the sudden very warm.

A dog appeared.  Then another.  Hounds.  No barking.  Trotting along with us.  They were bear hounds with radio collars.  At work.   Noses to the ground tracking a scent.  If they were off course or lost they would have followed us to the barn but they had other matters at hand and just as quick and quietly as they had joined us they were off into the woods, in pursuit.  We kept pedaling.  Closing in.

When Helmick Rock connects ridge top onto the pavement and Howards Lick Road it still goes up for a mile then down one to the barn.  Now the wind is back in effect.  Maybe finally diminished but we are at 3000 feet.  The stars are bright and the lights of Moorefield in the valley to the west look festive and alive.

When we get to the barn it is 18 degrees.  My dogs are at the front driveway and Audrey is inside with a soup a fire AND home made pizza.  Pretty incredible podium.  One route in the books.

Check post of Chuck Hutch






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