Photo by Jason DeVarennes

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Climbfest in the Catskills - Part 3

The smoker's cough seemed to be getting worse. Almost to the point that John considered passing on the planned long ride for Friday. I'd initially plotted out this brutal century route, but also created a shorter option with a remote start.

Just as I had the car packed up and was about to leave, I convinced John to come, so we put his bike back into the car and headed out a little later than planned. We drove out to Phoenicia where we are becoming regulars at Mama's Boy Coffee Shop. After a quick coffee, we headed out on our bikes.

I had looked at several different routes that I had found on ridewithgps as well as studying our gazatteer to create the route for the day. Interestingly, no mention was made of dirt on Crump Hill on any of the online routes I had studied, so we were pleasantly surprised to find more nectar for honeybees (dirt) there. It also turned out to be one of the toughest climbs we've done this week. At the top, the views opened up allowing us to take in the still snow covered Belleayre ski slopes. The descent was actually paved and fast, as we rolled back down toward Big Indian with ease.

Next up was the climb up to Slide Mountain. Many of the climbs in the area have a shorter steeper side, and a longer, shallower side. So simply doing a route in reverse can be like doing a completely different set of climbs. We did the steep side of this climb, so we can legitimately tick it off of the list. The descent was long and swoopy and full of surprises, including the Frost Valley YMCA and Forstmann Castle, which suddenly appeared in the middle of nowhere!

We pedaled on a bit further to find lunch at the Blue Hill Lodge in Claryville. Fortunately, after the big meal, the next climb was one of the easy side climbs. Since we went up the easy side I'm not sure we can really tick off the Sugarloaf Climb. But I must say I thoroughly enjoyed the Sugarloaf descent, one of the best of the trip.

Next up was climbing the easy side of Peekamoose. Since we'd already done the hard side, we can now say we've completed it. Maybe it's just from the perspective of doing brutal climbs all week, but when we reached the top, I was just starting to wonder when the real climbing would start! John called this side a big ring climb. Roaring down the ski jump on the far side reminded me why it had seemed so hard to climb on Monday!

Then it was back to Phoenicia to finish.

The next day we planned another remote start. Had I properly planned this trip, we would have alternated the remote starts, so we didn't have so much driving multiple days in a row. But I admit it, this had to be our least pre-planned trip.  We booked our house a few days before and planned each ride the night before. And yet it still worked out great.

Our final big ride would be to visit an area called the Gunks, easier to pronounce than Shawangunk. Julie, who was house/cat sitting for us this week, grew up in New Paltz and had reeled off the names of the climbs we should do over dinner one night, names like Mohonk, Minnewaska and Shawangunk. I again went to ridewithgps and found several different routes, including a long one that passed through Woodstock. John was finally starting to cough less, but was still not at 100%, so we opted for a shorter version from New Paltz.

We drove into town in the midst of a race. We saw lots of cyclists heading back up into town. We had a quick coffee and then rolled out across the river on the tandem. We saw the final riders heading in. Despite the fact that we were clearly not part of the race, several of the marshalls wished us luck. Hmmm... did they know something we didn't...

After riding single bikes all week, I had finally sweet-talked my way back on the tandem for this ride. But after riding my own bike all week, I was out of practice for the screaming descents on the tandem, so I asked John to take it a bit easy on me until I got used to the tandem again. I could sense him gritting his teeth as he had to hold back on a great twisty descent, but better to have a non-terrified stoker, right?

The first climb over Mohonk got our attention. Then we had some busy roads for a short while as it seemed everyone was taking advantage of the first nice warm and sunny weekend all year to head out to the park. Once past the turnoff to Minnewaska, we found ourselves on wonderful quiet roads. Then the climbing began, and I found Vista Maria to rank with the toughest climbs we'd done all week. (looking back at the reports, I've said this lots, haven't I?)

Next followed a screamer of a descent into Ellenville for a quick lunch. Leaving town we spotted what at first appeared to be a castle, but it quickly became obvious it was a prison, surrounded by fences topped with razor wire. Either a prison or the most serious deer fencing ever!  John decided an alien shouldn't take a photo of a prison, so we don't have photos of the coolest looking prison I've ever seen. But I found this on online.

Next up was the climb up through Minnewaska and descending with traffic back to New Paltz. We stopped in at the Water Street Market for ice cream and coffee before heading home.

By chance, we stopped to get gasoline and who but George Swain spotted the tandem on the roof, and pulled in to say hi and hear all about our week.

We saved the hardest climb for the last day - without knowing it. The house we rented for the week was at the base of Meads Mountain Road and California Quarry. We had climbed Meads Mountain earlier in the week, but hadn't been up California Quarry yet. I plotted a short, but intense route that would take in a few hills before dropping into town at Sunfrost Farms where we could have burritos for lunch.

The view from the jeep track that continues on from California Quarry Road

Check your brakes before beginning this descent!

Final stats for the week. 46,000 feet of climbing over 475 miles. John got a bit more as he circled back a few times on some of the climbs. I do believe this week has kick-started our season quite well, and we both might be in better climbing shape than we were. Looking back at one of Riding the Catskill's blog entries, it seems we ticked off 7 of his 8 hardest climbs, although since we did Sugarloaf from the easy side, it may not count. I'm thrilled to have had the chance to explore this area, and look forward to returning now that I know what a gem it is!

1 comment:

  1. What a honey of a post this one is. Beautiful road pix, some brooding and the last one almost ethereal & all lovely, stretching our imagination! Jim Duncan