Photo by Jason DeVarennes

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Climbfest in the Catskills - Part 2 - Nectar for the Honeybees

We had a couple of goals for our week in the Catskills. One was to do lots of climbing, and trust me, we did not suffer from any lack of hills. The other was to make full use of my new Honey All Roads and find some good dirt roads. We'd found a little dirt in our initial rides, but not quite as much as I was hoping for. So I sat down in front of my computer and typed the words, dirt and Catskills into the search box on ridewithgps, and found this route created by somervillebikes. I've never formally met somervillebikes, but we have a mutual friend, Velouria of the blog, Lovely Bicycle. In the week before we headed away, Velouria had mentioned that somervillebikes had a holiday home and some good dirt road routes in the area. So I had great confidence in this route when I found it. But then I noticed a level of detail rarely seen on routes one might randomly find online. He had color-coded the route to show what was dirt and what was paved. And every cue was annotated with additional details. This was very promising indeed.

As was the route profile. Careful you don't cut yourself on the sawtooth shape!

The only downside was the route was located about 60 miles west of Woodstock, so we'd need to drive out. Fortunately we had the car! We got up and had breakfast and then loaded the car. John has been feeling the effects of spring allergies this week, and was coughing like a chain-smoker, as we drove out. We aimed for the town of Bovina, at the southern end of the route. The designated cafe wasn't open, but the general store there was a great place to get coffee and pastries. We knew we wouldn't see much on route, so we carried a few bars and planned to take advantage whereever we saw services.

The route (for us) started with a good dirt climb and descent. Honeybees, named for her distinctive sounding Chris King buzz hubs, was instantly thriving. This is what she was designed to do, and finally she was getting the chance to show her stuff. The low gears saw plenty of use all day. The fat tires inspired confidence as did those awesome disk brakes. The bike fit me perfectly and felt so balanced. The fenders that I mounted the day before we left continued to do a fine job of warding off any rain.

John was on his Seven that he uses for everything. Honestly, we could just get rid of all his other bikes. His Seven is one versatile machine. He has raced up Mt Washington on it, with very impressive results. He has done Green Mountain Double, a 200 mile dirt road race, several times. He has packed it up and flown to far-away places, and toured with it. And pretty much everything else. For this week, he was trying out a new minimalist bar bag for carrying his good camera. He also had a giant expandable seat bag that proved capable of holding all his cold weather gear and mine, when it finally warmed up enough to remove stuff.

I had my usual small ortlieb bar bag - for my now-broken camera, as well as my phone, wallet, snacks, along with armwarmers, vest and gloves, when they weren't on me or in pockets. I have not yet mounted a large seatbag, so I just had a tiny one with tube and tools.

I've mentioned before that one of the reasons we've switched to touring on single bikes versus the tandem, is photos. John likes to stop and take lots of photos. Given our differences in speed, he can get a shot of me riding toward him and then away, and then take a few dozen shots of turtles crossing the road, or leaves actually changing color, or blossoms opening, and quickly catch back up to me. It works quite well - at least when we both have GPS or cue sheets for navigating independently.

We were only a few feet into the ride, when he stopped for the first photo! It seemed we might end up with a barns of Delaware County theme to the photos at first, as we saw lots of interesting ones. But we also saw lots of wide open vistas, a bunch of cute alpacas, at least one really gnarly road (and sign). And it was an absolutely amazing day. After the chill of the previous few days, it was finally starting to get warm, and we had brilliant sunshine. But I'll just let the photos speak for themselves...

As much as I love my GPS, and find it so useful for rides like this, we did experience a technology failure on the way home. When we finished, we loaded up the car and entered Woodstock, NY into the car GPS (no cell phone or data signal here), and started on our way. At some point I noticed we were going back a different way than we had come out. But this sometimes happens with the unit. I had remembered a large town that should have a place to get something to drink before we'd get on the main road, and kept looking for that town. But it didn't come. At some point we noticed the scenery was dramatically different from any we'd seen around Woodstock. Still no alarm bells. We just said we'd have to head out of town in this direction. But then the GPS announced we were at our destination. But clearly we were not. We finally panned around on the GPS map to discover we were about 60 miles away! Oh well, it would be a late dinner tonight. Next time I use this device, I'll pan to be sure the destination really is the destination! (And yes, I still have it. I did not litter and toss it out the window, although that thought did briefly enter my mind!)


  1. So glad you enjoyed the route! I won't be up there before June to ride it again but can't wait...

    Can you tell me which road had the sign saying it is officially closed?


  2. I believe it was around mile 45/46 and called 96 road. It was an awesome road, although the descent was a bit bumpy for the skinny tires and showed a weakness in John's new bar bag mount. We added a cable tie for extra security after this ride. Honeybees and the 650BX42 tires loved it.

  3. Ah, yes, on the northern loop of the route. Scutt Mtn road, on the southern loop, is also closed in winter, but I guess it was open for you.

    I'm hoping to have my Rawland Stag 650B by June. Until then I have my Shogun 650B with Hetres, so either way it smooths out those washboard ruts.

  4. I'll hazard a guess that the GPS took Woodstock to mean the site of the 1969 Woodstock festival, so that you ended up in Bethel in Sullivan County.

    "He also had a giant expandable seat bag..." -- Is that commerically available or custom?

  5. I like the idea that our GPS had such cultural, historical and musical leanings. However, looking at the map, it seems that it actually took us in the other direction. The plot thickens!

    The bag in question is commercially available, yes. It's a Revelate Designs Pika:


  6. This is why I keep a paper map with me :-).

  7. We're paper map addicts and have bookshelves full of them. The cartography of my favourite maps is probably good fodder for a blog post, even. However, the map in hand is worth many sitting back at base, and guess where ours was on this occasion...

  8. Actually we did have a paper map, but the large scale map doesn't have the little roads that we were on in Bovina, and the small scale map with all the details and little roads is so detailed that it's hard to get the big picture. You have to flip a lot of pages in the Gazatteer. So the GPS, when it works, is really good for this sort of navigation. For the journey out, I had checked the big picture map and knew the main roads we'd take, and felt confident in the technology to get us to the destination on the little roads. I suppose I should have realized much earlier that something was wrong on the return journey, when we were not going back the same way we came out. I really should have scaled out the display to check, but it didn't occur to me that it was actually taking us to some random place. The time estimate was the same. As I said, lesson learned - double check. Technology is not a bad thing. But you still need to use your brain!