Sunday, March 21, 2010
Knowing that The Rebel Yell wasn't in the cards with a 2pm ride start there were some hidden valleys and skinny roads North of Sabillasville near the PA border that I wanted to check out. The usual route out of Frederick was as good as ever and soon I was rolling along on in the sun on quiet roads. A couple of crosses over 15 and I found myself in Thurmont. The plan was to climb 77 and take Catoctin Hollow Road back from Cunningham Falls State Park to Frederick via Gambrill State Park. I needed to refill my bottles so I stopped by the Catoctin Ranger station. While tanking up, I couldn't help notice that Park Central Road was open to traffic. This is the super smooth paved road that skirts around Camp David, the one that I have wanted to explore it for a long time, but it has either been closed or covered in snow. This was opportunity knocking and I have a penchant for opening the door.
Well if someone had told me that it was over 1300 feet of climbing and rather steep at the top, perhaps I would have stuck with Plan A. The security setup is pretty cool. At this time of year, with no leaves out, you can make out the main perimeter fence which looks like the one from Jurassic Park. The actual entrance is right at the very peak of the climb. No stopping here though. While it appears to be a pretty non-descript nicely-paved driveway, the black poles with cameras, lights, and signs that say "no stopping or standing" keep you moving right along.
Just after beginning the descent, I was buzzed by 7 or 8 "rice rockets" who probably just did that climb in 1/10th the time I did. I shifted into the 53x11 and was able to keep in touch with the last rider by carving through the switchbacks at 42mph. That fun ended after a mile or so as we hit a patch of level ground and then a short climb. A right turn on Catoctin Mountain Road and several miles of curvy downhill deposited me into the sunny and remote valley that is home to both 550 and the little town of Sabillasville.
After a short climb North on 550, I made a right turn onto Browns Quarry Road and into uncharted territory. Browns Quarry also turned upward and led me higher into yet another, more remote, hidden valley where I turned right again onto Eylers Valley Road. This is the road that looked so good on Google Earth and it did not disappoint. A single-lane hardpack dirt road that follows a meandering stream through hemlocks, laurels, and Rhododedendrons. In this direction it was a magical descent. In the other, it would be one hellish climb (some other day). A couple more turns and I was back in Thurmont where I caught the guys on the race bikes at a local Sheetz.
It was here that I decided to head home up through the mountains rather than the valley so I retraced my previous tracks for a mile or so and then turned up Catoctin Hollow Road, a beautiful single lane paved road climb by a creek with little car traffic.
The run down to Gambrill is peppered with little climbs. The first one comes after Sand Flats and is the worst of the lot. Your legs are still stinging from the previous climbing and it is the longest one. After that things loosen up a bit. Past Hamburg road there are three (or four) more, but only the last one packs any meat. Mostly just carrying your momentum through them as if they are just big rollers. I ran into Sheldon in the tower parking lot near Lawnmower. He had just finished an epic mt bike ride and was pretty spent. He spotted me some grape Gatorade that broke the monotony of the lemon lime Gatorade I have been drinking for 4 hours. From here it's a pretty easy roll back into Frederick, only the little climb up Shookstown Road and then the fast descent into town.
The 8185 calories my HRM says that I burned is even more than what I burned a couple weeks ago on a hilly 82 miler. Not sure how accurate that count is, but if it is true I burned the equivalent of 15 Big Macs. Sweet, I consumed only 6 water bottles, two packs of Clif Blocks, and a GU Packet or around 1100 calories. God knows the other ones have gotta be coming from somewhere.
Sunday, March 07, 2010
I left Frederick a little after 10am this morning with this group of neighbors (l to r): Dave C., Tim S., Salyer M., and Randy K. I hopped on their ride so I would have some company for the first part of my ride. They took me as far as the Sheetz in Thurmont (17.50 miles) where I loaded up on Red Bull and got something to eat.
My route was a loop North up into Adams County, PA do a tough climb and head back. Through Emmitsburg, past Ski Liberty, up into apple county. There is a heinous climb called Cold Spring Road that I have done with the Gettysburg crew, but we usually turn on Mt. Carmel about 1/2 way up. Today I went straight up and over (another two climbs) into the Michaux State Forest.
Rode past the parking lot for the Terror of Teaberry race and then up to South Mountain, PA. Down Old Forge Road and up another (steep) climb to Blue Ridge Summit. From Blue Ridge I took 550 South until I could turn into Catoctin Mt. Park. I wanted to take Park Central Road, the one that loops near Camp David, but it hadn't been plowed. A couple of more climbs and I was back near the Frederick City Forest.
Tower Road (above) dropped me onto Gambrill Park Road for the easy cruise back down to Gambrill State Park and then up and over Shookstown Road back into Frederick.