Monday, July 27, 2020

The cyclist advantage, sort of

The Elm Street bridge project has developed complications.
The Little Dig is going to last longer than expected. No word yet on whether it will also go way over budget. As a taxpayer in a poor rural town I certainly hope we're getting the bulk of the money from a federal program that spreads the load over millions of people across the country, any one of whom would be grateful to find a passable bridge should they ever drive through here.

The bridge remains usable for a cyclist, as long as you can get yourself over the gap.
Try that with your 70-pound ebike.

I was in a bit of a panic because the news of the delay came a day or two after I informed the Board of Selectmen and the state department of environmental services that the work crew appeared to be doing little to control debris. The shore beneath the bridge was covered with concrete dust and chunks of broken concrete, some of them fairly large. As I said in my notes to the town government and the state agency, I don't know whether this is considered an official problem. I just wanted to know, as a resident and a member of the town's conservation commission, whether the job was meeting applicable regulations to protect the river. The work site is also immediately above where I test the river every two weeks for a local environmental organization. If I had done anything to delay the reopening of the bridge, I could be sure that my house would be set on fire within a day or two. Imagine my relief when I found out that the problem was in the bridge, not from some frog-kissing do-gooder making a fuss about some artificial rocks landing among the wildflowers.

I did not have that assurance when I set out on Friday morning and discovered that the work crew had started much earlier than they've been showing up. On Thursday I had driven the dirt route through the Pine River State Forest to Granite, just to check it out. It's 17.7 miles as opposed to the usual 14 and change. It also includes a couple of stiff climbs on soft dirt and gravel, well rumpled by speeding motorists who have been using it during the bridge closure. It was still a shorter and better option than the Big Zig. Metaphorically I turned up my collar and slunk past Elm Street, hoping that no one noticed me.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, there's another option in the PRSF as well: a snow machine trail. Because the junction is probably less than a mile into the dirt section, I figured it would save me some time even if I had to walk for half of it. Because there was still a gate and a trail sign, I figured it was okay that I hadn't brought my machete.
The road to Granite
The trail to adventure
The trail started out promisingly enough. The Cross Check isn't a great technical trail bike, being a tad steep and short for the real rough stuff, but that's not its main mission. It's a bike that will get you through a short stretch of the rough to connect to faster traveling surfaces.

Because I would only have to do this route on the morning half of a commute, most of it is downhill anyway. The surface is packed sand, held in place by some hardy grass -- except where it isn't. The ruts on the flatter bits and mild slopes were soft enough to make the bike wallow a little. On steeper slopes, the glacial till emerged: various-sized rocks, mostly rounded. Some larger embedded boulders or bits of ledge would have been no challenge for a mountain bike, even one from ancient times, with a rigid frame and fork and 26X2-ish tires. And, with gravity on my side, I just had to find the sweet speed to flow through it with only a few sudden swerves and dabs when the front tire dropped into a soft spot.

The river looked cool and peaceful.

On the other side of the river, the trail split. I remembered the old route that climbed up onto the esker behind the gravel pit there. I could hear the machinery of the pit. The trail had been rerouted along the base of the esker. Bearing in mind that I was already running behind schedule, I debated whether to take the easier new route. Snow machine riders are just out to have fun. They aren't on a schedule to get to a specific destination. This new section could meander all over the place, and maybe never emerge where the old route did. I needed to come out where the trail used to come out, so I could get onto Duncan Lake Road and out to Route 16 near Route 28. As bad as the old trail looked -- and it looked really bad -- I had to go that way.

The grade was a lot steeper and longer than I remembered. But then I remembered that I had almost always ridden the trail the other way, so I was descending this hell run. I do not know anyone who could have -- or would have -- ridden this climb. I dismounted and trudged over the washed out mess of rocks, overhung with tree branches. Even the fairly level top of the esker was hard to ride because of fallen trees and limbs, and slick rocks from the previous day's rain showers and the unending humidity of this summer.

The new route rejoined at the descent. The trail wasn't much better than the abandoned route, because the till underlies everything and emerges wherever the surface is disturbed.
At the bottom of this descent the trail joins a dirt road. On a mountain bike, take a left to stay on the technical trail. On the adventure commute, take a right to get to Duncan Lake Road.

 Back on the regular route it was the usual hammer to get to work. The total was just over 16 miles, and did cut out the unnecessary elevation gain going up to Granite and coming back down again, so it saved more than a mile and a half, and probably at least 15 minutes.

Elapsed time depends on how the motor is feeling that day. You don't use a bike for transportation in a rural area unless you really like riding. I love not having a car in Wolfeboro, but I work harder than the average person to get there. It certainly won't work for everyone. But as long as it works for me I'm saving a parking space for someone who needs it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Inspiring !