Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Back to the Soil

Memorial Day has passed, May is done, and June is here in all it's green and leafy splendor.  The weather has finally got to the point where I'm not worried about it snowing overnight (I jest  - kind of).  We've had beautiful weather lately, with temps in the 70's and 80's, and the occasional thunderstorms to remind you that the world doesn't conform to your schedule.

When I went in for a doctor's appointment in January and found out that I had packed on fifteen pounds of Christmas fat I decided that I was going to try to step up my riding when the weather finally decided to cooperate.  So when the pavement started to show through in March I tried to get out as often as I could, and to make those rides a bit longer than I would have in the past.  The result was that I pedaled over 200 miles in March, and then went over 200 miles in April as well.

I have no illusions about riding 200 miles in a month - as far as great bicycle accomplishments it's pretty far down the list.  Heck, there are people who ride over 400 miles non-stop in one race, so me riding a measly 200 miles in 30 days isn't that big of a deal. 

So when May got going and I kept on riding on a regular basis it was no surprise when the miles started to add up.  Early in the month I headed a little bit west to the small town of Garrettsville and made my first trip on the Headwaters Trail.

Headwaters Trail entering Mantua.
This is a nice crushed stone trail that runs about 8-1/2 miles from Garrettsville to just past Mantua.  Most of the trail feels pretty remote, with plenty of woods and marshes alongside.  Some of the scenery is really beautiful, and gives an excellent example of the varying terrain of the headwaters area.  This little waterfall is near the trail, and with a little bit of rain provides a bit of natural music for your ride.

The town of Mantua, near the other end of the trail, has an interesting, if small, old downtown.  I really liked the old grain elevator with the slate shingle sides.

Downtown Mantua.
This historical marker lies beside the tracks between Garrettsville and Mantua.  It's just a small reminder of the local history that is forgotten all around us.

Besides making two end to end trips on Headwaters Trail, and a couple of long rides on the Little Beaver Creek Greenway, I also put in a bunch of miles on the Western Reserve Greenway, my local trail.  It may be the straightest and flattest of the rail trails in our area, but there is enough to see if you open your eyes.

Fox pups near Western Reserve Greenway.
These two fox pups were part of a litter of at least four that I saw in a group of den holes within 20 feet of the Greenway paving.  They've been there for over a month by now, and are getting big enough that I'm starting to wonder when they'll be leaving the den.  Then there's the guy below, who was on the trail up north in Ashtabula County.

Another trail user - this one is even slower than me.
There are some really beautiful spots on the trail up in Ashtabula County.  The old railroad bridge over Rock Creek has a great view of a unique little waterfall after a good rain.  And the little rest area north or Rock Creek is very peaceful - a good place to stop and catch a breath and a drink of water.
Ashtabula County bike trail rest area.
 But beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and when you're in the right frame of mind you can find it all around - even in places you've been a hundred times.

Sunset at the wildlife observation deck on Western Reserve Greenway.

So after three weeks of riding the rail trails (still waiting for the mountain bike trails to firm up enough to ride) I was surprised to see that mapmyride was showing that my monthly mileage was already over 200.  With such a strong start I was thinking I could get my highest monthly total yet - and with a bit of a push over the last weekend I managed to bring my May riding total up to 301.5 miles!  Once again, in the big picture that isn't much of an accomplishment - but to me it does mean something.  I'm not sure I actually lost any weight, but I feel better which is makes it worth it.

The mountain bike trails at West Branch State Park finally opened up over Memorial Day weekend.  Word was that they were still a little bit soft, but good enough to ride.  Last weekend I had a short window of time and headed out to give them a try.  I rode for an hour and a half, and was pleased to see that the trail was in good condition.  The local mountain bike club, CAMBA, had also done some great work with new trail reroutes at a couple of areas. 

But the thing that made me feel best was the fact that I was riding great.  I'm never a fast rider, but keep up a consistent pace that allows my sketchy breathing to keep up with the demands of the trail. But I rode the first half of the ride, at least a couple of miles, without a dab (putting a foot down).  The hills were still tough - but maybe not quite as tough as I remember them.  And when I was out of time I still felt like I had a good deal of energy left.  I'm attributing all of this to all those pavement miles earlier in the spring, building up my legs and my cardio, giving me a small improvement this year over last.  And at my age I'll take any improvement that I can get!

In news besides bicycling, Diana and I spent a bit of time together including a quick trip up to Lake Erie at Ashtabula.  I always enjoy the lakeside, and it can be a fun trip getting up there.

Lookout - a selfie!
Ken has made it through another year of school without going nuts (or driving me nuts).  The school band got its marching program together and made their yearly excursion in the Memorial Day parade.  He's getting better and better on his sax, to the point where it's fun to listen to him practice now.

Ken is the sax player near center, above the brunette clarinet player.
I've been out and about on the weekends with Dave, getting out on the back roads and seeing some sights out in the boonies.

Possible micro whitewater just outside of Youngstown??!?
This month I plan on letting the mileage totals take care of themselves while I focus on spending some quality time riding shorter miles on dirt.  So I wouldn't be surprised if June's total mileage was below 200.  But that's okay - mileage totals aren't why I ride.  FUN is why I ride!

Fight Entropy!


  1. WOW!!! Impressive totals. Glad to hear you are out and about and enjoying yourself. Love the pictures as well.

    1. Dan,
      Thanks. I love that picture of the collapsed church (wish the power line wasn't in there though). I've been watching that building decay for 40 years and it finally gave it up.
      Saw that your streak is still going strong. Keep on riding!!

      Steve Z

  2. Hey! I played sax in high school, too! Not in the marching band, though...you had to be GOOD for that. I was in a little avant-garde jazz ensemble that was more avant that garde.

    So..you are setting the bar at 300 miles per month? (cue evil laughter) just kidding. 300 miles on a mountain bike and on the trails is like dog years compared to the road. Not that I have been doing 300 miles a month my ownself...more like thirty.

    That might explain why my Walmart boxer-briefs are so snug of late...

    maybe I'll do something about that...

    THANKS SWAMPY! A wake-up call...


    1. TJ,
      I used to mess around with the tenor sax, but my main instrument was the bass. I actually used to be a "Professional Musician" inasmuch as I occasionally got paid (though the bar tab was almost always more than any money that I made that night).
      300 miles per month isn't that bad. I could see pulling that off regularly if I was focused more on road riding. If that was the case I wouldn't be doing the distance on my huge & heavy, 2.4 in. wide tire mountain bike. This month is going to be all about riding the dirt a bunch more. I'm looking forward to it.

      Steve Z

  3. The only musical instrument I learned to play was the CD player (I was pretty good at it!!)
    Good riding Steve! I am the same as you, keeping of the mileage is more for comparison than an end all for riding. I am going out here in a week for my first experience on rail to trails riding. I sure am looking forward to it. A ride that I don't spend half my time watching my rear view mirror for the ass-hat that is about to take me out.
    I love the colors on that turtle. Hoping to see some turtles on my trip through Missouri. We don't have amphibians here except the occasional grass snake. And frogs in the park.
    Good on you for getting some conditioning going this spring....makes the summer more fun.