In early June my faithful group of 12 departed for SE Kentucky for my 20th annual ride on remote roads.
Here's the results!
Day 1 Hazard to Harlan
Twelve met on Hazard. two from KY, three from IN, six from MI and one from DC for the twentieth Ralf's Ride. As in the past we had a SAG van with snacks, cooler and spare parts. We were ready of riding remote roads in appalachia. The weather report for the whole week was sketchy but all were determined so we headed out for the back country. Since there were few groceries along the way and no restaurants we packed a few sandwich fixins along with snacks. Earlier contact with a local grocery confirmed only ham and bologna sandwiches! As expected we did hit a mile of gravel around the 20 mile mark. There were some minor sprinkles for an hour then clear weather. The climb up Pine Mountain was moderate with a sharp increase near the top. Once there we started the Little Shepard Trail which looks like rollers on the profile but actually is short aggressive ups/downs. After 10 miles of this we were ready for the four mile decent into Harlan. We showered up, had a brewski and snack then headed to dinner at a nearby Mexican restaurant she the skies opened up with a vengeance, great timing! Good nights sleep at Comfort Inn.
Day 2 Harlan to Cumberland gap
Again another day without food along the way so the cooler was well stocked. Again some rain but reasonable. We biked beautiful remote roads to the Cumberland Gap NP and were required to push our bikes over the gap for one mile to Cumberland Gap Tennesee. There we checked in at the Cumberland Gap Inn. An older hotel with nice rooms and a good manager. We walked the small touristy but unique town visiting the Bicycle Museum, Visitors Center and coffee shop. Dinner at a local Italian restaurant.
Day 3 Cumberland Gap to Pennington Gap
Since breakfast was sketchy (Hardee's) our SAG driver arranged with the local coffee shop/tea room a really nice breakfast plate. Fluffy eggs, bacon, sausage, potatoes, toast and heaps of coffee to get us on the road, yummy! We climbed the hill heading out of town and crossed the highway heading to a "Road Closed" route. We had previously found this where a bicycle could pass thru a field of kudzu to Harrogate TN bypassing the major highway. What we found was the roadway had been repaired and vehicles could now pass thru making it easier for the SAG van to stay with us. We followed scenic roads including Frog Level Rd for 25 miles stopping in Rose Hill at Lou's Diner. Lou was there along with a waitress/cook and served up some good sandwiches for the group. After that we followed scenic 621 for 17 miles into Pennington Gap VA. Pennington Gap is a mostly a coal mining town which has been hit hard with the reduction in coal requirements. Lodging in Pennington Gap is scarce and the Convient Inn worked out. Dinner at Ruby's nearby was one of the better restaurants in town.
Day 4 Pennington Gap to Benham
Breakfast restaurants were limited to McDonalds or Hardee's however we made do. We were off for a 26 mile warmup ride on VA 606 to the 7 mile Black Mountain climb. It started out easy then settled in at a consistent 7-8% reminding us of the Blue Ridge climbs. We sat back and ground away for over an hour then regrouped at the top for a snack and cold drink. Then it was 19 miles of Kentucky downhill into Benham for an overnight at the Schoolhouse Inn. We found great acomditations there with a super staff to take care of our needs.
Hay 5 Benham to Hazard
Breakfast at the Benham Schoolhouse then on our way to kingdom Come SP a few miles down the road. At mile three the route took an abrupt left turn and UP for three miles leveling off on the Little Shepard Trail. Grades of 18-20% on the first mile then teasing us with easier grades then a switchback with increasing grades for a bit. Unfortunately our SAG vehicles mixed a turn and headed the wrong way on the trail but did catch back with us at the intersection to US119. The Little Shepardf Trail again worked the group but better pavement conditions did improve the ride over day one. We enjoyed a short break at US119 then enjoyed a nice three mile downhill to Little Cowan Rd. We followed creek valleys for a beautiful ride of 20 miles then busted a gut heading up Elk Creek Rd and stopping at the top for lunch. The ride finished off in Hazard with a short half miler up to the starting point.
All in all a great ride with again fantastic scenery and friendly locals. One of this year's new riders commented that the ride was great and a bit more challenging than he had expected. He does want to return however and had wished he had started with us 20 years ago!
Qualifier for these routes!
The following routes were developed over years of biking in Indiana and now Kentucky. At the time they were the most direct routes using paved county roads and minimal secondary highways to connect the county roads. When possible the most scenic road was used. Over time most counties added more paved roads however in a few instances when county budgets were stretched, roads reverted back to gravel. Using my routes you'll almost always find that the distances between two points is more than taking highways however the scenery is most often better as well as the traffic. Hopefully you'll enjoy the great cycling in Indiana or Kentucky and if possible provide feedback on your trip.
I am not making any recommendations nor can I say that these routes are free from road hazards or dangers from traffic. Users of these routes will find them scenic and remote however only the user can assure they are safe on any public road.
Check out my routes. Mouse over a route and click for link to route map, GPX track or cue sheet
Saturday, June 21, 2014
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
I created this table thinking of one of the early rides I organized with friends. We were all weary of organized week long rides with lines for restrooms and food plus we were tired of the camping scene. In the summer of 94 our group of 15 ventured into the backcountry of Southern Indiana riding on remote paved roads. The group quickly found out that the ride was beautiful however the 100 year old roads often had serious climbs that strained the legs and lungs. During that ride one of the friends termed the phrase "Hills Are Our Friends"! Anyway this piece attempts to capture that with a seemingly endless hill and at the end finishing off with a bugger of yet another one !!
Tuesday, September 10, 2013
my bike art but I assumed he just wanted to rid the stores. Several months later I asked his wife if he might be interested in a table using the wheels. She was excited and said he would be thrilled with it. A couple of months later the crated table was loaded on a uHaul in Cincinnati destined for their home in Washington. The wife had not told him and he was completely surprised with the result!
Wednesday, August 7, 2013
Riding Arnold;'s Creek Loop in Northern kentucky this AM I thought about all of the cyclists traveling on the Interstate 75 corridor through the Cincinnati area wondering how many roadies with bikes could use a 2-3 hour ride on remote county roads to break up their trip.
If you haven't ridden in Kentucky here's your chance to see some really beautiful country.
The first ride starts at Denny's on the West side of exit 171. The second shorter ride starts just five miles down KY14 past Denny's to the Southwest in Verona. Most of the really scenic remote parts are included in both loops.
Arnold's Creek Loop Walton - 42 Miles link to Ride With GPX track and map.
Arnold's Creek Loop Verona - 30 Miles link to Ride With GPX track and map.
Flyover of the route:
Sunday, June 30, 2013
In Mid June a group of 14 met in Grayson Kentucky for my 19th year of remote road rides in the mid west. Riders from MI, IN, KY and one from OR returned for a dose of back country riding on the most remote paved roads I can find. Pitfalls for this year were services along the way. Lodging was not an issue however getting lunch daily became a challenge.
*Day 1 Grayson KY to Louisa KY* We had intended to eat at Paw Paw's near Willard run by locals however, a followup call earlier in the week found that the locals tired of the effort and were only open on the weekends. Staff at the hotel in Grayson recommended Weavers Market / Bakery run by a mennonite group.
This turned out to be great allowing us to purchase deli sandwiches and wonderful homemade fig bars for a picnic along the route.
Speaking of the route most attending the ride have dumbed down after a few years of attending and aren't interested in map reading, que sheets or GPX tracks. They return for some of the best road riding around; with narrow paved roads, very minimal traffic, and scenery that can knock your socks off. So for me it's a piece of cake after wintertime research and a GPS. This year started off with a little operator error in that I had not turned off the auto-reroute on the GPS. We had taken a diversion from the planned route to the bakery and the GPS then rerouted us on the shortest route to Louisa. All were cruising along while I was scratching my head thinking "why are we on KY 1 so long". Stopping the group a few miles further I fessed up that the leader had messed up and we were now heading out on uncharted roads to get back on the route. All were fine with maybe a little concern from two new members. The rest of the first day went well with a stop for our deli sandwich at a beautiful family cemetery along the way. A couple of dogs joined us first then Harvey stopped over to see what was up. He lived behind the cemetery and took care of the family resting place. Harvey told us of his seven brothers only two remained. I asked him if he wanted a beer which got a quick "sure" and a trip to the cooler. He looked among the darker beers scratching his head then picked out a Sam Adams and smiled.
We traveled on in the back country and interesting road names arriving at the Louisa Best Western with 60 miles or so and ready for some cold brew. Dinner at a local Italian restaurant.
*Day 2 Louisa KY to Chief Logan SP WV* The group started out in Louisa KY along the Tug Fork River then across the river into West Virginia.
Most river crossings are on highways but the chance to get on Tug River Rd came quickly. A narrow paved road along the railroad and river then on to Salt Petre Rd
and finally Mill Creek Rd all of which were true backcountry. A quick stop in Dunlow due to threatening skys and a brief conversarion with local James.
Dunlow station and we're on the railroad bed!He talked of his mother catching the train there when she was a child. James talked about the book "Last Train to Dunlow" a definitive history of Wayne County, West Virginia during the turbulent time following the Civil War and through the coming of the N & W Railroad. Includes history of the CCC Camps in Wayne County, history of the land speculators, train wrecks and collisions. After leaving James at the Dunlow Station, we stopped for sandwiches at Copley's Deli South of Missouri Branch then backtracked to 12 Pole Rd which is a paved abandoned railroad bed, now a road.
12 Pole Rd
*Day 3 Chief Logan SP WV to Matewan WV* The day started out with a great downhill from the lodge only to head back up, cross the highway and back down into the back country. The route was again beautiful and remote following along the creek however, too soon, the valley began to narrow and we were headed up. The hill on Smokehouse Fork-Harts Creek Rd turned to be a killer and quite possibly the worst hill most of us have ridden. Making it up requires good low gears, strong legs and determination. A stop at the top to refresh then right back down only to climb again going to Dingess. The Dingess Tunnel was to be a high point of the day and did turn out to be a scary experience. The unlite tunnel is 3,327 feet long, paved, one way and supposedly haunted.
Well Ms Ralf, is it haunted or not?Being on bicycles we had prepared for the tunnel by placing the SAG in front of the group to keep oncoming traffic from coming at us. We also had headlights and flashing tail lights on each bike. Even with these precautions we found the trip through the tunnel to be dangerous with water and some gravel in places. Should we return to the area on a bicycle we'll SAG through the tunnel or flag down a local pickup truck and beg for a ride through the tunnel. As friendly as most locals were in WV, the request would probably be honored. After passing through the tunnel we verred off and on Old NW Railroad Bed Rd and 12 Pole Creek Rd passing Laurel Lake. It's worth the time to use 12 Pole Creek as much as possible. While there is minimal traffic on the main road and it is downhill most of the way to Lenore and lunch.
Cheech's Pizza is run by Bev and Robert Adkins and their menu fit the bill well. Robert was on his way to work, driving a coal truck, when I talked to him in the parking lot. Bev was in the kitchen doing a great job of preparing our lunch. She had thought we were coming the next day however they did a great job of fueling our engines. After the rush Bev joined us in the dining room with many stories of the area and people. She was a hoot! Leaving Lenore the only way was on WV highways and four miles of US52. We maintained single line with space between the riders for safety but we found that traffic was fairly low on both highways. At Delbarton we turned onto WV65 to cross over the mountain heading to . There's a new road plus a closed road that is not maintained! As we rode toward Matewan we turned onto Chaffin St and used the paved trail under the highway and railroad entering the town through an open gate in the floodwall.
Entering Matewan through the floodwall!
Sharon had many goodies including two cakes, drinks and other snacks. We were in heaven with her hospitality and facility. Five nice rooms in the main house and a bunkhouse in the back. Her breakfast was clearly the best on the trip! To prepare, serve and cleanup the breakfast, she had three others helping out. In town we found several interesting character, a bear of a dog
and a bluegrass singer in the pizza place across the street. I walked into the place and found her on a small stage playing a guitar and singing to an empty room. After a few minutes I headed back to the B&B to get an audience. Several joined in and enjoyed an hour of great music and bonding with a local artist. What fun!
*Day 4 Matewan WV to Jenny Wiley SP KY* We passed through Matewan then across the Tug Fork River into Kentucky. Now we were in the land of the Hatfield and McCoy feud. Several historical plaques and a nice museum in Matewan's old train depot are worth a visit. We biked SW out of town on secondary roads with great views of the valley and many interesting sights! On road 1056 we left the Tug Fork River valley on a seemingly endless climb to a spectacular view of the countryside.
Leaving Sidney we headed North for around five miles again on Big Creek Rd. This was Saturday when the coal trucks did not run from the two local mines which we passed on our way to Rockhouse Fork Rd. At this point began a 25 mile route meandering through some fabulous country. Only periodic residences with imaculate gardens, well kept simple homes, and seemingly endless rolling traffic free road. None of the group pushed the pace as we bathed in the scenery heading to Jenny Wiley State Park. Arriving at the park the more energized boys hauled the cooler full of refreshments down steps to a patio overlooking scenic Dewey Lake. A comfortable stay at the lodge refreshed the group for the last day into Grayson.
*Day 5 Jenny Wiley SP to Grayson KY* Leaving the lodge we rode along Dewey Lake for eight miles then crossing the dam on our way to Paintsville for a stop at the IGA for lunch fixins! Well the IGA wasn't open so we sent the SAG vehicle on past the town to find food. The peleton charged on with great scenery, couple of stiff climbs and interesting Kentucky roads with no traffic. The SAG van caught up with us near an abandoned strip mine where we refreshed with cool drinks. On to Boone where the, closed on Sunday, grocery made another convenient place to regroup. We then pedaled on looking for a nice lunch stop and around the corner was the Cherokee Baptist Church which had just wrapped Sunday morning service. The pastor talked with several of the group and offered coffee and restroom facilities to the group.
A sermon on the way to Grayson?
After lunch, and around the 45 mile mark, the route slowly straightened and flattened, and suddenly a paceline was formed with the speed nearly doubling the last four days rate. It was going home time and they wanted to get there. It was a good feeling to know that everyone experienced a great ride through apallacia.
Starting in 1994 a group of friends from Lafayette Indiana had been attending seven days rides in the midwest and were weary of doing the camping scene. I proposed that we do a five day ride in Southern Indiana staying at state parks and hotels while being followed by a SAG to carry the essentials. The ride became Charlie's Southern Indiana Ride or "CSIR". This ran through 2000 when there were 22 attendees. The next few years I planned several different rides in Kentucky and Southern Indiana along with Copper Canyon, Maah Daah Hey trail in North Dakota, Blue Ridge Parkway and Natchez Trace. All were great experiences and wetted my desire to do more. In 2010 Phyllis and I relocated to Union Kentucky near Cincinnati where I found a lot more remote roads to ride. In 2011 we had the first Ralf's Rural Ride in Kentucky or "RRRiKy" and followed it up with RRRiKy 2012 and RRRiKy 2013!
This trip was the 19th annual ride that I have had with friends and I'm already looking at 2014! More than likely it will be in the SE Kentucky area with some of the days being surrounding states like Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. This winters scouting will turn up something.
For those of you who have read the entire blog, I hope you have a desire to try some of the riding in Kentucky. It's totally different than other areas that may be high on cyclists lists to visit. I think I like it because it is ever changing. Beautiful scenery, struggling old towns, mules in the barn, a junk pickup beside a trailer, tobacco fields, tough hills, paved one lane roads and wonderful people who are bike friendly.
Ralf's ultimate road conditions!
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
A few days ago I rode the loop out of Gardenersville KY to Falmouth and back. Only a 32 mile route but still a good workout with plenty of hills. I took the camera to share a few of the sites. All of the recent rains have made the foliage very lush making for an extraordinarily beautiful ride. Years ago a biking buddy termed the narrow remote roads that I crave "goat paths" and it has stuck with me ever since. Riding these routes might take longer to get to a destination however along the way you'll see wildlife, religion, nature, polltics, friends, locals and almost always local restaurants where the locals hang out.
Riding in rural Kentucky to me always seems to be an experience, make that a great experience!
Riding in rural Kentucky to me always seems to be an experience, make that a great experience!
Monday, February 18, 2013
Cyclists heading South on the Little Miami Trail from Springfield/Xenia can pick up my Morrow OH to Agusta Kentucky route which uses the Jenny Anne ferry to cross the Ohio River from Higginsport Ohio to Augusta Kentucky. From there use my Augusta to Lexington route for a scenic ride through North Central Kentucky. Cyclists coming from Indiana can use my Lafayette Indiana to Cincinnati area route which connects to the Little Miami Trail just West of Morrow.
Flyover of Route
Flyover of Route