As most of you may know, Bluepoof is taking a year off from riding and said that she would be living "vicariously" through her riding friends. I had intended on doing a short ride on Sunday and dedicated it to her, asking her what she wanted to read about later. "Something dual-sporty", she requested. This was a tall order, considering that I'm in northern New Jersey and it was the first weekend in December. But I did my best and here are the results.
Per usual, I didn't start out with a plan. All I knew that it was dry and cold and I had the day to meander. I vaguely wanted to find a "bridge out" road that I stumbled upon last summer, but I wasn't really sure where it was. It was chilly out, the first thermometer reading 43 degrees. The next one read 41 and the 3rd one was down to 38. Fortunately the roads were clear and dry and I was able to focus on the scenery.
Eventually I found something that caught my eye: a gravel road that stretched across a narrow valley, a yellow metal gate swung wide open. I decided to give it a shot. I felt confident that if I ran into anyone "official", I could just apologize and be on my way.
The road wasn't long, maybe 1/4 mile of hard packed dirt full of horseshoe prints and ice-skimmed puddles. At the end of the road was a utility building and a white pick up parked outside. I continued down a side road, but had to turn around after a few hundred yards. I wasn't prepared to follow the rough terrain of the power lines that I came to.
The white pick up was still parked when I went back down the main road and I was relieved not to have to explain my exploratory ride. However, before I got more than half way to the gate I noticed another off shoot road. "Road" is being generous here. It was a narrow, rutted and rock-strewn track that led about 20' up a hillside before diving left into the brush. I hesitated but then figured, "What the heck? I'm out here for a "dual-sporty" adventure! That sure wouldn't happen by playing it safe." So I turned the Swiss KLR's red nose up the hill and off we went.
It was still cold out and the grass was slick with moisture, but it was still easy riding. Then I came around a bend and saw this:
Once I decided to go for it, it turned out to be pretty easy. I just made sure to duck-walk my way through the rut on the right, keeping my feet on the ridges. Then I rounded the next bend, not 20' further down the path:
This was more than I was ready for. I mean, sure, I wanted to give Carolyn a good report and lots of mud, but I also wanted to make it home that day. It was disappointing to have to turn back so soon, and especially after having made it through the previous puddle with so little effort. I crept the bike forward slightly to get a better view and then I felt the front wheel sink in. I became committed, figuring that it would be easier to go forward at that point then to try and back the bike up. I was almost right: I stayed to the right and spun the rear wheel as I powered my way through the mud and water. Eventually, I made it up the other side.
With my rear (street) tire now full of mud, I slipped and slid my way along the route, climbing another rocky hill and then following the path through a grassy field. The horse prints were numerous and I figured that I was probably coming up to someone's private property. Therefore, when the path continued forward through a broken down stone wall and into the forest, I turned around. I had been hoping to find a way "out" without having to go back through the puddle of doom, but it looked like there was no helping it.
It didn't go as well the second time. I mistakenly figured that if I followed my existing rut, it would be a quick trip back across the pond. Big mistake! I was barely halfway across when the rear wheel stopped propelling the bike forward. I tried to rock the bike back and forth to no avail. I got off and lifted the rear but not enough to do any good. I was well and stuck.
By now I had worked up a sweat. The helmet and gloves were off and I would have taken off my jacket if I wasn't sure that I'd figure this out soon enough. Eventually I found a stout stick and proceeded to shove/shovel the mud out from in front of and behind the rear wheel. A quick try on the bike told me that I was headed in the right direction. I got off and shoved the mud around some more. I worked the clutch/throttle hard and the bike slowly crept out the other side, rear wheel spraying mud everywhere.
Whew! I think the whole side trip took about 40 minutes, but I was glad not to have to call Dan and have him come help me. Now it was time to get back to the pavement and clean the mud from my tread. Have I mentioned how much I would have loved some knobbies?
I made it through the second puddle and back to the main road without further incident, thinking to myself "Now I only need the gate to still be open and I'll be fine." I rolled down the rutted path to the gravel road and looked out to the gate.
It was closed.
I rolled up to it, looking quickly around the sides to see if there was a way around. Naturally, the builders had anticipated that and blocked both sides thoroughly with large rocks. Brush and mud guarded the way further out. My best option appeared to be the fact that the gate was very tall. I could lay the bike on its side and drag it under the gate, if nothing else. I got off the bike to inspect my options a little closer and that's when I noticed it: the lock wasn't actually locked. I don't know if the guy "knew" I was back there somewhere, or if he just ran out for lunch, or if he simply didn't push hard enough to lock the device. I didn't really care. I unwrapped the chain, opened the gate, pushed the bike through and then put everything back the way I'd found it. Ok, NOW I was free to go!
The rest of the day was quick. I meandered around on paved roads, looking for the empty and obscure ones and stopping periodically to take pictures. I was home by 1pm, bike and gear covered in mud. This one's for you, Carolyn!