I should probably rename this blog, “What I Did On My Furlough Days Off,” since that is precisely what it has recently turned into. With the 1st Annual Prince William County Tour Of The Towns Century less than one week away, I decided to take it easy on this Monday’s furlough ride and putter about Lake Jackson Dam. My goal was to spin my pedals without too much work, check out the dam and see a couple of side streets that I don’t normally go down.
I did all this and in the process was reminded just how much adventure can occur in a relatively small space.
Almost immediately out the door, I discovered a mechanical problem. My front derailleur was stubbornly refusing to move my chain onto the large sprocket. I recalled how my rear derailleur failed one week prior to the Crystal Ride. Fortunately for me, I don’t need to go to Spain this week so I should have time to fuss with it or get it seen by a mechanic well before Sunday’s century. As it was, I could occasionally convince the derailleur to properly move the chain, so it wasn’t a huge issue on this day.
After about seven miles, I found myself on a stretch of Route 234 that may be my favorite near my house. It’s a gentle downhill for about three miles down to the Lake Jackson Dam. It allows me to coast along at speeds approaching 30 mph. That’s good fun and it certainly was today.
My next excitement came on McGrath Road, a remarkably hilly and rural bit of road that seems out of place next to Route 234 and the suburban sprawl. Although I didn’t want to exert myself too much, I didn’t mind these hills. They were steep but not too long, and it was a pleasant diversion on a nice day.
The ride back down was fun. I passed a volunteer fire department which had a surprisingly large number of cars parked there. Despite the 20 or so cars, the lot was big enough to hold five times that many. I can’t imagine what is going on at VFD 7, but clearly it is substantial.
My next stop was a steep path to the river which I always wanted to investigate but never have. I dismounted and walked my bike down to the river, discovered a great deal of broken glass, a little bit of garbage, and a pleasant view of the dam’s spillway.
I crossed back over the bridge and made my way to my final adventure: Cobb Road. I’d never been down this side street so I took the opportunity to investigate. I quickly found myself on a stunningly steep descent. I immediate began laughing out loud. Passers by (of which there were none) would have thought I was enjoying the ride, but the reality was I was laughing at the realization I would have to climb back up this hill very soon. But first I reached the bottom of the hill and the small creek that was there. Then I climbed a hill on the far side. Naturally, a large truck was behind me at this point. I pushed myself very hard to reach a driveway to allow the truck to pass. Naturally, the truck turned into that driveway, meaning I was still in the way. Eventually, I made it out of the truck’s way, up the hill, then back down the hill, then up the original hill I on which I laughed. The gradient at points had to be around 17%. It’s hard for me to tell for sure because when I am standing on my pedals while in my lowest gear, its hard for me to look at my Garmin’s readout. The last clear number I saw was 13% and that was nowhere near the steepest point.
So much for an easy pedal.
Still, I arrived back on Rte 234 in fine form and began to make my way home. That’s when my tire flatted.
I replaced the tube with little difficulty. It was a fairly typical repair for me in that I couldn’t find the cause of the flat and I was briefly frustrated by my CO2 cartridge not working. After some fidgeting, I got the thing to work and I got the bike back on the road.
About three miles from home, a finch decided to fly next to me for about 50 yards, which was a very unique experience. Sorry, but I did not get a picture of the finch.
So there you have it: a relatively short ride with fast descents, unexpected climbs, pleasant views of the river, a flat tire, and a new bird friend. I’ve had less excitement on centuries.