Gravel double

Alternate title: If a bike ride doesn't have a GPS track, did it ever really happen?

***Catching up on last weekend's goings on***

Saturday (3/8):
Finally, finally the weather forecast was semi-favorable, and we made sure to take advantage of the polar vortex's absence.  At the ridiculous hour of 7:00, Chuck, Lori, Bob, Mickey, Justin, and I met up at the Mound parking lot to take on some gravel.  We were planning a pretty relaxed pace, so Mickey took off to get in some extra miles while the rest of us took pictures and waited for Chuck to take off his fender, a job which ended up being a little more involved than he'd anticipated.

Photo credit: BLD Jenkins

The weather, too, wasn't quite what we'd anticipated.  Between the wind and temps that never made it into the 40's, Justin was regretting his decision to wear shorts and I was very thankful for the jacket I'd considered leaving behind.  Luckily the roads in Busch were more sheltered from the wind, and as long as we were moving we stayed pretty comfortable.

We looped around on the gravel roads weaving through the area.  With a five hour ride planned, we weren't too worried about where we went, so instead we just explored, enjoyed the company, and headed where our wheels pointed us.  Lori spotted a new bridge and trail, so of course we had to check that out.  Justin had stopped at the top of the hill when we all rode down; we'd thought he was just shedding a layer or grabbing a bite to eat, but when he didn't join us after a while I headed back up to check on him.  We'd ridden across the bridge and were hanging out right on the other side, so I rode back across it, braving (hey, for me it's brave) the foot-plus drop down from the bridge.  I made it ok, but my positioning on the bike probably wasn't ideal and the landing didn't feel great.

Justin was at the top of the hill working on his bike after the crank had almost fallen off.  He got it secure enough to ride downhill, and then he, Bob, and Chuck played bike mechanic while Lori and I supervised. Once they had it more or less fixed, we headed back across the bridge to tackle more gravel.  This time I decided I'd just walk my bike down the step I'd ridden before.  Instead of climbing off the bike and walking it down, though, I somehow thought it was a good idea to stand over the bike and walk down still straddling it.  It was a big step, though, and after my front wheel touched down the bike just kept going...and so did I, right onto my back.  It's a little ironic that my biggest fall on a bike is from walking it. I laid there on the ground, laughing my ass off while Bob dug for his camera, telling me, "Don't you DARE get up!"

Bike yoga
Lori wasn't really feeling it after a rough couple days, so she headed back while the rest of us rode on for a while longer.  A big highlight of the morning was seeing a bobcat dash out into the road and then dart back into the woods.  I've never seen one in the wild before.  A lowlight was the fact that my bike seat, which I'd raised the night before, slowly slipped back down until my riding position was fairly uncomfortable and hard on my knees, and because the bolt was pretty stripped out, there was no mid-ride adjustment (I shouldn't be allowed to touch my own bike).  We ended up with around 30 miles for the morning and probably did almost as much hanging out as riding (4:30 total ride time, 2:51 actual moving time).  Overall, while I didn't feel amazing I felt pretty good and was happy with the chill pace, knowing the following day was going to be tough.

Sunday (3/9):

The intersection of Daylight Saving time with a 7:30 a.m. rollout (and an hour-plus drive to get there) left me a little grouchy, and to add insult to sleep deprivation, I the forecast high of mid-50's certainly hadn't led me to expect starting temps in the 20's.  I knew I'd be fine once we got started, but that didn't keep me from indulging in a little facebook whining.

Mickey was kind enough to bring me my own cue sheet, which I promptly forgot in my car, and once we were sufficiently bundled up we headed East on the Katy for a minute before turning onto Defiance Rd. We were riding part of a route he'd put together for a ride earlier in the month that ended up being iced out, and it turned out that a large portion of the route was on pavement.  It felt sooo much easier than all the gravel we've been riding lately, and what it may have lacked in challenge it made up for in quiet rural beauty.

Before long we were turning onto the first gravel road of the day, Femme Osage Ridge Rd.  As nice as the pavement had been, I was happy to be on gravel again. Somehow less maintained roads tend to be even more scenic.

Look...the sun!
Soon after turning onto the gravel we crossed a bridge, and in the water next to it were a bunch of dead birds.  They didn't look like they'd been there for too long, and there was no obvious cause of death.  Weird. If I was a Virtus boy, I'd have a picture of them to put here or have pretended to eat one or something, but I'm a Virtus girl, and so you get nothing. Sorry about that.

The ridge road started out nice and flat, but it quickly became an intimidating (to me) climb.  Usually I manage to freak myself out about uphills and have developed a nasty habit of giving up way too early, but this time I just told myself, "Just do what you can..." and I guess this kinder, gentler approach worked because eventually I made it to the top.  I was pretty happy with myself that I made it to the top.

I may have looked slightly less energetic at the top of the hill than this portrays.
(Photo credit: Mickey)
I'll move over to the sunny side of the road, but I'm not lifting my bike again...
Mickey was nice enough to play blog photographer again (he's so much happier when he hasn't just gone swimming in freezing water), and because the downhill ended up being nicely paved with good visibility and limited curves, I didn't keep my usual death grip on the brakes and ended up hitting 40 mph...a new high speed for me.  Good stuff all over.

My speed PR high only lasted until we hit Schleursburg Rd, with a climb that looked (and felt!) like it went on forevvvvver.  Having made it up the previous big hill made me more determined to stick it out on this one...or maybe I just didn't feel like I could quit on it if I'd ridden the other one.  Whatever the reason, I managed to make it to the top eventually.  Mickey had ridden partway back down to encourage me/ make sure I didn't give up, and he "motivated" me with gems like "Woooo, we're having fun now!" and "Wanna pop wheelies?" while I gasped for breath, and suggested things like, "Wanna fall over and die?"

There was a nice, flat section at the top where I could recover ("Are you moving? Keep pedaling!") before flying down another fun (I can't believe I just said that) downhill.  I am still FAR from brave on hills, but I've made a lot of progress and now can at least keep the braking to a minimum on smooth roads with good sight lines.  On this downhill I hit 43 mph --  a second speed PR in the same ride.  We passed these guys after the hill and had to stop for a picture.  They found us far less interesting than we found them.

 We detoured down Calloway Fork Rd, a gravel road off of Hwy F that looked interesting.  It featured several creek crossings, but unlike our last foray into cold weather creek crossings, Calloway Fork had several new low-water bridges and almost no spots where our tires got wet.  It was another really pretty road, and I lagged behind Mickey admiring the view all around me.  The first 3.5 miles were relatively flat, and the hill started right about when the thick new gravel did.

I slooooooowly made my way up the hill, buoyed by my previous two hill conquests, but I was having a tough time and I really had to go to the bathroom.  Mickey rode back down -- "Almost there! You've got this..." -- and then back up.  I looked past him and the hill only seemed steeper.  Disheartened, I stopped and stood over my bike catching my breath.  Resigned at first to walking the rest of the way up the hill, I took advantage of my wimp-out to take a bathroom break and then decided to try to finish riding the hill (which I did).

This was definitely a better hill-riding day than some of the ones I've had lately, but that success was a bit of a double-edged sword.  One one hand, yea I rode the hills!  On the other hand, somehow that made the thought of needing to walk a future hill that much more stressful, and each uphill was starting to feel like a personal affront.  I mentioned to Mickey that I'd be perfectly content to skip Duke and Terry roads.  Pretending he thought I was joking, he led me up Matson Hill Rd (the paved part) to Duke road, reassuring me that it turned out that we were tackling Duke from the "easier" side.

Whatever. Turns out that's like saying giving birth to a 9 lb baby is easier than a 10 lb baby.  It might be true, but they both hurt like hell.  We started Duke at the top of a hill, and never having ridden it I happily asked, "Oh, we're riding the downhill part?!"

"Yes," Mickey replied, and then continued, "you do realize I'm just agreeing with you, right?"  I kind of ignored this part and blissfully sailed down the hill; my bliss was interrupted with the sight of an uphill.  I might have inadvertently taught a couple kids who were playing outside a new word at that point.  Thankfully the hills on Duke were rolling hills.  That was a big help, though at one point I counted a little too much on momentum, didn't downshift soon enough, and had to walk the last 20 feet or so of a hill.  A little later, I stopped a climb maybe 200 feet from the top and walked the rest of it.

Other than those two blips, I rode every hill of the day over our 50 mile ride.  I couldn't wait to go home and upload my Garmin and look at the route.  Unfortunately, it had some kind of software malfunction and lost ALL of my data from the weekend.  In this "garmin link or it didn't happen" day, I guess that means I'm going to have to reride the route (and hills).  In the meantime, Mickey's elevation graph will have to do.
femme osage gravel elevation
His shows like 57 miles bc he rode 7 extra miles while waiting for me, but the hills should be basically accurate.
Definitely a tough ride for me, but riding hills like that is exactly what I need to be ready for Dirty Kanza. Well, that and longer miles.  It's 2.5 months away and I'm starting to get nervous about my lack of long rides.  Hopefully I can kick it into gear pretty soon here.


  1. That picture of you lifting the bike is so cool.

    And Dirty Kanza is coming again! I always love hearing about it and your preparation. You don't let anything defeat you.

  2. Echo AJH - Michael and I were just talking about you guys last night and how awesome you are ... always on great adventures it seems.

  3. And I'll echo both AJH and Jim! That is good gravel! You make me want to run trails! Keep it going Kate, you are awesome!

  4. Love how 50 miles is no biggie to you, excepting the hills. :)

  5. Hi! I have a question for you. Please e-mail me at to discuss further.


  6. These trails look awesome! Where are they at? I think I'm close to you and may have to venture out there!

    Also, I am a spaz as well and would totally fall while walking my bike. Nicely done :p

  7. Great pics Kate! You are going into spring with a nice training base for sure.


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