Sunday, January 1, 2012

Learning About A New Area

There was really only two things that I wanted for Christmas.
The first was a new pair of Salomon trail running shoes which I got.
And the second was a new pair of bike gloves - which I also got.
They are a great pair of gloves for this time of year - warm, breathable, full fingered, gel inserts for shock absorption.  I love them.
Most people wear short fingered gloves during the warm weather months but I wear full fingered all year around.
Partly because the short ones give me blisters where they stop at the second knuckle of each finger and partly because I wore them at all times during adventure races.
There were many many times when full fingered gloves prevented my contracting poison ivy (from grabbing at poinson ivy covered tree trunks for balance during difficult trekking sections on trails).
Many times when wearing full fingered gloves prevented serious cuts and scrapes while I was making a grab for something, anything, to help pull myself up and over.........a million different things..........hill tops, cliff tops, rock faces, downed trees, 10 foot high walls.
They were great to absorb sweat, secure hand holds, make a grab for something to stop myself from sliding or falling.
After my first couple of races I never went back to short fingered gloves.
I will need more air circulation when Spring comes so will need different gloves, but at this time I love these new things....................

Late this morning I got geared up, loaded my truck into the bed of my truck and headed out to the base to ride.
The sky was still very blue and although the temperature was warmer than yesterday it was cooler and windy this morning.
There is a change in the air.
Tomorrow it will be very windy and by Tuesday it is supposed to be very sunny and much colder, with highs only into the low 30's.
The cool wind of this morning was both the warning of and the promise of things to come.
I debated briefly whether or not to head for the trails or to ride somewhere else.
Every time I drive out to the base I see multiple dilapidated examples close to the highway of what was once a thriving and huge training base during WW2.
Portions of old stone structures.  Multiple chimneys.  All partially obscured and overrun by vegetation that has taken over the area since the larger base closed down.
They can only minimally be seen during Spring and Summer, but at this time of year and with vegetation greatly down for the season, the portions of structures are now very visible.
I have always been curious about them and this morning decided to park the truck at the golf course, ride across the main highway and head onto old, unkempt back roads, hoping to take some pictures of some of the old structures.
My journey began on gravel road.
This picture is of the road I began on, and I had planned on riding straight for as long as I could, trying to get the lay of the land.
I rode some of this area with LC a few weeks ago but only saw a portion of it.
I do not know the area well at all.
It is filled with a combination of gravel roads and partially paved roads, with multiple mowed green ways shooting off in different directions.
The area is fairly linear.  Not the twisting, turning, switchback filled riding of the mountain bike trails, so I was not concerned about getting lost...............
Heading straight I got only 1/2 mile before seeing this sign, and I reluctantly turned back and turned left onto the first side road I came to..............
I found myself on a flat easy-to-ride road paralleling the main highway, and as I continued riding realized that I did not want to ride too close to the main road.
I remembered from my ride with LC that there were building remnants not far from where I now was, and headed in that direction to see what I could find................
I have no idea what this is, but the area contained multiple small structures and a very large gravel open space.
My first thought was a shooting range, but I don't think so.
No idea..............
On a sunny day I followed roads at will.
I had no idea where I was going but with straight-line roads and grassy trails I realized that I was in the middle of a comfortable and quiet and easy-going ride.
The roads were flat and required little concentration, so I could spend time looking over the area and enjoying the quiet.
It was a good day..............
And then I saw what I had been looking for.
I stood my bike up against a tree alongside the rough unmaintained road and headed into the woods after catching sight of the remnants of old buildings.
Silent reminders of what was once a huge military base.
If you click on a picture it will begin a slide show of enlarged pictures..........
I spent a long time in this area, wandering through the woods, carefully stepping over both downed trees and old rebars and smaller concrete remnants of buildings that were hidden on the leaf covered ground.
I saw other structures on the other side of a deep ditch and headed that way, only to realize as I got closer that the deep ditch was actually a deep stream.
I looked briefly for a place to cross but did not see an easy (and dry) way to get to the other side.
Heading back to my bike I resolved to ride only a little further and head back into the woods again to investigate these building remnants.
I was having a great trip - more walking and picture taking so far than serious bike riding - but that was OK...........
This picture does not do the scene justice.
There are many areas on base that are filled with now leafless hardwood trees.
There are also many areas on base that contain large sections of very tall pine trees.
The mountain bike trails transition constantly from hardwood to pine back to hardwood again.
And so did this area.
After spending a lot of time walking through the woods and checking out what was left of multiple very old buildings I picked up my bike and again headed further down the road.
As I rode past this long section of pines I saw the sun shining wonderfully through the trees.
I rode by it, saw the sun glowing wildly through the break in the trees, immediately braked and then unclipped from my bike, straddled my bike with both feet on the ground and walked my bike backwards so that I could look at the sun reflecting through the trees again.
It was beautiful and I snapped a picture of it.
The picture does not show the beautiful that it was...............
As I continued my slow ride I continued to see more sporadic and individual building remnants close to the old road.
I saw the building below located deep in the woods and stopped riding again to consider what I was looking at.
Unlike the other structures this one looked at though it was still almost complete.
Unlike the other structures it was not located in the middle of forest.
Rather it was hiding deep in...........nastiness.
Thick undergrowth, high weeds, thorny bushes.
Knowing that I was probably going to regret it, I dropped my bike alongside the road and headed in.
I quickly found myself getting clothing caught up on briars and thorns and was thankful that I was bushwhacking only 30 feet and not a couple of miles as in years past.
30 feet was enough.
I got closer to the structure but not close.  It was just too overgrown and I did not feel ambitious enough to go further.
The structure was about 30 feet long and made up of what looked like the remnants of multiple garage bays or storage areas.
Looking over the tall weeds and through the deep woods I searched out another way to approach this building but did not see a way to get closer.
Interesting.  Mysterious.  Unattainable.
Moving on.............
A shot of black-blue berries as I turned around to head back the way I had come...........
My bike.
It is getting old and has been ridden in many adventure races, has been taken apart to get to Alaska, taken apart to get to Wyoming, taken apart to get back to Tennessee.
It's getting old but still seems to be functioning well and like old bike shoes, I am attached to it............
An unexpected and unusually wide open empty field............
I had found this field, and it struck me as so out of place in an area that was filled with deep woods and high weeds.
As I looked around me I saw two signs across and on the opposite side of the field.
Curious to see what the signs said I rode across the field..........
Curiosity satisfied I continued still further.
Long, straight, flat, quiet roads.
Today was being spent doing what I do when I want to learn about an area..............
I took a picture of the white barely-there moon while on the water yesterday and while the sun was glistening at the same time.
The same moon, the same color, the same size, the same blue sky and sunshine while riding on trails today............
As I rode by this sign I initially gave it little interest.
It was a white sign with red and black lettering and I at first thought that it was one of those "stay away from unexploded ordinances" signs that are situated all over the base.
But then I did a double take as I read the sign more closely.
An asbestos disposal site??
I stopped for a brief moment to read the sign properly and then looked behind the sign for evidence of a dumping ground, but only saw deep woods.
Moving on............
One a four chimneys standing taller (but just barely) than the weeds they were now fully engulfed in..............
I finally made my way to the end of this one large section of the base.
Over a period of about two hours I had ridden my bike, walked on roads and trails and through the woods, explored multiple old structures and had an outstanding time.
At the end of one road I made one last stop before turning back.
At the chain spanning the width of this gravel road I dropped my bike, stepped over the chain and walked up to a large and wide open gravel covered area............
I found large piles of rock used in the area for corrosion control, large pieces of concrete and metal, and railroad tracks..............
I had a great ride and a great time in a quiet new place at the base.
In over three hours I did not see another person which pleased me greatly.
As I loaded my bike back into the bed of my truck I looked down at my old bike shoes.
The jet black coating on the outside of them is long gone.
The front half of both shoes is separating from the soles.
As I was bushwhacking through the woods at one point early in my quiet adventures today I tripped on a tree limb that was lying on the ground and I was dumped heavily onto the ground in return.
After I had gotten back to my bike I looked down at my shoes and realized that the sole of my right shoe had ripped further away from the shoe and I now had a big hole in the shoe.
I have a pair of girlie-light-blue bikes shoes that I have not worn in years and that are still in great shape.
I also have a brand new pair of these exact same shoes.  I bought them about three years ago and they are still in the box.
Maybe I don't have another year of wear in these shoes after all.
Maybe it's time to break out a different pair of shoes.

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