Saturday, May 31, 2014
Bicycling from Claysville, PA to Wheeling Wv by way of Majorsville, WV May 22-25
May22-25.....53.76 in 5:06....Amidst working around the house and the storage building in Claysville, I decided to throw in a bike ride to see how the legs were recovering after some time off. I started in Claysville, and instead of taking US 40, I headed out PA 231, headed towards West Findley, which is as country as it gets. I knew what I was getting into, because I've done it before, but never with a Garmin to give me elevation changes and other cool info. Immediately, out of Claysville, I hit the major climb of the day, over 300 ft in about a mile, so I never had a chance to warm up and see how my legs felt. They screamed often and loud, but the quads felt pretty strong. PA 231 rolls significantly and often as it rides out through hills of trees and more trees, with some homes.
After about 14 miles, my legs felt good, but I could tell that western PA's hills were tenderizing me pretty quick. I came to Four Season Campground, where we had a permanent sight in the early 90's. I rode around in there, and checked out our old site, and saw how much they improved the place since we were there. After a short tour, it was riding some more ridges, until the big drop into Enlow Fork. The roads are narrow, really twisting, with no guardrails, and the drop off the ridge is so steep that I seldom let off the brakes for long, and I dropped about 500 ft in a little over a mile. It might be the steepest, craziest drop I've done in the entire country.
Enlow Fork meets with Dunkard Fork to form Big Wheeling Creek, which I would follow, more or less for the rest of the trip. As soon as I got to creek level, the Marcellis Shale gas boom in this area became a constant companion almost all the way to Wheeling. I crossed from Pennsylvania to West Virginia on a low water bridge that is unmarked as far as the state border, and you wouldn't know the border unless someone had pointed it out to you. The former town of Majorsville is no longer, but is the Majorsville Natural Gas Processing Plant. The entire town, whose population was only about 25, was now gas works. I am convinced that Wheeling Creek will never flood again because amongst all the dry dams that have been there for a while, the gas company has a huge investment in the development there. They built several bridges that blocked the creek, where we used to put in canoes, and it was no longer passable, unless you wanted to ride through metal tubes, under the bridges. The development continued for miles, and the roads were actually improved, from the olden, quieter days.
Suddenly, the road cut up over the hill towards Wind Ridge, and the improved road conditions went with it. I continued along the creek, though Viola, where The Tradewinds Lounge used to be. It was the site of canoe races and mud bogs back in the day, but now it was boarded up and grown over.
Soon, I came to Viola Hill, which climbed away from the creek, up a hill that was so steep, that I unclipped before starting up, in case I had to stop, or slid in the gravel. I can only remember one time in the entire country where I unclipped because of steepness ( going up to Balboa Park in San Diego) and that was as 150 yard hill, not a one mile hill like this one. Like I said, I knew what I was getting into, but I didn't know that the day would turn into 4000 ft of climbing in 50 miles. Now I know why I was so prepared for anything the western mountains could throw at me. Because, I rode these hills since I was a kid, and really didn't think too much of it, but now I know, these hills are some of the hardest climbs in our country.
The hill ended in the town of Sand Hill, at a church and a cemetery that I was familiar with, and happy to see. Sand Hill is another of the old places with a population of about 25. I rode a ridge for a little while, before bombing back down to creek level. From there, I rolled along near the creek, but never too close, because of all the flooding that occurred before the dry dams were built. I think the last bad flood was 2004, but the old roads were built up on the ever crumbling hillsides, away from the water. At mile 37 of the trip, I was in Elm Grove, which would have been a 15 mile ride had I taken US 40. It was late, and my plans to grab a Coleman's fish sandwich, or maybe a slice of DiCarlos pizza were shot. I headed back east on US 40, racing the fading daylight to get back to Claysville. I thought that I would have a tailwind, after getting periodically smacked by the wind all the way to Wheeling, but no. I got no assistance as I did the steady, imperceptible, climb back to Claysville. I know for a fact that I have ridden this stretch of road more often than I've ever ridden any other. When I turned 30, I started riding the trip to or/and from Wheeling every year. I continued that tradition, at least once a year, every year, until last year, when I was occupied on some other roads.
In the final analysis, my legs didn't finish as well as I had hoped, and my speed wasn't what I hoped, but they started out ok, so I just have to continue active recovery, until my old wheels want to turn again.