The day began strangely, flimsy and dull as a floor mat. I had no plans, no looming chores. It was shaping up to be the kind of day that gives people bad couch-posture and raises their cholesterol. I put my Surly Pugsley on the car--because it was the bike nearest the garage door--and drove into the mountains. I found myself parked along Mill Gulch road having only glanced briefly at Google maps before leaving the house.
The grade was steeper than is translated in the photographs. Of all the granny gears in the world, the Pugsley has one of the granniest, and I spent some time in that gear and out of the saddle. It took an hour and fifteen minutes to climb what it took seven minutes to descend.
I've never heard a sound like the Pugsley made descending this road at forty miles per hour. The Larry is a 3.8" tire, and on pavement at ten miles per hour it sounds like a vibrating phone might sound underwater. At forty miles per hour, the throbbing of the tires' knobs puts your hands to sleep, everything goes white, and you pass through the wilderness like feedback through an amp at a rock concert.
Before the descent, however, there was dirt. It continued skyward at an impossible angle. Again, you can't tell by looking at the pictures, but this is the kind of hill where if you drop your last Wintogreen Lifesaver, it is gone forever. Should some hapless squirrel manage to get himself in front of that Lifesaver, he will be vaporized into a red cloud of tasty freshness.
Despite what Google's maps had shown, the road dead ended here, and I was just too tired to scale this pitch. I really can't explain how steep this is. I hurt my neck taking this picture.
Feeling a little defeated, I turned around and made my way back to the car--nobody likes to spend more time in the car than on the trial. When I say "made my way," I mean "plummeted on a shrieking rocket while the wind rent my lips to shreds." Seriously. Despite a pleasant temperature I'd estimate at sixty-five degrees, that little spot in the middle of my forehead, just above my sunglasses, was so cold after this descent that I felt my head might crack apart. It was like the worst ice cream headache.
The car's clock told me it was just after noon. The thin, rubbery day threatened to flop upon me once more. You know, I think it has to do with the angle of the sun. In the autumn, the sun's light gets flimsy, which tends to make me restless and sad. For whatever reason, I was able to find the gumption to not drive straight home to sweep out the garage or lie prone on the floor, but instead I turned up Fall River Road and drove past a couple of promising dirt roads until I passed the sign for Rainbow Road. I remembered looking up Rainbow Road a year or so ago when I was planning a trip here:
As it turns out, Rainbow Road is very well suited to the Pugsley. Though it's at times impolitely steep and riddled with pillow-sized rocks, the more air I let out of the Larrys the better they sorted through the mess. Remember that Looney Tunes bicycle with the plungers for tires?
The three-mile climb gets strenuous at times, but there are no hike-a-bike sections. Despite being on a "road," you really get the feeling that you're in the middle of the wilderness. There are cabins and houses scattered intermittently all the way up, but I only saw two people and one dog (separate parties, oddly). This is the kind of place where you feel like you've actually done it. You've stepped beyond the race of rats, beyond your Verizon zone, and into yourself. A mind can forego its preoccupations, and in fact its occupations, and perform that periodic necessity: focusing on nothing at all.
Poor planning usually leads to things like flatting without a spare and having to walk your bike nine miles in the wrong direction while your cell phone is on your bedroom dresser, and spending your last few dollars on a tainted sandwich at Arby's, where you'll spend six hours making little condiment package structures while waiting for a ride. Today, however, there was a pot of gold at the end of Rainbow Road.
If you're wondering what it's like to descend a rocky fire road on a Pugsley, then imagine stuffing fifteen marshmallows into your mouth and then running as fast as you can into the Charmin bear. It's just like that. This was my first real ride on the Pugs. I would put a 3.8" tire around my heart if I could.