Well winter is in full swing here in the Mid Atlantic Coast. Time to ride outdoors is limited so you have to take advantage when you can. Last snowfall of 30 plus inches is gone....mostly, so Pete Wolfe and I hit the gravel roads located in his home town of Augusta WV. We headed out to ride to "the fire tower" as Pete called it. Not having a clue, I was game since the temps were in the 40's and the sun was shining! I loaded the Fargo up with a pair of "skinny tires" hoping to make better time on the paved roads than on previous rides with 2.4" tubies..
We left at noon and did a few miles of pavement and gravel quickly getting us to the "starting" point of the fire tower climb. It was clear from the start that mother nature still had a few surprises in store for us. The roads were mostly clear, but in the shadowy areas the gravel was still covered with a mixture of icy patches and snow of varying depths. Pete asked if I was OK with the conditions....well duh we are here to see a fire tower...lets ride! Skinny tires on 20% gravel grades are a challenge, snow covered gravel roads are a totally different animal. Let’s just say there was enough traction for gravel or snow but not both, so a few hundred yards of hike a bike were needed to climb to the top. In the first 7 miles we had already covered 1400' of elevation!
We stopped at an overlook a few miles from the top and took in the view. Pete asked again "are you prepared" as the next big push looked to be totally snow covered. Off we went, Pete even had to push up this piece, LOL. ALMOST to the top we pondered just how much further we had, it was getting late and the temps atop of Nathanial Mountain were getting colder. Riding just a few more feet and there it was, our destination of choice, the 1941 steel fire tower atop of Nathanial Mountain. Elevation at the base just a tick over 3000' above mean sea level. We ate a bite, took a few pics and attempted an assault on the tower. Well at the mid-point the shaky steel structure and my fear of heights ended that assault.
Time to head back, the decent was entertaining! At this point the skinny tire choice with close to 100#s of air made for a ROUGH decent. The advantage was I was able to punch thru the crusty snow and ice and maintain a pretty good line thru the snow vs. the line Pete decided to take. While riding the edge of the gravel, almost in the ditches Pete was making good time. But the ditch ended abruptly and he had to turn into the snowy segment at which point the front washed out and Pete did a 10 style point slide into the snow. Unhurt we finished the decent and headed back to Petes for the day.
22 miles, just over 3000' of climb and 3.5 hours in the saddle made for a good day. The average pace was nothing to brag about, but the view was well worth the effort. Probably back to the trainer for the next few weeks as winter is scheduled to assault us again for the foreseeable future.
Glenn "the Fargo" Murphy