Monday, September 19, 2011

Catskill Climbfest 200K Permanent (Ride and Storm Damage Report)

At 6:45 Sunday morning, Don N. and Andrey B. and I met up at the Rosendale Stewarts to make final preparations for our 200K ride through the Catskill mountains as the sun peaked its head out of the trees and cast a golden hue all around. As a newly-minted PBP ancien, we were eager to hear all of Andrey's tales of adventure. Also, since the three of us have not ridden as a group in the year since my accident, it was a great reunion to ride again on this route we all love so much. It was just like old times.

We had to make some route adjustments in the wake of Hurricane Irene and were not completely sure that all the roads we planned to ride on were open, but we were hopeful and enthusiastic on this most gorgeous fall day. The climb out of Rosendale through back roads to the Ashokan Reservoir appeared unscarred by the storm and the view across the water to the Catskills high peaks made us eager to get up into the mountains, yet we had to make our first detour on the way to Palenville to avoid a washed out bridge.

After taking a few photos, we were back on the road and arrived at the first control for coffee and muffins within minutes. We found that there was a lane closed for repairs half way up the savage 23A climb, but other than a general lack of fitness, I did not suffer anything unusual. It was on the descent into Phoenicia, though, that the storm devastation became more obvious. Pavement was ripped up, trees upended along the river, debris caught high in tree branches and several bridges were washed out.

We knew from our research that Frost Valley-Oliverea Road was out of the question. It will be some time before the 50 ft. chasm is healed. This video below will help you understand why we didn't just walk around. More coverage of the damage on that road can also be found here.

So instead of heading north from Phoenicia to Frost Valley, we road south towards the Ashokan reservoir and Peekamoose Road, which we would need to take west rather than east as we normally do on this permanent. This would involve a climb that none of us will soon forget. As we began our long ascent, we began to notice more severe damage along the riverbank beside the road and after a few miles, came upon a sign that read "Road Closed: Local Traffic Only." The sign was a bit ominous, as we were riding on the only route open to the town of Grahamsville and the 4th control, yet we pushed on. Each time we rounded a turn we'd see orange traffic pylons ahead and imagined them marking the "end of the road" for our permanent. Soon it was upon us, the dreaded 25% climb known locally as "the wall."

At the top of the climb, we paused for a brief moment and after acknowledging that the major climbing was behind us, headed off to the Grahamsville Deli and lunch.  What lay ahead looked more like the result of a bombing campaign than a rain storm.

With both sides of the road crumbling off into the abyss, we could see why the road was labelled "closed." While down to one lane in many spots, we were able to navigate all the way through the valley, though, and did not need to turn back.

In Grahamsvile, we ordered chicken salad sandwiches all around and after a brief rest departed for the loveliest stretch of road I've been on in some time. The road that hugs the east side of the Rondout reservoir (55A) is shaded, beautifully maintained and smooth as ice. To make matters even better, most of the final 35 miles were downhill making our return quite enjoyable indeed. After about 10 hours of riding, we landed back in Rosendale safe and sound. It was great to ride with Andrey and Don again after so many months and it was great to see that while the storm brought destruction to much of the region, the process of rebuilding and recovery was in evidence everywhere.

Next up: the Vermont Fall Classic 200K out of Burlington on October 1. Anyone care to join me?

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