Rides We Like: A Double Ascent
(2015) I love the entire concept of camping. Park the car at the trailhead, do the half jump to get the backpack on, make sure the dog’s gear is stowed, and walk into home for the next couple of days. The best measurement as to how far to go involves the ability to not hear the hum of society. Then the bags get unpacked, the tent comes out and the steps toward relaxing begin to melt away. One of my favorite parts is always pulling the tent poles out and watching them unfold one part by one part by one part. It just kept unfolding.
But today we weren’t camping. I sent out an email stating a joke that a ride could go up the three biggest climbs in the area: Dogwood, Shire, and Uhlerstown. Would it be so bad to plunge into the possibility of tackling two in one ride? Eric, Dillon, and myself met at Brig O’Doon’s coffee shop in Ottsville to find out what a ride up Shire in New Jersey followed by an ascent up Uhlerstown would feel like.
The start of the ride was casual enough. For those that have read other rides on creakybottombracket, we wound down to the Delaware River and back up Tinicum Church Road. We plunged down Bridgeton Hill Road to cross the Delaware River and access a scenic cliff-lined road in New Jersey. To the right were dripping shale cliffs. To the left were train tracks and the River. Two groups of riders would zip by. The road was barely a lane wide in places with pull-offs for when two cars used the road.
A couple of rollers warmed up the legs as the pace slowed. We all knew what was coming. Shire’s climb is an interesting one. It’s a struggle to climb but becomes forgettable days later. It would be no surprise to go up it in the morning swearing it off forever only to dream of it at bedtime thinking of the next ascent. Halfway up one remembers, “Oh. That’s why I don’t come here often.”
Shire reminds me of the Mur de Huy in Belgium. It comes complete with a white house on its shoulder to give the climber the belief the struggle is almost over. In truth the struggle starts at the house as it kicks up just like on the Mur. How to describe Shire makes me think of those tent poles. The hill keeps unfolding. It turns right. It turns left. Just like the tent poles. It keeps getting steeper. The breathing gets louder. Trying it seated means constant wheelies. Standing means there are few options remaining. The top comes into view and the hill leads to a steep turn. That road goes up too. The top seems near when there’s one more ramp just for good measure. Collapsing is completely in the realm of possibility. It’s recommended to catch one’s breath before descending. It requires attention.
The route became a meandering and slight descent to Frenchtown. The heart rate calmed down. The sun felt wonderful. The roads were recently repaved so the speed was easy to come by. New Jersey certainly has beautiful roads for cycling.
We walked across the Frenchtown Bridge with Uhlerstown gawking down at us. Its bluffs are visible from the bridge. It looks like a sheer cliff. We remounted and again assumed the slow approach. This is when something new was pondered: Uhlerstown didn’t seem so bad.
Normally it’s a slugfest to climb up this hill. After topping out on Shire, Uhlerstown didn’t have the same feel to it. It felt short. Don’t get me wrong it’s hard. It’s steep. It makes you earn each pedal stroke. However it’s position in the queue made it seem less invincible. We had tangled with its bigger brother and no longer feared the second climb. Before we knew it, we were on top celebrating.
We wound down the back roads of Bucks County again through Game Lands and rural housing. There was still a bit of climbing to do to get away from the river valley but it wasn’t much. We discussed whether there would be cyclists at Brig O’Doon since it’s a regular group ride stop. We weren’t disappointed when we saw several blinking lights on the patio.
We were back from a ride that started as a joke but became a reality. Winter rides aren’t supposed to be too taxing, but this was too good to pass up. It was something new. It was a unique challenge. This was a great way to spend Sunday morning in thirty- degree weather. It made sinking into Brig O’Doon’s deep couch so much more relaxing. Perhaps the hum of society wasn’t so bad from this spot. The coffee was warm, the holiday decorations created great ambiance, and the conversation was relaxing. We didn’t go camping to find relaxation, but we did go up a hill that was like a tent pole constantly unfolding. I’ve already listed more reasons than necessary to reiterate how great the ride was. Perhaps when something new needs to happen again, maybe Dogwood would get added. It’s deep in the woods, too, just like camping.