Rides We Like: Final Portions of the Fools Classic Route
(2016) I imagined the local cyclists lining up as some sort of motocross start from the eighties. Riders revving the bikes, dramatically staring into the eyes of the rider next to him, inching up toward the starting rope, smoke billowing out of the exhaust pipe. With last weekend’s temperatures barely reaching the teens, I had this image in mind when thinking of the response the locals would have today. It was forecasted to be almost sixty.
I had two roads that I insisted on hitting. It’s been a while since I had an overwhelming urge to head in a specific direction, so it was a bit easier rolling the bike out of the garage this morning. I mounted my bike, mentally revving the handgrips, and inched out toward the road. I was going to hit Stagecoach Road and Smithtown Road, both of the Fools Classic route. These are two supremely beautiful roads giving the Fools Classic its own identity.
Making my way over to the Delaware River I was blessed with a tailwind on a winding downhill route. I forgot I would pay for the tailwind coming back. I didn’t care though; it was just the greatest feeling. The last mile or so before the Delaware River is especially enjoyable as the road winds back and forth, following a creek with dramatic cliffs, waterfalls, and icefalls. This pocket of land hardly gets wintertime sun and it shows. Happily, when stopping to take a photo of the mentioned icefalls, a Good Samaritan stopped to ask if I needed help. This set a positive tone for the rest of the ride.
I’ve remarked about River Road before. This is one of the anxious portions of it. That anxiety feeds the motor that pushes the pedals just a little bit harder. It’s also one of the many portions of the road that seem to be sliding into the Delaware Canal. Luckily I was only asking to borrow about two hundred meter’s worth of length from the ornery motorists. Motorists in these parts are not shy about voicing their opinion toward cyclists. Luckily no cars came along as I made the left turn onto the dramatic Stagecoach Road and picked my way through the newly formed potholes from this season.
I found this road by accident on a long ago exploratory ride. It’s one of my favorite roads to experience. The turn I mentioned scrubs all speed one could use to apply toward the climb. The climb itself, obviously treacherous in winter conditions, is loaded with gravel to aid in cars in negotiating the steep hill. Standing up scrubs more speed as the tires spin out. Sometimes I put in a hard effort on this hill and sometimes I crap out wishing for its demise. Today I felt great. Perhaps it was the warm weather or perhaps it was being on this road, but I enjoyed the climb. I also thought of its thin strip through the woods that makes it feel secluded. That feeling doesn’t last too long.
Crossing a line from paved to gravel, the road and scenery open up. Down the right side of the road is an expansive view of the valley. Trees line the left. The gravel had just a right amount of moisture to make it firm and fast. It’s on this portion that makes it feel like it’s possibly Colorado. The yellow grass and long views of the fields mixed with the coniferous trees deviate the belief one is in Pennsylvania. A failed attempt to photograph an accompanying hawk broke my concentration.
Back down Dark Hollow Road again and this time I swung a right to go up Mt Airy Road. From Dark Hollow it’s steep and uncaring with pockets of ice and frozen gravel thrown in for flavor. The pave here was variable, but a line could be found that matched Stagecoach. Even the gutters were frozen, as this road probably doesn’t see much sunlight either.
At the intersection, riders taking part in the Fools Classic turn left and shelve any belief he is a road cyclist. It’s a steep gravel descent. If one has planned ahead, stashing downhill mountain bike gear in the woods wouldn’t be a bad idea. Every time I’ve descended this, it’s been rutted, difficult, and I’m always hovering over the back wheel. If one hasn’t hit the brakes by the “House For Sale” sign halfway down the hill, one will certainly buy the farm just beyond the sharp left into the sharp right. This is followed by an even sharper right-hand-turn to keep the route on gravel roads, this time on Smithtown. Continuing the other direction brings the rider back to River Road. This is a bike handler's playground.
Smithtown is another beautiful road. It too has a creek along its edge. As a matter of fact, I love this road because of the creek’s unique offering. At nearly its switch from gravel to pave, there is a hut one can stop and refill the water bottles. A sign thanks visitors for not being loud, a small request as the owner has stated conversations can be heard from their house. Look for the white pipe near the bottom of the hut that slings out clean drinking water. Being about 66 miles into the Fools Classic, the bottles may be empty, and this could revive the ride.
I passed over Tory Road, another gravel section to access the bridge sending a rider into Ralph Stover Park. If one looks to the left before crossing the old bridge, it’s roughly the area of one of the known Doan Brothers caves (read about that in my Festive 500 articles). I climbed State Park Road/ Stump Road back toward home supremely satisfied with the day’s ride.
I started thinking people would be going elbows out on the roads to take advantage of the weather. I was hopeful to meet up with a group or another rider to pull me along in some spots. Today I saw two riders. Two. Perhaps the other riders were waiting for a later start time when it was going to the warmest part of the day. Or maybe I took the roads less traveled and that truly made all the difference.