Chamberlain and Rake Factory Roads

I figured I'd get some miles in today on my bike.  22.3 miles and 1170' elevation gain (according to MapMyRide).  It took 2.25 hrs.  "Woah, 10 mph Mutha, what the hell?  Sounds like you had a rough time of it...."  Yeah, I did. But even though my pace was slow, I have an excuse.  It was a rough ride.

"But ...", you ask, "... at 10mph avg speed what was the holdup?  Legs?  Lungs?"

Neither.  I cruised south to Peacham and then east to Barnet at a good clip on my old Specialized Crossroads, and then at an inspired moment, made a crucial left on something called Warden Road.  Then turned onto something called Chamberlain Road, and then a left on something called Rake Factory Road, then back home.

I knew what I was in for.  For those of you who have any idea what this might've been like, allow me to give you a few ideas of how this route has been transformed by all those massive storms.  For those of you who have no idea what Chamberlain and Rake Factory roads are like, pull up a chair and check this shit out when you have time to read.  Here are a few notes:

1)  The first part of Chamberlain, done in the reverse of what I've done w/ some of you, involved a lovely climb which was at first just a matter of putting the bike in my smallest gear and working it....until I got to the section that was about 150' from the guys house on the long driveway w/ the dogs that came out to meet us.  As some of you may recall, this was where (coming down) I got off my bike and walked it for a while because of the loose and large rocks.  Well, the town used large stones again to repair it after the storms.  They were large and jagged, up to 8-12 inches mixed w/ smaller rocks and dirt.  I had to get off the bike.

2)  At the guys driveway, I headed off into the woods on what's left of Chamberlain Rd.  This wasn't too bad at first - just a little rutted and muddy/soft.

3)  Chamberlain still appears on maps - MapMyRide shows it, in fact shows it splitting into two roads, both of which come out on Rake Factory.  I've been on it three times (or four?) and have never found the 'fork'.  There's zero evidence of it.  In fact the mile or so after entering the woods and leading down to Rake Factory Road was abandoned a number of years ago and last year was basically an ATV/snowmobile trail in the woods, climbing up and over Strobridge Hill in a rutted, muddy, trail.  There's not a lot left of it on that section.  What's left I couldn't ride down, which doesn't mean a lot, but at least I didn't have to carry the bike except in a few short sections.  It could probably be navigated w/ a 4-wheeler with some skill, really aggressive tires and a significant clearance.  Worse than the 'road' condition were the mosquitos, which were thick and swarming.  It was downhill, I had to drag the bike in and out of ruts, and wipe bugs off my body.  If any of you remember the first climb up from Rake Factory Road, I couldn't even ride down that.  Chamberlain has a canyon about 2ft deep meandering down the middle of it.

4) Okay, so I got on the bike about 50' from Rake Factory road, made my left, and within a few minutes was off the bike.  Then on and off again for no more than 100' at a time, until I unclipped my left foot in a mudhole, fell to the right and landed on my shoulder/back.  I was moving forward at no more than 0.1 mph so the impact was relatively easy - kind of laid down hard and took a few rocks against the body - not even a scratch.  Well, there's nothing left of most parts of Rake Factory.  It's completely blown out.  For long stretches it looks like a rocky brook w/ steep banks.  For really long sections near the top the bottom of the 'road' is about 5 - 6' below the original grade.  Much of it is more than 2' deep, but blown out for the whole width.  In the steepest section, the road washed into the woods, which now looks like trees sticking out of a flat plain of mud - no organic forest floor - just trees sticking out of dirt.  I had to carry the bike for about 25 minutes, scrambling over boulders and shredded culverts.  I eventually dragged the bike into the dense woods and bushwacked for about 300 yards.  Unfortunately I didn't have the tool necessary to remove my handlebars - it would've been a lot easier if they were rotated parallel to the frame because the trees were so close together.  Mosquitos, branches, rocks, etc.  I eventually lowered the bike into the bottom of the gully and did some distance on rocks/mud/etc., then scrambled back up on the banks when I could.

5)  With great relief I finally hit Varnum Rd, which is normally a pretty primitive route (not too good in a passenger vehicle - mostly just trucks/farm equipment during sugaring season) but it had been repaired post-storm and compared to Rake Factory was like a freaking paved highway.  A few hundred yards later, made a right on the Thaddeus Stevens Road.  Ahhh, freshly graded this afternoon with ... uh oh, soft material.  The bike sank in so deep I couldn't pedal through it on the FLATS!  Crap.  Had to actually get off and drag the bike on flat freaking dirt road.  Well, even though it's a maintained road, the T.S.Rd is still pretty out-in-the-sticks, so I guess I shouldn't have been surprised when a black bear crossed in front of me and headed into the woods.  My first bear in Danville.  It didn't even look at me.  It just ambled across the road and into the woods.  I got on the bike and pedaled like a motherf**ker, looking over my shoulder repeatedly in case for some reason this bear decided to go into ol' grizzle bear mode.  I know, black bear aren't aggressive.  Right.  Fine.

6)  The last scramble was over the washout that has closed the Greenbank Hollow Covered Bridge, through the bridge, over the chain blocking the bridge from the other side and then 20 minutes later - home.


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