Traipsing Tracey

Byrd’s Hill Road in Pawling is hard. It’s about a mile long and dirt and leg-shatteringly, life-choice-questioningly steep near the top. I couldn’t get up it last Thursday without stopping to drop my heart rate below, I don’t know – 300 or so. The dirt was soft, and it’s early season, and I’d just come from Tracey Road.

Tracey Road is one of the few segments around that I have a top ten Strava time on. That time, I did its 1.8 miles of dirt in 6:21. Not bad for a former fat guy. Thursday night, it took me more than 20 minutes. The fast time, the road was firm. Last time, less so.

I’d been warned. “Tracey can be soft this time of the year.”

How bad could that be?

Turning off Quaker Hill, Tracey wasn’t bad. For the first quarter mile. Then it got softer. Then came the sign: No Maintenance Nov. 15 – April 15.

Two wheel tracks were down to the dirt in some spots. The center was comprised of several inches of rotten ice. In the wheel tracks, my 38mm tires sank in sometimes deeper than the rims. In the rotten ice, countersteering was next to impossible and the bike tracked where the front wheel wanted to go. My tracks looked like they’d been made by a drunk. I had to pedal in my lowest gear to move at all. On the descents, I unclipped one foot for safety, and constantly fought the desire to tense up by reminding myself to relax and stay loose.

Going down didn’t seem too likely, but I thought about what might happen if I did, and if I got hurt. No one would drive down this road tonight. Maybe there was cell service. Maybe I’d be the idiot cyclist who died of exposure on Tracey Road.

And then I got to the end of the unmaintained section. The road ahead was brown, potholed dirt and gravel. A car was parked at the end of the road with its window down. The smell from the driver’s cigarette was noticeable 100 feet away. He probably thought I was a fool coming down the ice and snow of Tracey on what looks to most people like a road bike. And I thought he was a fool for smoking, and it made me happy to be in good enough shape to have ridden the shit I just rode and to finish it in front of him.

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About swampyankeecyclist

I'm Andy Engel, just a middle-aged, middle-class guy from Roxbury, Connecticut. I've been married to my best friend since 1988, and we have two grown sons. I like riding bikes, and my biggest accomplishment is the 180K D2R2. I own 5 bikes but my go-to rides are a 2016 GT Grade gravel and commuter bike and a 2016 Specialized 650b hardtail mountain bike. Additionally, I have a 2000-something carbon-fiber Orbea road bike, a 1990-something Specialized Sirrus that's my old dirt and commuter bike and which now serves as a spare and a trainer bike, and a 1985 Ross Mount Hood MTB. All but the 650b have Brooks saddles. I work from home now, but used to commute 32 miles round trip to work by bike year round. I was a carpenter and still love building things, but regular paychecks, insurance, and vacation time lured me into journalism. I've written a couple of books on carpentry, and I've been an editor at Fine Homebuilding, Fine Woodworking, and Professional Deck Builder magazines. Currently, I manage construction events at the JLC Live and Remodeling Show trade shows. Additionally, my wife and I run Transylvania Guest House, an Airbnb. Find us on Instagram. Come stay with us and I'll show you some great cycling.
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