Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sunny, nice, but with a Google Maps fail

The weather forecast for Saturday looked good -- 4° C and sunny -- and after a foggy early AM, Saturday delivered on its promise. I decided to ride out to Spencer and back, using a backroad alternative on the way there and NY34 on the way back. As Spencer is 180 m above Ithaca, this puts almost all of the climbing into the first half of the ride. The advantage of this: your legs are still fresh and, more importantly, the climbing is on scenic backroads, away from traffic. While NY34 isn't the most busy road and has relatively decent shoulders, it still has a good amount of traffic. Going Spencer to Ithaca, I probably had an average speed of around 30 km/h, making the traffic much more pleasant to deal with.

General ride notes: I left Ithaca on Spencer Road, going parallel to the busy NY13. There is a little foot trail connector between Spencer Road and Buttermilk Falls State Park. If you have a road bike with skinny tires, you'd probably have to walk your bike there, but it's only 50 meters or so. From the state park parking lot you again have to go on little foot trails to get to Sandbank Road. Sandbank Road is the first major climb with a pretty steep grade. Fortunately, the climb is not too long, and once you've reached the intersection with W King Rd, the route continues to go up, but rather gently.

Up on Jersey Hill Road

The next intersection is with Comfort Road, and a few kilometers in from there, you hit the first dirt road parts. The road condition is fairly okay, but I'd recommend at least 28 mm tires and possibly more if it's really wet. (For my ride, the ground was still mostly frozen.)

Comfort Rd, shortly before it turns into a dirt road

Around km 15 you enter Danby State Forest and soon get to an intersection with Bald Hill Rd. Well, actually this turned out to be a T-intersection, with Comfort Road ending. I was rather surprised, since my original plan, made on the basis of Google Maps, was to just continue through the intersection on Comfort Rd. However, that part of Comfort Road does not exist or, at best, it exists as a hiking trail.

This is supposed to be Comfort Road. I see neither "comfort" nor "road."

I've had that problem with Google Maps before. Just compare the following two maps.

View Larger Map

View Larger Map

Lesson learned: if riding on minor roads, also cross-check the existence of roads. My Garmin Topo map had it right (while Openstreetmaps has it wrong, just like Google).

Anyways, instead of taking Comfort Road, I turned left on Bald Hill Rd, which leads you down into Danby. Turn right on NY 96B and take the next right onto Michigan Hollow Rd. Michigan Hollow is maybe the nicest part of the ride. You're following the stream into the state forest on a wide dirt road with almost no traffic. Once again, in wet conditions and with skinny tires you might run into problems. Around km 23 you could turn left on Smiley Hill Rd but this is a "minimum maintenance road" which is not ridable in winter.

Minimum maintenance indeed.

Thus, I just kept going on Michigan Hollow all the way through the state forest. If you keep going further on Michigan Hollow you will eventually reach NY 34. If you don't care about going into Spencer, this would provide a slightly shorter alternative. Instead, I turned left at km 28 onto Signore Hill Road. This, again, is a dirt road and the first part is short but very steep, making my wheels lose traction a couple of times.

Signore Hill will slow you down all by itself

After you've reached the high point, the road follows another stream, providing another very nice part of the ride.

Back in Danby State Forest

Signore Hill eventually connects with Irish Hill and Fisher Settlement Road, leading you right into Spencer.

The valley opening up on Fisher Settlement Road

In Spencer you can re-fuel at the local inn, the gas station, or a supermarket, before taking the speedy downhill route back into Ithaca.

Downtown Spencer

Buttermilk Falls

Odo Wolfgang: 3217 km

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