I’d been absent from my favorite riding territory for four months when I heard the call of the chilly peaks of Rappahannock County the last week in December. Kelly Smith suspected I’d be riding the last Friday of the year. “Are you thinking of hitting some gravel”? he asked. Excellent idea, I replied, I’ll bring the Co-Motion and we’ll make something up as we ride out of Sperryville.
Finding black ice in Gid Brown Hollow on the drive out, we decided to reverse our intended course and begin on Woodward Road, which rises from Main Street and turns to gravel as it heads south along the base of the Blue Ridge below Thornton Gap. Soon enough we hit an ice-covered hill, forcing us out of our saddles for a little hiking. No problem. We stayed close to the base of the ridge, rounding Old Rag on Etlan Road and heading up Weakley Hollow toward White Oak Canyon, before riding down the Robinson River valley all the way to Hebron Valley Road.
At Brightwood in Madison County, we turned north, continuing to choose the route as options approached. The tough gravel on Quaintance Road, or the murderous rollers of Round Hill Road? We chose to be murdered.
We’d been enjoying a tailwind long enough when I suggested we climb to the summit of Red Oak Mountain above Woodville. Kelly had been whispering that he could’ve worn another layer in the hazy, mid-30s temperatures that had already peaked. This would warm us: first a mile climb on pavement before a dip into gravel, then the steep 1.4 miles to the top, on slushy, muddy tracks. We walked a couple hundred yards to the summit on ice-covered snow. Sublime: the 270-degree view below a defunct forest fire watchtower. Of course, we still had to roll off the mountain, over tracks that seemed slicker than they had been on the climb.
It wasn’t a terribly long day, but the gravel made us work for our dinner. The pics are here.