Van Etten Views

On Friday, I was on my way up to see a concert, when I ran into the first Critical Mass ride in a few years. I did a lap around the city with them, and ran into Max on the way, and I found out he was also headed to the same concert. We rode up to Cornell together and discussed going on a ride the next morning.

I didn’t have much time to put together a ride when I got home. We were looking to find some new roads though, keeping it fairly flat, and looping through Collegetown so I could switch to the road bike. The route pieced itself together as I looked at previous rides and chose roads in between that looked good. It would be 60 miles going through Ithaca, south to Spencer, west to Van Etten, and north back to the west hill in Ithaca.

In search of some new-to-me roads to ride, I created a route late Friday night. I nearly always ride with a GPS, and have been tracking my routes in the region since I started riding here in 2008. I have both digital and paper maps which have been slowly filling in with blue lines as I do more Sunday rides. Usually when I ride by myself, I look over these maps and specifically seek out the places without the lines, in search of new routes and new places to see. Early this year that meant taking the cyclocross bike into the many state forests with lots of surprises with river crossings, riding along snow-melt streams, and generally getting the bike covered in mud. This time of year I’m looking for more road biking routes, and so Saturday turned into a great new route through the Spencer area.

Max and I departed Collegetown at 9:45am with no other takers and crossed over to the newly paved Coddington Rd. The surface is smooth and great for riding on again, but at least so far there is no pavement for the shoulder which is disappointing. In Gridleyville, we turned west where Stewart had previously suggested, before reaching the state highways which typically had shoulders covered in debris with fast traffic too close. We only rode a few short sections of the main roads, and found that the side roads were great quality and definitely worth incorporating into rides in this area.

West Candor road has a dead end sign, but we continued anyway assuming that it was just an older road that had been left unmaintained. It turned out that there is an old wooden bridge that I wouldn’t dare drive across (you can’t anyway, since there are barriers), but could be passed by bicycle. This was the first of many places that we wished one of us had brought a camera for. the road continues as a 10ft wide paved path, but in good condition as it meets with Rt 96. We missed the first quick turn off the state route, but half a minute down the road was another chance so we kept going. My mistake was rewarded with a huge mulberry tree that Max spotted, and we stopped to pick more than enough berries for some energy to continue.

We stopped in Spencer at a grocery store to refill our waterbottles. I originally thought of continuing west to Van Etten before heading north, but decided that going north sooner on a shortcut would show more previously-unseen roads and was a mile shorter. Following Seelytown Creek was Washburn Rd, which is a packed dirt surface that was easily rideable even on 23mm tires – It does climb steadily though! I tried to keep a steady cadence and the GPS read 10.8mph for most of this road until the grade changed near the end of the road.

The new-road routing got more exciting from here. I specifically picked out county roads, assuming they would be nearly no traffic and paved. Maybe a few cars had passed, but I can’t even remember more than maybe two occasions. County Rt 13 climbs initially, but then is all downhill except for one quick climb until 8 miles later in Newfield. In one stretch, we were hardly pedaling and rolling at 28 miles per hour for several minutes. To top it off, the view north was great and lasts for many miles too. I don’t think this road is part of any established club rides, but with few changes this route would be a great addition.

We crossed a river by riding through a wooden covered bridge in Newfield, and reached my favorite routing part of the ride. My goal was to climb as little as possible but end up on top of the west hill of Ithaca. Max pointed out that there were a lot of turns on his cue sheet, and as we approached a steep hill ahead that we thought we’d be climbing, the work before the ride paid off and we turned at the base of the climb. This continued through many turns, as we would see a big climb ahead but turn away before reaching it. Eventually the options for delaying the climbing ended as we looked up Van Dorn Rd., which is not paved at its southern end. I was ready to try another road, but Max said we should go for it, so we climbed Van Dorn. While it was steep and dirt, it was still a good enough surface for road bikes (though maybe not for coming downhill in the other direction).

I rode one mile east on Bostwick, and as the descent starts, I turned north again to get home. Max did the full descent, probably in just a few minutes as the elevation at the end is 800ft lower.

Here’s the route data as we rode it: About 4.5 hours total for me, and just under 60 miles with 4000ft of climbing.


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