I talked my Nashville friends Dave and Chase into a gravel ride so I could see some of the route that Dave is planning for the Gosh Darn Gravel Grinder on March 25th. After a night out and a visit to the World’s Most Uncomfortable Futon (which is really saying a lot) I was able to rally with the help of caffeine and protein, and hot sauce and more caffeine. Chase also pulled it together but Dave had an even worse night due to a bit of food poisoning. His real bad luck because he missed out on a great ride. Chase and I hooked up with Nick, Tom, and Greg, one of the other masterminds behind the Gosh Darn Gravel Grinder.

At home, I love the fact that I can ride out of the door and be on gravel roads in 20 minutes. Perhaps there are a few places where that can happen in Nashville but for this trip we took a 45 minute drive toward Memphis to Hickman County, and a little town called Bon Aqua.

Within 10 minutes of wheels down we came to the first creek crossing. As you are riding through 5-inch deep water the pavement suddenly ends and drops another 5 inches. But the fact that you can see that drop and all the smooth rocks below even after 4 bikes have already ridden through gives a small glimpse as to how bon that aqua is. An even better view comes a little bit later. We pulled over to check the map at some sort of trailer camp and I rolled down to the bank of the river. The fish that I saw were only about 6 inches long, but I would rather swim than fish here, then sit around the campfire with a few beers and a flask. I imagine that’s the summer ritual for the folks at this camp. We rode a little further and climbed a small ridge to a bridge that crossed the river. The clear, still water was only about 4 feet deep so no jumping.

This was shaping up to be a fun, not at all aggressive ride. The 5 of us were all pretty comparable riders, which is fortunate. Chase and Dave were trying to intimidate me with tales of this terrain. I have ridden a fair share of gravel and I’ve climbed a few mountains but only once have I combined the two, and that was only a single go. Fortunately I’m a good climber so none of the guys were waiting on me. Riding with your peers is also nice because everyone is part of the conversation. In one particular we established that bicyclists are the drummers of sports, due to the amount of butts that we look at on the regular.

Creek crossings kept coming; some were easy, some the foot went in. On this 45 degree day I was glad to have remembered toe covers. The neoprene, though wet, still provided some essential wind blocking and heat retention so my toes weren’t tingling. I typically ride in street clothes but on this occasion I followed everyone else’s lead and wore cycling gear. My street clothes stayed dry and mudless. When March rolls around I’ll probably be wearing the same gear: wool socks, tights or knickers, long sleeve base layer, long sleeve jersey (might go with thermal next time) and a wind jacket. I have a Bontrager Convertible Wind Jacket so I was able to zip the sleeves off for temperature regulation.

I was riding Bontrager CX-O 700×38 tires. They are a dry-condition tire and I felt a bit of limitation standing up on one of the hills. The rear slipped a few times but after a minute I was able to sit back down and continue up. I’m comfortable riding them again if the weather in March is similar, but we’ll wait and see.

I know I said many variations of “Gosh Darn” through the rest of the 35 mile ride as we took in the beautiful countryside, rocky descents, mended two flat tires, dodged dogs, heard gunshots, saw a group of wild turkeys, and a red fox crossed the road about 50 feet in front of me. After about 2,000 ft of climbing I really wanted the beer at the end of the ride but I had to drive back to Memphis. I’m just imagining how good that beer is going to be when I’m camping out in March.

Here’s some of the GoPro footage from the ride:

Register for the event here:

And delve deeper into the ride on Strava.