Oh, yes. gravel. Umberto Eco's masterpiece The Name of the Rose begins with a tedious hundred pages of description. To enter a new world, he explained, one should expect to do penance first. So this day's marvelous ride began with a few miles of unpaved Wheats Valley Road. Uphill, not too bad. You're hemmed in by forest, head down, eyes fixed on the road ahead. Walk to the top of Kennedy Ridge, and the white-knuckle part begins. A vast expansive view opens up, but the road demands your attention.
Then, paradise. A gentle headwind becomes a brisk breeze as you work your way up to stud gear and begin to fly. Until you reach the stop sign, pause, look both ways -- and look up. You're under a bigger sky. The cloud cover has thinned, blue patches appear, and fluffy cumulous clouds stroll across the heavens. A little later, you're cruising down 122, feeling fresher and more energized than you did at the beginning of the ride. (well, a caffeinated energy gel may have had something to do with that ... )