TLDR: 5 Riders, Swamp crossing, Hubert took a bath, I had a flat, great coffee at the Red Rambler, uneventful ride back to Oak Openings (avoiding the swamp). Next Intro to Gravel is back at Original Gravity in Milan, MI on June 1st.
Photos here: https://photos.app.goo.gl/P2F6muQwMyjBRZ137
I awoke at 3am to the sound of rain on my awning. I hadn't planned on wearing rain gear when I set my kit out the night before. Mother nature throws curve balls sometimes, and learning to hit them is part of the fun. The unpaved section of the Wabash was going to be a little soft. My fat bike was still a dirty from the last time I rode it (Brighton Rec in March?), so it was going to need a bath anyway.
I took off from home at 6:30am during a chilly bout of rain. There is hardly a better time to ride than early on a Saturday morning. The streets were empty and by the time I passed through Maumee the rain had stopped. It was just me, the birds, a few chipmunks and squirrels, and eventually the sun, all the way to Oak Openings.
When I arrived at the Springbrook parking lot, Rick and Hubert were waiting for Jody. They planned on going out a little early. I rode up ahead to check trail conditions. Wet, firm, with a few puddles, no problem for four inch tires. Rick, Hubert, and Jody took off and I waited to see who else would ride.
At 9am, it was just Chris and I, so we chased down Rick and crew, catching them just after the Fraker Mill Bridge. Things were going swimmingly until we crossed 109. That's when the real fun began. We started to encounter ankle deep puddles and areas where the grass was a foot or more tall. About a quarter mile from the railroad crossing, the puddles were getting larger and deeper. The final "puddle" looked to be about a hundred yards long. The thing about murky water is that you don't know how deep it is until you're in it. I've seen videos of gravel races with creek crossings and the like and thought, what the hell, let's do this. I said to Chris "I'm going for it. This might be a mistake, but I'm going for it." And so we rode through it, water over the bottom bracket and all. I found out that Showers Pass socks are indeed waterproof. Chris made it all the way to the end without putting a foot down, only to have his front wheel get stuck in the last few inches and putting his right foot down deep into swamp muck.
After this, it was smooth sailing to Wauseon. Kind of. On the way north to the Red Rambler, I noticed my front tire was self steering like crazy and getting bouncy. Something in the swamp had poked through. I picked a hell of a time to find out my sealant was dried up. I was riding nearly on the rim by the time we got to the Red Rambler. I added some sealant and air and the small puncture sealed without an issue. It was time for coffee and pastries. Man, they have good coffee. The espresso brownie bites were great also. I highly recommend making this a stop on any ride through Wauseon. Just try to arrive cleaner than we did. And maybe don't work on your bike out front.
On the way back we caught back up to Rick and company, finding out that Hubert had taken a bath in the swamp. Somehow their bikes were way cleaner than mine and Chris's. Needless to say we avoided the swamp on the way back and strolled into Oak Openings without incident.
Thanks to everyone who came out. The next Intro to Gravel ride is on June 1st, back to Original Gravity to take on Bethel Church Road. This is one of my favorite routes, a route that was put together by Mike Meiser and predates my cycling career.