Tuesday, November 27, 2012
The past few years my family and other loved ones have traveled to Cherokee, North Carolina for some post Thanksgiving relaxation. Each and every person there...relaxes. Accept, I'm told, for me. I tend to want to use the getaway to get away on my bike. Everyone heads up on Friday but I have to work (Car Business) so I drive up that evening in the dark.
Usually I come prepared to ride the great trails at Tsali. I've written about it in a past blog post HERE.
This year I wanted to try something new. At first I planned to take the Ritchey Breakaway bike and ride a 30 mile loop I worked out on the Blue Ridge Parkway. But I've recently converted it to a cross bike. So I searched for some new trails that connect to fire roads or something. That's when I stumbled onto the "Road to Nowhere". It's an unfinished road that leads out of Bryson City. At the end of the pavement there's a long tunnel and multiple trails.
I arrived in Bryson City at 7:30AM. It was 26 degrees. My eyes watered just thinking about it. I ended up parking in front of Bryson City Bicycles. I didn't know it was there but figured there can't be a better place to start a ride than a bike shop. The folks in the restaurant beside it were gracious enough to let me use the restroom. The smell of bacon and coffee and pancakes was almost too much to bear. But I stayed focused and went back out to the freezing car.
As I rode out of town the lady that owns Mountain Perks stepped out to stare at me. After all, I was wintered up in cold weather armor and riding down the road to nowhere. It seemed as though she and I were the only ones in the whole town. As I slowly rode by I put my hand up and said the first thing that came to mind... "I'll be right back!"
The climb begins right away. You climb an average gradient of around 5% with pitches to 12% but they don't last that long. You can see the top when it gets that steep. It only took me about a mile to figure out I was riding toward the local high school. They were the Swain County Maroon Devils. I new this because I rode past at least 20 signs obviously painted by cheerleaders who were demanding the Devils squash, smash, and otherwise incinerate their opponent. If I were trying to accomplish something great with my time these signs would have provided me some motivation. Otherwise they were just funny.
I rode past mountain side cabins and driveways that probably lead to plush mountain homes with warm fireplaces. I thought about that as I pushed the gears. When I reached the entrance to the National Park I stopped to take a picture of the Road to Nowhere sign. It didn't turn out very well because of the sun light so you'll have to trust me.
Two little old men in a Chevy S10 came puttering up the mountain as I took the photo. We both wondered where the other was going. I never saw them again...
The climb itself was a lot like riding in the Gaps back in Georgia. You climb for a while and then descend and then climb some more. The view was great the whole time mostly because all the leaves were off the trees. There were several cleared viewing areas along the way. The climbing kept me warm and the descents took my breath. Just like the Gaps. Only I have to admit that the views were better. It's around 7 miles of this until you reach the tunnel.
I'll tell you what's funny about riding knobby cross tires on the pavement. They don't go down hill very fast. I never even used my brakes. It was kind of nice. I felt very safe on the decents. The road drops down one final time and crosses a concrete bridge. Then you climb up to the tunnel. There's a place to park and some cars were already there. I listened for the occupants but couldn't here any. Just to be sure I looked to see if any of the cars looked like they had been there all night. Nope, no frost on the windows. Those people are here somewhere.?
The tunnel was... spooky. I stopped short of it because I wanted to make a video of my very first time through it... not a pre-scouted reality TV type of video. When you watch it there's some things you should know. First, it really was pitch black. The only way I kept my bearings was to keep looking at the light at the end. Second, I was actually worried. Really. But not until the lights went out. Then all the worst horror movie thoughts ran through my head. Were there holes in the tunnel? Were there bears in the tunnel? Were there banjo pickers in the tunnel? It's probably why I kept talking. So everything in the tunnel would know I was videoing. Here... watch for yourself.
After making it through the tunnel I felt great. Invincible even!
When the road ended abruptly there was only one choice. The trails. So I headed on in to see what else the mountain had in store for me. After only a mile or so I wanted some food. I parked the Ritchey and sat down for a Cliff Bar. Peanut Butter Cliff Bar. Oh yeah.
It was nice and quiet. I listened for signs of life but it was just me and my bike hanging out in the Smokey Mountains. The weather was still in the 20's so I didn't shed any clothes but the sunlight made me feel good about my solitary situation.
After my meal I headed around what is known as the Gold Mine Loop Trail. I kept a sharp eye out for hikers and made my way around and back to the tunnel. The trail was smooth and fast but covered with leaves so I took my time.
That was fun. I'll bet it's not nearly as much fun if the trails are full of people but on a cold winter day this ride was perfect.
I made my way back down the mountain which by the way is just as hard as getting up there. You all know that in cycling... what goes down, must go back up. All the decents that froze my toes were now climbs that kept me warm. But just like a mountain bike trail is totally different when you ride it backward... the ride back to Bryson City was a new reward. It's times like that I love my hobby so much by comparison.
When I rolled back into town the bike shop was open. They had placed bikes outside and the place looked busy. I put my stuff up and fixed a recovery bottle and moseyed over to see what they had in there.
At first glance is looks pretty typical for a local bike shop. I expected a "beach" bike shop full of rentals and "laymen" bike wears. But what I got was specifically sought out items by the owners who are real bike enthusiasts.
Diane and Andy showed me a number of cool things they carried and explained why they carry them. As a small business owner myself I loved their passion for doing good business. Two things peaked my interest: Diane showed me a trunk strap that sticks out from your closed liftgate so you can loop your locking cable through it. Andy showed me the helmets they carry which have a built in light/camera mount on the top. Only $80 bucks if I remember right. These folks were great and really rounded out my adventure. Thanks guys!
I did manage to get a cup of coffee before I headed back to the cabin for a shower and some warm breakfast. The town was starting to wake up.
I think next time I'll head over to Deep Creek and try some roads over there. But the views better be really good to beat what happened on The Road to Nowhere.
Thanks for reading! Remember to wave, be friendly, and single up when you can!
Tuesday, November 20, 2012
I feel like I should apologize to you guys. I went from weekly emails and blog posts to nothing at all. I haven’t organized any rides in a while and don’t get to ride with you guys much these days. The main reason is because I’ve been put in charge of running two dealerships in Baldwin with my cousin Matt. It’s a blessing and I’m glad for it. But my time on the bike has suffered tremendously. Some of you will no doubt be glad I’m sucking wind at the next ride. I can feel the fitness creeping out of my body. For the time being though I need to focus on the great responsibility I’ve been given at work.
I say all that to say this… I’ll be back… soon. But my time right now is limited and so my blog posts will be fewer. The walls of my basement may be the only scenery I see for a while. Which is even worse than riding in the snow. And other than the New Years Ride I won’t be organizing any. I’ll simply be joining them when I can.
Rest assured I will be back to loading my legs with lactic acid as soon as possible once I’m comfortable in my new shoes at the dealerships. I already miss riding terribly. Wait. I terribly miss riding. Well, anyway. I also miss having time to sit and write tales of woe to the cycling world. But give me a few months and I’ll return with a vengeance for all things cycling.
I talked to a guy last week who found my blog and read every story I’ve ever written. Like it was a book. He made me feel really good about it.
If any of you have a good story about some biking adventure you had, please take time to type out the details and send it to me. I will even edit it if you like. The more stuff we get out there about biking in North Georgia the better biking in North Georgia will be. Trust me I’ve attending about 400 seminars and webinars on Digital Marketing and I know how the internet works. Fresh, relevant content is what makes an impression when it comes to search results. An optimized biking community is a plus for our local economy and our advocacy of healthy, bike friendly policies. Heck, we might even earn ourselves some government spending. Not to mention it puts cycling in a positive light to combat the negative rants that may come up first in a search. Example: Google; Kia or Hyundai Gas Mileage.
So what’s coming up that I know about in North Georgia biking?
THE Winter Bike League in Athens will be starting up on December 1st. From then on they will traverse the globe from Sunshine Cycles every Saturday morning at 10AM. I plan to attend as many as my wife will let me do. I need the miles.
Our annual NEW YEARS GAP ride will take place on either Saturday Dec 29th or Tuesday Jan 1st. I’ll be taking requests to determine the exact date so get yours in early. This years ride will feature goodie bag left overs from the Lt. Gov's ride and vehicle support. Plus whatever else I can come up with. A KOM prize perhaps. A Newest Newbie prize. Hmmm.
I’m hoping to do a Cyclo Cross race before I die. The StateChampionship is in Macon on December 9th (Sunday). That sounds like a good time to race cross for the first time.
It's a long way off but in February I'll be attending at least one Hincapie Training Series race and this year I want to do the Southern Cross.
So that’s my schpeel for this post. I hope to have more and more time as the winter rolls on. You can visit my blog for the latest links to all that I am aware of in North Georgia.
Oh and please consider buying your next vehicle from me. I don’t care what brand. You won’t find a better deal. I’ve already gotten my heart right. Send me a new customer (New or Pre-Owned) and I’ll give you $100.00.
Not kidding. $ 100 dollars.
Thanks for reading! I’ll see you guys soon!
Friday, November 9, 2012
This ride takes place in Toccoa, Georgia, a very historical town where the people are quiet and friendly and very patriotic. I love visiting Toccoa and have spent miles and miles on the roads around there. Even on the dirt roads. Especially the ones leading up Currahee Mountain. The history rich area center's around the fact that it was once the home of the 101st Airborn who training at Camp Toccoa in preparation for their defense of our country in World War II. Their story was featured in the movie series Band of Brothers. I've blogged about the Currahee Adventure Race in the past and how cool it is to run up that mountain. But now I'll tell you about a great cold weather road ride that takes place each year from nearby Yonah Dam Park. Visit their Facebook page for some great photos!
At registration, DeLisa Christ was way too happy... as usual. Ride Director Duane Mahon was running around like a chicken with its head cut off. And it was the typical temperature in the 30's to start the day.
|Clint and Brent Sanders|
My plan for the ride was the best I could come up with and still take my beloved wife to watch Georgia play football later that afternoon in Athens. The 100 mile riders would be leaving at 9AM while the rest would leave at 10AM. I needed the early start and a shorter route. Fortunately I was in Sander's Drugs earlier in the week and learned that owner Clint Sander's would be riding the 42 mile route at 9AM with his brother Brent. That was perfect for me! A ride with some good folks instead of all by myself.
|Photo by Robin Lindsay Dake|
My chosen armor was less than sufficient for the first hour of the ride. I stood around shivering at the start and quickly lost some fingers and toes on the way out. The road leading out is along the river... and the river is COLD in November! I do admit I'm a real girl in the cold. I thought about getting some good banter going about how cold it was but there were people with less than I had on riding and smiling like homesick polar bears. Brent was one of them. So I only complained to Clint.
We made our way with some of the 100 milers for about 7 miles until we had to turn left. Then we were on our own. We rode along talking about the people who lived here and there. Clint and Brent grew up there so they could tell a million stories about small town "stuff". Of course we talked bikes and racing and food and a little business. It wasn't long before the sun was warming us and I had the perfect clothes on.
We rolled over hill and dale, through old concrete tunnels and across lovely wooden bridges. It was a great day to be on a bike.
After turned off River Road I was in uncharted territory. My phone had no signal. I had no food and one bottle. As we rode zigged and zagged from one turn to another I was very grateful for my company. Clint split a chocolate Stinger waffle with me as my bottle went dry. Then we rolled up on the sweetest rest stop this side of the Georgia/South Carolina line.
I don't know what Clint and Brent had. They didn't exist during this very important time in my life.
The road then went wild. A roller coaster of asphalt leading out to a final climb up where the air was clean. Then we turned around and headed back.
This cannot be.
So I left my companions and began a time trial back to the finish... and the hot chocolate... cookies... classic rock... a massage? Nope. No time for a massage. Crap!
I flew past the brownie SAG again and saw my friend Alex Sloan with a hand full of them. He was leaned back laughing like a big Viking drunk on wine. Only he's like 90 pounds with nary a whisker on his face. Alex doesn't deserve them. He's a Tech grad. I let my dis pare turn to anger and blasted back to home base.
|Music back at the finish was awesome!|
Some notable things happened that I missed because of the way I decided to ride the Tour de Tugaloo. Young rider Dylan Cantrell got to ride with newly signed BMC/Hincapie Development rider Will Richter. What a cool thing! I've often said I wish I would have found cycling at an earlier age. It's great to watch Dylan enjoying the great youth cycling movement going on today. How cool would it be to play football in the yard and have Matt Ryan walk up and play? That's the equivalent of what happens at some of these rides when pro guys show up. Makes me wish I'd gone to the Hincapie Gran Fondo the weekend before and met Cadel and TJ. Blah, Blah, Blah! No use crying over spilt milk.
There were undoubtedly many more memories made at this ride. My own experience has to have been the least of them. You can begin to understand if you'll visit the TdT Facebook page and look at all the photos. I ended up having the best time with Lisa at the ballgame. We have so much fun no matter where we go. Man I love that woman!
Well that about wraps it up for this edition of Chad's News. The remainder of the year will be a smattering of group rides with maybe a CycloCross race mixed in there. Be on the lookout for our annual New Years Ride in the GAPS!