Sunday, February 8, 2009

February Warmup Allows For Nice Spin Outside

Saturday's perfectly blue skies and mid-60's temperatures made for a very pleasant opportunity to get the bike off the trainer and onto the road for a spin around the Pigeon River Valley. The PRV area is bordered by Cold Mountain and Sugar Top to the east and Ratcliffe Mountain, Pressley Mountain, and Anderson Mountain to the west. Three principal roads (US 276, NC 215, and NC 110) cover the area and provide a very nice network of primarily rivergrade rides. US 276 joins Waynesville to the west with Bethel and Crusoe to the east. Both NC 215 and NC 110 run on a north/south axis. NC 215 borders the Pigeon River on the west while NC 110 is an improved, wide road on the other side of the river.

The PVR continues to be a mostly agricultural area with farming still occurring on the alleuvial plains of the valley. The rich dark soil still provides outstanding opportunities for growing vegetables. A movement of local farmers and growers has begun to advance the cause of purchasing locally grown foods. Seen in this photo are the winter fields where tomatoes and peppers are grown. Most of the loop ridden yesterday features similar views.

This particular loop is one of my favorites as it is easy to get to from my home and lends itself to those times when non-cycling demands cut back on available riding time. I start at Bethel Middle school and ride along the river via NC 215 to Canton. This approximately 5 mile leg terminates at the Canton Recreation Park where I cut back across to NC 110 for the run back up the river. NC 215 is a fairly narrow road with limited shoulder widths. The traffic count on it varies widely with some days being very quiet while other days are quite busy. Picking your time of day is critical for this leg of the trip as the new Bethel Elementary School has really added to the traffic volume right before and right after the school hours. Still, on a good day, this can be a very peaceful ride along the river. While NC 110 carries more traffic volume day in and day out, it is a wider road with wider shoulders and a gutter that provides safe passage almost the entire 5 mile run to the intersection with US 276. Run-in's with irate automobile drivers seem to occur less frequently on NC 110 than on US 215.

The 10 mile loop for this ride can be completed by turning west on US 276 where the road crosses the West Fork of the Pigeon. A short 1.5 mile run back up to Sonoma Road and then back to Bethel Middle School completes this 10 mile loop. For some extra mileage with an opportunity to do some hill work, riders can cross over US 276 at the NC 110 intersection and continue south on Love Joy Road. Love Joy begins with a slight grade rising above the Pigeon River and continues on to the intersection with NC 215 where the road crosses back over the West Fork of the Pigeon. From there a turn back north on NC 215 leads you back to the intersection of US 276 and completes what is closer to a 15 mile loop of the PRV. NC 215 on this section tends to be busy with lots of traffic so staying alert is critical.

This last intersection of NC 110 and NC 215 is the beginning of the PRV's southern end. It is from this point that the valley really begins to open up and the farming community is apparent. At the northern end of the PVR is Canton, NC, home to Evergreen, a paper producing plant, formerly the largest employer in Haywood County. The quality of the water in the Pigeon changes substantially at this point as the paper production process excretes tannins into the water darkening its color. Major efforts have been made in recent years to improve the downstream quality of the water.

On another note, my RoadID arrived yesterday. I am both pleased with the timeliness of the delivery, the ease of registration and getting my medical information on-line for emergency access, and the delivery speed. My RoadID shipped on February 4th and arrived promptly on February 7th. The quality of the engraving looks to be very good. Now, I just hope I don't need to use it!

Until later,

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