Tuesday, August 25, 2009

BLUE SKIES, SMOOTH TAILWINDS, AND THE FLYING COCA-COLA

There are times in the history of this blog when I was writing more than riding. I’ve spent hours perusing the web searching out matters of interest, following favorite pros, or reading my favorite authors. I’ve noticed the imbalance during those times of the writing vs. the riding. Fortunately, for the past two weeks, I’ve managed to swing the balance back more toward riding than writing.

I’ve noticed in the last 3 to 4 weeks that I seem to have climbed above a plateau in performance where I have felt stuck since mid-May. My legs have felt stronger, my gearing has been smoother, and my enjoyment has been greater of late. A lot of this I attribute to riding with the “Big J” and the “Wood-man”. Most of my riding until this July has been solo and it was easier to feel “topped out” or “just worn out” and not tried that last climb or kept up that training pace. When I’m riding with my fellow cyclists, I don’t notice the drain in the legs as much and I don’t give up quite as easy on those climbs as I would if riding solo. I’ve also enjoyed the opportunity to experience riding on someone’s back wheel and not having to break the wind by myself all the time. I’ve been quite impressed with the difference it makes. I’ve also enjoyed my turn at pulling and getting to practice riding in a small group.

I’ve had two really nice rides over the past two weeks. Both were with the “Wood-man”. “Big J” has seen a very welcome opportunity to earn some cash in this difficult economy so his riding time has been curtailed briefly. Ride 1 took us from Waynesville down NC 209 to Upper Crabtree. The branch off of NC 209 was itself 10 miles out and back and that, tacked on to the mileage to get to the cut-off, made for a very nice post-work day 21 miler.

Upper Crabtree is primarily an agricultural area and the road is a two lane affair that rolls through some mighty fine countryside. The ride out is all uphill but until the very end is quite gentle and we were able to cruise along quite comfortably. The only “hiccups” on this ride was an Australian Blue Heeler, who thought he should probably herd us somewhere we weren’t planning on going and a senior citizen, who almost “herded” me into the ditch when (s)he cut back too quickly after passing me as they approached a semi-blind curve. (You may see a map of this ride at http://www.mapmyride.com/route/us/nc/waynesville/946125122389120283. Note this is an out and back route for a total mileage of approximately 22 miles.)

Ride 2 occurred this past Sunday. The “Wood-man” and I left the beautiful Pigeon Valley area of Haywood County and rode across Newfound Road into Buncombe County with a goal of reaching Tripps Restaurant  where we would meet up with our “better halves”.  Riding from Bethel to Canton on NC 209 was pleasant and we passed a number of cyclists out enjoying a beautiful day in the mountains. NC 215 is part of the NC Scenic Byway route. From Canton, we rode Newfound Road over Newfound Mountain. This section of the ride had a grade of 8% as measured by my VDO bike computer. It was a long straight climb to the summit followed by a winding downhill run through the adjacent valley.

We were riding north east to connect to New Leiceister Highway. Once off the mountain and into the valley, riders get to enjoy a straight line run through agricultural area being taken over by developments. As you get closer to the terminus of Newfound Road there are several short climbs and the road becomes increasingly curvy and, at least on this Sunday afternoon, traffic was increasing in numbers and speed. What had been a ride characterized by blue skies and smooth tailwinds got a little more exciting as we got our first “horn blowing, get off the road” type greeting by someone driving way too fast trying to beat oncoming vehicle as they passed us.

Shortly after that encounter, we passed a small convenience store on our right approximately .25 mile before the end of Newfound Road. This section of road is narrow and curvy and the opportunity for traffic to pass was limited as there was lots of oncoming traffic as well. I was riding rear wheel at this point and had noted a car motor revving behind us. Sure enough, this is where the Flying Coca-Cola enters the story. As the car, which I think would have qualified for Cash for Clunkers status passed, a cold white item hit me in the upper left shoulder/arm area and splattered forward onto the “Wood-man”. After realizing that it was a Coke and I wasn’t hurt, my first reaction was to react to the passenger’s behavior with the old “one fingered salute.”

Fortunately, during my recent imbalance of “reading to riding” time, I had enjoyed Bob Mionske’s recent 2 part article on Road Rage and how to respond. His words of wisdom overcame my immediate desire to retaliate and I was able to more calmly reflect that matters could’ve been worse. The drink was in a soda fountain cup and not a glass bottle and it was  not accompanied by the driver trying to swerve into us. Of course, the perpetrators were gone by then and there was no hope of any interdiction.

I was and continue to be struck with the lack of response by the cars following the Flying Coca-Cola. I’m sure that they saw what happened. It was very evident as we were both quite drenched and shaking off the sticky mess at that point. Not a single car slowed to see if we were alright or even offered to go get the license plate number of our “fans.”  Folks just drove on by without looking at us. I imagine they resented us being on the road as well.

We were able to stop at a local convenience store and wash off the sticky mess left by the Coke. We resumed our ride taking some back roads and entered the Asheville area along Riverside Drive where we actually saw an honest-to-God bike lane, a rarity here in the mountains! With just a few more minutes and miles under our belt, we traversed the remaining roads and arrived at Tripps where a fine, fine cold Shock Top awaited us courtesy of our "worn out from shopping “better halves”.

In retrospect, the “Wood-man” noted that the need to clean up from the Coke with the brief stop probably kept us from riding right into the middle of a heavy afternoon rain storm that swept across Asheville just in front of us.  So, the silver lining to the Flying Coca Cola is that we kept from getting drenched and no one was injured in the process! (This Sunday afternoon jaunt covered 31 miles.)

Until later,

- Zeke

Post a Comment