Thursday, September 10, 2009

DAYS GETTING SHORTER – RIDES GETTING LONGER

I have been very aware the last two weeks of how the days are already getting noticeably shorter as we head toward the fall of 2009. I know that it is a function of where we are in our trip around the big “light bulb in the sky” but I think I’m more attuned to it this fall because my post work rides have increased in mileage and time during the month of August and now continuing into September. As “Big J” and I wrapped up a 30 miler after work on Tuesday, we were both commenting that it was time to start carrying some clear lens with us because it was actually seeming pretty dark with our normal sunglasses on as we returned to my office, which serves as our current starting point and ending points. In another week, I’ll need a light on the front bar to get home!

Tuesday’s ride was the continuation of a theme – ride northern Haywood County and increase our mileage. From my office, it is a very reasonable 10 miles along Howell Mill Road, US 19, and NC 209 to the turn-off at the old Crabtree Community School. From there, we had a great 5 mile in, 5 mile out late afternoon ALMOST sunset ride through some of the richest farmland around. The Upper Crabtree section is truly representative of Appalachia and some of the great scenery that “outsiders’ get to see in movies like “Nell” and “Cold Mountain.”

The road into the Upper Crabtree cove section is 2 lane paved rural roads that can be busy as folks return home from work. Typically, by the time we are turned around and headed out, we pass very few cars. The ride in is mostly a slight uphill grade with moderate climbs toward the end of the paved section. This, of course, means that ride out is a fun downhill descent that is just plain enjoyable. On this section, you can spot old time Appalachia and signs of coming trends in alternative energy in the form of a wind mill in the gap of Crabtree Mountain.

As with all farm roads, you have to be wary of slower moving farm implements, faster moving 4 X 4’s, and the occasional Australian Blue Heeler, who is in need of something to herd. One particular such dog bears watching as he doesn’t announce himself by barking. He gets down into a low slung aerodynamic tuck with his chin on the ground and his butt in the air. You can just see the tension getting ready to launch him at us. Fortunately, we know where he lives!

Tuesday night’s ride really treated us to some wonderful views as we exited the valley. (I regret not having my camera with me…) The sun was setting and the long waves of light gave the surrounding western and southern slopes a great golden quality. After exiting the valley and turning back south on NC 209 toward home, I experienced a unique sensory experience. We were riding the gutter of NC 209 and I kept noticing this bright illuminating light that had a very silvery quality to it. Next, I noticed to my right our very clear shadows as we cruised along the face of the rock cliff that NC 209 abuts. Normally, seeing one’s shadow wouldn’t be worthy of mention except this time the shadow was on the northwest side of us and that was also the side the sun, were it viewable, would have been as well. As it was there was only rock cliff and NO light source to our northwest. Under those conditions, our shadows should have been on our northeasterly side.

I continued to study the situation and finally realized that a very large billowing cumulus congestus cloud was above us and to our north, which would have been over our left shoulder and to the rear. It was catching the rays of the sun and bouncing them back toward us creating the silvery light that resulted in our shadows pacing us on the wrong side. The light was so brilliant our shadows were easily seen. In the space of a couple of miles, we had gone from wonderful golden sunrays to brilliant reflected silvery light. I’ll bet that not many people riding home that evening in their autos noticed this naturally occurring situation!

A lesson relearned…

This ride also provided me with a relearning experience of another, more embarrassing type. “Big J” and I had stopped at a stop sign to catch a drink and let our legs recover after exiting the Upper Crabtree area. The stop sign was on an ascent as we headed home. Being ready to head out, I clipped my right foot in, pushed forward on the pedal to get my left foot clipped in and…

Well, the next thing I recall is a nice view of the sky from my now prone position on the roadway. Turns out I didn’t get that left foot clipped in, didn’t have the leg strength in my right leg to push up hill and maintain my balance and momentum. Once again, I discovered that GRAVITY WILL PULL YOU AND YOUR BIKE DOWN when you aren’t properly balanced. Oh well, “Big J” lifted my bike off of me, a nice fellow in a passing car slowed to see if I was o.k., and I brushed my butt off and headed DOWNHILL to get my momentum going so I could go UPHILL…

We returned home in a slight drizzle as we rode the shores of Lake Junaluska and made our way back to my office to end our little 30 miler. All in all, yet another excellent ride!

Until later,

- Zeke

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