Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A SUNNY SUNDAY RIDE AMIDST MOUNTAIN FALL COLORS!

Before I get to the recap of Sunday’s exquisite ride, Gr8SmokiesZeke was very pleasantly surprised and appreciative of the wonderful reference and support received from my friend Jim Artis on his most excellent site “Cycling Experiences.” His October 26th entry resulted in the single largest day of visits to this site since its inception in January 2009. Be sure to stop by Cycling Experiences and visit with Jim, Faye, Silk and their stablemates! Thanks again, Jim!

Sunday’s ride…

My “best half” and her sister decided over supper on Saturday night that Sunday presented an excellent opportunity for some shopping in nearby Asheville, NC. Being fairly bright individuals, the “Wood-man” and I deduced that it would be an excellent opportunity for us to ride to Asheville, have a nice meal, and catch a ride home with the girls. Plans were laid…

Sunday dawned as one of those incredibly beautiful mountain days when the air is crisp and there is still lots of fall color left. This year those days have been limited due to the frequent days of rain our region has experienced. Unknown to us, the recent heavy rains paired with some early freezes and snowfalls in the northern end of our county had resulted overnight in a major rockslide closing I-40 east and west bound 3 miles inside the Tennessee border with North Carolina. Predictions from the DOT engineers indicate that I-40 may be closed for several months in order to complete clean-up. (More on this later…)

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Our Sunday ride began on Ratcliffe Cove Road just outside of Waynesville and took us through Poison Cove Gap to the east.

 

 

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Climbing the southwest side of Poison Cove Gap.

 

 

 

This was a good warm-up and served to reinforce my decision to dress relatively lightly for the day’s ride. We started with temps in the mid-60’s and calm winds. After descending to Stamey Cove Road, we headed into downtown Clyde and connected with Business 19/23 east to Canton. Traffic had been light to this point and we were making good time.

We rode up the slight but long grade of Radio Hill going into Canton, NC in the shadows of the mountain with notably cooler temperatures. Due to the steep slope of the mountain, this section of the road is almost always without sun this time of the year and is one of the first places to freeze with black ice in the winter. The grade is deceptive in that it doesn’t look steep but has just enough inclination to be the site of many an accident in bad winter weather. This day though we were cruising in the upper 50’s so it was just about right to cool down some from the 3 miles or so ride from Clyde.

As is almost always the case, what goes up must come down and we were certainly no exception as we dropped off of Radio Hill into Canton proper. The fast food restaurants and gas stations were busy with Sunday travelers. On the east end of town, we made the final short climb out of town before enjoying a long glide down to river grade riding. This section has numerous manhole covers sitting 2/3rds of the way out into the road so you have to be careful not to crunch a wheel or get a pinch flat.

Once we bottomed out, Mother Nature greeted us with an approximate 10 – 12 mph headwind as we traversed several miles of the old Asheville Highway, a fairly straight road heading east to western Buncombe County.

Ride102509_EastCantonThe “Wood-man’s” shadow takes first wheel…

Just after crossing into Buncombe County, we bore right onto the old US 23. At this point, we’re riding along about the 3rd set of parallel roads that have been built through the years to move traffic east and west. This section of road goes for several miles and is almost all rural/residential with the occasional home business on the side. Traffic is typically very light on this section and offers some pleasant cycling. We did have the pleasure of being “announced” by two small dogs as they joined us in the road for a few moments. The biggest danger they represented was running under our wheels. We apparently moved through their zone of watchfulness to their satisfaction as they returned to their guard stations at their residence. I hate to think what may become of them if they greet a 4 wheeled vehicle with similar bravado.

We eventually head east southeast on the Candler School Road and drop down yet again in elevation to South Hominy. This short section of road included trees draping their beautiful yellow colors across the road and brightened up the entire area.

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Our route eventually tied us back in to Sand Hill Road behind the Enka Manufacturing plant, another major mountain industrial plant lost to the ever changing global economy. At its peak, Enka employed hundreds of WNC people from multiple counties. The company was busing employees to work back before busing became a negative term. This section of road is being re-worked and appears to have the makings of a nice bike lane. Time will tell if that is the case. We followed Sand Hill Road to its merger with State Road 3412, which brought us into West Asheville’s residential areas. This section of the ride is characterized by short but steep climbs and ultimately brought us to an intersection with Haywood Road in West Asheville.

Ride102509_WAshvl1“Wood-man” leads through West Asheville”

Haywood Road then drops down to the French Broad River where we crossed over and began the final climb of the ride up Clingman Avenue by the Grey Eagle, a local hot spot for music, to Hillard Avenue and then cross town to the Block. The Block is recognized as the center of Asheville’s African-American community with numerous restaurants and businesses finding some recent resurgence. From the Block, it is a short climb up to Pack Square and then to Tripps Restaurant to meet the lovely shopping duo of Kathy and Sherry.

Ride102509_Z&WEndZeke (l) and “Wood-man” (r) completing another ride!

Skipping our usual post-ride cold libation, the four of us headed out to Biltmore Park Town Square to try out a new restaurant – 131 Main. The restaurant is located in the recently developed Biltmore Park section off of I-26 near Skyland. We’ve watched the restaurant under construction for some time and were eager to give it a try. We were not disappointed! All of our meals were outstanding and we had excellent service from several of the wait staff, especially Tabitha. My dish was the chef’s version of Shrimp ‘N Grits, a low country dish becoming increasingly popular with local restaurants as they expand their culinary arts into our mountain culture. The grits were creamy and spicy and perfectly complimented by the shrimp. This dish rates highly beside Charleston, SC’s Magnolia’s restaurant, which I’ve always considered the “gold standard” of Shrimp ‘N Grits!

Darn, now I’m hungry…. Gotta go!

Until later,

- Zeke

P.S. To follow this ride on MapMyRide, CLICK HERE!

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