Tuesday, November 17, 2009

RIDING BEFORE THE RAIN ARRIVES

Today looked to be and was forecast to be the last day before the rains arrived in Western North Carolina. We are facing increasing cloudiness as the day goes on with a 30% chance of rain appearing late this afternoon. One of the aspects of blogging and reading other blogs that I enjoy is seeing how the weather moves mostly from northwest to southeast this time of the year and, more importantly how it affects riding across the country.

The weather that we are getting this afternoon and tomorrow is the system that Tracy, The Springfield Cyclist, was writing about yesterday in his November 16th post. The weather that we’re beginning to get will probably make its way overnight to Fayetteville, NC, which is the home of Jim Artis and his blog Cycling Experiences. So, Tracy’s rain in Missouri yesterday is likely to be my rain today in the mountains of Western North Carolina and we’ll send the whole system on down to Jim in Fayetteville for his Wednesday and Thursday adventures.

As good riding days are beginning to get numbered now, I made sure to take advantage of getting out for a lunch ride today. The ride started under partly cloudy skies and temps in the low 60’s. It was quite pleasant although a fairly significant headwind made itself known at different times today. I’m sure the wind is pulling in the moisture.

As I was riding solo today, I decided for a mix of rural roads with some decent moderate to more significant climbs. My initial route took me across Howell Mill Road out to Business 19 and then back to Francis Farm Road. FFR is a very pretty rural two lane road that runs by the Francis family properties. The Francis family is one of the oldest families in the county and have been influential in the development of Haywood County.

Nov17_FrancisFrmRd_01 (Looking west across Francis Farm Road)

There is one mild to moderate climb on FFR followed by a short descent to Ratcliffe Cove Road. Today, I chose to head back toward town proper so I turned right and took another mild climb before dropping down to the intersection of Raccoon Road. Traffic was very light today and I had large segments of the road to myself to enjoy.

After traversing Raccoon and making a quick turn onto US 276 and then back left onto Crymes Cove Road, I started the most significant climb of the day. Crymes Cove has a 12% to 13% grade for about .75 mile. Climbing this little hill will definitely get your heart rate and respiration rates up! Crymes Cove Rd. terminates in Country Club Drive and yet another climb. Unfortunately, this was my nemesis for the day. I made it just short of the gap before my legs turned to noodles. I dropped into a residential driveway to rest my weary legs and let my heart rate return to something approximating normal. I must have looked worse than I felt because the nice owner came out to see if I was having a heart attack! I assured her I was fine (in between gulps of air) and just needed to catch my breath. I told her I didn’t feel like wobbling over in front of a car or truck in the oncoming lane. After a moment or two, well maybe three, I clipped back in and crossed over the remaining part of the hill.

Shortly thereafter, I had travelled past Waynesville Commons, home of the Wal-Mart Super Store, and was spinning up Hyatt Creek toward the last climb of the day. Hyatt Creek is another one of those 2 lane rural roads that climb up a watershed and through a gap dropping down into another valley. I had not ridden this road in years. What had been mostly small family farms seems to have been taken over by small independent businesses interspersed with the remaining small farms. The gap itself remains free of development.

Nov17_HyatCreek_02 

(Looking south toward the Balsams through Hyatt Creek Gap)

Nov17_HyattCrk_01

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Back where I came from – looking northeast through the gap…)

After passing through the gap, I crossed over the Great Smoky Mountain Expressway and connected with Old Balsam Road. Turning east takes you back to town and onto South Main St. Traffic was definitely busier around the Waynesville Commons area. I then followed Brown Avenue back to Boyd Avenue and then to Main Street before returning to my office for the rest of the work day.

Before getting to Main Street, I had one of those “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” moments. I was sitting at an intersection keeping an eye on fairly heavy traffic moving from left to right plus several cars waiting to pull across my lane of traffic as well. The lead car dead across from me kept sitting there and I’m thinking they were afraid to try and get out into the main stream of traffic. The glare on the windshield prevented me from seeing what the driver’s intent was so I simply sat there rather than making a move that might end up getting me crunched. I wasn’t fully up to the intersection so I expected the traffic would go ahead, make their turns, and clear out. Finally, the car across from me blows there horn and I could detect a motion of both arms of the driver being held up in frustration (apparently with me!) . The driver had been waiting to see what I was going to do! Oh well, better safe than sorry I suppose. I wonder if I’ll get branded as one of those rogue cyclists that never follow traffic rules!

On a more pleasant note!

In my most recent post, I wrote of the 18th Annual Haywood County Motorcycle Parade and Toy Run, which was held this past Saturday. My friend Jim Artis, graciously picked up the story and carried it forth on his blog. Please check out Jim’s account of the events by visiting Cycling Experiences.

I was also pleased to see that EcoVelo selected my image of “Big Ben and the Tobacco Barn” for display in their currently running photo contest. I doubt I’ll win anything but it is nice to see Ben’s smiling face on-line. Visit EcoVelo to see some incredible photography from some real pros and accomplished amateurs. (I don’t qualify as either..) Scroll down to the November 16th images to see “Da Man” in all his Southern Appalachian glory!

Until later and after the coming rain!

- Zeke

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