Friday, February 26, 2010

FINALLY – NEW TIRES MEET OLD PAVEMENT

Well, it took awhile but my new Continental Grand Prix 4 Season tires finally became acquainted with the roads of Haywood County. I certainly wouldn’t go so far as to say that “spring has sprung” here in beautiful Western North Carolina but I can quite positively proclaim that Friday, February 26th, 2010 was a day fit for a ride. The skies were mostly blue with just traces of high fluffy clouds adding contrast to the scene. Mt. Pisgah remains snow capped as does Cold Mountain. I knew by lunch time that I had to get on the road today.

After taking care of a number of tasks mid-day, I was home and getting dressed by 3:00 p.m. I wasn’t in a big hurry because I knew I was going to be riding around the Pigeon Valley and I usually start out at the local middle school parking lot on this loop. I didn’t want to be part of the Friday after school madness so I took my time and let school traffic clear the roads.

I was starting out at a “balmy” 39 degrees as I left the parking lot. I was close to being dressed properly for the cold biting wind that decided to make a brief appearance. I gambled on my feet staying warm without my Pearl Izumi booties. It is a good thing I didn’t have money on the bet – I would have lost. I could tell that I was going to miss those booties within the first mile.

The initial 4.5 miles of this loop is along the Pigeon River on the “dark side”, which means it is heavily shaded by trees and embankments. Along with the naturally moving air along the river, this can be a cool ride even closer to summer. I was pleasantly impressed with the courtesy shown to me by passing traffic. No one blew a horn at me, screamed at me, or threw anything at me. In fact, you’d think N.C. has a 3’ passing lane. I tried to reciprocate the courtesy by waving cars around as soon as it was safe and throwing up a hand in acknowledgement as they went by me. One car contained a young man that appeared to be around 5 or 6 years old. He had a big smile on his face and an energetic wave as his car accelerated by me. Even the work trucks were providing lots of room today.

A couple of observations that I made on the leg “down river” included spotting what appeared to be two terns in a field. While it isn’t unheard of to see seashore birds in the area, it does seem a little early for them to be vacationing in what has become snow country this winter. I also took odiferous note of two star crossed skunks that didn’t negotiate the crossing of the highway successfully.

A sure sign that spring isn’t far away was the Pisgah High boys baseball and girl’s softball teams practicing as I rode by their respective fields. My niece is a junior on the Pisgah softball team so I imagine I’ll be seeing them in action as their games get underway. Last year, I would leave my office in Waynesville and ride my bike to their home games in Canton and then on home after the game. It was a good way to get in a commute and some exercise and still get to see my niece play.

Feb26_BethelField01

(Pigeon Valley field awaiting the spring plowing.) 

The run “up river” on NC 110 was mostly in the sun and I actually broke a sweat. This loop is almost entirely river grade so I was able to work on my rusty spinning muscles both down and up river. The gutters of NC 110 are still full of grit and gravel from the many layers of stone put down on ice this year. It is still early for DOT to be thinking about sweeping up the winter debris. Consequently, I had to ride a little closer to the lane of traffic or actually in the lane of traffic than I normally do on this stretch.

Upon arriving at the intersection of NC 110 and US 276, I still had plenty of sunlight left and, happily, apparently plenty of leg left as well. I intended to cross over to Love Joy Road and get in a couple of small hill climbs and then loop back to my truck at Bethel Middle School. Traffic at the intersection tended to guide me onto US 276 instead so I made a 1 mile run to Bethel Grocery and then south on NC 215 toward Lake Logan.

My first thought was to just ride up a couple of miles and then return on the same route. When I got to my turn around point, however, I was at the intersection of NC 215 and Edwards Cove Road. This road has two decent climbs that I thought might challenge me today as I’ve not been on the bike in close to a month. The longest climb is about .5 mile and averages 9% grade. The second climb is shorter and but has a 11% gradient. Having not ridden this section of road before, I wasn’t sure what to expect other than that I’d learn something about myself today. The short jaunt back over to US 276 was very pleasant and one I’ll definitely look forward to in the future.

Upon returning to US 276, I had to wait out several fast moving groups of workers heading home on Friday afternoon. I had a right hand turn onto a short hill that drops quickly on the backside and can provide a dangerous spot for a cyclist if someone tops the hill too fast. I wanted plenty of room and time to make that short climb. Once over the top, I picked up speed quickly and could pretty much hold my own with the traffic behind me until I turned onto Sonoma Road and the final .2 mile to my truck. On this leg, I was treated to a beautiful almost full moon rising just to the east of Mt. Pisgah. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get an image of it. Well, actually I have an image – I just can’t share it except in words.

Feb26_MtPisgah01(Post ride view from my home looking east to Mt. Pisgah) 

It was a good ride and one I’ve been longing for during these snowy days over the past month. Even ending the ride in 32 degree weather was pleasant! My new tires held up well and didn’t flat or come off the rim or show any negative signs of my having mounted them. It is too early to tell how they will compare to my old ones. I did feel more secure hitting the grit and gravel than I did on my old tires but that could just be me getting influenced by the advertising. Time will tell.

Here’s hoping for some more weather like today.

Until later,

-  Zeke

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