I managed to catch some sunshine and no sign of a thunderstorm on the horizon at 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, July 27th as I was finishing up work. Weatherunderground verified my local observations. Nothing in the way of a thunderstorm or shower was popping in Western North Carolina. The nearest rain was in east Tennessee some 2 hours away. IT’S RIDING TIME!
My plans have been to ride parts or all of the Blue Ridge Breakaway metric century route. Tuesday seemed like a good day to catch parts of it. I left out of my office skirting around as much of the end-of-workday traffic as I could and cruised on down NC 209 where my plan was to jump onto Iron Duff Road at the intersection of Coleman Mountain Rd. and Iron Duff Rd. Known locally as the triangle, this was my jumping on point for part of the BBR route, which I have since discovered goes by the name Trout. Hawk, I believe, is the name given to the century ride.
I was about .5 miles into Iron Duff Road and some 7 miles from my office when the first drops of rain began to fall. Ah, a cooling light mist I said to myself! Enjoy. After all, the day is hot and you’ve worked up a sweat getting here.
As I was making the slight uphill climb before dropping down to the river basin, the cool mist was reviving me and reducing the muggy feeling in the air. Another mile down the road, the slightly heavier mist was beginning to resemble something called rain and my glasses were getting wet on both the inside and outside of the lens making vision difficult. Finally, as I slowly descended through the last left hand turn before crossing the Pigeon, I could feel the rain running down my back and my chest and legs were, of course, soaked.
I made the right hand turn onto Riverside and began my trek up river toward Crabtree Church Road. The rain had become quite heavy at this point and I began to worry that my unprotected cell phone and camera might get ruined by the merciless downpour that was now assaulting me. Well, O.K., it wasn’t quite that bad but I was soaked. When I saw the small minnow come flying out of my right shoe, I knew that I was thoroughly soaked. My feet were squishing out water with each turn of the crank only to be replaced by new rain running down my legs and getting filtered through my socks where the never ending loop of water-in, water-out was taking place.
I was basically riding blind by that point because I had nothing dry left with which to wipe my glasses. The few oncoming vehicles added to the rain pelting me as they threw up spray as they passed me by. Surely, that wasn’t a big grin on their faces as they rode on down the river. For 3 miles, the rain was my companion. Gosh, I was having fun!
The rain began to abate and sure enough the blue skies returned looking crisp and clean. The musky smells of the local agricultural lands and freshly mown grass rose up to meet me as I climbed Crabtree Church Road, the second climb of the Trout route. I took a short break at the United Methodist Church at the intersection of Crabtree Church Rd. and NC 209, which will be the site of the first big water stop on the BBR. I needed to clean off my glasses, check my phone for working order, and call the Navigator to report my whereabouts. It turned out she had called me during the little rain event as I now refer to it but I didn’t hear the phone ring.
After giving a short progress report and assuring her I was fine, I returned to the Trout route and made my way to Big Branch Rd., precursor to the climb over Hyder Mountain. I had not ridden up this side of Hyder Mountain. I knew it to be a longer climb than from the Clyde side but not near as steep. I was eager to see what it was like.
The climb started out with a mild grade and surprisingly stayed that way. I was able to stay on my middle ring for the full ascent of the mountain. This is a very picturesque part of Haywood County with family farms lining the roads and the mountains in the background.
After topping Hyder Mountain, it was a swift descent on the steep side of the mountain back down to river level. I took my normal route toward Clyde, NC on Hyder Mountain Road. This section down to Clyde is also part of the BBR ride. At this point, I was about 18 miles into my ride and feeling good so I decided to take the longer Thickety Road path to Canton on my commute home.
As I approached the last steep climb on Thickety Road, I was still feeling pretty good although, by this point, I could tell my legs were tiring. I was drinking and eating my Power bars on a regular schedule because I knew I still had approximately 17 miles to get home. Traffic was light and the air temps remained cooler than before the rain. Getting to Canton occurred without incident until I had to stop at a traffic light at Fiberville Rd.
When I tried to start up, my left calf went into a full fledged cramp and I couldn’t get clipped in. I was scooting, hobbling, semi-gliding my way through the intersection so I could get to the curb and work out the cramp. I feel certain that the onlookers in the intersection wondered what kind of new riding style they were seeing! I managed to get moving again and was alright except for a notable tug in my calf. It seemed that as long as I could spin the crank, I wasn’t going to cramp again.
Finally, I made it through Canton and past the Recreation Park. I was riding up river along NC 215 to Bethel trying to get home. I called the Navigator and politely encouraged her to come down the mountain and pick me up at Bethel Grocery Store. By the 34th mile, I felt like I was spinning about 20 revolutions and having to stop and coast. If the goal of a workout is to achieve a burning sensation, I was having one heckuva great workout! I recall Bob Roll talking about the pros being popped when they started pedaling squares. Heck, I was pedaling polygons at this point!
All good things must come to an end though and the Navigator was patiently waiting for me as I completed my 35 mile trek home. It felt good to get the mileage in and to preview part of the Trout route. It also sure felt good to get in the car with a little wider butt support and then it REALLY felt GOOD to get in the shower! Next up, will be doing the Stamey Cove climb, which is clearly the steepest more difficult climb of the Trout route. We get to enjoy both sides of that climb coming and going on the Trout route. I’ll hopefully get that in this weekend sometime. Tomorrow, I’ll be helping lead our new riders group in town and that will be at a slow leisurely pace.
BRO DAVE SHARES HIS NEW FARGO
Bro Dave is enjoying his new Salsa Fargo out on the west coast. He is giving quite positive reviews to his 29’er and has managed to get in a few rides in between work and being the up and coming new COACH OF THE YEAR in his daughter’s Rec League basketball conference/district/group (not sure what to call it…).
He sent along a couple of shots overlooking the Encino Reservoir and the San Fernando Valley. Here’s hoping he’ll be proudly hoisting a championship banner on the back of the Fargo! Go Coach Bro Dave!