When I was a young boy
Hurt so good
(with apologies to John Mellencamp and G. Green…
Lyrics and song Hurts So Good)
Mellencamp’s refrain was on my mind last night as I finished up another preparatory ride for the upcoming Blue Ridge Breakaway on August 21st here in beautiful Haywood County. I’ve now completed riding the full 65 mile course in advance of the ride day. (Note: This isn’t a race – just an organized ride) A metric century would represent a personal best for me in distance so I’m looking forward to giving it a try.
In my preparatory rides, I’ve been leaving my office and then picking up a portion of the route as I commute home after work. Last night’s ride encompassed Hyder Mountain Road, Clyde, climbing Stamey Cove, and then up to Lake Logan and back to Bethel. All told, I covered 30.5 miles in a little over 2 hours averaging 13.8 mph and climbing a total of 1737’ to a peak elevation of 3112’ at the top of Stamey Cove.
The second water stop of the ride will be near downtown Clyde, NC. A centerpiece of Clyde is the “Big Gun”, a locally well-known monument. We often started our motorcycle rides from the “Big Gun”. All you had to say was “See ya a the Big Gun on Sunday at 11:00” and everyone knew exactly where you were talking about.
After crossing over Carolina Boulevard, riders will begin the climb toward and over Stamey Cove. This was to be my first ascent of Stamey Cove from the Clyde side. I’ve ridden over it many times on both motorcycles and bicycles from the Bethel/Pigeon River side. That approach to the summit is long with a steep jump in grade just before the peak. I’ve ridden escort on my motorcycle in the past for Bele Chere cycle races that used this route. It was when I first learned just how fast someone could go on a bicycle. I recall having to really get out of their way as we descended through sharp hairpin turns after crossing the gap.
In my mind, the climb up from Clyde had to be worse than the approach from the Bethel side. I had images of the steep climb going into hairpin turns and questioned whether I could make it over the crest of the ridge. I could feel my heart rate increasing as I approached the beginning of the ride yesterday and had to work on calming myself down and letting the anxiety become a useful energy rather than feeding thoughts of “you can’t make it…”
I made the first segment of the climb in good condition and then was very surprised to find myself at the hairpin turn I had so worried about. I quickly thought, “Hey, this isn’t so bad. I’ve got this suckered covered.” And I did…
I made my way up the steepest part of the grade, through the curve, and then through another curve… uh, then through yet another curve… I then realized that I still had a long climb to the top. I had been so focused on the energy it was going to take to get through the steep part that I had failed to recall accurately just how long the climb was AFTER getting through the hairpin turn. Oh well… There was no turning around now. I just sat back and spun and mashed my way to the top.
In the image above, Jim and I have climbed up Stamey Cove from the east or Bethel side of the mountain. The background of this image is the section I climbed on yesterday’s prep ride.
I was very happy to descend to the river once I pushed my way through the peak. During the actual Blue Ridge Breakaway, we will get the pleasure of riding Stamey Cove in BOTH directions. The second climb will come at or near the 55 mile mark of the ride.
After crossing over to NC 110, I was passed by a convoy of heavy communication company trucks moving south. They created a significant crosswind pushing me to the boundary of the gutter along the highway. After crossing US 276 and topping the first small climb on Love Joy Road, I came around a corner on my descent and spotted all of those same heavy trucks pulled to the side. I also noticed blue lights flashing and then red lights from the Center Pigeon Fire Department.
As I approached the conglomeration of vehicles, I noted a motorcycle being pulled up a bank and loaded into a pickup. Apparently, a motorcyclist had lost control and went over a bank. There were no ambulances on the scene so I’m guessing there were no injuries of import. The rider appeared to be having a conversation with the NC Trooper on the scene.
After clearing the wreck scene, it was a very pleasant ride to Lake Logan, which will be the site of the 3rd water stop of the day and the turn around point for the metric century riders. Century riders will continue on to the Blue Ridge Parkway.
(top – looking north from bridge crossing Lake Logan; bottom – site of the 3rd water stop and West Fork of Pigeon River)
Calling it a day…
I attempted to contact the Navigator from the bridge via cell phone but the signal in this area was pretty poor to say the least. We spent several minutes saying and repeating back to each other one and two word sentence fragments with me trying to get across the message that I was fine and headed back to meet her at Bethel Grocery Store. For her part, she was repeating back what she thought she was hearing. Abbott and Costello would have been proud!
It was a good ride and I felt bolstered by having the knowledge that I had achieved another new climb. Now, it’s almost time to put all this preparation to work in one ride. I’m looking forward to it! At the end of the day, I can truly say “It hurt so good!”