This past Thursday was an up and down weather day. I was watching the skies from my office window for approaching storms while keeping an eye on local radar. Thursdays at 5:30 p.m. are our BICYCLEHAYWOODNC sponsored group rides for new and newly returning cyclists. Our general weather patterns come in over the Balsam Mountain range and I have a great view from my office window of these mountains. On Thursday, it was alternating between dark and foreboding and partly cloudy with sunshine. All the significant weather appeared on radar to be to our northwest moving in an easterly direction. I was hoping we had a nice evening ride in our immediate future.
Thirty minutes before time to leave my office, I remained very hopeful that no storms were going to pop up. As I left my office and headed for our LBS where the Thursday rides originate, I noted black clouds marshalling along the northwestern mountains separating Waynesville from Maggie Valley. By the time I arrived at the shop a couple of other council members had arrived. A 4th member arrived just as the first drops of rain hit. Within 5 minutes, the streets were flooded and lightening was popping all around us and right on top of us. The old trick of counting seconds between thunder and lightening to determine the distance of the storm was useless because the sound and light were occurring within milliseconds of each other. One Mississippi… BOOM!
A quick survey of the 4 of us determined that everyone was willing to wait it out before making a decision to cancel. We checked out radar again and could see that no more obvious storms were nearby. After about 30 minutes, the wind began to drop, the rain ceased, and the heavy thunder and lightening had moved on to the south and east. Seemed like a great time to ride to the four of us!
As no new or newly returning riders had appeared during the storm, we decided to add a little oomph to the ride. Leaving the shop, we headed to the nearby roundabout, took Raccoon Creek Rd. to the intersection of US 276. Of course, we were drenched in the first quarter mile as the roads were still running with water and we were all shooting rooster tails as we rode single file along the roadway.
Crymes Cove Road was our first climb of the day. It is a 13% grade for .75 mile and got all of our heart rates up. The descent had to be taken somewhat slowly as lots of gravel and grit had washed into the roadway from the recent storms. Crymes Cove dumps right into Country Club Drive, which is a deceiving climb. It starts out with only a slight grade but then jumps up in the last quarter mile to around 9% or 10% to the crest of the ridgeline.
Following another descent and traverse of a couple of quiet residential streets near the Waynesville Country Club, we were back on South Main, which is a short part of our normal Thursday evening ride. We made our way through the Super Wal-Mart shopping center and then up Hyatt Creek. Hyatt Creek is connected to Plott Creek via Green Valley Road so we made our third and easiest climb of the day. As we came back together at the intersection of Plott Creek and Green Valley, I remarked that we had only ridden 7 miles. Jennifer, our strongest climber, said “yeah, but 6 of them were all uphill!”
The brief stop at the peak of the road provided an excellent view looking east over the valley in which Waynesville proper is situated. The storm had moved on and clouds that had recently immersed themselves in the trees of the surrounding mountains were releasing their tentative hold on leaf and limb and rising back to the sky. What had been a very muggy atmosphere before the ride was now a very comfortable and pleasant upper 70’s in temperature.
From this point, we were riding either downhill or river grade until we made our way back to downtown Waynesville and cruised down Main Street. Being a significant tourist town means that there are almost always lots of visitors to the area and they had certainly vacated their shelters from the recent storm. Sidewalks and store fronts were full of folks making their way to the local eateries.
Our ride terminated back at Rolls Rite. We had ridden only about 12 miles but it was a very good workout that left me feeling quite satisfied and pleased with our effort. On a night that looked as if riding wouldn’t happen, we enjoyed a wonderful outing on two wheels.
It isn’t too late to register for the Blue Ridge Breakaway on August 21st. Participants and volunteers to support the ride are still desired… Charleston, SC police reverse their findings in the death of a Low Country cyclist… Have YOU signed the Pledge? Laura and Ross of the Path Less Pedaled make their way through Western North Carolina..