Friday, October 8, 2010


After several days of coolish weather that in 3 months we’ll be calling a heat wave, yesterday turned out to be an immaculate day. My juices for riding were flowing. My work duties were sufficiently under control for a change allowing me to beat the end-of-work traffic to the roads. I made arrangements with the Navigator to pick up my clothing and laptop at my office and I hit the road.

An omen was about to present itself for my consideration…

When exiting my office, I have two choices: 1) take a busy 4 lane road through town or 2) make a quick right onto a sleepy residential street that has low traffic volume and is connected to other sleepy residential streets where children are often at play and the porch sitters are numerous. Seems like an easy choice, right?

Well, as I almost always do, I chose the sleepy residential street with it’s overhanging oak and maple trees just now beginning to show their fall colors. I was in no hurry to get to Canton, NC some 11 miles away where our weekly BicycleHaywoodNC sponsored group ride would begin. I was still warming up my legs and just enjoying being out in the fine weather. Fortunately, I wasn’t day dreaming as well.

I had ridden one block when I noticed a gold mini-van run a stop sign from a connecting road in front of me on my left. The van didn’t blow through it but certainly didn’t stop either. It's momentum carried it into the street that I was on. Approximately 30 yards further on and in my direction of travel was another crossover street on my right. As it turns out, the van was zig zagging its way across the residential area and I had the unlucky fortune of being headed in an intersecting path.

The van made a move to cut across my lane of travel and apparently saw me at that point. I had already been slowing down when I noted the driver crossing over the middle of the street. Clearly, he saw me and was coming to a stop. I then had plenty of room to get through and accelerated in my original direction. I don’t know what, if any, decision making process the driver was using because he stepped on his gas and began moving directly into me. All of a sudden, he braked hard and ended up crossways across the road. (Did I mention that children often play on these sleepy residential streets?) I realized he was going for it and knew that braking myself would simply put me in his direct path for a good T-bone accident. Fortunately, I was already accelerating and, using skills learned in my motorcycle safety course that are now deeply ingrained, I managed to avoid his front bumper just as he came to a complete stop. As I passed by him, I could see he was scared and holding his head in his hands. Still, it was a close call and now seems to be an omen of things to come…

After a mile or so, my heart rate returned to normal and I was back into enjoying the ride making my way to my usual NC 209 route. Once I got past the always busy Lowes/Tuscola High intersection, I ran smack dab into a headwind that had the flags flying full out. That force to be reckoned with paired with a riding gutter full of small stone and other debris was beginning to wear on my previously cheery anticipation of the ride. Still, I pedaled on secure in the knowledge that I had plenty of time to get to the 5:30 p.m.start of the group ride.

Shortly after leaving NC 209 behind and moving along Richland Creek Rd., a car moved up on my rear wheel and kept pace with me. I could see clearly ahead of me and knew it was safe for them to pass so I move slightly right and waved them around. No go… They wouldn’t pass but kept the same distance to my rear wheel. It wasn’t dangerous just uncomfortable. I came to another straight and waved them around again, Still, no response. They sat there in the same position.

I decided two efforts at letting them around was enough and turned my attention back to the ride ahead. I knew that I had a couple of curves coming up and then a sharp turn onto the bridge to cross the Pigeon River at Hyder Mountain Road. The car maintained its pace with me. As I made the left hand turn onto the bridge, I heard a sound behind me. There is a small bump where the road meets the bridge. I thought the car had run over something because I knew I hadn’t hit anything in the road. With the car so close behind, I couldn’t safely stop. I reached around and felt that my seat bag was still in place and decided to simply keep going as I made a right hand turn onto Hyder Mountain Road. The car turned with me. Thankfully, this was a long straight and I guess the driver finally felt safe enough to pass. It was only a number of miles later that I made the discovery of my missing Planet Bike Super Flash light. The mysterious sound at the bridge was now identified…

The remainder of the trek to Canton was uneventful yet very pretty. I was pleased that I had on my knickers and a long sleeve USA Cycling jersey as it was cool riding in the shaded areas of the roads. I met up with our riding group at the Canton Recreation area. We had a nice turnout of 6 riders, all of whom were experienced riders.

Our ride was a loop through the Pigeon River Valley. Back to that law of averages thing… I’ve been impressed this riding season with the courtesy shown by the motoring public. There has been very little yelling and screaming, blowing of horns, and zero instances of crap being thrown at us. Darned if that wasn’t about to change. Before we had ridden 2 miles, we’d “”enjoyed” a truck sit down on its horn because we weren’t jumping out into oncoming traffic at a red light and exercising our god-given right to make a right turn on red and at least 3 passing vehicles contained passengers feeling a need to yell at us. Thankfully, no one felt the need to launch foreign objects in our direction. The day was so pretty and pleasant I can’t imagine why folks were in such a hurry and so rude.

After making our way to Love Joy Road and leaving most of the traffic behind, we enjoyed a nice spin up the valley as the setting sun was highlighting the surrounding areas in its gentle end-of-day light. The recent two weeks of minimal riding was taking its toll on me as I approached my 25 mile mark of the day. As I live in Bethel, my legs weren’t really seeming eager to ride another 5 miles back down the river and then 5 miles back up the river to ride the additional 2 miles home on US 276.

Once we reached Bethel Middle School at the intersection of NC 215 and US 276, I bid the group adieu with my apologies and headed to the house. The riders headed north to complete their loop and I headed west. By the time I reached the bottom of our mountain road, the sun was well hidden and the temperatures were beginning to cool off. The loose gravel and 16 percent grade got me last night. My legs just didn’t have it in them to start up again after I spun out and ended up on a grassy section beside our road. Walking up the remainder of the road in my cleated shoes was the final insult to my legs for the day. I tried to reward my muscles with a long hot shower once I finally made it to the house.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Even though this particular ride seemed to have a few more trials and tribulations than usual, I wouldn’t change it for anything. Being out on my Fuji CCR3 is still way better than not being out at all. Today, as I write, I’m not as sore as I expected to be after a couple of weeks of light riding. I’m already looking forward to the next ride, which will hopefully take place tomorrow!

Have a great weekend! If you’re in Los Angeles, enjoy your first Ciclovia! Maybe Bro Dave will get out on his Salsa Fargo and send us a first person report on the event… (Yes, that’s a hint!)

- Zeke

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