Erinna and I just got in from a fun little road ride. Her folks have been here all weekend and this was our chance to get a spin in. We started by going over to Amboy then River Road, up through the UNCA campus, up into the neighborhoods, up to the Sunset Road area, we tooled around in there for a few miles then hit Old Toll then down Town Mountain. We took a right into the neighborhoods again, back eventually to River Road then Amboy, then on home. Fun, Quick Paced, 90 minute ride.
Here’s Erinna as we ride down the only bike lane in Asheville:
Was that white flash God? Nope, just my brain sloshing around.
Last Saturday Rich, Josh, and I did an awesome, memorable ride. We met at Andrew’s Guyser, took the pavement to the bottom of Heartbreak, went up to Star Gap, down, up, and over the grassy road of death, up Curtis Creek to the Parkway, up the parkway to Heartbreak, and back down to the cars.
30 miles 8775′ climbing
Rich wanted to start at about 6:45 but traffic pushed the start time back a half hour. As we started the rain from the night before was just finishing up.
We had a pretty easy going warm-up, Rich and I were geeking out about his wheels and sharing stories while Josh kept up the rear looking pale as a ghost and smelling like a bum ‘not an englishmans ass’ (thanks Rich). We cruised through all the switchbacks heading to Star Gap and I took the lead heading down to the grassy road of death. That was a bunch of fun, I almost ate it pretty hard once but somehow pulled it together for the save. The alcohol had been forced out of Josh’s system at this point and he was starting to feel good. Dicky started to sprint away testing his new wheels:
and Josh was looking to chase. The pace really started to pick up and we all hammered to Curtis Creek road. That was a mistake on my part. I have to say, Curtis Creekis probably the one place where I can get to the point of having ZERO fun on a bike. Uuhhh… It goes on and on for 9 freakin’ miles of H-A-R-D climbing. Josh and Dicky pulled away from me once we hit the campground. I tried hard but my legs weren’t responding. I guess that’s what happens when you stay off a bike for two weeks. The next to the last day of the TDF was going on and I couldn’t even get an image of Flandis crushing an Alpine climb to help. The first signs of leg cramps did slow me down to a snails pace, though. I tried to keep a positive attitude and did stop not just for rest but also to take in the beauty of whatever late July flower this is:
We met up with a rider that was scoping Curtis Creek at the parkway and he must have seen that I was suffering following those singlespeed freaks. He offered up all the Gatorade and kind words as he had available for us. Thanks man!
Next was just over five miles of Blue Ridge Parkway and it completely wrecked me. There was even a downhill that was a mile or two long but it wasn’t enough rest. As soon as I would put ANY power down I would lock-up. I got off the bike a few times and stretched, ate a gel, and just soldiered on and the five miles were over. Rich and Josh were waiting for me but they had a curfew so I told them to just head on. I figured I would just be holding them up at this point. I decided to not stop and rest and followed them up the hike-a-bike to Heartbreaker. Since I was there and currently my legs weren’t cramping I decided to stay with them for the descent. I go in front and decided I may be able to go fast enough that when they did finally catch me on the climb, I may have had time to walk to the top before they arrived. Well, It worked. I hardly touched my brakes except to steer and blasted down the mountain. I really felt great and as long as I wasn’t climbing, my legs were fine. Dicky caught me after a few photos at the overlook, but he was walking, too.
We regrouped after the second little up and everyone bombed down the final couple miles of Heartbreak. I pulled a few tricky maneuvers, went far far far faster than safe, and chickened out on a 45 degree log crossing. I railed a few more switchbacks with Rich on my tail saw another 45 degree log crossing, and went for it. Ooohh man, that was a baaaaad mistake. My front wheel got over, my rear wheel did not. I went over the bars at a very high rate of speed and landed directly on my face. I got my arm underneath myself just in time to really screw up my elbow, too. I rolled off the side of the hill and came to a pretty abrupt stop. I really am not a fan of getting hurt. I was nauseous, my forearm hurt pretty bad, and I knew I had seen that white flash that means yes, the bell has been rung. I decided it was a good time to take a photo:
Thousands of tiny beads of sweat formed all over my arms after a few minutes and for some reason or another I thought that was pretty neato. Rich helped me after I dropped my helmet down the hill and they both checked over my bike while I checked he helmet for visable signs of damage (i.e. cracks). The helmet was fine and my bike was fine except for the bent seat rails. Whew! That sure was exciting! I haven’t had a wreck like that in a long time. Once my head was on correctly I hopped in the lead and continued to ride like I had something to prove. We all came into the camp at the bottom really hot and Josh missed the tree by inches.
Thanks for coming up and torturing me guys! You’re welcome to come up and drag my sorry ass along wherever you go. Just wait for me at the top, O.k?
another one down, another one down, another one(hundred-fifty dollar part) BITES THE DUST!
The next day I woke up with a slight black eye, and my elbow was swollen and very stiff. I volunteered at the Off-Road Assault on Mt. Mitchell and watched and helped 350 folks do the exact ride that I did plus another 30 miles.
Erinna rode her way into 5th place Open women, 6th woman overall in the 2006 Off-Road Assault on Mt. Mitchell! Way to go Sweetie! Here she is at the start with other bio-squaders Mike Brown, Ben Poss, and Matt Johnson:
Yesterday the Pisgah Area Sorba chapter had a group ride to check out Squirrel Gap trail. Sorba is now taking care of Squirrel from Mullinax to Horse Cove so they decided to get everyone out there. 18 people showed up for the ride with 14 of them doing a cross county shuttle. The route was as follows: 66 jumps->S.Mills River->Mullinax->Squirrel->Buckhorn Gap->Black Mountain down to 276. The shuttle cars were at the bottom of Black mountain but Mike Brown, Kassi, Kristy, and I rode back to Turkey Pen on the pavement.
The ride started at Turkey Pen parking lot at abot 10:30. The group split with half going down the road and half going down the trail. We all met up again at the bridge and headed to Mullinax. It took a little while for me to warm up and as soon as I did, we came to our first stop.
The day would be full of stops to regroup at every intersection. Hey! That’s what group rides are about! Make sure everyone gets to where they are going. Once we got onto Squirrel I was behind a guy from Spartanburg (sorry I forget your name) on an orange blur and Vicki. We were getting into the groove and moving right along. They would try some of the hard stuff and not try some of the other hard stuff. It was fun just cruising along, not trying to go too fast. Then suddenly orange blur guy fell off the side of the trail! He wasn’t able to get his foot unclipped and tumbled down off the trail a good 25 feet or so. I could hear the wreck happening but the scary part was hearing the wreck both continue for more than a second or so and also getting faster and faster until the big thud that signaled his stop. I helped him back up to the trail after a photo or two. He was o.k. except for some lost skin.
There was no checking up until Laurel Mtn. so we were unable to talk about the wreck until then. The group reorganized at that rest and I got in behind Mike Brown. Mike definitely has got his groove back, what? Two years after getting into that horrible crash involving a horrible driver…. Anyway, we picked up the pace a bit and made it up to Cantrell and then Horse Cove rather quickly. We checked-up again there and made sure Kassi was going to be able to make it all the way. She had banged her knee pretty hard.
Here’s a shot of the goup at a rest:
After Horse Cove the trail decends to the Horse Ford. Along the way a bunch of the group was stung by bees. One guy was zapped right under the eye, Gabe was hit three or four times and he’s allergic, and 3 or 4 others were stung as well. I either stirred up the nest or got really lucky because I didn’t get stung. We made it to the Ford and Gabe was looking pretty pale. He took a bynadryl and about 20 minutes later he was feeling spaced out but better. Oh! I’ve got to mention that Gabe was riding this beast:
We then cruised the Buckhorn Gap trail with a nice clip all the way to the steps to the shelter. The group split up at that point with half descending Clawhammer either back to the car for those that were done or to Maxwell for those that were crazy and needed another big ass climb. The rest went up Black Mtn. trail up and over Clawhammer and Black Mountains. The view was spectacular but I sure was getting tired and didn’t take any photos. Once we were over the top Mike and I really worked hard and hauled ass down Black. The top is severely steep with loose rock and sharp turns. I followed Mike’s wheel as best I could. Near Maxwell Mike really stepped it up and pulled away by a good 50 feet. I took my fingers off the brake levers, concentrated, and slowly reeled him back in. That may have been the fastest descent on the WaltWorks yet. The White Bros fork sure does help! Anyway, as we arrived at Maxwell I was moving so fast that I just lifted off the steps at the bottom and nearly cleared the whole set. The final climb was next and that was torturous. Again, I was getting rather tired but once we reached the top I knew to get back in the front, well right behind Mike, for the final descent down Black. The final descent is much wider and faster than the top half. Mike was hitting the water bar jumps and I tried to keep two wheels on the ground. We really railed with Mark following close behind. I wish I had film footage of that run, it’s hard to describe the feeling or how fast we were really going. I was thinking about Return of the Jedi and the motorcycle things the stormtroopers rode on the ewok planet. We were really hauling and it was sooooooo much fun. I enjoyed being behind Mike on his 6×5 travel couch because I could see his reaction to the terrain ahead and adjust accordingly. We passed a pair of riders going up and the downhill was over rather quickly. The run down Black mountain is one of the best in Pisgah and it’s been a looong time since I’ve done the whole length. I’m glad we did. Once we were in the parking lot the 4 of us had about 8 miles of pavement and 1 mile of gravel back to the cars.
Happy 4th of July! My first ride to Mount Mitchell++
Erinna and I had tried once before, about two years ago, to go all the way to the summit of Mount Mitchell (the highest point east of the Mississippi) but we did not make it. I’m not all that into road riding so it took two years but today, we made it.
We had received conflicting views of how long it takes to go from Asheville to Mount Mitchell. That along with the fact that I have to go to work in a few hours we decided to start the ride at the intersection of Town Mountain Road and the Blue Ridge Parkway. We met up with Jay and Monica Curwin, Clint Spiegel, Thomas Minton, and Chris Brown. That’s not a slow group of riders and they quickly left me in the dust. Erinna held back with me and I passed through the three stages of warming up: 1. Sweat profusely and gasp for air 2. Try to breathe through nose, fail, and start blowing snot all over everything. 3. Adjust the chamois, do a standing stretch, and find that comfortable pace. Luckily that didn’t take long and the steepest climb (of the start) was done. Erinna and I got into a great groove and she pulled me the entire way. I just kept her pace, which was a touch uncomfortable, and we made it to Craggy Pinacle ‘7 or 8 minutes’ they said, behind the group. After Craggy Clint hung back with us. The road climbs just a little more and then plummets down down down. Jay, Thomas, and Chris made a break and were really hauling ass. I waited just a little too long to respond but tried my damnedest to catch them. The road starts to roll up and down after that first big descent off Craggy and I was feeling every inch of the climbs. We finally made it to the Mount Mitchell State Park entrance and started the next climb, a four mile mellow hell that didn’t quite live up to the reputation it held in my mind. It wasn’t easy, by any means, but it wasn’t all that steep. That climb goes on and on and on for four very slow miles. I kept Clint in sight the whole way but the rest of the group, Erinna included, were long gone. The most torturous part of that climb is that you can see the top from so far away. The road goes around a bend and there it is again. AND IT’S NO CLOSER THAN BEFORE! Uugh. It was only four miles though and there’s a snack stand at the top!!!! WooHoo!!!! I was so hungry I coulda ate a horst so I did; I ate some ‘beef’ jerky and had a Gatorade to wash it down. I was absolutely astonished to learn that we had made it to the top in 2.5 hours. That’s freakin’ awesome! Oh, I did take my camera and got just a few shots:
Jay, Monica, Erinna, and Chris
Erinna and I. Yes, I’m still riding that old orange Torelli Cyclocross bike as my road bike
We didn’t stay long and decided to not go to the tower since it was a hazy day and we couldn’t see much anyway. That and the best part was ahead! Descending from the highest peak in the East (>6000′) down almost 3000′ to the car. The drop off Michel was super fast. I was hauling. A car let me pass even. But then…. the worst…. most painful…. demoralizing…. series of…. climbs….. Back…. all….. The…….. way………. back……… (Wheee a little downhill) to…………….Cra………….g………..g………….y. Dear lord, why do you have to make me hurt so? What have I done? So I like a little beer. Is that a sin? No, I just need to get on my bike more. Erinna, Monica, and Clint were waiting for my sorry ass at the top and I didn’t stop. I was in such pain and my mind was in such a place that I decided it would be best just to continue on. I did manage to grunt a ‘hello’ as I passed. Then the real fun began. 12 miles of downhill on pavement on a bike with tires less than an inch wide. I don’t know what it is but I S-U-F-F-E-R on the climbs but boy, point that hill down and I’ll push like I’m running from the devil himself. I put it in the big ring and hammered as hard as I could. I would burn out, hang my head, coast, and then find it again. I stood and wrenched at the bike and flew down that hill. Landmarks clicked by quickly: The watershed sign. The overlook. The hard turn. The tunnel and finally the false climb that marks the end of the ride. Past the last overlook and I spot a rider not in our group headed the same direction. I chased and chased but that dude in a bright orange jersey was moving right along. Before I could get on his wheel there was my turn. Thomas was sitting at back of his truck; the others had gone on home. EXCELLENT RIDE! To my absolute amazement Erinna and Monica, then Clint not long after, arrived in a matter of minutes.
I love living in the mountains of North Carolina.
While I’m thinking about it, I’ve got to mention, I’ve been off the bike a bit this early summer. I did some really cool ‘Off-The-Bike’ activities, though:
Here’s a few 10,000s of my closest friends leaving Oysterhead:
This is not a joke. Our 10×20 and one two man tent flew away. Check out this video I found on youtube.com. Watch closely, listen for the gasps, you’ll see a big white tent fly away. That was ours…
And Erinna and I went to the Outer Banks of North Carolina to visit my family on their annual pilgrimage to the ocean
Here’s Charlotte and Emma hamming it up for the camera
Waaaaaaaay back on June 14th Erinna, Wode, Mike R, and I did Pilot Rock to Laurel Mountain, starting at Yellow Gap. Everyone was feeling good during the warm-up and we hammered to the bottom of Pilot. The pace was tough but no-one was complaining so we just got that section of gravel road over with as quick as we could. We took a little breather and started up up up Pilot. I was realling feeling ‘On’. I had a trick up my sleeve (well, in my camelback) and that may have been helping me along. I cleaned everything up to the first switchback and came soooo close to even making it beyond. Two more switchbacks and we were at the humvee section. Three more and we were at the overlook:
It was another beautiful late spring day in the mountains of North Carolina, that’s for sure. We weren’t the only ones on the trail this day. Soon after the overlook the trail gets pretty steep and there is even some slickrock switchbacks. Like I said before, I was really feeling good during the climb and I looked up and saw a teenager sitting down, right in the middle of the trail, in the middle of the next switchback. As I approached he did not get up. Before I got there I noticed the scene was a little weird. There was aslightly overweight lady in a denim dress and sandles, A slightly underweight lady, and a rather overweight man with count them…. 5 autistic teens. The lady in the denim dress was obviously the leader of the group and she was a bit frantic. They had started at the parkway, took mountains to sea to Laurel, took the Pilot connector, and rather than going up Pilot and back to the Mountains to sea, they went DOWN Pilot. Ooops! Wrong Turn! We calmed them down a bit, shared our water, power juice, and food. We offered to walk with them and gave them easy directions out. Denim dress lady repeated the directions to me and had regained her composure before we left them. That was one of the craziest situations ever.
Please people, If you’re headed off for a hike with 5 autistic kids please please please bring some water and a little food and a map. Please do this even if youre headed off with 5 normal kids, 5 adults, or even 5 dogs! You never know when a wrong turn will be made and you’ll be hiking down into the deepest depths of Pisgah!
Anyway, that was something else. We continued up Pilot and we felt like we had done everything we could short of walking them out, which they declined our offer of. Erinna fell behind just a little and as I let Wode pass and catch up to Rischitelli, I realized it was my chance to have a small private moment with Erinna. She rode up and I asked if she thought we had a few moments to ourselves. She didn’t know what to think, I gave her a kiss, took off my camelback, and pulled the trick out of my bag, the fire under my ass all day, I gave Erinna her engagement ring. It was beautiful. I was nearly in tears, she was slackjawed, and we kissed like we hadn’t seen each other in years. It was a beautiful moment. We had been engaged for a couple of weeks already but she didn’t have a ring until then. We kept quiet about it though and met up with the guys at the top. Here’s a photo of my beautiful fiance at the top of the hill:
Next was the Pilot connector to Laurel and then the $2000 descent. Mike was in the lead and we flew down the hill. I was right on his tail, tailgating even, until he did this one move that made him pull away like I was nearly standing still. I wan’t willing to toss myself and bike quite like that and he gained 50 feet on me in a matter of seconds. We hauled ass down to Sassafrass Gap and waited for the others. Here’s mike looking pretty pumped about that downhill as we wait:
Laurel Mountain continues for about 6 miles of downhill back to the car. We were all feeling good still and tried some pretty tricky moves. I cleaned the upper nasty, the crackrock, and the tomohawk rock section. Here’s Erinna climbing through the rock overhang:
And Mike and Wode:
The rest of the ride went by pretty fast. We finished up right at 3 hours which is a respectable time. One last photo from the ride, Erinna showing off her new ring: