I’m enjoying a “staycation” this week. Monday I went out and tried for some KOMs and then today (Wednesday) I planned to do a long ride (over 72 miles) in order to meet my June Strava Fondo challenge. Tuesday was just going to be an easy ride with a friend from work, Matthew Weathers.
All that changed Monday evening.
Matthew Weathers and I about to roll out.
Matthew contacted me and asked if we could do a longer ride on Tuesday. His wife was going to be going up to a camp above Rosman, NC to visit a friend. Matthew wanted to ride up to the camp and then come back with her.
Now, I have ridden up to the camp a number of times. What I haven’t done is ride up and back. It would be an over 100 mile round trip with around 7000 feet in total climbing. I was looking to do a long ride this week, but…
I agreed. We would start off from my home at 7 AM and take back roads to keep us out of traffic. We should have no trouble making it in under five hours. Again, my concern wan’t getting there. It was getting back.
Matthew leading us out.
We rolled off with some great weather. It had rained overnight and the sky was still overcast. The temperatures were cool with a slight breeze. It was going to be a great day!
Uneventful ride… except for closed bridges!
Frankly, the ride up was uneventful. The time seemed to go by quickly as we talked business and told stories. We weren’t pushing the pace at all. Still, we were marking the miles in good time.
A deer along the road.
The real work started about five miles from the camp when we turned onto Old Toxaway Road. This final section held a good amount of climbing with some steep pitches to boot. I had made it to this point without feeling much fatigue in my legs, but now I was starting to notice it.
We hit the bottom together and then started up at our individual pace. I was loving my 32, but Matthew was churning away with his 25. Of course, I was running a standard crank and he had a compact.
I looked back to find Matthew as out of sight. I kept checking a few times, but finally decided just to push on at a steady rhythm. I’d just wait for him at the gate.
So, four hours and nine minutes after leaving home, I reached the gate to the camp. We covered 57 miles and climbed over 4500 feet. I think our average speed was around 13.5 mph.
For me the good news was I felt just fine and started to think that the ride back might not be as bad as I thought it might. I just needed to wash off someone of the grime and eat a little bit and I would be a new man. Getting my June Strava Fondo badge would be no problem this month!
We made it!
We pulled up at the lodge and caught our breath. I washed off my bicycle and myself. I sorted through my pockets and consolidated some items. Then I cleaned myself up a bit and wondered what to do about some food.
At first I thought about going into the mess hall. However, I feel a little strange going in there all dressed up in my monkey suit. I decided I would just ride down to Brevard and grab a quick bite before heading back.
I took a different route down. Frozen Creek Road is a better route to take if you are headed for Brevard. It takes you out on Highway 64 and then you just have to deal with the traffic into town.
As I started down Frozen Creek, I started to have second thoughts. Maybe it was because I was stiff from having stopped, but the thought of a long afternoon in the saddle with the sun beating down on me was not sounding fun. Maybe I would skip Brevard and just head home.
I started to empty my pockets including a large cinnamon swirl bagel with peanut butter. As I ate away on it, I felt my strength coming back. Maybe if I finished his off and grabbed something at a store in Rosman, I could let that serve as lunch. I could be home in plenty of time for dinner.
So, I turned off of 64 into Rosman and stopped at an IGA to grab a Yoohoo and a Starbucks double shot with cream. Bagel down and liquids consumed, I was content and happy. I turned my attention to getting to the downhill of Highway 178.
Before I could get there, I had to climb up to the Eastern Continental Divide. It wouldn’t be that long, but knowing I could really let it loose on the other side made me impatient to get there. It seemed to take forever.
Time to head down the other side.
Then it was time. I turned on the GoPro and released the brakes. Looking back I realize that I had only one car come around me the entire trip down to Highway 11. I had the run of the road and it was good.
It was fun to hit speeds of 40 mph, but even more fun that I was covering distance quickly. Making it to Highway 11 would be a big boost. I’ve covered that distance to home many times.
Reaching Highway 11 I could tell the biggest challenge of the day was still ahead. It wouldn’t be the miles. It wouldn’t be climbing. It would be the sun. The clouds of the morning were gone. Highway 288 isn’t known for it’s shade and the temperatures were now up to the high 80s.
I pulled over to the shade of the station. Sitting there checking my phone (first time I had coverage in hours) I was dripping sweat. It was time to get moving again. It was much cooler when I was moving.
My water bottles I had filled at the camp were getting near empty as I passed through Pumpkintown. The way I was losing water, I knew I’d have to keep drinking liquids. Along with my water bottles, I had been nursing an extra strength mixture of Skratch labs mix since starting for home.
Thank you Miracle Hill for the water!
Thankfully, I knew that Miracle Hill Children’s Home was nearby. With just a little water left in one bottle, I turned into the road that would lead me to a picnic shelter on the ministry’s property. I rode past some kids playing in a pool and it looked very inviting! I filled up my bottles at the shelter and now I was good to go!
I kept stopping to take in the views and listen to the cicadas.
Ahhhh, I turned onto Pace Bridge Road and I felt another boost. I was getting ever closer to home. I knew there was still some climbing to be done. I took a look at my accumulated ascent. Hmmmm, I could potentially get up to 9000 feet for the ride.
Next thing I knew I was on Roe Ford Road just outside of Furman. Looking ahead I could see I had a choice to make. I could turn right on the Swamp Rabbit Trail and take the one percent grade home, or I could climb up Paris Mountain and add close to 1000 feet to my climbing total.
At the top of Paris Mountain. Good day climbing!
I rode past the SRT and headed for Altamont Road. I didn’t really care how long it would take me to reach the top. This had nothing to do with time. It was about taking me a bit closer to the June Strava climbing challenge. After the long day, the 19 minutes it took me to climb to the KOM seemed like nothing.
Finally, I pulled into home after eight hours pedaling the bike. The whole trip, including stops at the camp, Rosman, Highway 11, and for photos along the way took nine and half hours. We averaged fifteen miles per hour and I ended up climbing 8,668 feet.
I was able to knock out the Gran Fondo for June. I wish I could have used that ride for July! I got the 50% complete level on the Climbing Challenge, but looking at it more closely, I realize that I am knocking on the door of 75%. I’ll have no problem finishing it over the next 21 days.
Matthew and I are already starting to talk about making another trip up to the camp. I’m thinking I’ll have my family meet me up at the camp and then we all take the truck back home! It would be interesting to see how quickly I could cover the distance. A sub four hour ride is definitely doable.
How soon we forget the suffering. How quickly we get caught up in a new challenge. Isn’t it great?
Check out some video of the ride and commentary from this blog.