Experimental music, photography, and adventures

11. Franklin, by bicycle

Tuesday, September 11th, 2007

I had been planning to go on at least one road ride during our vacation. At one point, I was thinking about bringing my road bike and renting a mountain bike at Tsali, but ultimately, I decided to bring my mountain bike and slicks (road tires). This way, I could just bring one bike and not have to rent one. The map of Macon County we picked up had bicycle routes marked on it, and there were many signed bicycle routes throughout the county. We went to Smoky Mountain Bicycles and picked up some routes they had there, but I decided to come up with my own route so that I could leave directly from the cabin and explore. I wrote down some notes about the route, got ready, and headed out. I should note right away that I posted the route on Routeslip here, although it doesn’t seem to be loading at the moment.

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My mountain bike, outfitted for a road ride

As do many of my rides, this turned into a very hot late-afternoon ride. It started with a very sketchy and interesting descent down the gravel road that leads to the cabin. As I mentioned in a previous post, it was very steep and had several switchbacks. I took a few photos on the way down so I’d have a record of this insanity. I knew it would be a very difficult climb back to the cabin, but I was almost looking forward to it, in a masochistic, manly pride kind of way.

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The driveway to the cabin

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Looking down from the end of the driveway

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One of several sections of road like this

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Part of a switchback on the gravel road

I took my time going downhill here, because the gravel was fairly loose and I knew if I got going too fast, I wouldn’t be able to stop. Once I reached the bottom, and a paved road, I was greeted with incredible views almost immediately.

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This was just minutes from our cabin

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Barn

It was flat for a few minutes, which was a good thing, because I was having trouble focusing on riding due to the scenery all around me.  I also had some trouble adjusting to riding the mountain bike on the road; I was acutely aware of just how inefficient it was, my cadence was all messed up, the gearing all wrong (though I’d later be thankful for it), etc.

I  had seen this scenery before on our drives to and from the cabin, but everything looks better from a bicycle, and I was driving before so I didn’t get to enjoy it as much. The cabin owner had said in his directions, “DO NOT TURN ON LEATHERMAN GAP ROAD,” so I had avoided that road in the car. However, curiosity got the best of me and I simply had to check it out by bicycle. Besides, I thought the route I had planned went on it, for some reason, even though you can plainly see in the photo below that the 36 sign pointed straight ahead, not to the right, where I turned.

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A signed bicycle route by Leatherman Gap Road / Cowee Valley sign

I should have heeded his advice, because Leatherman Gap Road, which would be the wrong way to go if you were trying to get to the cabin, was also the wrong way to go for my planned bike route. I didn’t even realize this for several miles, when I reached the end of the paved road and sensed that I was in the wrong place. This would be the first of several mistakes I’d make, but I didn’t care — there was more beautiful scenery, and I didn’t have a specific destination in mind anyway. I had my trusty map, and it came in handy several times. As a part of my restitution for poor planning, I climbed the significant Snow Hill. It was a tough climb, but then I got to ride on a ridge for a bit, with great views.

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My bicycle, and an incredible home in the background

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I also passed through a strange, nearly-abandoned coop of some kind

I finally got back on course and rode for a while on Highway 28, a fantastic winding mountain road. So awesome, in fact, that I missed my turn off of it and had to backtrack. I realized this just as I began a climb, and continued climbing anyway simply because I was having so much fun. This gave me a good descent back toward the road on which I was supposed to turn.

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If this is the wrong way to go, do I really want to be right?

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I saw this cool bridge and realized that my route took me across it

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Bridge over Rose Creek

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The view from the bridge

The road I was on now, Rose Creek Road, was even more winding and had more ups and downs. I did a lot of climbing, but somehow, it never seemed too bad. The low gears of my mountain bike helped, but I also didn’t push it too much, as this ride was more to discover and enjoy the scenery than for fitness.

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Riding directly toward a mountain

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Small shack in the mountains

I stopped by the small shack above to consult my map. I found myself at an intersection, and while I knew which way I had planned to go, I was intrigued by the road leading off to the right. I wanted to explore it, but I knew I’d be chasing daylight, so I wanted to see if I had time. As I was stopped, a golf cart with two or three people in it pulled up. The people in it asked if I was lost, and I said, “Not lost, just indecisive!” It sure was weird to have a golf cart randomly drive up like that.

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I just love roads like this

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Farms nestled in the mountains

The road I was on ultimately looped back to Highway 28. 28 had more traffic on it, but the drivers were very courteous. In fact, people were very courteous throughout my whole ride, waving at me and some even giving me a thumbs up. I really don’t understand why I saw almost no other cyclists the whole time we were in Franklin. It has all the elements of a great cycling town: marked bike routes, a bike shop, great mountains in which to ride, roads with low speed limits, and friendly motorists.

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Some traffic on 28. That’s the closest thing I saw to traffic, anyway …

I didn’t want my ride to end, but it was getting dark. I had brought my rear blinky light, but not my headlight. I should have had the headlight. I thought I might make it back before dark, but I underestimated how far I was from the cabin.

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The sun sets over a mountain road

I really enjoyed my ride, and seeing the sun set was great, too. Sarah also enjoyed the sunset, but she did so from the gazebo behind the cabin.

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This shot looks almost impressionist to me

It was almost completely dark by the time I reached the bottom of the gravel road. I would have to climb it without being able to see much of anything, and it was a hell of a climb. Even the low mountain bike gears were just barely low enough, especially on that loose gravel surface. My rear wheel spun a little as I pedaled on a couple of different occasions. Eventually, I made it, and Sarah was waiting outside. I had a great ride, but what a sight for sore eyes!

5 Responses to “11. Franklin, by bicycle”

  1. jonn Says:

    Replace the mountains with the ocean and your photos could have been taken around here. I’m not a fan of loose gravel and dirt riding. I suppose with experience, that riding is just as good as roads. But without the experience, I’m a road guy.

    Excellent photography and dialog.

    Wife and I are heading to the Cape Cod Canal to do a ride as soon as I hit send on this post.
    See you around.

  2. Christy Says:

    I love the sunset photo! I need to buy a bike, I haven’t had one since I was a kid!

  3. Marty Says:

    More great pictures – seems like you two really did have an awesome trip. I love those early road shots – I remember riding on stuff like that when I was younger, and how precise you had to be with your speed to not skid out and end up bloody (or over the edge).

  4. Jett Says:

    Two words: I’m Jealous.

  5. Ear to the Breeze » Blog Archive » Riding in Fort Wayne Says:

    […] from my road ride on my mountain bike in Franklin, North Carolina, I realized I haven’t done any major road rides anywhere other than the Bloomington area. I […]

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