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Archive for the 'Humidity' Category

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!

4. The Blue Ridge Parkway

Thursday, August 30th, 2007

After lunch on Friday, we got on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Almost immediately, we saw an overlook and stopped to check it out and take some photos. We were overwhelmed with what we saw, and that was just the beginning.

Blue Ridge Overlook VII

Us, along the Blue Ridge Parkway

The Blue Ridge Parkway is not an efficient way to get anywhere, with a parkway-wide speed limit of 45 mph, and many sections where it’s not safe to go that fast because it’s a winding mountain road. But our friends in Charlotte had to work that day anyway, so we figured we’d take our time getting there. The section we were on had numerous tunnels, which were pretty cool. We saw a few cyclists, and I have to admit I was tempted to get the bike off the back of the car and start riding.

It was a very hot day, but we didn’t care. I was still in awe that I was in the presence of so much beauty. Then again, that’s a feeling I get every day with Sarah. The mountains were nice, too.

The Blue Ridge Parkway has overlooks very frequently, and we had to resist the temptation to stop at each and every one. Driving on it is almost like being immersed in a gigantic slideshow, passing overlooks on both sides. Looking back at our photos, they all seem to run together now, but when you’re there, the feeling is intoxicating, and each overlook takes on its own personality.

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Sarah along the Blue Ridge Parkway

Blue Ridge Overlook VIII

Blue Ridge Overlook II

Blue Ridge Parkway - Sarah and car

At one overlook, I stood on the roof of the car (much to Sarah’s dismay) to get a better angle. You can see a photo of me on the car on Sarah’s blog.

I experimented with some infrared photography at some of the overlooks. Here are a few examples.

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Infrared Blue Ridge

Infrared Blue Ridge II

After a while, we stopped taking photos and mostly drove through. We played some Telefon Tel Aviv in the car, which is one of our favorite groups. They also happen to make incredibly gorgeous music, which was a perfect backdrop for the scenery.

We hadn’t had enough, but we had spent so much time gaping and taking photographs that if we needed to get moving. We ended up driving about 90 miles on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and even that drive itself takes a long time.

Blue Ridge Panorama

Not as bad as I expected

Friday, August 10th, 2007

I went for a ride last night, even though it was extremely hot and muggy. I did the Water Works ride, with a twist: I did the loop portion in reverse, taking Moore’s Creek over to Handy Road first, instead of going back that way. This left me with less of a downhill, but a more difficult and longer (better?) climb.

It was hot, but I was lucky and had a tailwind for part of the ride. Sometimes, I forget how much a tailwind can help me ride faster, since I don’t often get them. It also helped keep me cool. Of course, it meant a headwind on my way back, but even that made me feel a bit cooler. I saw some deer, first a pair of does, then a doe and two fawns. I waved at them as I rode by.

I’m still trying to get my Brooks saddle adjusted how I want it. I can’t seem to get it lined up right, it’s either too far to the left or two far to the right. I’m also unsure about fore/aft position and the angle of the nose. I might need to take it into an LBS and get some help, because it’s getting frustrating.

It was fun doing the loop in the opposite direction I’ve been doing it in lately, especially remembering when the road was all frozen over back in February/March. I didn’t take any photos this time, but here it is back in March.

Do you think this road is closed?
Moore’s Creek Road, frozen over (from March)

I misjudged the time, and it was getting dark on my way home. I really should have brought my lights. I’m going to need to start taking them with me more in general as the days get shorter.

I’m glad I braved the heat and went riding anyway. I had a good ride, and while it was hot, I handled the heat pretty well. I think getting the initial motivation to ride is harder than actually riding in the heat sometimes.

I rode a bit over 23 miles, passed 1,800 miles on the road bike, and *almost* hit 2,000 miles of total cycling so far this year. I would have hit the 2,000 miles on my commute this morning, except I ended up having to drive to take care of some family business.

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