Tuesday, September 28, 2010

There and Back Again - Chief Ladaga Silver Comet Weekend

The adventure continues!  I am definitely settling down into life after the Transcon.  I have been looking forward to this weekend since I got back.  Matter of fact, while in the car coming home from Virginia, I called Jim at Ride South to inquire as to when he had scheduled the trip to Anniston Alabama for the ride to Atlanta via the two rails to trails - The Chief Ladaga and the Silver Comet.  As the day approached the possible cyclists making the trip started backing out.  I think several people became intimidated by riding 100 miles, carrying very minimal provisions without any support along the way.  I wasn't thrilled about the prospect myself.  None of us have racks or panniers that fit our bikes yet, so we were going to be stuffing our brain boxes with one change of clothes to wear out to dinner after the ride, toothbrush/paste, flip flops, as well as our regular bike supplies of Hammer products, rain gear, etc.  Bill or actually his wife Teresa, had a great idea - scrap our plan to ride from Anniston to Atlanta, park half way and go out and back each day.  This was a great idea!  So as Friday dawned, only Bill M and I were left standing to adventure out to ride the two rails to trails.

Bill is new to ultra cycling and this would be the longest riding weekend of his cycling career.  I really think it was a good route in which to ride 200 miles.  We left around 2:30 or 3:00 Friday afternoon and arrived in Cedartown at 9? or so.  We decided to meet at 7:00 am to start our adventure.  We chose to start our route headed west to Anniston.  We thought that by heading west we would be tackling the hardest part of the route first, plus the forecast had us heading into a headwind first with a tail wind on the way back. HA!

So, we weren't all together at 7.  Additionally, something had happened to my cyclometer speed sensor on our drive over.  Also, I had forgotten to replace my camera scan disc so I could only take 6 pictures with the small sample disc that came with the camera.  Bill suggested that we stop at CVS to get a new battery for the speed sensor and a disc for the camera.  CVS had everything we needed for both the camera and the speed sensor, however, we could make neither work properly.  So at 8:20 we headed for the Cedartown trail head.

The morning was coolish.  Not hot but not cold.  It was humid.  By 8:20  it was light.  The Cedartown depot looked really neat.  It had the appearance of a true train depot.  It was closed when we arrived at the start, but I was hoping we would be able to go through it when we got back later that afternoon.  I was also hoping to find patches for my coat.  As I said earlier, we were heading towards Anniston as I knew we would be going through the Cheaha Mountains and I just knew we were heading for the hillier portion of the trail.  HA! Since we were on an old rail bed, the grades should only be 1-2% but we had heard that there was a few miles of hilly somewhere on the route.  The ride to the state line - about 15 miles was very pretty, but no where as beautiful as the route we would ride as we continued west.  The hills were just popping up and you could see where the rail bed had been dug out between the hills.  So far the route was very similar to that of the Longleaf trail in Hattiesburg.  Flat to false flat - it looked like you were on a flat, but in truth we were climbing slightly.  Fortunately, we had Bill's Garmin to tell us when we were truly climbing and when we weren't.
 We arrived at the Alabama/Georgia state line and were greeted by an older version of Slow Spokes - a group of 5 or 6 people most likely in their 60s and 70s resting at the state line.  Bill and I stopped to take pictures and a very friendly older gentleman asked if we would like him to take the pics.  We started a conversation with him and learned a lot.  He directed us to a great restaurant - Petros for dinner that night.  Most importantly, however, he explained the lay of the land.  He told us that we were headed to some of the most beautiful scenery on the trail and that the hilly part was behind us. Ugh!  He said that we would have about 10 miles of hilly but that the first 4 miles were really bad.  How bad could they be?  This was coming from an older guy riding a hybrid.  Lesson 1:  Never underestimate "hilly" from an old guy on a hybrid!!!!

Our "old guy" was correct about the beauty of the trail we were riding.  The Cheaha's, foothills of the Appalachans, began popping up all around us.  You could see the very first hint of the leaves turning.  One good cold spell and color would replacing the viverant green of these hills.  One of my favorite parts of the trail was the fact that most of it was entirely tree covered.  Riding through the canopy of trees made the trail very quiet and serene.  Squirrls and rabbits would scamper as we rode along past them.  The bridges were mostly wooden planks over small creek beds - adding to the tranquility of the trail. 

A few more miles and the tranquility was upset!  We encountered a small group of young guys on a variety of bikes.  They shouted an apt warning - there are at least 5 more groups behind us.  Well, we had come across a troop of young boy scouts camping and riding.  They were definitely going to get their cycling badge today.  We passed another small group of boys and then rounded the corner to a mass of them.  Most of them were weaving about not holding a line - they probably did not know what a line was!  They were riding three and four abreast and were not concerned that a lady on a bent was loudly stating RIDERS UP, RIDERS UP! They had no idea I meant for them to get over and let us through!  Nothing like playing chicken with a 10 year old!  We finally made it pass the swell of boys all full of excitement and energy.  Bill and I both hoped that they would be off the trail before we returned.

Riding further we discovered the Boy Scout campground.  Dozens of tents were set up, some under awnings.  It would have been really fun to see them all running about and to know how late they stayed up the previous night.  It would also be funny to see how active they would be after they get back from their ride.  Hmmmm, I bet there will be some tired little boys.

Well, I need to get ready for work, I will post more later.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Life is Good

Well, I as I sit here drinking my coffee, I must say that life really is good! I have had a great weekend.  Friday I had no set riding plans so I sat around drinking coffee and playing on the internet trying to decide where I wanted to ride.  Finally got off my rear and did a new route - actually a modified backwards route of our Labor Day route.  Ended up riding 57 miles - it was hot - I should have been up and out by 6 but I just have a problem doing that when I don't have someone to meet.  The route was virtually car free and very enjoyable. It is nice to be so carefree.

After the ride I went to the Madison County Library to find out about accessing a website through the library - wow has the library changed since the last time I went to it!  They offer a ton of stuff over the net.

Saturday I got up early to participate in the Cyclist Curing Cancer Century.  Like an idiot I rode my bike there. The morning was only coolish - I could tell it would be very hot before the day was over.  I started in the dark, but with my headlight, helmet light and new taillight I was very comfortable and could see well.  The combo head/helmet light gave me all the light I needed to be confident riding in the dark.  I enjoyed it much better than the last early morning ride with Pat and company in Franklinton (the difference being the helmet light).  The ride to the Healthplex in Clinton was further than I thought - 16 miles which is not a big deal, but I knew I wanted to be there by 7, so I felt pressure to ride faster than I would have liked.  I did arrive at just past 7 so it was no big deal.  Bill, Bard, Jodi and Sarah were there.  They are fast becoming good riding buddies.  They all seem to love being outdoors - fishing, kyacking, hiking and so on.  Maybe I can have them help me become a better all around outdoors enthusiast.  Boy I would love to learn to kayack.

I rode the century with Bill - we really match up very well.  He is faster than I am but not so much that he gets too far in front of me.  He really rode strong on his first century and I hope that we can ride together more.  We both rode very strong to the 50 mile turn around. I think we were averaging 18 or something thanks to a slight tailwind and coolish temps.  After the turn around we slowed considerably.  I died on the hills in the heat. I was glad we had the wind to keep us "cool".  Okay, it was not cool at all, as the wind was a very hot wind, but it was better than no wind at all that would have left us baking in the sun.  The volunteers for this ride were very gracious.  It is hard to believe how many people gave up their time so we could ride with support.  JMC has quit doing organized rides as they have trouble finding volunteers.

I was able to meet up with Mike and Earline Kelly.  I have not seen them in years!!! They were the first people to take me under their wing and teach me to ride somewhere other than Highland Colony Parkway.  I remember falling behind the group on roads that I know now like the back of my hand, but at the time I had no idea where I was.  Earline was kind enough to wait up for me and she and Mike rode with me back to the car.  I started riding out in Clinton with them sometime after that.  And my love affair with all things cycling started.  It really is amazing to think back to some of my early days of cycling.  I so appreciate the Kelly's and so many others that got me started in this wonderful sport.

I also talked to Paula and Jeremy about Mountain Biking.  I want to attempt it too before I plan something that would keep me from trying it out for fear I will break my arm.

Fortunately for me, Bill has a two bike carrier on the back of his car and only lives a few minutes from me.  I gladly accepted a ride from him back to the house.  117.5 miles in the heat was enough for me.  The neat part is that this was my 33rd ride over 100 miles this year.  So, should I try to reach 50 rides over 100 before the year is out?