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.

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