Back at the Holiday Inn, which by the way, is at the top of a long hill, we planned to cleaned up and then meet back to conquer some red meat. I was starving. Bill had given me some trail mix that was overflowing from the small bag he uses on his bike. I devoured it and drank my Recoverite. Boy was I ready for that steak. We found Petro's a nice Italian/Steakhouse which our nice older overweight guy who does know the definition of bad hills told us about. It was not a 5 star restaurant, thank goodness, since all I had to wear was my cargo pants and cycling t-shirts. They had the TVs mounted over the bar and the MS State game was on! Can't beat traveling to GA on the weekend that MS State plays GA to get to see the game on TV! We both ordered steaks and for all I know mine was well marinated shoe leather. I was so hungry, I did not care. It was however a pretty decent steak.
Bill and I planned on meeting around 7 again to head out for Atlanta (Smyrna, actually). I awoke to rain. It had been raining and would rain all day. The radar looked like we would have scattered showers all day. Fortunately, the bands were various shades of green - the yellow and red bands had already passed by. I was ready a little early and walked outside to see what the weather was doing at that moment. It was still on the darkish side as sun rise would be a little after 7. Outside under the awning was my happy, yet slightly trepidatious group of black women. Boy was I shocked. If Bill had waivered at all, I would have gladly not ridden in the rain. Yet, all of the ladies that we encountered on the Chief Ladaga were all suited and helmeted up ready to ride to Atlanta in the rain. I was impressed by their fortitude! Remember that many of these women were on hybrids and were overweight. They would be riding over the first 10 miles of pretty substantial hills in the rain! They invited me to join them in a quick prayer and they were off.
Bill and I left about 30 minutes after our courageous ladies. At that moment it was not raining but the sky was definately gray and not welcoming. The temps were moderate. I was wearing arm warmers but no leg warmers or my vest. As we approached the first substantial hill, we caught up with our courageous ladies. The youngest and a couple others made it up the hill while two had to walk it. I was just hoping I could get up it without walking since our warm up had been less than 5 miles. We stopped at the top of the hill and talked to the ladies who were waiting for their friends. I took a couple pics and wished them luck as I knew that they had several more substantial hills to climb - and we did too!
The morning was beautiful even thought the hills were not kind. There was a lazy fog drifting over the low mountain range flanking us. Everything was dripping from the early morning rain. We stopped to take some more pictures, but soon the rain started. Although we had asked for a late check-out at the Holiday Inn and it was granted to us, we felt some slight urgency as we would be slower in the rain and would have to get back to Jackson that night, so the picture taking opportunities would pass us more often than not on this leg of our journey.
That first 10 miles leaving Cedartown were not easy. The worst of the hills were in that first 5 miles of the trail (8 from the motel). Bill named one section the the 3 Witches (with a B) after I told him about the 3 Amigos in Mineral Wells, Texas. This section, as I mentioned earlier, is not on a railroad bed. It does however cross at least half a dozen live railroad tracks. Rain had started to fall while we were on the hills. It was not an awful rain - just wet. It would have been very welcomed on a hotter day. The last set of railroad tracks we encountered was at the end of the worst of the hills. It crossed the road at a diagonal. Of course, tracks are very slippery in the rain and even when it is not raining a cyclist should cross them at a 90 degree angle. Well, even as I am telling myself these words of caution, I don't feel like pulling out wide in the road to cross the tracks at 90 degrees, so I hit them at a 45 degree angle and before I can say "slippery when wet", I am down. OUCH! I was going less than 10 mph, so I really had no chance to really hurt myself, but when I went down my knee hit first and the handlebar jabbed me in the abdomen. I am tangled up in the bike with my left foot on the front wheel pinning my right knee on the ground. I couldn't move my left foot without putting more pressure on my right knee. Bill is able to help me somehow lumber off the bike. At this moment, my side where the handlebar hit really hurts, but it subsides in a minute. My knee is bright red with nice road rash - my first in about 8-10 years! I carry hand sanitizer and baby wipes, so I am able to clean it all up with only minor whimpering. Yes, it does sting. We still have 90 ish miles to go, and so with little ado, we are off again. The terrain flattens out slightly from that point - still not on a railbed, but the hills would no longer be considered steep. The trail takes us along a busy highway and through some farm land. This portion of the trail is deserted.
We finally make it to Rockmart - the first town after Cedartown. This is a very nice town that may be a good town in which to stay. It may be more of a touristy town that non-cycling spouses would enjoy. They have a very nice park and community center along their portion of the trail which also follows a nice brook - very picturesque - so we did stop and take some pictures. At this point we do start seeing other cyclists and runners. The people we encounter today are different. I don't know if it is the rain or if it is truly a difference in the cycling personalities of the Silver Comet vs the Cheif Ladaga. The cyclists/runners we encountered today were all too busy to say hi. They were in training. "Leave me alone, I am riding/running fast and don't want to be bothered with pleasantries" I am sure they were thinking as they rode/ran stoically past us. I missed our happy friends that we met yesterday as I wonder how our courageous friends from yesterday are doing.
Anyway we continued enjoying our very wet ride on the nice flat railbed towards Smyrna. The neatest part about this portion of the trail were all of the tunnels. Some short, some much longer, some dark, some lighter, the tunnels were all fun to travel through. Of course, I had to hoot, "Who hoo, who hoo hoo" to hear my echo. We stop at a bike shop on the corner of the trail 4 miles before the end to find the best place to eat. It is pouring rain at this point - much heavier than any part of the day - not take shelter hard, but, soaking a$$ wet hard. I start to get cold and don't warm up again until we are in Bills car with the heat on 80! We find out that there are NO good places to eat along the route. We can travel a couple miles off the route to find a Quick Trip at that intersection or travel a couple miles off the trail at the end to find a grocery store, or we can go to a Shell station across the street and take our chances with less than favorable microwavable sandwiches. Well, we cycled to the end and did not want to try and find the grocery store and then we cycled back the 4 miles to the corner where the bike shop was located. Had it not been raining, we would have searched out the Quick Trip, but in the pouring rain, we took our chances with the less than favorable Shell station microwave food. I walked in and immediately noticed that there were no hot dogs, but did see refrigerated beef and bean burritos with green sauce! YUM! Burritos make great bike fare! I warmed it up in the Micro and headed outside (it was very cold with the air conditioning in the gas station) to eat. Bill, I think, was not so sure about the long distance cycling eating choices. He was obviously starving and bought several different things consuming all of them, much like I did my steak the night before. We ate our scrumptious lunch in the only warmish dryish place we could find - under the island next to the gas pumps!
We continue our ride back - I don't remember how slow we had been on the first half of the ride - but it was slow. Our pace was much better on the way back. I am guessing that the route climbs most of the way to Smyrna and descends towards Cedartown. The rain comes and goes and is lighter on the way back than it was while we were in that 4 mile section at the end of the trail. I do recall being very cold on some of the longer descents and was ready to climb the longer grades to keep my core temperature up. I had picked up a couple plastic sacks at the gas station and stuffed them down my jacket for extra insulation. My teeth were not chattering, but I was cold. Before long, we see our courageous friends - all wet but obviously having the time of their life! They were all together and we all hooted and hollered at each other as we passed - they would be home soon after enjoying a great adventure!
We get back to the 5 mile section of substantial hills and I am too tired to try and climb the first one. It was by far the steepest on the entire route. I walk it and Bill makes it up but not very fast. I am blaming the fact that I have my 11/28 on the bike for not being able to get up it - that is my story and I am sticking to it! Bill is concentrating on not falling over so he can't look to see how steep that hill was, but it had to be over 15%, my guess, it was closer to 20%. We make it back to the 3 Witches and the first climb is also steeper than any of the previous hills and I walk a portion of it. Bill waits for me and we are able to really pick up our pace. The hills are not as bad going back as they were coming out except for the first two.
We make it back to the Holiday Inn at 6 - later than our 5pm check out, but they graciously don't care. We get warm showers and pack the car and head home.
I had a blast on this ride and hope that Bill did as well. He seems to enjoy the longer rides at a touring pace. He conquered his first century the previous weekend and now had two back to back! If this is not a randonneur in the making, then I don't know one!
I really recommend the Chief Ladaga and Silver Comet trail. I do recommend parking in the middle and doing each side instead of trying to do the whole thing at once unless you do have a full set of panniers. This trip would have been very difficult had we tried to stuff everything we needed in our brain boxes. Make sure you carry a good bit of food with you unless you are comfortable searching for food in the towns off the trails.
So, when are we going again?