Sunday, December 22, 2019

AD Williams Park

It was set to rain all weekend, so this past Friday I figured I'd take the opportunity to do more of that ITP exploration I've been into lately.

AD Williams Park is a big blob of woods on Google Maps. Could be some trails in there. Maybe? Worth looking at least. Let's go!

Turns out there's a gravel road leading down around the back of the building there. Yay, gravel. Well, a little bit of gravel. There wasn't much to the park proper, but there was a section missing out of the back fence that led to an abandoned school, and behind that, an entire abandoned neighborhood.

Or, at least abandoned neighborhood roads. The houses or apartments or whatever had long been bulldozed and there were fences bordering every road. Nobody had lived there for a long time. It looked like scrappers had taken down a few sections of fence, but that the area was generally abandoned and unused, even by the homeless, despite its proximity to a low-income and fairly high-crime part of town.

There was also a little trail leading from the park over to the Coreta Scott King Leadership Academy, and a gravel road leading from there down into the woods behind the park. Beyond that was a network of what apparently used to be paved trails along AD Williams Creek. In a few spots, you could see the pavement, but in most places, there were 6 or 8 inches of leaves built up on them. One trail crossed the creek over this elaborately decorated bridge. The creek itself flows under the park through the municipal drainage system, but emerges from that in a similarly elaborately decorated waterfall thing before turning back into a natural creek.

Wild that all of that was just back in the woods, fenced off and generally inaccessible. It looks like, at some point, it was a notable feature of the park. I guess maybe the whole area presented a crime problem, and eventually got bought up, shut down, and fenced off. I've seen a bit of that recently. There'll be a low income area, then a buffer zone of recently abandoned properties, some bulldozed into green space, some still standing, then new apartments and houses. There's a bit of that going on north of 285 along Veterans. I guess it's happening on Hollowell too.

It made me wonder if I was casually riding around some neighborhood that I'd have been attacked and robbed in a few years ago.

After exploring everything that was easy to get to, I went back to check out some trails leading off of those roads. The first one just kind of led to and along the back fence line. The second looked like somebody had just bashed a tractor with a big grass-cutting blade through a field of privet. There were hundreds of little stalks poking up out of the ground, cut off between one and two feet high. Some of the cuts were clean, others were at a steep angle, making the little stalks incredibly sharp. I was well into this little forest of punji sticks before realizing what I was in the middle of too. I had to keep moving. It would have been more dangerous to try to stop and get off the bike than to just try to get through it. I'd gotten through the worst of it, into a bit of a clearing, when the ground became soft enough to stall me out. Then I couldn't get my right foot out of the pedal. As I fell, I thought to myself, and may even have said out loud, something to the effect of: "And that's how you get killed..." The clearing had way fewer of those little stalks in it, but it wasn't completely devoid of them. I managed to push one out of the way as I fell, but it still got me.

I couldn't get a good enough grip on that chunk to pull it out. I had to bite it and pull my arm away from my face.

Figuring I was ok though, I walked out and finished the rest of my ride. 20+ more miles. I rode south toward the Lionel Hampton Trail, and explored the sections of it that I'd missed the last time.

Some of which don't get a lot of traffic.

On the way in, there was this lady sitting on a bench, talking on the phone to somebody. On the way out, I climbed a hill and passed her again. This time she was sitting on a swing in the little playground at the top of the hill, smoking good and getting high, high. From there, I hung a right and explored a dirt road the turned out to lead down along the powerlines before rejoining the paved trail at the bottom of that same hill. When I passed her a second time, she was in the same spot and looked really confused to see me again. I imagined her being like: "Damn, I got to stop smoking this shit..."

Heh.

And that was about it. I rode home.

Then the real drama started. That one chunk of wood went all the way through, but to the right of it, there was a piece that went in and broke off inside. I couldn't tell when it first happened, but later I could see that it was still swollen in that spot, and made sharp little pains if I manipulated it. I fed Sophie, then made the trek up to the Kaiser Urgent Care place in Kennesaw, through town, no less, because of construction of 285. They cleaned it up and the doctor thought there was something in there too, but he couldn't get it out without cutting on it.

It hurt a little, like between a 1 and a 2 on that Wong pain scale. It might have been a 3 or 4 when they cleaned it up, and while he was manipulating it. They gave me shots of lidocaine, and I couldn't feel any pain, pressure, or anything when he was cutting on it, but I swear, somehow, some kind of signals were getting to my brain, telling it exactly what was happening, because I kept getting very strong urges to wince when he'd cut, or press, or open the wound, or drag the sponge across it. Only at those times though. Only when it would really hurt, if I could actually feel it. I figured "oh, maybe I can see what's going on, so that's how my brain knows" and tried looking away, but the same thing kept happening. A similar thing happened a few years ago when I had to get a granuloma of some kind biopsied near the tip of my nose. It was so weird. I can't really explain it. It seems that my mind knows what's happening, and wants to react, despite complete lack of perceivable sensation. Is this a known phenomenon? I guess the weirdest part is that it doesn't happen in the dentist's chair, but it has happened both times I've gotten lidocaine as a local anaesthetic outside of my mouth.

Weird. So weird.

And the worst part... The doctor couldn't get the piece out. He could see it, but only for a split second before it kept getting covered up with blood. He would have needed an assistant and better facilities. So, he just left the wound open to let it try to work its own way out, and gave me a referral to see a surgeon if it doesn't.

Goodness.

All that, for a glorified splinter. I can't wait to get the bill. Kathryn hit her personal deductible earlier this year, but I haven't yet.

I'm sure it'll be the most expensive splinter ever.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Lionel Hampton Trail

ITP. That's "Inside The Perimeter" for anyone not versed in Atlanta Metro slang.

I've been on a local exploration kick for a while now, and after spending the last few weekends in the Cohuttas, some local exploration was a welcome diversion today. I've heard there's plenty of ITP singletrack, if you know where to find it. I don't, per-se, but I know how to find stuff... so maybe I do?

Heh.

There's this paved trail called the Lionel Hampton Trail meandering around the Atlanta West Side. I kind-of knew where it was from exploring other paved trails in the area. Considering the green space it runs through, I figured that by exploring it, I might encounter some of that ITP singletrack along the way.

Let's find out.

I took Veterans to Bolton, to Browntown, to Hollywood, to Gun Club, and up through the cemetery there. Got chased by a pit bull on the back side, but he was cool. Cool enough, at least. He didn't bite me. Back to Hollywood, left on Jefferson... And, finally on to an actual trail, paved though it may be - Proctor Creek. Three ladies were pushing cruisers up that mean hill near the quarry. They looked unhappy. It's a tough hill. No shame in pushing. I rode it, but I hope I looked like I was suffering adequately to reassure them.

Before long I was on Bankhead (or Hollowell as it's called these days), and I forget what road I took over to Lena. That's where I began my exploration for real. I'd been there before, exploring the beltline, but not that far down. I hoped to hit the Path right where it started. It looked like I did, judging by the width of the sidewalk, but Google alleges the trail goes farther east than what I rode. If it does, then they're just calling the sidewalk a trail.

I don't think I was on the Lionel Hampton Trail itself at that point, but I was on some Path trail, and it ran through this cute little park just past the beltline.

Ella Mae Wade Brayboy Park.

That's a lot of names. I guess it's fitting though, because she did a lot of stuff.

I felt bad that the first named had been vandalized on the memorial sign.

What weirdo reorganizes the letters? Oddly specific vandalism.

There was a little spur trail through that park, and I felt compelled to ride it.

From there, I continued west, ended up in some other park - Mozley Park, and followed the Path through that too. Some guys were playing basketball on one court. Some individual guy was hitting a tennis ball against a wall in another court. It was nice to see people out. It wasn't exceptionally cold, but if it gets below 60, people like to stay indoors around here.

From there I took some roads over to Anderson Park

...and picked up the Lionel Hampton there again. This section looked like it got less traffic that the other sections.

I say that, but I actually ran into a guy walking there. First trail user I'd seen yet that day.

About halfway through the park I noticed a little singletrack spur leading right. Success. ITP singletrack.

It basically led up to some old abandoned school, which I later found was named Anderson Park School. Specifically, it led to the old softball field, and then eventually out to the road. It's always weird to see a closed school. You don't see it very often. I think the last one I saw was in Waleska, and it was falling apart. This one still looked pretty intact. Still weird though.

It seems like I was on neighborhood roads for a while after that. I remember going under I-20, right on MLK, and left on Willis Mill. At the end of Willis Mill, it just becomes the trail again. This time though, it led through Lionel Hampton Park itself.

Almost immediately I spotted some singletrack off to the right. It was red-blazed, but otherwise unsigned. Someone had leaf blown it too. I'm not generally a fan of that, except for very well built, very popular trails, even had a discussion with a buddy about it recently, but people like to do it. In this case, if they hadn't, I don't know if I'd have been able to discern some of the trails until next summer. So, like it or not, it was helpful today.

There was a whole trial system back in there.

Some of the trails led down to various nasty creeks.

There's kind of a main route through there though, and it would be fun to ride as a side trail off of the greenway.

The greenway itself was marked confusingly.

It's referred to as the Lionel Hampton Trail these days, but it was apparently part of the Westside Trail at some point, and still marked as such. I'm not sure where mile 6 comes from either. Maybe it was 6 miles from the start on Lena Road, including all of the sections on pavement.

There was more paved trail in the area, but it was getting late enough that if I didn't start heading back, I wouldn't make it in time for dinner, so I called it a day. I managed to take a shortcut back home and make it by 6PM, but it turned out my family had already ordered pizza, not sure whether I even intended to make it or not. Well, you guys have fun with that, I'm getting Mexican from El Solecito. Camarones al Ajillo! Delicioso.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Baldwin's Birthday Ride

Baldwin sent out a text to like 100 people last week, wanting to know if we were in for a birthday ride, starting somewhere around P3. Hmm... Sounds good, yes. The only problem was that it was on Saturday, Dec 7th. The same day as the LSU-Georgia game. And not just any game... the SEC Championship! 10AM start. Game is at 4. Should be doable, even if I had to bail a little early, and that was definitely possible, as the Pinhoti's offer plenty of options.

In!

Mark values punctuality. This also helps. I want to say, everybody was there, kitted, and ready to go well before 10AM.

Aaron was actually the first to show up. I was number 2. Shane Schreihart and his buddy Chris(?) were third. Cool to see him two weekends in a row. My brother showed up next, cranking Down's Underneath Everything, so hard that I could hear it clearly make out the song through closed windows. Everybody else got there right after.

It was in the high 40's at the time, but the temps were climbing and everybody overdressed. At like 9:50 we were like: anybody else coming? No? Let's go!

I did the Turkey Shuffle last week, but failed to get in any mid-week rides. Unfortunately, blowing leaves off of the driveway yesterday didn't count as exercise, and my legs were starting to get stiff climbing P3. Great. Baldwin was leading, and trying to set a pace we could all keep. I was behind him, but still had to drop back, over and over, until I was last. I did make all but 1 switchback though, and I wasn't like off the back, I was just at the back, so I guess it wasn't terrible.

We debated a bit what to do next, and figured, since we were in the area...

Cohutta Overlook!

Look at that crew of sexy beasts.

Just look at us.

P4 was really leafy. It gets more traffic these days, but not so much that you can say that it gets good traffic. We waited for everybody to catch at Tatum Lead. The little climb out of P4 looks like nothing, but it's a little steep. Same goes for Tatum Lead itself. That first climb. I hate it. It's literally my least favorite climb in the entire NF.

I took the lead down the Tatum Lead Road, but was eventually passed by Mark, Shane, and Aaron, with their 29's, 2.35's, and 110 mm forks. I need to get some of that here soon. Of course, I've been saying that for years and years now.

P5 was its typical sketchy self, and made even sketchier by all the leaves. Apparently Mark and Aaron had some trouble with it, but they were ahead of me, so I didn't see what happened. I caught the leaders going around some downed tree. Like 5 of us made it to the clearing, way ahead of everyone else, so we waited. And waited. And... wait...ed....

Hirsch came down after a bit. Apparently someone had cracked a carbon rim and it was leaking air and they sent him ahead to let us know. It was getting cold in the shade, so we moved out into the sun. Unfortunately that meant moving out into the open, which meant moving out into the wind. I'm not sure it was actually any warmer out there. Patrick went roaming off toward the creek, for some reason. Marc mentioned something about Alzheimer's and it reminded me that I'd recently learned about the glymphatic system that removes plaques from your brain, and how it's only active when you're in deep sleep, and how they're thinking that's the primary cause of Alzheimer's and dementia - long term exposure to shit sleep. Me and Hirsch and the frere were talking about that for a bit. Patrick comes back and he's like: "I ride away for a minute, come back, and you guys are talking all kinds of science."

Yeah. I wish I had recordings of crap we end up talking about, over the years, in the middle of the woods, while waiting for other people. So much weird stuff.

Eventually everybody else showed up. A boot and a tube were sufficient to get it working. The crack was small too, so it wasn't like the rim was going to fail right away.

Onward!

About halfway out to FS3, we had a Sean of the Dead moment.

You know that scene where they're headed to the Winchester, and they run into the other crew of survivors, led by Sean's ex girlfriend, coming the other direction that looks a lot like their crew? It was like that.

We ran into this crew of other riders, coming the other direction. They were led by Jeff Harris, and included Mike Palmeri. It wasn't clear where they started, but they'd come down Peeple's Lake Road, and were going to climb P5. Woo! We wished them luck. We'd joked about doing that earlier in the day. It's a tough climb on a good day, with all of the debris. With the addition of leaves, it ranked pretty low on my list of things that sounded fun.

At FS3, we debated what to do. Marḱ's plan was to take P6 out to Dennis Mill and decide how to get back from there. John had to be in the car, ready to drive away at 2PM, so he said some goodbye's and headed out towards Old Federal Road. I had a less strict timetable, and had hoped to finish the ride with Mark and only miss a little of the game, but it was noon, and any route back would take about 2 hours. Riding out to Dennis Mill would take another hour at least, best case. Probably more. So, I was looking at more than 3 more hours on the bike. Game starts at 4. That's not just cutting it close, that's missing a lot of the game. "I'd better follow my brother. Take care you guys!"

I spent the next 5 miles catching him. Those rollers on Peeple's Lake Road are tough. You can't even come close to carrying them. Just one grind after another. I finally caught on halfway to the Stallion Store on the road.

It was nice to be able to draft each other, and push each other on the climbs. It made the rest of the ride back a lot more fun.

We rode around the back side of Ft. Mtn, took CCC Camp Road to MGap Road...

...climbed over MGap proper, and made it back to the car with 1 minute and 30 seconds to spare.

Ha! How's that for hitting a deadline?!

As we passed MGap, there were all kinds of signs for a race. I think they had an ultramarathon up there this weekend. We didn't see any runners, but there were a lot of signs.

John threw on his clothes and hit the road in record time. It took me a minute longer, but in that minute, I saw Brian drive by in his blue truck, then saw two riders pushing bikes up the road, and got to talk to them for a minute. They were up from Florida, had gotten shuttled to the top of P2, ridden down, and were now pushing up over "the final insult" as I am prone to calling that kick over MGap proper. They'd ridden P3 the day before, and were amazed how much climbing there is in Georgia. That's the Cohutta's for you. It was deja vu from the previous weekend. I'd had a very similar conversation with some riders at the tail end of the Turkey Shuffle.

I made it back to my general locality by 3:30, but the final leg of the journey was tricky. I was at Paces Ferry Road, but there was apparently construction ahead, and it would take 40 minutes to get to Hollowell! Goodness. Via surface streets, I managed to get home at 3:55, and get to Siracusas by about 4:10. We missed less than a minute of game and everyone was happy. We were even happier later when LSU won. I honestly felt bad for GA though. They shut down our run game. Their secondary played really well. But they could not penetrate our offensive line. Burrow had like 7 or 8 seconds sometimes to throw the ball, and with that kind of time, somebody's going to get open. On offense, they just couldn't complete a pass. And the injuries... my goodness. So many good players out early.

But I digress... This is supposed to be an outdoor journal, not SportsCenter!

Happy Birthday Mark!

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Jones Creek

We had another work party at the Jones Creek reroute this past Sunday. I was still feeling that Turkey Shuffle and my shoulder still felt fragile from that crash, but neither rain nor sleet nor slime nor slush can keep me from my appointed rounds! There's new trail to finish!

Debbie and Nancy were there, of course, and the lady with the yellow Subaru who's name I perpetually forget and re-remember because I'm shit with names. Chris the ultra runner was back for another round, and a french (I think) guy from Gainesville named Elie joined us too. I felt a little bad for him because I thought he said "Eddie" and he had to correct me. Then everybody else made the same mistake. That's got to happen every time.

Oh yeah, and Terry Palmeri was there too, with a much more hardcore version of the same mindset I had. Three broken ribs... Whatever. I want to ride that new trail!

I took Pulaski duty and hacked my way through every damn thing I could, all the way down to the dam.

I got excited when I saw the ditch witch ahead of me. Must be getting close...

I finally got to see the tail end of the new trail too. Overall, it has much the same character of the trail it's supplanting. I always appreciate when a replacement trail attempts to maintain some general sense of the trail it's replacing. In this case, the old trail was a roadbed that rolls along the ridgeline before dropping down to the dam. But, it would develop mud holes in the low spots, and the drop down to the dam was unmaintainably steep and sandy. The new trail also rolls along the ridgeline before dropping down to the dam, but it's 3 feet wide instead of 15, has all of the necessary features for sustainability and maintainability, and though it drops, the drop is much less precipitous.

Down by the dam, I noticed a deer stand. It is firearms season right now.

It looked reasonably modern, but I couldn't immediately tell if the guy left it up year round or not. It would be funny if the guy came out one weekend and there was no trail near his stand, and then the next weekend there was.

When I made it to the dam, I worked back toward everyone else, looking for things I missed the first time. I only saw a few, which was fortunate because the axe blade was getting pretty dull by then.

Everybody had something to do later in the day, so we didn't hang around and socialize much. Basically just a bunch of hugs, handshakes, and Merry Christmas'es.

Last work party of the year. 2020, here we come.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Turkey Shuffle

Ahh, yes, the Turkey Shuffle. Mulberry Gap's answer to the PMBAR (Pisgah Mountain Bike Adventure Race). I'd only done it once before, back when it was called the CMBAR (Cohutta Mountain Bike Adventure Race). Back then Eddie O'Dea ran it, and it was invitation only. Andrew destroyed everybody by riding out to the Pinhoti Terminus and collecting massive points. I got caught out after the sun went down with a light, but no mount for it, and learned that gravel roads are mostly OK to ride in the dark. I'd spoken to folks who'd ridden the event in the intervening years and they'd unanimously "had a good time" or "enjoyed themselves". I figured it would be a lighthearted affair, much like the Fireball Fiasco, especially considering that it was at the end of the race season. Still though, I got in a couple of rides leading up to it, just to be sure I'd be feeling good day-of.

That morning it was chilly at my house, so I packed all kinds of cold weather gear, expecting it to be even colder up on the mountain. I ate leftover macaroni and cheese for breakfast. Also fruit, so it wasn't completely weird. My shoulder was still bothering me from the previous day's crash, but my back wheel was in good shape after a fortuitous run through Smyrna Bicycles at the end of the same ride that busted my shoulder. I hoped those two would offset.

On the way in to MGap, I saw an enormous at least 10-point buck just standing on the side of the road in somebody's driveway. It's the middle of firearms season right now. I swear the deer know. This guy was like: "Heh, heh. They'll never catch me here..."

I arrived reasonably early, and was directed to park in the overflow lot. Both of the other parking areas were already full. Hmm... Maybe not such a lighthearted affair after all. I parked next to a couple of NICA guys that I'd ridden the Tour De'liverance with, one of whom had put the wood to me climbing out of Bear Creek on the Caretecay New Year's ride last year. Every time I've ridden with those guys, it's been on the longest ride they'd done yet. I gathered all of my crap into my pack and rode the little on-property trail over to the start. Shane Shreihart was in line ahead of me. Again, I questioned the lightheartedness.

Terry Palmeri was getting everyone's signatures. "Hey Terry, how ya doin'?" "Pretty good, except for these three broken ribs..." I got the story later. Basically they have some land that the loan out to a guy with some horses - a stallion, two mares, and a colt. The colt came up lame, Terry went to check it out, and the stallion was being protective. She saw it coming, dove out of the way, but still got caught in the back. "Yeah, I've been kicked by a horse before, but this one really got me..." Good god! And, in case it occurs to anyone to question her hardness, she also showed up for the Bull/Jake work party the next day.

A bit later, the riders began assembling in earnest.

Lisa Randall rolled up and I was like: "Ah crap, it's over, just give her the trophy." Joe Urbanowicz and Avery Glass were there too. I talked to Joe for a while about his most recent TNGA run. I know Avery from the internet but have apparently never actually met him in real life and so neither of us recognized each other. Got to love the internet. Jennifer Braddock was riding her new hardtail which I now covet. I need that exact kind of thing, urgently. There were 69 riders in total. Heck of a turnout! Not even vaguely what I expected.

It was warming up quickly. I frantically reorganized my gear and clothing to adapt to the weather, and to the fact that I probably ought to ride this thing like an actual race. Regular kit, no pack, just pockets, lots of food.

Kate called us all together and handed out maps. I ran inside to grab a sandwich bag to keep mine dry. When I got back outside, people were leaving. We had 5 hours to get to as many checkpoints as possible, via whatever route. The map showed a dozen or more checkpoints. The ones on the closest trails were worth 1 or 2 points. The Bear Creek Creek Overlook and top of Potatopatch were worth 3 each. The Mountaintown Trailhead and Pinhoti Terminus were worth 3 each. The Cohutta Overlook was also worth 3. But, the Grassy Mountain fire tower and Windy Gap Lot were both worth 4! My first instinct was to go for the ones out by Mountaintown because that's how Andrew did it years ago, but those Windy Gap points sure looked enticing. Ehh... I figured I'd start climbing up to Potatopatch and figure it out on the way.

Oh, yeah, I also ran into Chris Konopka at the start. He was also wearing a PBR kit. He's a buddy of Flynn's. They do 3 hour races together sometimes. Super cool guy. He and I rode out together, but he kept going towards Windy Gap when I turned to head up to Potatopatch. I ended up riding with this guy Brian that I'd met at the Fiasco the previous year and then at the Tour De'liverance. Also a really cool guy. Jennifer came riding up behind us and dropped me so quickly that it was almost upsetting. Not quite, but almost. I managed to keep her in sight until around Barnes Creek Falls.

A lady in a red jeep came by and stopped at the falls. She and I would end up leapfrogging for the next several hours and wave at each other over and over.

Ha ha! My first three points!

There was a pretty big group at the overlook. Some were heading back down to collect all of the local points, others were heading up. Me and Brian rode together most of the way up to Potatopatch. Jennifer caught and passed us about halfway up.

3 more points!

It was decision time... Mountaintown or Windy Gap? I could get 4 for the fire tower, 4 more for the Windy Gap lot, and 1 for the Holly Creek Picnic Area if I went the Windy Gap route. But... Windy Gap. It's dangerous on a good day. I would be riding it solo, and it was super leafy, it had rained the night before, and I had a bum shoulder. In the direction of Mountaintown, I'd only get 6 points though. Coming down Mountaintown would be fun, but it would take a very long time and I'd get very, very wet. Ok... Ambitious plan. I'd attempt Windy Gap. If it was too treacherous, I'd have to take the roads back and lose a ton of points, but if it worked out, jackpot.

See you guys later!

On the way up Gassy Mountain like 6 riders were coming the other way. Apparently I wasn't the only one with that idea.

4 points!

Almost immediately upon taking those photos, Chris rides up. He'd climbed Windy Gap.

Let that sink in... He climbed ALL of Windy Gap. I'd never heard of anyone even attempting that, much less actually doing it. And, he was still feeling good.

Unbelievable!

We high-fived and fist-bumped, and I took off back down the mountain. Time to test the waters.

Yeah, they're not kidding. When did I last even ride this trail? I couldn't remember. 10 years ago, maybe? We used to ride it quite a bit before there were Pinhotis and good Jake, but I started journaling in 2009, and I don't think I have a single journal entry for Windy Gap. The singletrack section, at least. It's been that long. So, add that to the list: dangerous trail, solo, leafy, wet, bum shoulder, and haven't ridden it in 10 years.

Turned out not to be a problem at all. It's south-facing, so it had gotten reasonably dry. The leaves were kind-of fluffy, and I could see big jagged rocks poking out of them here and there, so I had to creep down through the steeper sections, but apparently I had whatever skills are necessary to manage that. My shoulder was a non-issue, as it turned out. I remembered the one exceptionally dangerous spot too... It's at the bottom of the singletrack, where it transitions to all those rolling dips. It looks like you can just let it go and start tearing down through the rest of it, but it's extra steep there, and the first bit of it is chunky, and it's easy to get going too fast for the chunk. But, ha! No problem. I did forget how much climbing there is though. There are a bunch of little steep kicks here and there. Nothing sustained, but they're easy to forget about. I also noticed a side trail that I hadn't seen before, near the switchbacks. I may have to go up and check that out some day.

4 more points!

I talked to the guy who owned that motorcycle while I was taking my pictures. He was headed up to scope it out. His buddy rides 4 wheelers up there, but wasn't able to get past a downed tree the last time. I told him that tere were 4 trees down across the road-ish section, that I could ride around 3 of them, and it looked like an ATV could too, but that I had to go over the 4th (bottommost). I didn't see a line around it. They might be relegated to the lower section and Milma.

It was substantially warmer at the Windy Gap Lot than it had been up on top. I figured it might be chilly up there, but not as chilly as it was. I was taking a bit of a risk with my clothing and gear choice. I was fine as long as I was working. But, I was relying on being able to keep working to keep warm. If I'd gotten hurt, I'd have been building a fire.

At CCC Camp Road, I had another big decision to make. Option 1: Continue on to the picnic area, pick up that point, then see what else I could grab in the vicinity of MGap. Option 2: Climb Fort Mountain on the road, pick up 3 points at the Cohutta Overlook, and then see what else I could grab in the vicnity of MGap. I'd been keeping an eye on the time. I was sure I'd have time for option 1, but not so sure about option 2. And, you lose 1/2 point for every minute late you are. I went with the sure thing.

Farther up the road I passed 3 riders. One of them posted a video of their ride online later. They basically just went out to the Windy Gap Lot, rode around on some roads in the area, and then came back in. I didn't recognize most of where they rode. There's a good bit out there, actually, that I haven't ridden. I always meant to, but it all involved climbing Tibbs or riding Windy Gap solo, and there was always plenty else to explore that didn't, so I kept putting it off. Maybe this winter though...

1 more point!

I ran into another guy named Shane at that checkpoint. I'd met him earlier, rolling out of MGap. I assume he did the same loop as me, but was just a little ahead of me all day. He was pissed because, to the best of his reckoning, the location of the picnic area on the map was about a mile west of where it was in real life and he spent all kinds of time looking for it. Luckily, I knew where it was from last year's Fiasco. He and I had basically the same plan from there on out - head back towards MGap and maybe try to pick up points at P1, P2, and/or the bottom of Bear Creek.

I'd been taking my complete TNGA gear on every ride since about last February. I'd climbed CCC Camp Road with it 6 or 8 times with it, during that time. Climbing without it felt amazing. At the Y, I decided that I had plenty of time and energy to head back up over Holly Creek Gap, and try to pick up extra points. P2 was out of the question. After climbing over the gap, I didn't think I had enough time left. I almost did an out-and-back on P1 to get the point for the bridge, but I even felt a little pressed for that. The bottom of Bear Creek was a sure thing though.

Heading back on Shakerag, I ran into a rider tearing towards me at full speed. Then, a minute later Joe and one of his buddies came flying by too. They were, no doubt, trying to squeeze in that one extra point.

Chris caught me right as I was coming off of Shakerag and we rode in together. At Mulberry Gap proper, we passed a couple. She'd had a great time on the trails, but also had enough of endless climbing on gravel roads. Yeah, that's the Cohuttas for you - great trails, and also endless climbing on gravel roads.

I made it back in time, but I didn't check to see how long I was out there. It's not impossible that I could have managed that P1 bridge point. I'll have to do some kind of post-ride analysis later. I ended up with 16 points. Lisa got 18! Shane, Joe, Avery, and whoever else was with them got 20! Goodness.

Me and Chris got Shane to take a photo of us and I texted it to Glen.

Represent.

The funnest part of these kinds of rides is that you get a ticket for each point, but it's a raffle, so there is still a ton of luck involved. I put 7 tickets in the bowl for a free Fool's Gold entry and 7 tickets in the bowl for a free Southern Cross entry. I figured I had a good chance because there weren't many tickets in those bowls. I didn't even remember what I did with the other two. At raffle time, the Fool's Gold and Southern Cross entries were the first two they called, and I didn't win either, despite probably having put more tickets in than were already in either bowl before I got there. Figuring I wouldn't win anything else, I went and sat on the couch, and tried to play the guitar with the 5 strings left on it and watch the Georgia game. Then, out of nowhere, Kate called the number on one of my tickets. I won a women's Primal Wear hoodie and a $200 gift certificate!

Hell of a prize, actually! Especially for only remembering that I'd put a ticket in that bowl afterwards. I gave Kathryn the jersey and I plan on letting the girls order something of similar value for themselves. Spread those winnings around.

It was Diane's birthday and Kate got us all to sing her Happy Birthday. They also gave a way a bunch of random leftover swag by gathering up the non-winning tickets and just calling random numbers. There was a kid who rode with his dad up to the overlook and back. Longest ride of his life so far, but it was only worth three points. Still, he managed to win an entire Clif kit! The best part was that he had just asked his dad for a real kit for Christmas, but now that he's got the kit, he'll be getting even more bike stuff for Christmas! He was so stoked, and hearing him talk about it made me pretty stoked for him.

Man, what a great day! Great ride. Great to hit Windy Gap again after so long. Great to see everybody. Mark B's birthday ride is on the 7th, and the Fireball Fiasco is on the 14th. December's shaping up to be a pretty good month.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Rottenwood Creek

Yesterday, up at MGap, Jennifer Braddock told me that the planned work at North Cooper Lake Park had been finished. When I lived in Vinings Estates, I rode there a lot, but having moved just a little farther away, I've been busy exploring elsewhere since last February. I guess that was enough time though. The work is done, and she said it was worth checking out. Today, I felt like burning off some Turkey, so I put together a route and figured I'd give the park a run through while I was out.

Turns out I may need to make a special trip out there. The new trails are involved. It's not so much a mountain bike trail, as it is a "bike park" which is apparently a term these days; means there's jumps and stuff. Out in the field on the way in, there was an elaborate loop, full of obstacles. It looked like you could ride off of the trail into all of that though, so rather than hit it right away, I figured I'd hit it at the end of the ride.

The system has a bunch of loops, sort-of stacked, but not exactly. It's not immediately clear exactly what was preserved from the old system, so it'll take a minute to map out. I rode the easy loop, then the intermediate loop, which was full of berms and jumps, then another easy loop, this time picking up the trail that I figured ran around to the back of the property. There's this one section where you bomb down a little hill, come around the end of a big block of concrete, then have to shift way down and climb another steep hill. Right as I hit the bottom another guy came around that block from the other direction. I almost stopped. He almost stopped, but there was no way.

For the first time in 21 years of mountain biking, I actually crashed into another mountain biker. We crashed about as harmlessly as possible - only our bar ends touched. But my shoulder is garbage, and fell right out of socket. When it popped back in it stoved my whole arm and the whole left side of my chest. By far, the worst that kind of thing has ever hurt. Fortunately, I managed to land on the other arm. Before long the stoving wore off and I could test it and put weight on it. It only bothered me if I pulled on the bars, and then only a little. It was amazing how uninjured I ended up considering how badly it hurt!

It was cool to meet the guy that I ran into though. His name was Colston (I think) and he rides there a bit. He had his sister with him and I think her husband or boyfriend. We ended up riding together for a while afterwards - hit the flow trail and screwed around on the pump track for a while. He said that he thought that the trail was directional, but I didn't see any signage to that effect. There used to be, but it had been taken down, and the carsonite sign leading into the system specifically said two-way traffic. We checked the kiosk. Yep, directional. I was going the right direction. But only by pure luck. We had no idea. The line of sight at that spot just needs to be opened up. Even if all the mountain bikers are going the right way, we could easily run into a hiker there.

But... That whole thing was supposed to be a little side trip for a bigger ride, and after all that I finally got down to the real business. Silver Comet - Cumberland Connector - couple of roads - Rottenwood Creek Trail. That was the trail I wanted to actually ride. It had recently been extended a bit, and I'd never ridden the section that goes down by the river.

Well, I did today:

Ha ha!

The tread was weird on that whole trail. Some kind of very porous concrete. Like a bunch of little cement balls sintered together somehow. Like a wide, coarse, linear cinderblock. My guess was that it would drain well and provide good traction if it was wet. I wonder how it's made though.

From there I took a piece of the Moutain to River trail back up to Cumberland and basically retraced my steps home. Mostly uneventful.

Passing by Smyrna Bicycles though, I noticed their Open sign was lit up. I'd popped a spoke a few days back, wrapped it up for my night ride yesterday, and noticed the tire rubbing the frame when I cornered today. Hmm... If they were open, maybe they could fix my wheel. Yep! Fixed! It took a while to find a matching spoke for my strange wheels, but he did it. Score!

That little side trip cost me 20 minutes or so, and put me back home in the dark, but it was well worth it. I'm riding the Turkey Shuffle tomorrow, and functioning wheels are a plus.

Bear Creek

Crazy stuff happening these days. Kathryn's folks were planning on coming up for Thanksgiving, so we planned on having it with them while they were here. But! Two weeks back, Kathryn went in to get an MRI as the first steps of going to see a specialist about some back and neck pain she's been dealing with for a while. We're officially old though, so pfft. Probably just standard old people stuff, right? Nothing to fret over. Maybe some PT... Anyway, she gets the MRI, they make us wait around for an hour while somebody reads it, then finally send us home. We're happy about that because we were missing the LSU game. And, then we get a phone call urging us to come back. Already long story short(er)... She had to have urgent disc replacement surgery and spent a couple of days in the hospital. Meanwhile her dad came into town and spent a week with us, mainly ferrying Sophie around, shopping, and holding things down on the home front while we were either at the hospital, or getting back into the swing of things afterwards.

Making it back up for Thanksgiving a week after leaving to go back to Louisiana would have been a tall order, but it was made even taller by him getting really sick on the way back and still not being recovered a week later.

So, where all of this is going is... Mulberry Gap was having Thanksgiving dinner, and we'd written off going up for it, but it was now, again, a possibility. So, we had our own Thanksgiving dinner a day early, which worked out well for Iz and her boyfriend, and me and Sophie went up to MGap Thanksgiving afternoon and ate with them.

Good food and good times.

I got in a good night ride, while I was at it, and it felt like I was carrying around an extra pack's worth of gear in my belly. I rode up to Holly Creek Gap, hung a left and took the Bear Creek trail down from there.

There was a mylar balloon in the middle of the trail somewhere in there.

Rare to see them on the actual trail.

I'd washed my kit, but then managed to forget all of it at home. Fortunately I had an old Reality Bikes long sleeve jersey and some fleece running tights in my duffel bag. I had, somehow, managed to bring my shoes and helmet. And, my gloves were just still in my helmet from my last ride. So, clothing worked out. I was happy to have the fleece tights too. It was chilly. Not properly cold, but chilly.

We spent the night in The Trails End cabin. I slept quite well, though I forgot to put a water bottle next to me. All I had was half a bottle of Dr. Pepper. It was weird to wake up and drink that instead of water. It's like the exact opposite of what you should drink in the middle of the night - sugar and caffeine. When we went to bed, the radiator had only been on like 30 minutes. A few hours later it was toasty and Sophie made me turn it off. Then a few hours later it was chilly again and I turned it on half way. I'll have to remember that, or maybe just remember to dial it down or something. But, full-on is a bit too much if it's in the 40's outside.

Ahh, morning.

We had the standard delicious MGap breakfast - pancakes, fruit, eggs, etc. For some reason, I love the fruit. It's just strawberries, bananas, and blueberries. I could totally mix that together at home, but somehow it's special when I eat it there.

Diane was in town, so I got to see her again. This time, she was up with her husband though, and her grandson Gage, whom I've heard a good bit about over the years. Cool to finally put a face to the name.