Sunday, January 1, 2012

Silver Comet

Yesterday we dialed in Sophie's bike and this morning we all felt like putting some miles on it. The Silver Comet seemed like the perfect place to do that. It's long and straight and easy and there aren't too many road crossings to challenge her new braking skills.


It was unexpectedly warm at the Tara Drummond lot but then unexpectedly cold when we got going. Not too far in, we actually had to turn back to get jackets and spare clothes. Fortunately we'd only gone a mile or so, but unfortunately it was mostly uphill back to the car.

On our second attempt, we made a great deal more progress. We rolled through several little tunnels and out across an old train trestle that took us high above some little creek below.

 Paulding County Trestle

Somebody's property backed up to the creek and they had put out a lawn chair and an umbrella on the bank. At first I thought that somebody was sitting there and I prepared to wave, but then I realized, it wasn't a person sitting in the chair, but rather a skeleton.


I wonder if it's there all year or if they've just been lazy in picking up their Halloween decorations.

The Silver Comet trail gets pretty remote out west of Dallas. It crosses the Paulding Forest and there are few signs of civilization.

We saw one or two road crossings and two or three houses but that was it. The houses were interesting too. One looked as if it had exploded all over the property, in classic North Georgia form. I didn't know that happened this far south. I guess it does. The other had a small lot to the side that, given the ruts, was dedicated exclusively to mudding. A big, jacked up 4x4 was parked at the edge, facing the clearing, eagerly awaiting the next rain.

I think I like the Silver Comet out that way a bit more than I like it closer to Atlanta. The geography is much more complex.

 Paulding Forest

You pass through deep cuts and over even deeper fills. We were always surprised by how cold it got when we were down underground like that. There were several long stretches and a few times we got to the point of shivering.

Looking at a map later, it seemed that for the people that had to lay the old railbed, there was no easy route through those woods. An old mountain range, now worn down into thousands of little hills, comes slanting in from the northeast and there's nothing to do but push though it as quickly as possible. There's no great contour to follow. It looks like they had to cross one major creek at right angles and then they tried to follow another one northwest, as much as possible, but even that was hard to do.

When they hit Brushy Mountain, there was only one thing to do. Drive right through it.

 Brushy Mountain Tunnel

Sophie has always liked tunnels but riding through that one was surreal. It's just so tall. You get a clear sense that it was designed for some other purpose and it almost feels like you're intruding. Combine that with the length and about halfway through, you start to feel a little like you've overstayed your welcome.

We got passed by several riders who commented in how surprised they were to see the kids out there. We were a long way from parking lots in either direction and I guess they knew how far they must have ridden.

Most people were friendly but somewhere in there we got passed by a older lady and her friend. The friend was lagging behind a bit and almost looked homeless. The lady was extra chatty and about half of the things she said were friendly but the other half were decidedly negative. She commented, for example, on how it would be much easier if the girls were on road bikes and that she HATES hybrids and a few other odd things. It was just enough to make me a little uneasy. If someone doesn't know any better than to say unfriendly things, it makes you wonder if they know any better than to do unfriendly things too. I was relieved when they were gone and Isabel indicated as much herself.

We stopped for a snack at the county line and the kids were more fascinated than I expected that they could be in two counties at once.

 Kids in Both Counties

On the west side of the tunnel, we noticed more old railroad debris than in the east side. There were old ties piled up here and there and even one old rail. There were old telephone poles still standing beside the trail in some places and odd concrete boxes chucked off to the side. It brought again to mind the great argument... Trash or artifact?

We continued west to Coots Lake Beach.

 Coots Lake Beach Sign

The lake itself looked uninviting.

 Coots Lake

There we set a spell and checked the mental math I'd been doing for the past hour or so. We'd started around 1 and it had taken us 2 and a half hours to get there. Most if it was climbing though and we'd stopped for at least 20 minutes so far. We had about 2 hours to get back if we wanted to get home by 7 for dinner with my and Kathryn's folks, who are both in town. If we didn't screw around, we had plenty of time.

And for the most part, we didn't screw around. I had to stop to pee twice but other than that we made great time.

The second time we stopped, there was this oddly misspelled graffiti on the curb.

 Cliff Barr

I can understand misspelling Clif but who doesn't know how to spell "bar"?

It seemed like an odd word to get wrong.

We got back right on time and made it home right on time too. Sophie did great all day. We were able to go much faster, she's got the brakes down and she's figuring out the mysteries of shifting. The only problem she had was that the shifter is still stiff and it gave her a blister on her thumb. It was a minor inconvenience though. Overall, she loves her new bike.

All tolled, we rode 27.58 miles. I was shocked when I read the number. Yeah, it was all on flat, paved trails but still, it seems like a long way for a kid to ride her bike. The girls seemed pleased with it too, as our previous record was right around 20 miles.

They didn't seem too worn out from the effort either. I needed a nap but they were bouncing off the walls all night. I wonder if I can coordinate something even more ambitious next time.

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