Sunday, June 7, 2015

Blankets Creek and Old Rope Mill

I called up Mark B yesterday, and our conversation went kind of like this:

"Yo Mark, want to ride tomorrow?"

"Yeah... I'm going to Conyers, that's all I have time to do."


"You want to do something long, don't you."

"Yeah. Well, maybe next week or something."

"Yeah, I don't have a lot of time this weekend. Cool. Talk to you later."

Then he called me back literally less than a minute later . During that minute, Kaylee had apparently encouraged him to go ride with me and they managed to coordinate the details of said ride. Woohoo Kaylee!

So I met him at Blankets Creek at 9AM the next morning. Since Mark's middle name is Punctuality, he was a little early. But! Since I know that Mark's middle name is Punctuality, I was even earlier, and managed to get dressed, and get my bike ready, and spin a lap around the lot before he got there. Ha! Maybe I should change my middle name to Punctuality too.

Mark B

Turned out that he had a buddy Jim that was going to meet us, but Jim had just left Atlanta like 10 minutes earlier, so he'd be a while. Our loose plan was to ride Blankets, take the road over to Rope Mill, ride Rope Mill, and ride back, abbreviating the route as necessary to make it fit in the time we had available. Jim would be a while though, so Mark figured we could spin a lap around the Dwelling Loop and meet him directly after.

And so we did.

But! There is an additional detail worth mentioning. There was a guy in the lot that had parked across from me that was waiting for someone else too. That someone-else never showed up, and he and Mark had gotten to talking. Mark was like "We're going to do a lap around Dwelling, feel free to tag along..." And so there were three of us.

At first glance, the guy didn't seem to be an ideal riding partner. He'd only been riding for about a year, and judging from his gear, he seemed to still be figuring out his gear. I didn't expect him to be all that fast, but I was wrong there. Mark wasn't killing it, but he wasn't going intentionally slowly, and whenever we'd look back, the guy was still back there. Not right on us, but never really falling off. For what it's worth, I was really impressed.

When we got back to the lot, Glen Slater was sitting there on the tailgate of somebody's truck. I'd just seen him the day before. He'd been getting my old and busted road bike working again and I'd picked it up from his shop (Pro Bike Repair). "Long time no see Davey." He calls me Davey and my brother Johnnie. He's done that for like 12 years. I dig it. It's kind of endearing actually.

Anyway, he was riding there with a guy that Mark knows. Justin, I think. I haven't ridden with him lately, but John says Glen is super, super fast these days. If I know Glen, they only rode for an hour then went home, but probably averaged like 17mph or something crazy like that.

We were looking for Jim. Turned out he'd ridden out to the Dwelling trail head and was waiting for us. 5 minutes later we were all together though and headed over to Rope Mill.

We all wanted to ride both systems, and we figured the best chance of doing that was to head over, ride there, and then see what we could fit in at Blankets on the back end. Sounded like a good idea.

It was at that point though, that I made an error in judgement that would cost me later. I wasn't thinking ahead. Or, I was, but not correctly. I've recovered my technical skills, I've recovered a lot of my strength and endurance, but some of my more esoteric Adventure skills are still rusty, it would seem...

At any rate, we headed over to Rope Mill. The guy that rode with us earlier tagged along again too. Turned out his name was Mike. So, I'll call him Mike from now on. I think he thought we were going to drive over, because he seemed surprised when we just started riding out of the lot. Again, he lagged back a little, but never really far. Again, we weren't killing it, but we weren't taking it easy for his sake either. I was, again, impressed.

So, the route from Blankets to Rope Mill consists of a jaunt along Sixes Road, a right on Holly Springs Road, and then a right again at the Little River, picking up a trail at the back of the Rope Mill property that runs along the river, following some drainage lines and eventually leads past the ruins of the old mill and tees into the main trail system.

That trail is typically super dry and sandy, and the sand pits rival those found in Central Florida, but today it was flooded and the challenge was just finding a dry line. This involved shouldering the bike, leaping across runoff streams, climbing up over raised concrete manholes, and other non-traditional trail negotiation tactics.

There's this one little spot that's a bit of a maze, me and Jim got just a little bit too far ahead, and Mark and Mike got separated from us for a few minutes. We actually had to call to them so they could find us.

I'd kind of wanted to cross the river on the trestle rock, but with all the rain we've gotten lately, the rocks were under water, so we pressed on past the mill ruins and picked up the main trail there.

Since the last time I'd ridden there, Sorba Woodstock had built 5 miles of new trail on the north side of the river. I'd read about plans for that a few years back. It was tentatively named "the fierce trail" back then. Turns out though, they named that group of trails "The Mill" and each individual trail was named after some part of a mill: Raceway, Powerhouse, Turbine, and Moore's Pass. Actually, I don't think that last one is part of a mill.

Since we were on that side already, we hit the new trails first.

Oh, man, we had the greatest time!


Those trails are super fast, and super fun, and flow really well, and there are jumps and drops, and rock gardens, and all manner of obstacles littered about. They all have alternate lines too, so you don't have to rip hardcore unless you're into it, but most of the jumps are easy. They're actually doubles, but after manualling the first two, I just got to trusting that I could clear them and started doing that.

Oh, man! So fun!

I can't believe I didn't know about those trails.

And! That guy Mike hung on the entire time! He wasn't only one turn back at the end of the loop. Ha! Nice job Mike.

He did bail after that loop though. I'm not sure he had 10 more miles of trail and 5 more road miles in him, but still. I was super impressed.

We headed over to the Explorer trails and stopped under the 575 bridge (in the shade) for a snack.


I was suddenly getting very hungry. This is the error in judgement that I'd made earlier, finally coming around. I had food in my truck. I'd planned on riding all of Blankets, grabbing the food out of my truck on the way to Rope Mill, eating some on the way over, and saving the rest for later. Instead, I was thinking something like "Rope Mill is about the same number of miles as Blankets, so I won't need food until I get back." But that logic is idiotic. I'd already ridden 1/3rd of Blankets, and there's still the road back and forth between the two systems! I'd consciously thought about what to do and consciously decided to do the most foolish thing. Rusty, rusty, rusty.

I realized I needed to mitigate the impending suffering though, so Mark gave me some kind of nut-and-chocolate bar that was really good, and Jim gave me a piece of a granola bar. It quelled my hunger, but I was short on calories, and I knew it would cost me eventually. I just hoped I could get back to Blankets before it did.

We shredded the Explorer trails, headed up to Avalanche, which had received a significant entrance/exit reroute since I was last there, and shredded the Avalanche trails too.

It was hot back up in there though. Man. Really hot. Queasy-stomach hot. "Pyramid building weather." I've been riding in the late afternoons for the past few weeks. I need to get more mid-day miles in.

Also, for the past few weeks, I've been struggling to get my technical skills back. To that end, I've been ripping Allatoona Creek as often as possible. A significant deterrent though, has been my tires. They were just seriously, seriously old and worn out. I like to get every mile out of my equipment, but those old tires were taking that principle pretty far. To illustrate this point, I'd picked up new tires last Wednesday, and the old ones had been so worn out, that the new ones felt significantly heavier in comparison. I'd put in a big loop at Allatoona Friday though, and felt like I'd both gotten used to my new tires, and recovered most, if not all, of my cornering and general flow back. One of the reasons I wanted to do the Blankets/Rope-Mill loop was to see if that was really the case, or if I'd just gotten to know Allatoona really well.

I'd talked to Mark about that earlier, and about 2/3rds of the way around Avalanche, he was like "You don't seem to have lost your mojo, I'm not sure what you were worried about..." Yeah, it'd been a good day. I was inclined to agree. And then I began to crater, not 2 minutes later. There's no shortage of climbing on Avalanche, and I was starting to feel how low I was on calories.

It was bad.

Fortunately we were getting near the end of that loop, and I didn't fall terribly far back. Actually, I'd dropped my chain over the outside of my big ring too, and fixing that put me further back than anything else.

Fortunately again, the ride out to the road was mostly flat, involved decoding a bit of a maze, and later, picking tricky lines through wide, flooded trail. None of us were moving too fast.

The Pain Train Trestle

We were all out of water at the road though, so we stopped at the Texaco to tank up. I'd actually done OK on hydration all day. Wasn't behind on that. Just on food.

I fell back on the last climb up to Blankets though, and only caught up because the other guys had to wait on traffic to cross the road.

But it wasn't over!

Jim had to get home, so he took off. I was spent and I wanted to get going too. Mark wanted to as well, but after checking the distance, we were like 3/10ths of a mile short of 30 miles, so he decided to spin a lap around Mosquito Flats. Ok, sounded like a good idea to me too. I ate some of the food I'd left in my truck. It was hot and melty, and didn't taste good, but I figured it would help.

We rode Mosquito Flats and Mosquito Bite, and around the start of Van Michaels, I felt like I could do it. Mark indicated that it was a terrible idea and headed home. It was a terrible idea. It was a crawl. I caught up to the bike patrol guy in some downhill section, but he pulled away from me on the next climb, while intentionally going slow. A lady with a bike with a kickstand was stopped on the side of the trail, got going right as I passed her, and started to catch me on the next climb. Oh, man, it was bad.

When I made it out, I even called Mark on the way home to tell him that he'd made the right decision.

I'm guessing though, that if I'd thought a little harder about eating, things would have been a lot different. I'll have to do that next time.

Live and learn. Again.

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