Wednesday, December 26, 2018


The night before Christmas Eve, I was at a Christmas Party, and I got a text from my brother indicating that he'd be at Cochran Mill the next day, at 10AM, and did I, Justin, Glen, and/or Howie want to meet him for a couple of hours. I didn't get a chance to text him back, but it was adequately dry the next morning, so I met him, and we rode for a couple of hours. Justin met us out there, and we did basically the second half of the ride with him too. During the ride, he mentioned wanting to do some gravel soon, and I was like "sure, I could do some gravel, just let me know."

Christmas evening I get a text, like 9:40PM, about riding some gravel in Alabama. Intriguing. I'd dumped the USFS GIS data for most of Alabama into my trails site some years back, but hadn't ridden any of it to speak of. I didn't even know how many miles one could reasonably ride out there. He had 40-50 in mind. All right!

8AM the next day, we met at the Post Road Park-n-Ride in Douglasville and headed west to Heflin. Or maybe Cleburne I think is closer to where we started.

Whatever the city is, we parked at the Shoal Creek Work Center...

Shoal Creek Work Center Ranger Station

...and headed north from there.

Almost immediately, like minutes into the ride, I realized that though I'd brought Clif Bloks with me, I'd left them in his truck.



Glad I realized then though, and not hours later when I needed them.

Ok, reset.

We headed north on FS500, and pretty much just rode that north until we hit Hwy 55, then turned around and rode it back.

For the first hour I felt terrible. Cold. Breathing hard. Couldn't get a good breath. I'm not sure how cold it was, but it was typical of cold-weather riding.

The roads up there are super, super punchy. Steep climbs. Steep downhills. More steep climbs. Lost of shifting. Lots of spinning. It's like riding the ridgeline between Mountaintown and Windy Gap. Kind of tough.

Justin has a 36 up front, and an Eagle 10-40'something in the back. I had a 32 up front and an 11-40-something, so he had that little bit extra on the descents and flats. John and I'd ridden some Dirty Sheets with him a while back and had trouble keeping up. It was like that for most of the day out there too. I've been riding my 1x11, mostly by myself, for the past 6 years, and though it's probably fine on singletrack, it's tough to keep up on gravel. I could use some more gear. I'll be looking into that soon, I think.

We passed a few hunters, and a few cars passed us, but only a few. There weren't a lot of folks out there.

A little past halfway out, we rolled through the Coleman Lake Campground...

Coleman Lake Campground

...out to the day-use area.

Coleman Lake Day Use Area Pavilion Coleman Lake Day Use Area Facilities

Justin wanted to see if the water was on year round or not.

Coleman Lake Day Use Area Water

Turns out no.

I was super confused by this nonsense:

Coleman Lake Day Use Area Electrical Plug

Who is this Plug guy, and why would he be campaigning at a day-use pavilion in the middle of nowhere? What's with the low-budget sign on the chunky wood backing?

I was clearly low on brain sugar. Around the back side, was an outlet. "Ohh... Electrical Plug."

Heh. I literally didn't think of that.

From there, we pushed on, further north.

Though the road was punchy, its tread was sublime.


Rarely any loose gravel. No wrestling match. Just smooth, hard packed dirt, most of the time. I loved it.

Justin on FS500

We were both digging it, it seemed.

Somewhere in there, I started feeling better, and continued to feel great all the way to our destination, Hwy 55.

Justin at Hwy 55

The views were spectacular from up there.

Spectacular for Alabama, at least.

View South From Hwy 55 View North From Hwy 55

Georgia and Alabama seem to have that in common. You rarely get to see a long way without trees in the way.

We didn't hang out for long. There wasn't much to do there, and we didn't need any rest. So, we got right back to it. I continued to feel good for the next hour, and then suddenly just didn't. I had plenty of energy, but my legs were like "screw you Dave, we're done" and started trying to cramp. I say trying because they never full-on locked up, but they'd twinge and twinge, and once I stopped to pee and my left thigh looked like there was an alien in there, trying to escape.

That passed though, after about half an hour, and I was back to feeling reasonably good. A little depleted, but I started feeling like I'd be fit to continue for some time. Unfortunately, within half an hour we were back at the truck. Or maybe it was actually fortunate. I'd hate to have discovered that I was wrong, which I may well have.

Tough, punchy route. Apparently it's a chunk of the annual Skyway Epic 60/100/200. The whole route is apparently like that. I intend to do that ride at some point though, so I'd better get used to it.

We grabbed some Subway on the way out - meatball on wheat, and my mind was still only operating at about 75% capacity. I remember joking with the lady behind the counter and thinking that she was really funny. I don't remember eating the sandwich, but I must have because I do remember crumpling up the paper after.

Not sure why that ride took so much out of me. I guess I can chalk it up to all this rain we've been having. Maybe.

Whatever, it was still a good day. 43 miles in under 4 hours, off road. I guess that's decent. I hope to get in a bunch more of that kind of riding over the next few months.

Wish me luck.

No comments:

Post a Comment