Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Dennis Mill

Last weekend I actually organized a ride for the first time in as long as I can remember. Dennis Mill was the destination, or more precisely Pinhotis over to Dennis Mill and then pavement and gravel back. I did the route once by myself way back, and after noticing some guys riding in that general area on Strava recently, it struck me to do it again.

Marc, Mark, and Aaron were in the night before. Marc said I should invite Eddie O because "Eddie's the best." And even with super short notice, Eddie was also in, thereby reinforcing his status as "the best."

On the drive up I caught up to Marc and he made a goofy face at me when I pulled up next to him. Despite him being immediately behind me almost all the way to the start, I somehow lost him on Conasauga Road. Eddie was there when I arrived, fully dressed, in fact, but Marc took like 5 more minutes to show up. Apparently he had to pee.


We all got dressed and ready...

Eddie and Hirsch

But Baldwin and Aaron were nowhere to be found. Mark had only given an "Alrighty" the night before. I'd taken it as confirmation, but perhaps it wasn't. Mark is super punctual, so we were eventually like: "Eh, I guess they're not coming" and proceeded pedaling up P3. Eddie had to pee though, so we stopped as soon as we were in the trees, and off to the left we noticed a truck tearassing down the road towards us. Not Mark's. But I recognized his bike...

We waited. They stopped. Mark opens the door and before it's even all the way open announces: "Aaron's fault!"

Ha! (again)

Seconds later and we'd have been climbing switchbacks and never seen them.

As it was, we were all able to ride together. Mark had even gotten partially dressed on the way over and it didn't take them long to get ready.

Baldwin and Hirsch

Eddie was happy because he got to wear his puffy jacket for a while longer.

Ok... Let's go...

P3 is all about negotiating switchbacks, and sadly I failed on the very first one. Somehow managed to wheelie the bike out from under myself. I sketched on one of the second set too, and that very last one I managed to sketch before even starting to turn. So, not a great day for technical skills, but I felt good otherwise.

We passed two riders coming the other way near the top, and one of them looked like Paul Madigan. I hadn't seen him in 15 years though, so I hesitated to call him by name. Mark remembered him and in retrospect thought it might have been. Dangit.

Mark and Aaron climbing out of P3.

Aaron and Baldwin Climbing out of P3

On P4 my chain fell off. It's been doing that lately. You know your chain is badly stretched out when it's falling off of your 1x. Eddie dropped his over the top of his cassette too.

Little did we know that we'd both be dealing with those problems for the rest of the day. I dropped my chain at least 4 more times and he shifted his over the top almost as many.

At the wall on Tatum Lead we joked about it being the worst climb in the NF. Second worst being the kick up Bushy Head Gap. Third being the little b*tch gap on FS29-1 near FS28B. If there was anything positive about it, it was that we were still reasonably fresh, and not hitting it 190 miles in.

Tatum Lead was all shred. I wished I had something bigger up front than a 30 though. I'll be looking into that soon.

At P5 Eddie had to put some air in his tire.


He'd be dealing with that again soon as well.

Further down P5 I got sketchy coming around a curve with Aaron behind me. It was on a bumpy, leafy slab of exposed rock, and he said it looked like I just kept steadily bumping to the outside until I almost ran out of trail. That's definitely what it felt like.

There are several stream crossings down at the bottom, feeders of Baker Creek. One I was able to cross on a tangle of logs. Mark was sure I'd fall and was like "I need a video of this..." but then I made it and dangit, he didn't actually get a video of it!

The next one was deep and logless. So, Marc and I took off our shoes and socks, waded across, dried off and continued. Eddie managed to ride it and keep his feet dry ratcheting. Mark and Aaron did too, so it turned out it was actually rideable.

Dangit again!

When P5 flattens out, it's still fast, and you don't have to worry about boulders hidden amongst the same-colored leaves.

P5 Roadbed Shred

...but there are all these big puddles of doom that you have to ride through or around, and near one of them I slipped on an associated log of doom, ditched the bike, and nearly impaled myself on the jagged branch of a downed tree as I ran out of it. I actually had to grab the prospective impaler and break it off as I stumbled toward it to avert catastrophe.

It all worked out though, and so it was actually funny because it looked funny.

At the intersection with Peeples Lake Road we ran into a guy in a silver truck out exploring. He had a map with a bunch of trails on it that I didn't know. Nice. I'll have to go explore those someday.

A guy also rode by on a motorcycle from the direction of Rock Creek and Mark designated him a cheater.

P6 is actually kind of a long way from P5, or at least it seemed longer than I remembered, then I missed the turn onto the grasstrack and had to spin back after a hundred feet or so.

We ran into some riders on horseback about halfway to the singletrack. Super friendly folks. Made me miss doing trailwork at Bull. I usually see horses on the trail while working, or somebody brings theirs up to camp and ride after working. Between weather and the government shutdown, we haven't been able to do any work parties up there for several months.

There are a couple of stream crossings on the P6 grasstrack too. Everybody rode the first one, so I was like, yeah, me too, then stalled, stumbled, and went staggering and through the water with both feet. Managed to splash most of my left arm and my face in the process.

How long have I been riding?

Everyone else made it with no problem. Fortunately it was actually starting to warm up. It had been right around freezing for most of the day, but the sun had actually come out by then and it was probably in the high 40's. Oh, glorious direct radiation!

Mark and Eddie went ripping by me on the last couple of rollers near the singletrack, then Eddie got wide in a turn, Mark followed him, and they almost ran each other over while I cruised on by smiling.

P6 is like a stretched out P2. Grasstrack, followed by singletrack. Singletrack is mostly downhill, but with a steep kick in the middle. I forgot just how steep and rocky that kick is though. Man...

Also, I rode a super steep, chunky section, sat up waiting for everyone else... Waited. Waited. Got worried that someone broke something or got hurt... Rode back down... Found everyone hanging out taking a break.

Break on P6

It was good that no one was hurt or broken, but re-climbing that steep chunk was tough.

You basically climb up over a gap and then hit 10,000 switchbacks down across the face of some mountain to the parking lot. I remembered the descent, but I'd forgotten about all of the switchbacks. Actually, it occurs to me now... Bruce Dickman used to talk about a trail with 21 switchbacks, way back in like 2007. Pre-P5, and definitely pre-P6. I wonder if it's the same trail he was talking about...

Near the bottom we stopped at the Pinhoti Dedication.

Pinhoti Dedication

Conrad Fernandez, Rick Moon, Ginny Taylor, Larry Wheat... All really cool people.

Next it was pavement all the way to the Stallion store. I was spun out for most of the time and glad to have a draft to sit back in.

Cruising on Dennis Mill Road

Man, that pavement takes forever. Doesn't seem like much on the map, but in real life, it's loooonnnnggggg...

Eddie was growing a flat again too, and had to stop to juice it.

At the store...


...we all grabbed our share of calories. I ate a whole pack of little chocolate donuts. My card wouldn't work as debit though. Only as credit. Way back there used to be men's and women's bathrooms. The men's had a sign in it that said "Please flush" or something and someone wrote in "after sharting" under that, and then someone else wrote in "POOPING" under that. But, the men's room had apparently been condemned and the women's converted into the only available bathroom. It looked like it was well on its way to being condemned too though. Just touching the seat released waves of reek like nothing I've recently experienced in the wild.


Back in the lot Eddie and Mark were doing legitimate maintenance on Eddie's tire.

More Fix-a-Flat

It was full of snakeskin and tumbleweeds but they cleaned it out, found whatever was causing the problem, put a tube in it, and got it working.

Eddie's apparently been off his game lately - string of injuries and illnesses or something. He's been working back to his former glory, but it's apparently been a road. A guy and a lady drove up and started talking to us about where we'd been, how long we were out, etc. They were apparently cyclists too. Eddie was joking about getting a ride back over Ft. Mountain and the lady was joking about him being a sissy.


"Vous me connaissez monsieur?" or madame in this case.

Another guy was asking us about it too, and was kind of amazed at the distance. He grabbed his belly and shook it and said something like "Notice that I don't ride much myself!"

Oh, man! We laughed. I love meeting people on these rides.

After the stallion it was more endless pavement to CCC Camp Road, where we eventually got back on gravel and grinded it out back to MGap. Sadly, we were parked on the other side of MGap proper and had to climb up over that last murderous kick.

Always terrible!


Like 39.something miles. I've got to find a way to add another half mile in there somewhere. Make it an even 40 at least.

My left foot was cold, but somehow my right foot was totally fine. A few days later, I realize that I injured my left toe somehow. No idea how. Might not even have been from riding.

We grabbed some food at the new Ellijay Wood Fired Pizza joint on the square. While parking, the same guy who's wife had called Eddie a sissy jogged through the square. I recognized him immediately. Definitely the same guy.

So random.

The pizza was excellent and the service was friendly. I will definitely eat there again.

Mark was telling us about having seen a play at the local theatre the night before. "Spelling Bee" I think. Then, on the way out of the restaurant, we ran into the main actors on the street.

Ha! Also random.

Aside from needing some Mountain Dew to stay awake, the drive back was uneventful, and I enjoyed the rest of the evening with the fam. Looks like February's work party has been called off while the FS recovers from the shutdown, so unless something goes wrong between now and then, I'll be riding with these same guys at Bull or something on Saturday.

Looking forward to it.

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