Monday, January 7, 2019

Talking Rock Nature Preserve

North Georgia MBA had a New Years Day ride/cookout scheduled at Talking Rock last weekend, which sounded like a good time, because I'd never ridden those trails, and who doesn't love a cookout? I was a little disappointed though because it meant that I'd have to choose that or the Cartecay ride at Bear Creek.

Sadistic decision!

But, ha! The one, and maybe only, good thing about this terrible weather we've been having is that it influenced the NGMBA guys to move their ride back a week, and I got to do both after all.

Thanks rain!?

The festivities started around 1PM, so I had plenty of time to rest up after the previous day's accidental foray into hypothermia. But even after sleeping in, I still managed to get up there a little early. This gave me time to gawk at the old, abandoned houses and barns that dot the road leading into the park.

First Old House on Carns Mill Road (Front Right) First Old House on Carns Mill Road (Left Side) Old Barn on Carns Mill Road Second Old House on Carns Mill Road

And, I love such things, so I was pleased to have the opportunity to get a good look at them.

The park itself is just a big chunk of land to either side of Carns Mill Road. From the air, it looks like it was largely clear-cut at some point, and grew back as pine. There are a couple of signs to let you know you're in the right place.

Talking Rock Nature Preserve Sign

But nothing too fancy.

There is a nice parking area though...

Talking Rock Nature Preserve Lot

...with a kiosk and a trail map.

Talking Rock Nature Preserve Map and Kiosk

The lot was packed when I got there and just got more packed as the day drew on.

It was still early though, so I spun up and down the main roads a bit, mainly to try to shake off the previous day's ride before hitting the trails.

At the north end, I noticed a little church, or house of worship at least.

Bibleway House of Worship Sign Bibleway House of Worship

There's apparently another one nearby that I didn't see when I was out there. But, that's North Georgia for you. Two churches on every street corner.

When I got back, I ran into Terry Palmeri at the tent and she gave me the rundown of the system. There are basically 4 loops. Two on one side of the road, and two on the other. The northern loops on both sides are more technical and have more elevation. I ended up riding the northeastern loop first. Unlike most of the rest of the system, it ran through a hardwood forest. There were a couple of old roads crossing the trail, but they were very old. If that section had been logged, it wasn't any time recently.

Every trail I rode, all day, was either bench cut singletrack shred...

Singletrack Shred

...or sat on an old roadbed. All were incredibly fun to ride.

I got back from my initial excursion a little before the main group rides. I ran into Mike Palmeri too, who I've met like 4 or 5 times, but I never recognize him. I always think he's his brother Vic, who I've actually only met once. The part of my brain that remembers people must have gotten injured skateboarding or something. It's really pretty terrible.

I also met Ken Nix who built the trails (or at least half of them, as they are named after him) and shook his hand.

At 1pm sharp we all gathered together for a big group photo, then hit the trail.

There were probably 30 of us, and at least 15 were more of those NICA kids that I'd ridden with at Bear Creek. Man, they're fast. I don't know if they can keep it up for 30 miles, but they sure can for 10. Some of their coaches were out there riding with them too. It struck me as odd to hear coaching on a bike ride. I'm not sure I ever have before. I've heard plenty on the soccer field, but hearing it on the trail seemed like hearing it at the skatepark... Which I bet also happens these days!

I love that kids can just grow up with 30 miles of bike trail and multiple concrete skateparks, in town.

One of the coaches was a guy named Brad Wilmut. I used to race the GAP and GSC series with him way back in the early 2000's. He used to ride flat pedals, a bmx helmet, baggy pants, and autozone gloves, and he'd launch every little bump in the trail and get tabletopped off anything that resembled a real jump, even during a race. But he was so incredibly fast. Like genetically freakish fast. I could never catch him, and it was pretty demoralizing because I was trying so hard and he was just out riding for fun.

He was out there yesterday too, with like 4 or 5 of the faster kids following him around. He's still fast, still faster than me, still riding flat pedals, and still jumping everything. He was wearing actual cycling gloves, but that was the only difference that I could see. I always liked that guy. It was so cool to see that he was still riding and even cooler to see him mentoring kids.

I did get away from the group after a while, to make sure I rode everything out there. I ended up riding Jon's Trail twice, and in yesterday's direction, it feels like 90% climbing. It's never terribly steep, so you feel like you can crush it, but man, it's just relentless.

I even hiked a little foot-traffic-only loop that tees off of Jon's Trail and runs up by a couple of clearings. One appeared to be used as storage for unused picnic tables and benches. The other had an apiary at the north end. Apiary - that's bees. Bees!

Back at the lot, Terry was grilling burgers and hot dogs.

Terry Grilling

And there was a giant batch of chicken gumbo in a big cooler-thing on the table. Gumbo, eh? Not passing that up. Man, it was good. I'm from Louisiana. I've had gumbo my whole life. I feel well qualified to judge gumbo. And, it was good. Really good. It apparently came from the Black Sheep Restaurant in Blue Ridge, at which I will be dining ASAP.

One other totally random thing...

In the 90's, my dad and I, and actually my wife too, though then girlfriend, all worked for a company called Examco in New Orleans. Complicated story, but Examco was related to a company named Houston Marine which trains people for work on marine vessels. After, multiple buy outs and divestments was eventually bought by Falck-Alford, which is now just Falck. Falck specializes in marine safety training. My dad and I still do software and IT work for Houston (now Falck) semi-regularly.

So how does this happen:

Falck Jacket

Apparently Falck sponsors a Norwegian road cycling team. The lady wearing the jacket was with a team that hung out with their team at Worlds last year, she told a guy she liked his jacket, and he told her "You keep", all Norweigeny. So, she did, and was wearing it yesterday.

So random.

Small, small world.

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