Sunday, February 10, 2019


Almost immediately after last week's Blue Ridge shenanigans, I invited the same crew (plus John and Justin) up to the Aska area to rip our legs off on the ridiculousness that lies up that way. Over the course of the next week, nearly everyone turned me down for one good reason or another, but Mr. O'Dea was still in, so we met at the Rock Creek Church in Cherry Log early(ish) Saturday morning, both ready to throw down!

The weather was a great deal less ideal than last week's had been. It hadn't rained a ton, but it was just barely above freezing in the lot, and would certainly be cooler up the mountain. Not absolutely terrible, but I'd really been hoping for more of those mid-50's. No matter though, we had a long climb ahead of us, and were grateful for that.

It's funny when you're grateful that you're starting out the day with a long climb.

We started up Rock Creek Road, passing horse farms and old houses along the way. There's one house up there that used to be painted fluorescent blue. A terrible paint job too, they got paint all over the windows. It's been repainted beige, but the windows are still blue.


We took a slight detour at FS259 and immediately picked up Brownlow Gap Road. Or, as I should now call it: Old Brownlow Gap Road. I'd last ridden it ages ago, and it had just been closed. I don't mean permanently closed with a Kelly Hump or anything, but the gate had been closed, and a sign had been placed saying that it was closed to motorized traffic for habitat restoration, or something. This had been done some few weeks prior to riding it, and it was still basically indistinguishable from the other gravel roads in the area, except that it didn't have a fresh coat of gravel on it. It couldn't have been more unlike that yesterday. It had basically become the Hickory Nut, but with more deadfall, and less maintenance.

Eddie joked that it wouldn't be a Dave Muse ride if you don't end up in a section where you seriously have to contemplate backtracking. Yes, that is my reputation. Clark Neal would definitely agree with that. He's said something pretty similar on a couple of different occasions.

Only about 30% of the road was hike-a-bikey. The rest was difficult, but rideable. Still, we were pleased when we hit Rich Mountain Road, and even more pleased to descend off the back side of Stanley Gap.

Me and Eddie on Aska Road

Well, almost pleased. Eddie was pleased to have brought his puffy jacket because it was really, really cold on that descent, and even colder on the Aska Road rollers.

Somewhere on the first descent, Eddie had to stop to pump up his front tire, and then had to stop and pump it up again at Aska Road. It appeared to just not have beeen sealing well on the rim though, and didn't give him any more problems for the rest of the day.

We got some good views of the Toccoa along Aska Road, but nobody was out fishing that day.

Toccoa River

Our next stop was the Turkey Farm Loop, up off Shady Falls road. We passed the Long Branch lot, and it was super full of cars. We didn't run into anyone on the roads though. I'd only ridden the Turkey Farm Loop like twice before. Once with John, and once with Billy and my Dad. The first time was only a few months after moving to Georgia from Louisiana, and I was surprised by the rolling dips in the road. I couldn't imagine why they were there except to give me something to launch, and I was super happy about it. I remembered that as I tore down the road yesterday, smiling about how I'd been so eager to catch air in the past, while at the time I was doing all I could to keep myself close to the ground.

My memory was apparently fuzzy though... We hung a left, missed the next left, circled a field, and ended up taking a trail down to where the Toccoa becomes Blue Ridge Lake.

Toccoa River Feeding into Blue Ridge Lake


Not exactly right.

Time to backtrack, and reinforce that reputation.

I'd replaced my chain and cassette two days earlier, as both were officially worn out after last week's ride. I'd opted for an 11-46 cassette, hoping to replace my 30 with a 34 up front, have bigger intervals, and have something more useful on the road and going downhill. Well, as fate would have it, the 34 didn't fit my chainring, so I was still riding the 30. As such, I had a pretty easy climb up from the lake, but Eddie wasn't digging it at all. I think he had a 9-46 in the back, but was still running the 36 up front that he used on some long ride. Maybe even from riding the Tour Divide. Whatever it was, he'd been talking about changing it, but never actually did, and it sucked on that climb.

Fortunately, the misadventure was short, and we found the trail that we thought might be the right one quickly.

When we started seeing ruins, we knew we were on track for sure.

Turkey Farm Chimney Turkey Farm Slab Turkey Farm Basin Turkey Farm Smoker Turkey Farm Basement Another Turkey Farm Basement

The loop is called the Turkey Farm Loop because there were once turkey farms back in there. The more durable remains of the farms can be seen and explored. I'd like to go back on foot one day to do a more thorough exploration. I'd bet there's even more out there than you can see from the old road.

It was cool that Eddie wanted to check it all out too. Most people I ride with aren't interested in such things and I tend to bore them with the little side trips. In this case, he actually noticed that first chimney. I hadn't seen it before, only the basements.

It was pretty interesting too. It looked like the stuff had all been built at very different time periods. Some of it was stacked local stone. Some was made out of strange bricks. Some of it was concrete. Made me wonder how long the farm had been in operation before it had finally shut down.

We eventually picked up the "Unknown Road", took that to Brown's Cove Road, and got in some great road shred somewhere in there.

Browns Cove Shred

Kenny who's last name I now forget, that used to run the Dirty Spokes series (the only race series I ever won, though sadly only in Sport) lives off of Brown's Cove Road, so we rode right past his house. Another guy that Eddie knows named Dan (I think), though I forget how they know each other, lives right next door, so we actually rode by both of their houses. Eddie had actually called Kenny when we hit Aska Road, to see if he wanted to jump in for a few miles, but he was skiing or something. Something more reasonable to do when it's cold outside.

The Long Branch lot was still super full when we got there, and we passed a lot of hikers on the trail. I'd heard that a bunch of work had been done on Long Branch after that CoTrails-led full-forest evaluation thing, but I hadn't seen it yet. At first, I didn't notice anything new, but at the north end there was some twisty new singletrack and a bridge over the creek.

Super classy.

There might have been even more done on the other side, but we only rode the west side that day.

Next up - Green Mountain.

Green Mountain Connector

But only after a little lunch and light texting.

Textin and Eatin

That photo totally reminds me of Flo's sister in that Progressive commercial where she's on the exercise bike, texting, and ignoring Flo.

"You're ruining my workout... I'm blasting my quads... Cycling is my passion..."


We climbed Green Mountain and ran into even more hikers.

The descent had been noticeably reworked as well. It looked like road-trail-conversion type work. The work looked nice at 30+ MPH, at least from a sustainability perspective. And, it was so long ago that I last rode it, that I don't know what it was like before SORBA "ruined" it, so ha! Ignorance is bliss.

The Deep Gap lot was also super full, and there were some moms there taking their very young (like 3 or 4 year old) kids out for a hike on the Girl Scout Nature Trail loop. It reminded me of taking my girls out there when they were young. Though they were like 6 and 8 at the time, and we'd whacked directly up the side of Davenport Mountain, ran along the ridge until we picked up Stanley Gap and hiked back down that. Christ, we did that. We did that kind of thing a lot. Man, those were the days...

Climbing Flat Creek, we passed a group of 3 mountain bikers who were impressed that we both had titanium bikes. Or maybe they were mocking us. I don't know. I do know that we dropped them so fast that it would have been upsetting, if they had been mocking us.

We also passed a guy in a PBR kit, just like mine! He was shredding downhill though, and I didn't recognize him or do much more than wave. Eddie thought that it was Josh Vandall, but I honestly couldn't tell.

Further up, we passed like 5 girls and a guy, all drinking Miller Lite, mostly pretty drunk. Got to stay hydrated, right?!

Eddie joked about how good that beer would have been right then.

The Long Branch descent was furious. More of the same road-trail conversion work had been done there. Basically, the right-hand side of the old roadbed had been filled in with debris, encouraging traffic on the outside edge. I'd bet in the summer it's all overgrown on the inside now too. Occasionally, the trail swerves in and then back out. There does seem to be less chunky rock, but it's been so long that I can't really be sure, and man is it fast. And there are super long lines of sight, so though we were able to go tearing down the trail, we didn't come tearing up on any of the 3 different groups of hikers we ran into on the descent.

Eddie flatted somewhere in there. Rear tire this time. I stopped to wait, noticed he wasn't there, and climbed back up for like 1/4 of a mile before I found him. I'd passed some hikers, had to pass them in the other direction, and they hadn't even seen him yet. Yikes.

Turned out he had a pinhole leak at the sidewall that just wouldn't seal. We fiddled with it for like 20 minutes, got passed by all the hikers we'd seen earlier, and those guys on mountain bikes too, and had to pass all of them again later.

Everyone was super friendly. The first group was glad that I'd found my friend.

I was actually really happy to see so many people out hiking those trails. Ten years ago that was almost unheard of. There'd only ever be like 2 other cars in the Deep Gap lot, both with bike racks. I think me and John ran into some hikers on Flat Creek once, and once again ran into some on Stanley Gap. People used to avoid hiking multi-use trails. I've seen lots of hikers and runners at Bull over the past few years though, and an increase at Blanket's Creek too.

I'm not sure if the recentish work can be credited for the increase, but the trails do look beautiful now. They actually strike you as hiking trails now, rather than old roadbeds. They have the character of hiking trails, but are also open to bikes. I love it.

The rework was very apparent at the bottom. There are several bits of twisty singletrack down there. More RTC.

But, the most apparent thing was the new bridge.

The Replacement for the Slipperiest Bridge in the Forest

The old bridge used to be the slipperiest bridge in the entire forest. It was slippery in every season, at every time of day. My brother and I'd both crashed on it. I'd randomly mentioned Flat Creek to other mountain bikers over the years, and they'd been like: "Yeah, and that bridge..."

The new bridge is narrower, but a lot sturdier, and not the least bit slippery. I fantasize that even nature itself had gotten tired of the old bridge and destroyed it with deadfall in a flood.

The climb back out was tough. I'd forgotten how steep it gets in some spots. It's super, super steep.

In retrospect, the ride was a little strange. The climbing got successively longer and more difficult, all day - Rock Creek Road, then Turkey Farm, then Long Branch, then Green Mountain, then Flat Creek, and now, finally, Stanley Gap.

I had to fiddle with my jacket or something, so Eddie went ahead of me. That turned out to be a good idea because I ended up crawling a few times.

Just, crawling.

30/46 is a good gear to have on Stanley Gap, when it's the last climb of the day. But, you crawl.

I was overjoyed to hit the ridge on Rocky Mountain...

Stanley Gap

...and even happier when I saw Eddie waiting for me at the top of that kick before you start sidehilling again.

We passed several more groups of hikers between there and where the BMT splits off.

The first bit of downhill on Rocky Mountain gets slippery. I'd even crashed there once, riding with Travis, and tore up my arm, but there was no crashing yesterday, only flow, worn out fingers, and tired forearms and triceps.

All we had left was to cruise down Rock Creek Road back to the car.

You can just let it go too. No brakes needed. The road is just the right grade, and just the kind of tread. Or, at least it was that day.

When it became pavement again, we passed the weird old blue-beige house again, and greeted the various horses in the various pastures. And the mules. Not to forget the mules.

There are a couple of kicks at the end of the road, right before you get to the church that aren't really that hard, but after downhilling for so long, your legs feel dead when you hit them. Especially at the end of the ride.

Actually, that had been happening all day. We'd climb for a while, hit some long descent, rip that, recover, keep ripping, and eventually have dead legs when it was time to start climbing again. That's how long the descents are out there.

Gotta love it.

We'd been joking about how hungry we'd gotten on the last descent, and so that neither of us felt the need to eat our respective arms, or any of the horses we'd passed, we satisfied our hungers at Poole's BBQ, just down the road in Ellijay.

Poole's BBQ

It's the one with all those pigs on that hill.

The guy behind the counter was garrulous and told us a story about how in high school they were talking about converting the US to the metric system, and he'd had a poster of a girl in a bikini with her measurements in imperial units on one side and metric on the other, with "Think Metric!" at the top of the poster. Sounds like a weird story to tell, but it struck me as really funny at the time.

My brain wasn't functioning properly yet, and while he was taking my order, I thought briefly about work. This switched it into Portuguese, and I answered "Para aqui, sim" to "Is that for here or to go?" and actually had to translate that into English in my head so I could say it again in English. That has not happened before, and it was weird.

We feasted on brisket before finally hitting the road back to the ATL.

I was hungry again only a few hours later and managed to eat another full meal at Doc Chey's with Sophie that night.

Calorie deficit. If you want one, there's nothing better than climbing all day at Aska.

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