Sunday, June 23, 2019

Baldwin's Burger Ramble

Mark texted a bunch of us last week, hoping to get some folks together for a ride out of his house, then some swimming, then some burgers.

Sounded just right.

Me, Hirsch, and Peter Josky (Joski?) showed up. Eddie was house hunting or something, so he couldn't make the ride, but said he'd be by afterwards for festivities.

On the way up, I stopped at the QT on 515 near Jasper and apparently there was another ride going on.

The lot was full of trucks with bikes on them, and the gas station was filled with the chisel-calved set. There was apparently a social ride heading out of Mulberry Gap. Sounded like they were heading up to the overlook, then taking Bear Creek, P1, and P2 back. I had no idea what we'd be riding, so I couldn't compare it, but I wished them well.

Heading into Ellijay, it looked like a tornado had come through. The roads were still wet, and there was leaf debris everywhere. When I got to Mark's place, he was cleaning up his pool. They'd had a pretty significant storm the night before, and he'd woken up to the same kind of mess in his backyard as I'd seen on the road. That's luck, right? The day you invite friends over, nature wrecks your pool. He had it in hand though. I wouldn't have known, except that he told me.

I got there at about 9, but everybody else would be there around 10, so I got to hang out for an hour or so with him and Ryn. During this hour, I got to know all of her dolls, horses, and "stuffies", and we had a dance party with a rotating light ball and the Karaoke version of some Megan Trainor songs. Kalee showed up about the same time as the rest of the guys, Mark handed off Ryn to her, and we all hit the trail.

Well, the road first. We actually had to spin down Hwy 52 for a while before hitting any actual trail.

There are some rollers on 52, and I'll tell you, I had a little trouble with them. Not that he was ever weak, but Mark has gotten exceptionally strong since moving up north. He was riding his long-travel bike, with some weird new bulk-monster Trust fork on it, and he was STILL moving. Hirch is always strong. I hadn't ridden with Peter in like 15 years, since we all raced GAP/GSC/SERC together, but he was as fit and shredded as I remembered. It was tough keeping up.

We hung a right off of 52 and rode all the way down to the Cartecay. There's a bridge there that you can cross and get a good view of the river, but as fate would have it, that one day, there was a security guard there, turning away anyone that didn't live in the Blackberry Mountain neighborhood on the other side. People were tubing in the river, there's a take-out just downstream from the bridge, and we could imagine they'd get out, then go stand on the bridge to watch their friends come down the river, and block traffic. So, it made sense, but it was a bit of a drag.

Still, we went down to the take-out, and watched the tubers for a few minutes.

Good enough.

Next, we hit the River Loop.

The River Loop is, allegedly, the oldest official trail in the state of Georgia. It was formerly opened to mountain bikes in the mid-80's. I'd only ever ridden it once, in the early 2000's, when I first moved to Georgia. Me and John rode it, I think. The road in appeared to have been improved a bit since then, but the trail was the same as I remember. There's this super-sketchy descent down to the river. I remembered it. Not in detail though, just that it existed. Mark warned us that it was sketchy. "I've crashed."

There are 2 lines, one to the left, and one to the right. Pick one.

I picked the left.

The trail was deceptive. The tread seemed dry, but the rocks and roots were still damp. That plus new tires equaled me crashing about halfway down. I tried to go left of this stump, but just couldn't get around it. I went over it, got kicked around into the rut, and thrown into a tree. That's how you break a collar bone!

Fortunately, I did not. I was uninjured, and not even hurt. I did get a little brush-burn on my right shoulder, but I couldn't even feel it.

Ok, let's try that again.

Immediately, crashed again.

This time, I didn't lift well enough over a root crossing the trail at an angle, and it yanked the front tire out from under me. It was one of those where you hit the ground faster than you'd expect that gravity could pull you down. I never even let go of the bars, and slammed hard on my left shoulder, this time.

Come on!

Peter was behind me the first time, and Hirsch the second.

I just sat there for a few minutes, expecting to have broken a rib or something. The crash was so much like the one at Cochran that had injured my rib, that I fully expected to have done it again.

Turned out no though. No obvious damage, actually. I felt basically fine.

I was at the very end of the downhill too. There was nothing left but a little rock garden that you don't even have to ride.

Man. I used to ride that kind of stuff, all day long. So confidently, that I'd ride it solo, with no mishaps. What the hell?

Hirsch said I was just having a bad day. I'd like to believe that. It felt like the new tires were throwing me off, but I couldn't be sure. My instinct are tuned to Continentals, but the Ikons like to "right you" more. It's hard to describe. If you turn, you have to kind of lean into it a little harder. They kind-of want to pop you back up out of the turn. I couldn't immediately tell how that translated into the two problems I'd had on the descent though, so there could be other dynamics that I haven't learned yet. They are definitely grippier than the Conti's. Like, when it's dry and marbly at Blankets, you can lean into the corners harder than with the Continentals. Maybe I'd been expecting them to be grippy when it's wet too?

No idea.

We regrouped at the bottom and Peter pointed out that I had actually taken a little damage during that last crash. I was bleeding through my shorts from a 6-inch gash, running all the way up my thigh.


It wasn't immediately clear how bad it was. It was bleeding a bit, but I couldn't tell if it needed stitches or not. No matter, I'd been carrying around some first aid supplies for years now, and finally had a chance to use it. Turned out it was entirely superficial. No need for the butterflies, just some gauze to keep it from getting dirtier.

Let's ride.

Actually, we only rode a few yards. There was a nice spot on the river there to chill for a few minutes.

So we did.

I led out after that, and was gunshy for the next couple of miles. The rest of the trail along the river is flat, but there were plenty of slick roots and rocks. I didn't have any trouble with them though. So, I felt a little better after a while. The climb out was tough, but it turned out that the 34-52 was plenty of gear for it.


And, I hadn't had any shifting issues at all, the whole day. Looks like the new cassette might actually work out.

On the way back towards Mark's place, we spun a gravel loop through the Rich Mountain WMA, some of which I'd ridden during the Tour De'liverance. The 34-11 turned out to be enough gear to stay hooked up through most of that too, at least as well as the rest of the guys. With the 30-11 that I'd been running before, I'd regularly get spun out and watch everybody just ride away from me.

No longer!

To get back to Mark's place, we went around the back of the mountain and climbed "Kill Hill." On Strava, only 9 people have ever climbed it. Me, Mark, and Marc were 3 of them (Peter's not on Strava). It's less than a mile, but it's super steep. I wanted to see if I could just sit back and climb it though, and I totally could. Another win for the 11-52 cassette. Not having such ridiculous gears, the other guys had to grind it out, and as a result, they all beat me back to Mark's house by over a minute.

When we got back, Mark was like: "I've got a garden hose with your name on it."

I was covered in dirt. Both shoulders, and all the way up the left side of my body.

I had a chance to get a good look at my wound too.

The cut is actually nothing. It looks bad, but it's totally superficial. The wide bruise beneath it, that you can't see in the photo yet hurts much worse than the cut today.

Pool time!

I realized I'd hardly been in a pool in years, and had the greatest time. I also realized that I'm getting old, and had to warm up a bit before going for gymnastics off of the diving board. I managed to do a pretty good faceplant going for a one-and-a-half early on there.

Eddie showed up soon after. Mark grilled some fantastic burgers, and we all sat around in the shade "just getting all fat and sassy." Kalee had made some brownies too, that were just right - nice and crispy at the edges and corners, but still a little soft in the middle.


What a day! I managed to crash my brains out twice, and yet somehow, when I think back on it, it's still a fond memory.

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