Monday, July 6, 2020


I don't remember exactly how we decided to do it, but Billy and I decided to ride Noontootla a couple of weeks back. I met him at his place reasonably early in the morning, and we got up there reasonably early in the day. On the way up, like a few miles from where we were going to park, we noticed a guy behind us with a mountain bike on his car too. I joked that it would likely be someone I knew, as I often run into people I know 100+ miles from my house.

As we pulled up to the church, we noticed a guy in a red truck already there, with a road bike. Popular place. We pulled up on one side of the red truck, and the guy in the car pulled up on the other. Ha! It was Mark Baldwin. Classic. He was headed up to meet Aaron, Marc, and someone else for some enduro action and figured he'd get in some extra climbing miles on Noontootla before joining them. The guy in the red truck turned out to be Zeke Lilly. Ha! Classic again. I'd somehow known Zeke for years. We'd always ended up doing a lot of the same events - GAP, GSC, SERC, various 6-hour and endurance series, so I'd see him, or hear his name all the time, either at the event, or someone mentioning him afterwards. Man, what are the odds? He was out for some road miles that day, but me and Baldwin gave him some info on some less-ridden local stuff that he hadn't hit in a while.

But, enough with the salutations, we had mountains to climb.

Let's go!

As it was still earlyish, it was damp, and there were sunbeams blazing down from the sky, through the canopy, whereever it would allow.

Sunbeams on Noontootla

[!!angelic choir!!]

Billy's fitness has improved dramatically over the past few months, and we made really good time up to Winding Stair Gap.

We did have to stop somewhere along the way to fiddle with his GPS.

Billy Fiddling with Crap

I can't remember why now. Maybe the batteries died? It was something like that. Something unexpected.

Every camp site was occpued along the creek. Three Forks was the busiest I've ever seen it, ever. I think I said that one time before in one of these posts, but it was even busier than that. In theory, I love that everybody's getting outdoors these days, but it sure puts a lot of pressure on the forest. Maybe not the forest as a whole, but lots of pressure on particular spots. It made me wonder if this is how it was way back - back before gyms popped up everywhere. The forest is covered in closed roads and they're littered with abandoned dispersed campsites. I always assumed they were strictly to accommodate hunters, but if the demand for kicking back in the woods was every anything like it was that day, then I can imagine they'd have gotten a lot of use in the summer too.

We saw a horse trailer parked at Puncheon Gap, and ran into a pair of ladies on horseback near Hightower Gap. It's not super common to see horses on the roads up there - so much traffic to deal with. But, we chatted with them a bit, and they ride up there regularly. Cool! Maybe I'll run into them again.

Speaking of running into people, we ran into Mark, Marc, Aaron, and somebody else that I didn't recognize (i.e. not Eddie or Chris) climbing back up Rock Creek Road from some run they'd just finished. We were approaching them at near terminal velocity, so we didn't have time for much more than pleasantries, but it was cool that we saw them.

At Rock Creek Lake, some guy had gotten his truck stuck on the side of the road. Two-wheel drive, with an open differential. Just parked too far off of the edge, and couldn't get traction on the downhill side. A guy had just pulled him back onto the road and unhooked the recovery rope, but instead of continuing to back up, he just cut it hard left and gunned it. That one back tire spun and spun, and his front wheels slid about 4 feet before they caught. At that point, his back tire was back in the mud again, and that little bit of momentum he'd managed to get before driving off of the road again was all that kept him from getting right back into the same mess he'd been in before. Me and Billy and 3 other guys were all standing around, chuckling about it. Hey, any landing you can walk away from...

Obligatory Shady Grove Church shot.

Shady Grove Church

On FS333...

Climbing on FS333

We passed a couple in a truck with 2 bikes on a trailer rack, really struggling with the road. It seemed likely that they'd followed their GPS back there. I couldn't imagine they'd have gone that way intentionally, with the bikes on the back like that. Further up we warned a guy in a jeep that they were heading his way: "I'm not 100% sure they know what they're doing."

Doublehead Gap road is now 100% paved. In 2000, it was all gravel, but every few years, a little more would get paved, or get BST'ed. The last time I rode it, there was a little segment near Peter Knob that was still dirt. No longer! It's all blacktop now.

All blacktop and turtles.

Turtle on DH Gap Road

I moved that little guy off of the road while it hissed at me constantly.

A few miles from the end, Billy suggested that we spin another loop. Ha! I hadn't eaten anywhere near enough for that. Like part of one Clif Bar 15 miles ago. I could have toughed it out, but I also had crap to do back at home, so we cut it short.

Back at the car, I swear I saw Lisa Randall leaving in the direction of Aska as we pulled up. I don't know what she rides these days, so I couldn't be sure, but it looked like her, and she had a pack, and was headed in the direction that mortals don't go, so it seemed likely that it was her. On the other hand, I yelled "Lisa!" and she didn't seem to notice, so maybe it wasn't her.

Anyway, I love that loop, and it was great to ride it again, and great to get in some good miles with Billy, and great to see everybody that we ran into.

All around great!

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