Monday, August 16, 2021

Mill Creek

A month back I told Kate that I tend to binge stuff, so they might get tired of seeing me, and that's turning out to be true. I'm not sure if they're actually getting tired of seeing me yet, but I've certainly been binging the Cohuttas lately, and it's just so great to base out of Mulberry Gap that I've been seeing them quite a bit.

The last 3 rides went so well, that this past Saturday I figured it was time to try that Mill Creek loop again.

That Mill Creek loop is no joke. I only really discovered it this year, and I really think it's the longest sustained climb that I know of. I want to say Corbin Creek is 12 miles, but from Shorty Lenz to the top of the first kick after you turn on to FS68 is 13. And, I think Corbin Creek has some rollers. Anyway, it's a long, difficult climb, that just gets more difficult as you go. I suffered last time, but now that I was feeling good again, maybe I'd suffer less. That was the idea at least. We'll see...

I grabbed Waffle House again on the way out of town - "Order scramble well, dry toast, hold the grits, and a waffle." "You eat a lot of Waffle House, don't you?" "Heh, yes, I do."

Last time I was up there, I noticed that the iconic Ellijay signboard was missing all of its signs. This time I got a photo of it.

Empty Ellijay Signboard

What's the story there? Are they just replacing the signs? Does the structure itself need maintenance? Will it disappear? It's such a landmark, I hope it doesn't go away for good.

Downtown Ellijay was buzzing too. There were tons of people milling around. The shops and restaurants were all very busy. It looked like how I think of Helen looking on a busy Saturday. Yet, traffic wasn't bad. It seemed ideal.

I made it to Mulberry Gap in good time, and got on the bike quickly. There were ten thousand people on CCC Camp Road. The picnic area was packed. The Emory Creek trailhead was packed and cars lined both sides of the road. People were fishing and swimming and just screwing around in the water. It made me happy to see everybody getting outside.

A guy on a motorcycle passed me as I crested a little hill, and I was able to keep within 100 yards of him for a really long time, until it finally flattened out and he could get on the gas. There were like 10 people just finishing up a ride at a parking lot further on, and we all waved to each other.

On the final half-mile or so out to the pavement, traffic was actually kind of bad. I got stuck in a line of cars, like 10+ cars ahead of me and what looked like the same behind. I could keep up with them, but not without a little effort. I feel fairly certain that I inhaled an unhealthy amount of dust through there.

When we hit pavement, the cars all sped by and I was on the road alone for a while. At Hassler's Cemetery, I saw a white truck with a tailgate pad. I'm pretty sure I saw the same truck in the same spot the last time I rode this loop.

I remembered the turn onto Ellijay-Crandall road this time, and made really good time down it.

This time, I also recognized the farm that I'd not recognized last time.

Farm Near Crandall

The fields used to be overgrown, and the farmhouse dilapidated. People rode ATVs all over the property, and you could come out through it from Rocky Flats. Now, it all looks renovated and active, and I imagine the current owner might frown on trespassing.

Somewhere along that road, I noticed a pair of jeeps pulled over, one with the hood up and a guy wrenching on it. I offered a hand, but he'd just finished fixing it. Turned out, he'd done some suspension work recently, but didn't have good enough damping somewhere (I don't know much about jeep suspension, so I'm sure this sounds silly), ended up getting a death wobble, managed to get it under control, but as he came to a stop, smoke and flames erupted from under the hood. He had a fire extinquisher, and put out the fire, but was initially at a loss to explain it. It didn't smell like fuel. Turned out that the power steering return hose had been clamped below the flange on the metal line and had just come off. The fire was presumably caused by power steering fluid spraying on the exaust manifold. None of us had ever seen or heard of that happening, but I guess it can. I wondered if he didn't ALSO have a fuel leak, but again, it didn't smell like fuel, and the spray pattern and the way he described what had been burning was consistent with power steering fluid. So weird. He'd reclamped the line and was checking hoses and wires when I'd ridden up. Miraculously, everything looked fine. He cranked it up, and it ran! No leaks, no problems. Awesome! Good luck jeep guys.

I hung a left on Shorty Lenz, and another on FS630. While initially steep, 630 tapers of quickly and feels about like Noontootla for most of it. It's less scenic, but it's a general pleasure to climb. I felt great, but I expected to. It was much later that the suffering switch might get flicked.

I had 2 bottles with me, both full of gatorade. There's a spring near the top of 630, that's allegedly almost always running, so I figured I'd tank up there when I got to it.

Ha! I eventually arrived at the spring, and it was bone dry. I even looked down the creek to see how far down I'd have to go if I had to. It was a LONG way. But, as it turned out, I'd gone through much less gatorade than I'd expected to. I still had about 1/4th of the first bottle left, and the whole second bottle. I felt certain that I could finish the ride on that. Worst case, I could turn around, bomb back down, go trapsing through the woods, and tank up from Mill Creek proper.

At Hickey Gap, there's a campground and probably a faucet, and definitely a stream running through it, but I felt like I still had plenty left, and I was making really good time, so I passed on that opportunity too.

At the intersection with FS17, the real climbing began. From there to FS68 is just one long, tough climb. It does flatten out a few times, but I don't think it ever descends for any significant distance. At some point, I passed this smashed copperhead...

Dead Copperhead I took a photo for Billy, because he hates snakes, and I'd think he'd be happy to know that there is one less living snake in the world. Sadly, its body was sustaining yellow jackets, which both of us despise, and which are, realistically, more likely to cause pain and suffering than a copperhead, which doesn't freaking fly! I actually like snakes, so, I'm not sure whether this particular loss was a net win or not.

Ahh, Mill Creek Overlook.

Mill Creek Overlook

I relaxed a bit at the overlook, got my mind into "perpetual retrospect" mode and really enjoyed the view.

But, I didn't want my legs to get too cold, and I wanted to make it back in time for dinner, so I didn't stay as long as I might have liked. I made it to the top of the first kick after you turn left on FS68 and re-evaluated my drink situation. I had about half a bottle left. There were 2 big "rollers" between there and Potatopatch. If I didn't have enough to get over those rollers, then I'd have to turn around now. Otherwise I could get stuck between them and it would be seriously miserable. I was still feeling really good though. I was climbing well, for me at least, hadn't had the urge to walk at any point. No cramps. No proper suffering. I wasn't even thirsty. I felt like I could make it, as long as I didn't just bonk outright, and I'd been eating so I dind't expect that to happen either.


All went as planned. I felt good on 68, all the way to Potatopatch. I mean, yeah, those climbs go on and on, and I always forget how many there are, and the details, and I'm always surprised how long that second one is, but considering all of that, I felt good.

There were 3 guys on motorcycles at Potatopatch, and we all said hello and waved.

The Bear Creek Overlook was surprisingly empty. Just myself, and one other car.

Bear Creek Overlook

At Barnes Creek there were multiple families picnicing and enjoying the falls.

Barnes Creek Falls

That descent is so long that when you have to start climbing that last little bit up Mulberry Gap Road, your legs are totally cold. Heh. I really felt the last little kick up to the barn.

But! I was done, and it had been a great time, despite what I'm told was crushing heat, and the minor Adversity with my water supply.

Regarding the heat... This cheap, thin, bargain basement, Amazon-special, SparX tri-kit has performed amazingly well all summer. I bought it because it was cheap and if it turned out that tri-kits in general suck, then it was no big loss, but I've been really happy with it. It's noticably cooler than a jersey over a bib, and the material is wonderfully thin and breathable, yet somehow adequately tough. The chamois was so poorly sewn in that it was trivial to remove, but somehow all of the rest of the seams are super durable. I may continue to buy these if the two that I have ever wear out.

I got back at 5:53. Dinner was served at 6:00 - Hamburgers, hot dogs, and sausage.

MGap Cookout

Just look at that!

There was also a multi-layer desert thing that I couldn't eat all of.

I ended up sitting around, drying off, and stinking the place up again, but this time, I ate outside for most of the time, and aired out pretty well before finally coming in and hanging out with people. Hopefully it helped. Really though, I need to just get up there a lot earlier.

Ha! Oh yeah, the TNGA is a week a way, and Andrew mentioned that they were having a staff meeting that evening about it. I just happened to walk by this whiteboard...

TNGA 2021 Meeting Agenda

...and the surreality of it really struck me. I've mentioned before how my mental concept of the TNGA is somewhat stunted. I can relate to riders training all year for it, and to the crowd at the start, and I can relate to the experiences in the write ups and videos, and I can related to the logistics that Honcho and Koz before him had to manage. But, every now and then I'll see something that I didn't expect - like Kate had a manila folder that said TNGA on it a few years back, with who-knows what in it, and this past weekend there was a whiteboard with meeting points, and a staff meeting... It's grown such that behind-the-scenes work is being done, and this work requires business tools. There's pre-training, and onboarding, and master rosters! In reality, it's been that way for a long time, I just don't often see it firsthand. Every now and then I do, and I'm awestruck, and it's just surreal.

I'll be spectating this upcoming weekend, and I'm actually getting pretty excited!

No comments:

Post a Comment