Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Sunday Wrap Up

38 miles, a little over 4 hours ride time, Jono snapped his rear shift cable, a truck ride, two navigational errors yielded us almost to Chatsworth -- who knew FS68 went there?! I thought it ran north / south. Lesson learned: take a map that has more of the surrounding area and better detail.

Ride Details:
The day started fine with arrival to the trailhead on schedule (by2pm) and both Jono and I feeling pumped for a great ride. Route plan was the Firewater 50 route but shifting the start to Bear Creek. There were several hikers about and all were friendly except the guy who parked his Jeep right in front of the trailhead so he, his wife, and two kids wouldn’t have to walk 20 more steps. C’mon, you come to the woods for a hike and you have to save yourself 20 steps? I’ll stay off my “Americans are lazy, self centered……” soapbox but hopefully you feel my pain on this account. The sun was shining, the trail was wet from the rain on Saturday and off we went. I decided to carry a different pack today since we were going self supported for 50 miles. I had entirely too much food packed but I didn’t discover that until later. I’ve ridden with that pack before in Pisgah but today it was too much.

Jono and I joked and razzed each other all the way up Bear Creek but I couldn’t keep pace for some reason. My heart rate was hovering in the 170’s and I couldn’t get it to back down despite a couple of quick stops on FS 68 up to Potato Patch. Once on the FS road, the gnats came out in force which was adding to my frustration – having to swat every few seconds. Thankfully the Lord cares about things about this for us so I prayed that He take do something about the gnats and soon I found that they were not bothering me, even though they were still buzzing about.

We made Potato Patch in reasonable time and made a stop for food. After about 5 minutes, we were off heading toward Lake Conasauga. We were back to our joking and racing each other on the flats and downhills, which was an event that repeated itself all day. I like riding with Jono because we push each other and have fun doing it. We were diving into turns, sprinting out of the turn, faking each other out on passes, etc – just generally having fun with the ride.

We made the top of Windy Gap in good time and started down. We got passed by two (2) dirt bikes but we made that up when one of them got stuck. It was a father-son duo and the son got his bike stuck and dad was yelling directives to him. As I passed the dad, I let him know he should be sure to tell his son’s friends that he just got passed by a spandex wearin’ leg shavin’ cyclist and his response was, “ yea, and one wearing pink no less!” I loved it! After a brief stop at the top of the rocky climb before the big descent, Jono and I dropped in. now, if you’ve not ridden Windy Gap, you have no idea how sketchy, rocky, fast, fun, and dangerous this trail really is. The switchbacks are tight up at the top. The rocks are plentiful, big and loose. Once clear of the rocks, it’s wide open whoop de doo’s and berms. There are sections of the rock gardens that I am still not sure how I got through without crashing. I left Jono somewhere along the long and just let the Salsa Dos Niner (aka PT-6) do it’s thing. As long as I can keep it upright and straight, it will flow. There are no lines through most of those rocks – you just point and go and let off the brakes until you need to adjust.

By the time you make the Milma cut off, the adrenalin is pumping, your heart is bouncing between perfectly calm and “Oh my God I’m gonna die!” Off we went on Milma, heading to Tibbs, still doing well on schedule and the ride plan. Milma is another fun trail with some ups and some downs and creek crossings and rock gardens. At the intersection with Tibbs, we decided for a food stop and to check the map. Now, the map I brought was one that basically just had the FW50 route on it and not much else of the surrounding territory. This intersection can be a bit tricky and since we had each only been there once before, we thought we made the correct decision on our route. After we started riding, and I mean 10 seconds later, Jono’s rear shift cable got caught in his chain and snapped. How the heck did that happen?! I have no idea but it’s one reason I do not like downtube cable routing. We cut the cable and Jono was now relegated to riding with three (3) gears. Fortunately, the chain was stuck on the small cog in the back so he could use his big ring on the DH runs. We knew we were to be climbing back to the ridgeline but somehow we weren’t. We came to this one climb and I thought “Ok, this is it. Elevator up!” Then we dropped again….hmmmm…..As we came into another intersection at the bottom of a climb we knew we were not where we meant to be. We checked the map….checked the compass….and decided to head East on FS 78-B (which was not on my map). We kept staying left at turns and I was hoping and praying that we would come into FS 68, below the Bear Creek trail.

After riding this FS road for longer than we wanted – and praying that we would make it to a road we knew before dark – we popped out quickly onto FS68!! We checked the compass, rode up the road a bit to the cut off for Mulberry Gap (again, not on my map), and stopped for discussion. We both thought we remembered that FS68 ran north / south and if we headed south, we could make the paved road and ride it back to the Bear Creek parking lot. So we headed down the mountain instead of up. Down, down, down, down………still no paved road. As we crossed a river and rounded a right hander, Jono had an epiphany and he knew exactly where we were. He’d been there before on another ride. He said we were near the proper start for the FW50, which is on the Eton / Chatsworth side of the mountain. I disagreed until we found a kiosk with a map. Then all I could do was laugh!

Darkness was setting in as we discovered our exact location was nearly 15 miles from Chatsworth, instead of Ellijay. We were left with the toughest decision all day – to ride up up up up to the Bear Creek cutoff or to hitch a ride. There were some teenagers hanging out nearby and I frankly did not have the legs for the climbing that was before us. We were looking easily at 11miles of nothing but up. Jono tried to motivate me for the climb, but I was having none of it. It was already after 9:00pm, we had both missed dinner appointments, he was down to (3) gears – none of which were ideal for this climbing – and I was beat from carrying too much extra weight. We opted to hitch a ride and this kid Zach very willingly agreed to help us out. He realized how bad it could get for us with the sun gone and the temperature dropping and us being so far off our plan.

We had Zach drop us at the Bear Creek cut off and we dropped in from there for the last section of trail to the truck. Overall it was a great day of riding which my body has taken all week to recover from. It’s Friday as I write this and Jono and I are planning another venture up to Bull Mtn tomorrow. It’s been a very long time since I’ve made navigational errors like the ones last week but I’m glad we were able to enjoy it and ride the week on the adrenalin and memories of Windy Gap and simply enjoying trails that we otherwise wouldn’t have known were so good.

It was great training. Tomorrow will be great training. Next week, I will swim and catch up on sleep in the final days of preparing for the Cohutta 100 next Saturday. I will NOT carry my 2000 cu inch Camelbak tomorrow. I will carry my Camelbak Mule and I will have a better ride. I’m also getting used to the iPod while I ride, it’s actually quite nice –but one earbud only—I still like to hear birds chirping and squirrels scurrying about.

1. Pink Turtle and Chief Hairy Scary at Bear Creek
2. PT-6 at the Windy Gap / Milma intersection
3. Big Chief finishing Windy Gap (he wimped out on the jump :(