Thursday, July 3, 2014

Heartbreak Bailout

Hey there now,

So I left yall on the edge of your seats about last Sunday's Pisgahdventure.

Charlotte folks were coming to town to ride mountain bike-cycles in Old Fort, NC which is a short jaunt down the mountain from me. I was under the impression that it was to be a nice mellow day in the forest and we'd all ride and laugh, and chill and absorb good mountain vibes.

I watered up, grabbed a couple granola bars and headed down.

We met up at the Old Fort Picnic Area and as soon as I pulled in I knew something was awry. Several Charlotte fasties were there and the group was murmuring something about training for ORAMM, a 70 mile mountain bike-cycle race going down in July.

hmmm... "Oh well" I thought, "maybe they're doing a big ride and we're doing the fun, mellow one". A quick photo was taken of this merry band of misfits and we proceeded to venture forth into the wilderness.

Once we were on the road, Momma Nature sarted teasing us with a mix of sun, clouds, and threatening rain. High humidity and low hanging clouds rarely mean dry times in these mountains. "rain should make this a little more interesting..." I thought.

Along the way I discovered that the easy day in the woods I had been planning on, was not going to happen.

The plan was:

Star Gap (brutal climb) to Jerdon Moutain Road (monotonous gravel climb) to Curtis Creek Road ("stab me with a soldering iron and end the pain now" gravel road climb) to the Blue Ridge Parkway (paved sucky climb with cars trying to kill you) to Heartbreak Ridge (badass awesome fun downhill) back to the car. 40+ miles with 90% of the ride up hill...

"Well then" I thought... "I should have brought more granola."

So off we went, up switchbacks on Star Gap/Lower Heartbreak. If Im not mistaken this climbs hundreds of feet in about a mile and there are no less than 17 switchbacks one has to traverse. Momma Nature had recently deposited her rains on the area that morning so the climbing was slow, slick, and extremely humid. I was dripping wet by switchback #2.

Once at the top to descend Star Gap to Jerdon Mtn, several folks had had enough aleady of the suck and made the decision to shuttle up to the top of Heartbreak in an air conditioned vehicle full of gatorade and snacks. I was feeling good so I decided that I'd at least descend Star Gap and ride Jerdon Mtn. then make a decision at the bottom.

Star Gap was overgrown and the forest was fighting me the whole way down. Screaming downhill with switchback after switchback threatening to put me over the bars. The laurel and Rhodo ripping at my face and hands trying to pull me into the forest. It was awesome...

Once on Jerdon Mtn. Road the hardy group of riders still on for the "big one" headed down toward Curtis Creek Road. Jerdon is gravel and has plenty of ups and downs and for the most part its not too bad. I stopped often to enjoy the blackberries that were growing on the roadside and to take a break or two.

Towards the end Greg H was nowhere to be seen so a rescue squad was sent out to look for him. Turns out he flatted and could not get the tire to hold air so his day was over... Lucky.

The bold few that were left were myself, Colin, Kevin B, Tom A, a chick I dont know, and Emily W.

Up Curtis Creek we went.

This road is the worst gravel hell hole of a climb that ever was. Its arguably the worst road in all of America. Not really but its a bitch to climb on a bike-cycle. 11 miles and many thousands of feet in elevation gain from bottom to top.

death climb...

It starts off friendly enough but by the time your half way into it your hurting. To make it worse the closer we got to the top, the worse the weather became. So bad that by the time we reached the Blue Ridge Parkway, it was full on rain-fogging and visibility was about 10 feet.

Tom A. had bailed, and Kevin, Colin and the other chick were off ahead.

It was down to Emily and myself. At the top we had a "meeting" to decide what to do. As we were standing there in the rain, Emily's bike-cycle slipped and hit the road. Upon inspection, we discovered that her rear shifter was broken.

My expert bike-cycle maintenance skills kicked in and in two seconds flat we had it rigged with zip-ties and ready to rock.


So, off on the Parkway in heavy rainfog with zero visibility and cars flying past unable to see us. Not good mountain bike-cycling times at all. We pulled over at an overlook and decided that this was stupid, dumb, dangerous, and it sucked. "lets head down, this is silly" was the call.

So after all the climbing in rain, mud, muck, and fograin...we headed down back down Curtis Creek Rd. All that hard work climbing, all the suffering, all for nothing...excpet we joined the small community of nutcases who have climbed that road only to come back down it for no reason.

The descent was fun other than the fact that I was soaking wet, it was 65 degrees and I was shivering pretty bad from the wind. We tried to text the others to come and find us but no one answered our pleas.

we made it down safe, hit Hwy. 70 into town and were pretty much getting hammered by rain, wind, and all the traffic passing us...while avoiding 3 foot deep mud holes and trying not to get run over.

By the time we hit town it was slowing and suddenly we saw a familiar face. Mike B had got our text and was coming to rescue us. Even though we were nearly back to the parking area at the picnic grounds, his f-150 was a welcome sight.

sag wagon

Emily and I climbed in and got a lift back. Safe and sound.

This ride was up there among the most crazy I've had. It seemed that everything was out to get us... weather, traffic, and a killer route nearly did us in but we lived to tell the tale and I wont soon forget this one. It might be a while before I try it again...

...maybe this Friday...

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