Greetings cycling enthusiasts back in the homeland. Just thought I would take a few minutes to tally up a tiny tall tale on the tall tree tabloid.
Back for my seventh year in South Carolina and as always it is a good time so far even though the weather has not been up to the standards of the past two years. After an arrival day 35 k spin followed by a sophomore 85 k in the lower hills we decided to tackle a big AND newish route. Much of the route follows the Table Rock up to Blue Ridge parkway route, but with a left hook a couple km from the Blue Ridge onto Explorer Road, followed by Canada Road (281) and back to the 215 at Balsam Grove via Wolf Mountain, Tanessee Creek and Joe House roads.
Those familiar with the area will all too well know the big climb straight up the 178 from the golf course at Jocassee….not exactly a warm up…but that and the second one are mere warm-ups to what will follow. The day is the warmest expected this week (about 65 at the bottom) and pure sun. We got a late start just after 1 pm expecting a 5+ hr ride and not completely sure of the distance. After the first big warmup climb is the drop to Rocky Bottom (where many Canadian teams stay to train) then up up up again along the sparkling Oolenoy river….a fly-fisher’s paradise to the top of the second warmup before descending towards Rosman NC were a much needed stop for drink refill and high fat fudge covered coconut granola bar (only 50 cents !!!) was the order of moment. We knew what was next was basically 20 km of climbing (with a few down-hills thrown in just to taunt us for losing the altitude we would gain just prior. Then comes about 5 km of heinous climbing before hitting Explorer road….where we just happen to meet Mr. Bilenkey and the Gee Gee’s (Jon and Derek) who had come up and around some of the loop we were headed on.
This new to us road opened up after a couple of steep long drops and one steep climb to a beautiful hidden valley of cozy balsam farms….just lovely in the high altitude sunny blue sky. Lots of lovely homesteads dotted the remainder of the road….completely unlike the ramshackle lots often seen on our routes. Finally we make it to Canada road after a longer than anticipated jaunt on aptly named Explorer….here it is pretty much all down to the hook back on Wolf Mountain road where we are greeted by a wall. Grunting up this wall I am made acutely aware of the fact that my road bike (now a 10 speed) low gear is a 26 tooth vs. the 27 that I usually used…..I REALLY miss that extra 4% !! Just as the road curves north again I stop at a nondescript looking road and realize it is our turn point….looked really like nothing more than a driveway so it was good we checked. Another arduous wall but the remainder of the road was mostly along valley shadowed by beautiful cliffs and pastures. Eventually we got back to Balsam Grove on the 215 (the road up) about one hour behind anticipated sked. Down to the nearby country store for another bottle a quick snack and on our way. Still pretty up and down back to Rosman and the ski legs and couch bum are feeling it ! From Rosman there are basically three climbs, one shortly out of town which then drops precipitously down almost to Rocky Bottom, then an evil teasing climb before the final drop to RB, and finally a long but slightly more gradual climb out leading eventually back to the descent to highway 11 and our car. All told it was 134 km and about 3000 m of ascent. I was pretty beat and my legs were weak and like rubber….but for what was essentially my third ride of the year (for me winter is all about the sticks on the feets) I was pretty damn happy with the 6+ hour achievement.
My first real ride of the year had been a week earlier - the Wakefield Slacker. This was an easygoing group ride to Wakefield and Pipolinka consisting of myself, Chris, Pascal, Glenn and Jeff on the same day (tho at a much later warmer time period) as the Tall Tree Hardmen were doing the Wakefield Cracker. (Story by Matt Surch below http://talltreerides.blogspot.com/2013/03/the-wakefield-cracker.html). This was a great ride on a local favorite route, the weather was good, scenery nice and company great. The roads were even drier than expected and me, as the only guy without fenders, was able to contribute going to the front on enough occasions to earn my keep…..I think. Everyone on the Wakefield slacker ride pretty much relegates the bike to the closet and breaks out the skis for winter so we were all in about the same boat….all tired and happy to have completed a fun ride and get ourselves into the mode of the upcoming season. Alas I hear that winter has made a less than welcome return to O-Town. I won’t mind coming back to a few more skis, tho I’m not sure if my backcountry love will be requited, I’m sure the parkway and major trails will be going til mid April for sure. And now I have also remedied my fenderless situation…..!
The route we took was similar to that found here: http://www.strava.com/activities/45164359 but instead of Silversteen road (south portion of the loop) ours was higher up - closer to Explorer....and we started at the junction of hwy 11 and 178 as opposed to Table Rock.