Inspired by Neil and Peter's ride reports, I thought I might share my ride experience this past Saturday.
Overview of the ride:
The area I live in has lots of rural roads with light traffic to ride on, but there aren't any MUP in the immediate area. Having heard about the Silver Comet from a couple of friends, I decided to go check it out. One of my friends and I had been talking about a plan to ride together for the past year or so. He did live here in GA, but recently moved to NC. His wife is still here for the time being and we decided to schedule the ride for one of his weekends down. Unfortunately, he forgot to bring his shoes down and was unable to meet me at the trailhead. I was excited enough about the ride that I decided to take it on alone.
The weather this past Saturday was a bit brisk and windy. The temps at the start of the ride were still in the high 50's even with starting around noon. The trailhead that I used is located at a shopping plaza with plenty of eateries, grocery, and even a bike shop. I was lucky not to need it, but it's good to know it is there if I did. There is a steep decent passing by a neighborhood and joining with another connector trailhead at the true start of the MUP. This was my first experience with a trail of this nature. There is a sign posted at all of the trailheads that discussed the rules and proper use of the path. Each one of the signs also had a mile marker on it as well. I stopped and familiarized myself with them, made sure I was all set and had everything I needed.
I set off down the path riding along at a moderate pace, one that I would try to keep all day so as not to tire myself too quickly. Previous to this I had not ridden more than around the 30 mile mark. I set a goal of doing at least 40 miles, and 50 if I felt really good. Right away I could see that the design of the path by it's nature as a rail line, was going to be conducive to an easier time going long distance. The grades over the majority of the path were very gentle and allowed me to keep pretty good time. I had a headwind most of the way West that was tempered a good bit by the treeline on both sides of the pathway.
The first several miles were quite crowded with a mix of cyclists, joggers, walkers, family with kids, you name it. It was really nice seeing the great variety of peoples, bikes, and gear. There were quite a few recumbents and trikes out. I was a bit suprized at how many people were using the path but at the same time how well traffic flowed along. There were very few spots that I had to slow down aside from the stop signs at road crossings. The path went over a couple of creeks, there were small cutouts at regular intervals that some had benches, and others were just open grass areas. Every couple of miles there was another trailhead but these became less and less as I traveled West. I was feeling really good and making good time going along. I completely neglected to stop and take pictures along the way as I was just feeling so high gliding along without the worry of automobile traffic.
I noticed pretty quickly into the ride that calling "on the left" is very optional. With the number of people I saw with headphones in most wouldn't have heard it anyway. Some people were quite friendly and I chatted with a few riders along the ride as we paced together for a moment. I talked for quite a few minutes with a nice lady and her husband concerning her beautiful new blue three wheeled recumbent. I was quite impressed with the speed the machine accomplished after getting going. These encounters became less and less as I headed out and after a while about the only people I saw were cyclists more intent on the ride that small talk. The area turned a bit more rural and the stops became a bit less. I marvelled at a couple of pacelines that went by at blistering speeds.
I was keeping close track of my distance, knowing that whatever I rolled off was going to have to be ridden back. I wanted to make sure that I felt good and strong for the way back as well. I had brought plenty of water in my two bottles. My mistake for this ride was the fact that I had not brought any manner of energy for the ride. I came to a pulloff that had a bench around the 20 mile mark and decided it would be a good place to pull off, rest, and gather up for the ride back. I had considered going 5 more miles but my not bringing some food tugged at me a bit. Also the fact that I hadn't ever actually ridden 40 miles in one day and that was what it was going to take to get back to the car. I stopped and sat down for a bit there in the sun and just enjoyed the weather for a moment. I met a fellow named Scott there at the pulloff who was a regular local rider and we discussed the path a bit, bikes, and whatnot while I rested. After a few minutes I felt rested, parted ways with Scott and headed back.
The way back was quite a bit faster. The winds was at my back and I was making good headway. The first 10 miles back rolled off pretty easily. There was a bit more traffic going that same way and I had the opportunity to ride with a couple of people trying to match their pace. It was fun to play around and got a few nice comments from fellow riders for keeping up with them. By the time that I reached around 33 miles I really started to feel fatigued. My pace slacked off quite a bit and I was looking forward to being back. The last two miles of the ride are the incline back to the trailhead I had chosen due to its accessibility by car. After having gone 38 miles that hill was the last thing I wanted to see. I barely made it to the top and was really glad to see my car. I was also glad to see the Burger King that I parked next to. A couple of double stackers on the drive home helped make me feel human again.
I am looking forward to making another trip out to the Silver Comet.