Well.....here ya go...(Vega, you can so do this ride!)
I headed up the Parkway from Hwy70 in Asheville, about an 18mi drive up to my starting point of Craggy Gardens. Met a couple of motorcyclists who gave me some good natured ribbing about having the bike on the car and not riding. Saw 5-6 other cyclists on this 18mi stretch...I'll say they were doing pretty well, considering, it's about 18mi of climbing! Well, ok, maybe not that much, but it is considerable climbing to get to Craggy Gardens.
I started off around 12:15pm and immediately had to climb up & through the tunnel. Holy Crap! My legs were not prepared for this climbing this early! (Must have more warmup for the Fall ride) And the heart rate went on up to 176+...so, I had to go to the first overlook and ride around, catch my breath, and try to put out the fire in my legs. Definitely not used to that elevation. 5000+ vs 500/600 elevation.
here's the first pic at the visitor's center & tunnel:
So, I head off again and thankfully, it's a decent for a little bit. I stop at the overlook and shoot a couple of pics. Then, I hit the first real climb...lemme tell ya, it was hard. I looked at my Garmin every so often and I would see, 4%, 6%, 7%, 8% - 10% for the grade on this climb. I ain't gonna lie...I did have to stop and rest on this climb and the others because my heart rate got up to 176, then 181 and I had to stop to get it lower then continue on. It was like that for all the climbs. Pretty much, when I hit 176, I knew I could go a little bit further, but would have to take a breather. I don't think I left my 34/27 too often either except on the decents. Holy Crap.
I thought the first climb was the hardest (after the tunnel) because I was going so slowwwwww. Like, 3.5-4mph. How in the hell I didn't fall over I'll never know. But, it did get a little easier. Even in sections where I saw a constant 6%-8% grade, I found that it's all about finding your rhythm and tapping it out. Once I found that rhythm, I was good to go till my heart rate hit that 176 mark. By finding my rhythem, I was able to do some of the climbing at 7-8mph. Just tap it out, and keep on breathing.
There were TONS of butterflys up there as well as little bumble bees. So I snaped some pics of those. One thing you really had to do on the decents, was to make sure you kept your mouth closed! I got hit on every decent several times by the butterflys and bees. Fortunately, didn't get stung. These butterflys were all over the place...on the road dead, on the flowers, just flying willy-nilly across the road.
Here's some of the pretty red & yellow flowers that were in abundance up there:
This picture is when I had to stop to get the heart rate down. Somewhere in the middle of a climb, looking down the road and up to where I'm going:
The second climb was a little harder, but since I'd figured the rhythem thing out, it wasn't as bad. Didn't say it was easy either. There was mowing going on and I let him pass me initially, but I wound up passing him and then wanted to make sure I stayed in front of him. Wasn't gonna let no dang mower beat me up this mountain.
Decending....One word....extremely fast! OK, yea, that's two words, but it was freakin' absolutely awesome to go flying down these mountains! Max speed on the Garmin was 41.2mph!!!! I didn't dare look to see how fast I was going because you need to really watch the road and take the curves right...It's a wonder you didn't see smoking brakes at times. Went flying past the Mt. Mitchell entrance and rode on past it for, maybe a half mile or so, then turned around. I would have loved to ridden to the top, but at that point, I only had one bottle left, no gels and still had 10mi to get back to CG PLUS climbing. Got a few pics at the entrance. Then I saw one of the motorcyclists I had spoken to earlier and he took my pic..
The trip back was considerably harder. I forgot to bring any gels (yea, I know..) so my legs were about shot. Only one water bottle left as well. So, I head back and this trip was the most difficult. I had to stop more often because there just wasn't hardly anything left in my legs. Ran outa water at Glassmine Falls, then it was just ride to the next shady area, take a break, ride. Finally got to the 18mi mark and I knew I only had 2 more miles to go...I was able to finish out that last 2-2.5 mi without stopping. Of course, the last 1.5-2mi was downhill! I finally hit the crest of the last climb, got my biggest gears and flew through the tunnel to my car. That was sweet going around 30+mph through the tunnel.
Got back to the car, downed a SunDrop & half a bag of honey roasted peanuts. Changed my clothes, loaded the bike/gear and headed home..stopped at Subway and devoured a 12" turkey sub too!
Oh yea, here's the link to my motionbased data.
Total climbing from Garmin data was 2100'. I guess BWNC can tell me whether my gps data is anywhere close. The start/end elevations don't match cause I started the recording at the visitor's center sign and ended at my car.
I'm gonna be back up there next week and might try to do this ride again....I'm a glutton for punishment.