Left work/lunch at 12:30pm on Friday and headed towards Marion, where I would then head to Burnsville & my motel. My friend NealH wanted to do some ride Sunday for recovery and I had delusional thoughts of riding up Hwy 80 from Marion to Mt Mitchell. A little bit about those ideas next...
When I got to Marion, I decided that I would see what this route was like. From the Walmart in Marion, the first 10mi was, IMO, do-able by me. But, then, after this 10 miles, there was a yellow sign with a left arrow and 20mph on it....I looked to the left and O.M.G. The road just turned UP. OK, I thought...maybe this is harder than I imagined. Yes. As I drove up this road, in second and sometimes first gear, I thought...damn...no way will I be able to do this Sunday.
I thought, well, ok, maybe I'll just do from the first overlook up to Mitchell. Let's just say...NO. Not this time. Then, it was, maybe I'll just do the 5 miles up to the summit. Umm, NO. Not this time....So, no MM on this trip.
Well, I had to get up at 4:30am on Saturday because I wanted to get something to eat a few hours before the ride. Left the motel around 5:30am and arrived at the start at 6am. Checked in and then went back to the car to get my stuff ready. It was a little bit cool, something like 63F, and I decided to not take a jacket (very bad idea), but I did take arm warmers.
I don't think there were more than 50 total riders starting the century. Well, I know where I'll be riding...at the back. I rode around a bit before the start to get some bit of warmup, then the ride organizer told us to line up and get our instructions. We were told of the major turns, where dogs were reported, caution areas, etc. Then, the previous fire chief (musta been a long time ago, cause this fellow was about as old as dirt) pulled a gun out and said "get going" or something to that effect and fired the gun!
We're off. I knew better than to try and keep up with the big dogs...I had 100mi to ride and didn't want to blow it all in the first hour or so. We made a little loop around Bakersville, then headed on the main route. I just had to let people pass me. Very hard to do, but necessary. The terrain was rolling for the first hour. During this time, at around the 30min mark, I felt the first few drops of rain. Just a few sprinkles. It was overcast and looked like the rain was immenint.
Well, it was...an hour into the ride, the damn bottom fell out. Great. Just freakin' great. I have no jacket, I'm completely soaked. (BWNC - it rained almost as hard as that day when we ate at Wendy's). I did have arm warmers, but elected to leave them in the jersey pocket, as I knew I would need something warm for the descents. *sigh* I thought, this is gonna be one long ass ride today. Soaking wet, water sloshing in my shoes at 18mi.
Slogged on...the first climb was at Spivey's Gap. Can't tell you the grade, just don't remember what I was seeing (raining) and the Garmin is F'd up. Anyways, I had caught up with a lot of people, passed some on this climb. It was pretty hard, around 4mi at maybe 7 or 8%, but not sure about this. I hate riding in the rain...especially for any length of time. Makes for getting rashes.... Finally reach the first rest stop. I don't need anything - I had only drank almost 1 bottle of Perpetuem. I did get a trash bag tho, and put that on for the descent.
I hate descending on wet roads. But, off I go. I don't know how far down I was, but, all of a sudden I noticed a whup-whup-whup, thump-thump-thumping noise. I look at the front tire....****. I've got a freakin' flat. OK, fine, let's change it and get going. Ummm, not that quick. Seems the tubes that my friend picked up for me - the stems were not long enough. Damnit. People are passing me asking do I need help. No. Until I realize this tube ain't getting it. Some nice guy stops by and gives me his tube. Then, like a dumbass, I forget to unscrew the thingy and lose all my CO2 cause it's not going in the freakin' tube.
I'm mad at this time. I throw the damn wheel down (the SAG had stopped in the meantime) and say F' it, I'm done. Well, Steve (the nice guy) said, "umm, maybe you should try this pump first" Oh. OK - pump it up and head out after Steve (he went ahead and left). I finally catch up with him and we ride together for the longest time until I'm tired of riding a bit slowly and pull on away from him.
More rolling terrain, a bit of flat section, 15 to 20 more miles and I'm at the 2nd rest stop. 58 miles done. 42 miles left. Steve's friend is there waiting on him, and we talk for a little bit while waiting on him. I refill both bottles with Perpetuem, eat some cookies and all 3 of us head out together. I stay with them for a while, but again, off I go. Most of the ride is done this way - solo. More rolling/sometimes flatish terrain.
The RR grade is the next best part of this ride. We follow along the old Tweetsie (i guess) RR grade. Very nice pavement, beautiful scenery. The grade is really nice - no major climbing, just nice easy stuff. Don't recall how long this was though. One more rest stop in this section. I don't get anything except some peanut M&M's. Head on out. Still solo.
Finally arrive in Roan Mountain Tennessee. The road leading into RM is nice & smooth, but has the "rumble strips of death". There is a nice shoulder to ride on, but those are between you and the travel lane. That's ok, until the shoulder runs out....I had to cross those damn things at 20 something mph. O.M.G. I just knew I was gonna get a flat outa that. Up next is the sign for RM Park. The skies, which had been clear & sun out since the second rest stop, started to darken. Approaching cars had their lights on and wipers on intermmitent. Uh Oh.
So, yes, you guessed it. I'm getting rained on for the second time. This isn't quite the downpour as the first hour, but it's raining just the same. Then it quits. For a short time. I finally enter RM Park. Very nice park. Saw a couple of deer standing off to one side. Got a pic of one of them. This road is the same as all the others, rolling. But, wait....the real climb is coming up....and oh boy, when it starts, it is freakin' relentless.