Sunday, April 25, 2010

April-24 -- The Mountain Boys

On Saturday, Apr-24, the "Irregulars" were much like horse manure. That is, we were spread thinly all over central and north-central North Carolina. I don't think we were stinking it up, anywhere, though.

One group of six were spreading it north of Raleigh. (The PUE crew.)

One group of six were spreading it about Hanging Rock, Pilot Mtn and Sauartown Mtn. (The Mtn Boys.)

And one group of one was spreading it from Morrisville to Seagrove.  

I received a guest write-up about the Mtn Boys from Snapper.

It was a cool, cloudy and breezy morning as the 3 Hump crew gathered in North
Hills loading up the Silver Surfer with five bikes; three carbon and two
aluminum. Interestingly, all but one had something in common - gearing for a
Mountain adventure. The black cat? Standard double 53/39 with a rear 12-26 - was
this an omen for bad times ahead? Only time and seven percent grades would tell. 

After racking three bikes on the rear and stuffing two more of them in the belly
of the beast the crew was off only 30 minutes later than anticipated. With Ivan
the Great riding shotgun, The Mallet, Smitty and the Good Doctor riding rear and
The Cheetah commanding the wheel the Silver Surfer set sail for a 3 Hump Tour
(no Ginger or Maryanne unfortunately). 

Just as in the old Gilligan story the weather did start getting rough. Rain fell
on us between Raleigh and Winston and the Crew of the USS Silver Surfer began to
second guess their decision. With windshield wipers sweeping the increasing
water from their vision the beast of the three humps came in to view - Pilot
reared its ugly head and at that point we all knew that it wouldn't be long
before we would be cursing its wicked ascent. 

 Click here for an elevation profile and a simple map.
 . . (Click on "irregulars" next to "route" at the top of the above link to go to a google-earth map.)

First though we had to find our way to Hanging Rock State Park. We pulled in to
the parking lot just before 10am. The rain had stopped. The breeze was warm
(really?) and there were even signs of clearing towards the west (for real?).
What omen? 

Lt. Dave appeared out of nowhere. He and Laurie had arrived earlier but waited
patiently on the Silver Surfer. He was going nowhere alright - at least not
without us - said he had three friends he wanted to introduce us to. Said they
were old, really old and big too. The reality of what lay ahead was starting to
set in. With the crew now six we stopped for one quick picture and then allowed the Hanging Rock descent to show us the way to the three old friends...

  The before photo.
(L to R:  the Good Doctor, IvaN, Smitty, LT, Mallet, Snapper)

Cue sheets are wonderful traveling partners. Down to the 10th of a mile they
tell us everything that lies ahead. The distance to the next turn, which
direction to turn, how far you've got and how far you've been. The thing cue
sheets don't share however is the difficulty of riding on mountain roads really
is. Mountain roads take you home but not before they knock the snot out of you
first. Conversation varied between the riders but early on it centered on the
quality of the roads, the beauty of the countryside and toughness of the
terrain. Funny, toughness of the terrain, we had only been several miles, most
of us had no idea how tough that terrain was going to get.

On the way to Pilot our six-man crew shared pulls. Snapper on the flats pulling
hard and Smitty and The Mallet doing likewise on the hills. Smitty and The
Mallet pulled a lot. It was a beautiful ride. There were six very happy souls.
Everyone felt great. There were no issues. We had obviously not met any of the 3
old friends. 

Approaching the entrance to Pilot, just under the bridge of I40 [ed.:  prob US-52], we came across
a group of horses and their riders. They were all talking about this and that
and then noticed the six of us as we pedaled by quietly, trying not to spook
their rides. One of their group, the blond with the red boots noticed Lt. Dave
and gave a shout out "we should be riding bikes...look at those legs". I think
LT got a little spark from that as he increased his cadence slightly and then
led us to the front door of old friend number one. 

Mountain roads - the cue sheets say nothing of the terrain. One can only ride
them to fully understand how different they are from North Raleigh. 

Pilot Mountain road - the cue sheet didn't even say how far it was from the gate
to the summit - damn cue sheet!

Damn double crank.

Damn 12-26. 

Damn hill. 

Damn The Mallet. 

The FIVE of us made our way up, and up, and up, and up. There were no more gears
to find. What we had was all we had. The sweat began to bead and then began to
pour. The heart rate increased and then doubled. Tough was easy. This was way
harder than tough. Half way up Lt. Dave called a meeting. Thank God. We rested.
The five of us. Damn The Mallet. Dave say's "okay, we're half way up. Just
around this corner the road opens up and it get easier. Really, its only like
150 more yards around this next corner. It will get much easier. Seriously.
Believe me." Damn Lt. Dave. It was not easier and it sure wasn't a 150 yards
before the road opened up. Smitty pulled the Snapper...Snapper didn't notice if
he pulled anyone at all. He could only think about getting to the top. It was a
helluva lot further than 150 yards. 

Funny thing those cue sheets. They didn't say how beautiful the view was from
the top of Old Friend number one. Especially a clear one with barely a cloud in
sight. Rain, thunderstorms? Today? Someone got that forecast wrong. We all
shared a great sense of accomplishment. Well deserved. After a nice break we
were off to top off the water bottles before we bombed down our Old Friend on
our way to number Two. Funny things those cue sheets - they didn't mention a
thing about the remodeling of the bathrooms. Water would have to wait. Down we
all went. 

Feather those brakes. Don't go too fast. Watch the turns. Stay in your lane.
Don't let your wheels heat up too much. ..... BANG! Ivan the Great blows up!!!!!
Luckily for him it happened almost at the bottom and disaster was diverted.
While the rest of us filled our empty bottles Ivan filled an empty tube. Was
this an omen of things to come? Only time and more ascents would tell. 

Maybe it was the free bananas? I don't know but on our way to see Old Friend
number two the ride got a little slippy. Dead mans curve nearly claimed another
life; its second one in as many weeks. Luckily the motorcycle had just passed
and they were no cars or trucks. Had there been, little Elizabeth would have only
memories and pictures of her Big Cheetah. Omen? What omen. 

"Here lies Martin."

Old friend number two was a Sour one. Lt. Dave called it a day and bid us
farewell but not before telling us "this three mile ride will be so much easier
than was Pilot. Its a straight up route with only one switchback. In fact you're
riding a ridge, it will be much easier than Pilot". Sure, it was easier than
Pilot but that ain't saying much. At the switchback it was just four of us -
damn The Mallet. We rested. We drank. We sweated. We waited for our decreasing
heartbeats. We didn't talk as much. We waited. Finally, click, click, on so on,
we were off for the summit. The Good Doctor, 'Cheetah, how much further'
Cheetah, "how far is a 500 yards, one mile?" The Good Doctor, "I think a mile is
something like 5000 yards"...yep, the sun was out, full force, and we were all
hot and not thinking straight. Smitty pulled the rest of us to the summit.
Waiting in the shade was The Mallet cursing his phone. No bars. 

Feather those brakes, don't heat up those wheels, stay in your lane.......great
thing about riding up a ridge is you also ride down the same ridge. With the
exception of the one switchback it was three miles straight downhill. Screw
those brakes. BOMB baby Bomb. I'm pretty sure Smitty had a hard-on. 

Thank you old friend for not breaking our will. We had one more friend to meet
and by this time we were ready. 

Funny thing those cue sheets. They tell you how far you have to go or how far
you've been. They show you direction right and left and keep you on track. They
don't however tell you about the terrain. Smitty will though. He'll tell you how
just five or six miles can seem an eternity when both your thighs burn like hell
every time you stand to get over that gear so you can make it up the last of the
hill on that mountain road. The Good Doctor will tell you how the back screams
while sitting still during an easy cadence. Snapper will tell you to never ride
the mountains with a standard double unless you just like pain. Ivan the Great
and The Mallet will tell you when ........ or maybe they won't. Who knows what
they were going through? They kept it to themselves. Pain. It's in all of us.
Some more than others. Others more than some. 

The entrance to Old Friend number three was at the bottom of the road, just to
our right. We BOMBED down the LAST hill trying to get whatever inertia there
might be in order to help us up that last glorious ascent. Only one problem. Red
car from Pennsylvania was in our way. Certainly they saw the crew of five
BOMBING down the last hill. Certainly they knew the pain we all were feeling.
Certainly they know that we had just one more small hill to conquer. No? Must
not have. Five braking screaming tired souls let them know however. Bet they'll
never pull that stunt again. 

Hanging Rock is appropriately named. Big gigantic rocks hang over the landscape
like tombstones in an empty graveyard. You can't help but notice them. Hanging
Rock was the last but not the least. No, Hanging Rock would prove to be very
tough. Hanging Rock spread out the crew and dealt with each of us on its own
terms. The Mallet, all day the beast of the hills took his time. Was he tired?
Did he just want to enjoy the beauty? Don't know. I would have asked him but he
was not within earshot distance. Smitty? Was he tired of using his right hand to push
down his right leg just trying to get one more revolution from his new Compact?
Don't know. I wasn't in earshot distance. Ivan the Great? Was he okay? Did he
feel pain? Was he even human? I don't know. I couldn't even see him. And the
Good Doctor? Was he going to make it? All that talk of just stopping and waiting
on us to pick him up on the way down. Did he really mean it? I don't know. I
shouted out to Smitty, "how much further?" Smitty, "a half mile". . . I crumbled
back on the seat, barely able to maintain 3mph....... and rounded the LAST curve
...... and saw the entrance to the parking lot......

Damn that Smitty!

The Mallet, Smitty, Cheetah, Ivan and the Good Doctor did make it to the third
summit. This time with no rest. All the way up with no stopping. No 'Hanging'
around on this Old Friend. We had made it. We reveled in the accomplishment. In
the beautiful April afternoon of sunny skies, cue sheets and good omens.... we
were brothers in arms. 

Oh, and for some of us brothers, there were hot showers before our ride home....
Damn those Cue Sheets!!!!

Snapper, aka, Cheetah


  1. This is FANTASTIC !!!!
    Had me laughing the whole way.
    I would have loved to have been there.
    Just to see the pain on your face, Smitty's face, JohnA's face.
    The Mallet is too tough.
    Sounds like IvaN is pretty tough, too.

  2. Great report, Harvey. Dam. that sounds tough. The ups are grueling and the downs are terrifying. Sounds nice when/if you finish. Iva

  3. By the way, and I'm making it known now, when we do the "Lt. Dave Hanging Rock Picnic Ride" next month, I am going to skip climbing Pilot Mtn and "do" only Sauartown and Hanging Rock.

    I think I will deserve something of a "break" given I'm doing a 400 km ride the week before and a 600 km ride the week after the "Picnic Ride".


  4. Restaurant quality summation, Harvey! We may need to add "Wordsmith" to your growing list of nicknames and if we get more familiar we can add "Wordsmitty". Excellent ride with excellent friends. Thanks to IvaN for Tony Robbins-like motivational speech to get up Hanging Rock.