We pushed off from the Hanging Rock State Park parking lot at 9:30 a.m., coasting two miles down the mountain before turning onto Moore Springs Rd. Rolling up and down in early-ish morning light in the humid and (if in direct sunlight) already quite warm conditions. It was nice.
Rolling along on NC-66 and Chestnut Grove Rd was fun. A couple of turns and we pulled into the store at Pinnacle. Eat a little, drink a little. Someone convinced the clerk in the store that Norris was Dale Jarret, pointing to the photo on the front of the Coke machine as proof. Norris seemed to want to skedadle before someone actually asked for his autograph. However, we did not skedadle or mosey down the road toward Pilot Mtn. until after IvaHawk demonstrated a half human flag stand -- twice -- because some missed it the first time. (Iva describes the move and its "big brother" in the first comment.) There were plenty of mountain scenes and vistas during the ride, but the most amazing sight was Iva holding himself perfectly parallel with the surface of the ground, supporting his entire body with his arms wrapped around the flagpole. That feat unanimously won the "best athletic move of the day" contest.
Proceeding from Pinnacle toward Pilot Mtn, there is a nice downswoop to the only County Line of the day (well, we crossed it twice -- once going to Pilot, once returning). Ken T was out front by a good distance, but I decided to spice things up a bit by snatching the CL -- it was easier for me to decide to "spice things up" because I was committed to NOT climbing Pilot (and was looking forward to a good rest at the bottom of the climb). Since I outweigh Ken by about 50 pounds, it was easy to close the distance. However, before I caught Ken, along comes the Mallet. He said "very few on this ride would know that there is a county line just up ahead." I replied "but I do." I thought he was trying to box me in so that I wouldn't be able to get clear and out-gravity him as well as Ken (I have at least 30, maybe 40 pounds on Paul). However, it turned out that Paul was trying to help me slip past Ken and take the CL. At a key moment, I pulled out from behind Paul and zoomed past both him and Ken and took the CL by many, many bike lengths. Everyone immediately passed me as the road immediately tilted up. When we left Pilot, Paul used his superior climbing abilities to claim the upslope CL.
Norris, Iva and I declined the opportunity to climb Pilot. Norris eventually decided to go part way up Pilot, just to get a taste. After getting his taste of Pilot, Norris and Iva left early for Sauartown -- I saw them standing at the bottom -- presumably after having ridden to the top and back down -- as I turned onto Sauartown Mtn Rd for what was supposed to be my highlight climb of the day. But I get ahead of the story.
Everyone else, the Mallet, Ken T, Lt. Dave, Lee, Tito, climbed Pilot -- most took the opportunity to enjoy the view from the top.
Back on the road, Ken was impatient to get going, and the next I saw of him was as he was zooming down Sauartown as I slogged up. But that is getting ahead, again.
The rest of us, LT, Lee, Tito, Paul and me, were making our way across the short distance from Pilot to Sauartown. The heat and Pilot seemed to have gotten to LT -- he was usually behind even me on the climbs of the little hills (rollers ?) we were traversing along the base of Sauartown, and he even commented that I might have to drag him home.
Then came Flat Rock Rd and its tight downhill curve, its road surface chip-seal with a lot of loose pea gravel lying about. The tight curve gets tighter and tighter as one descends into the creek valley, and just when one thinks it can't go any further down, it does, and when one thinks it can't get any tighter, it does, and then it gets tighter still. All with the loose pea gravel making braking an adventure. Knowing about the tighter and tighter nature of that curve, I had tried to scrubbed off speed on the descent -- I think it was a help.
After Tito and I had successfully navigated the descent and the corresponding ascent and the next descent and its corresponding ascent, I mentioned to Tito that I had gotten awfully squirrelly on that tight curving descent. Tito mentioned that he'd felt a bit squirrelly himself on the second bridge. Tito and I got to ??? Rd -- the one with the "Martin" gravestone near the corner with Flat Rock Rd. While we waited, I suggested Tito check out the gravestone. Tito recognized it from the blog post of the "Mountain Boys Adventure" from a few weeks ago. While we discussed various things and Tito did some exercises to loosen up his back, we started to realize that something must have happened and so we headed out to retrace our steps.
After a mile or so, we saw the Mallet come over the crest of the hill we were climbing. He waved to us to turn around. Then Dave and Lee came in sight, apparently stopping at the crest to take a break, or something. As we rode back to the headstone, Paul told Tito and me that Lee had gone off the road on that tight curve. Damn!
Lee later said he always wondered what skills would be revealed if he ever had a situation such as he encountered on the tight curve. (Lee did not know about the decreasing radius of the curve and ... well, he does now.) Lee later described that he had left a trail on the road where he was trying to brake on the loose pea gravel, headed straight for the ditch. He endo'd, the ends of his tri-bars stuck in the soft ground, and Lee landed on his butt (of which there is damn little, btw) and his back. In the three feet of clearance between barbed wire and a big tree. I could try to describe more of the accident and recovery third-hand, but maybe Lee or LT or Paul will make a comment and provide first-hand information.
However, despite the previous sentence, I will add that apparently while LT was trying to get Lee to let LT go thru an EMT-like protocol to make sure Lee wasn't more seriously damaged than Lee thought, Paul true'd Lee's rear wheel, and either alone or with LT's assistance fixed Lee's front fork. I'm not sure if they were able to do anything with Lee's now sideways sloped saddle. After restarting, Lee had to call a halt to properly reconnect his helmet straps, etc.. He is now in the market for a new red helmet.
We took a few extra minutes in the shade at the corner near the "Martin" headstone, and then proceeded toward Sauartown. Not surprisingly, Lee and LT skipped the Sauartown climb. The Mallet and Tito zoomed up the climb, and I began my slog of a no-cadence climb. Kenny came flashing by on his descent, and I made the right-hand curve after which Sauartown steepens. Grinding up to the sharp left-hander, I took stock. Very little water left, and I needed to ride from Sauartown to Hanging Rock on that very little water. Sadly, but not necessarily relunctantly, I pulled the plug at that sharp left-hander, having completed about 1.3 or 1.4 miles of the 3-mile climb.
I waited at the bottom of Sauartown for Paul and Tito for about 15 minutes, and then decided that they would catch me anyway, so I started the ride to Hanging Rock. Within a couple / few minutes, I got to NC-66. I had brought my zip-lock baggy of cue sheets to the ride, but the needed cue sheet was not in the bag. I was not 100% sure that I was supposed to turn left onto NC-66, so I parked the bike and took a seat on some stone steps (rando rule: never stand when you can sit). In another couple minutes, Tito and Paul came over the crest. Tito needed water, and Paul knew there was a store on NC-66 about a "quarter-mile" to the right. Turned out it was about 100 yards, but none of us complained about that distance mis-estimate.
Tito and I refilled our bottles with ice and really sweet ice tea. I expect to be on a sugar high for several days. Tito demonstrated his "I've never met a stranger" skills, and engaged a couple locals in conversation. Maybe Tito will make a comment about Homer and Ken. Homer told us that he lives on Mickey Rd, and sure enough, several minutes later, a pick-up truck passed us on Mickey, the driver was clearly Homer.
Mickey Rd has a tough climb. Hall Rd is mostly fun rollers, but I think there is one toughish climb (not nearly as tough as the the one on Mickey). A short stint on Moore Springs Rd, and then the turn to climb up Hanging Rock. I eventually convinced Paul and Tito to just go ahead and leave me in my private purgatory. I had had visions of climbing Sauartown with cadence at 6.5 mph and climbing Hanging Rock with cadence at 4.5 mph. No cadence either climb. When the 5.7-6.0 mph slog up Hanging Rock reached the place where the 4 mph slog would have started, I dismounted. I walked a LOT of the climb. 3.2, 2.8, 2.2 mph. Sometimes I was clearly walking slower than 2.0 mph -- I learned that when the Cateye detects that the bike is moving less than 2.0 or 2.1 mph, it stops recording speed and distance -- still records time, though.
Iva came driving down the hill to offer a rescue. I asked him how much farther to the Visitor's Center turn-off. He said three-tenths of a mile. I'll continue, thank-you. Longest frickin' three-tenths of a mile I ever experienced. Iva later claimed he measured it at six-tenths on his drive back to the parking lot. HA. My Cateye accumulated at least eight-tenths, and it was NOT recording ALL the distance.
I was riding into the parking lot as Iva was trying to sneak out before I arrived. I flagged him down and he stopped. Norris, in the shotgun seat, was laughing before I even started cussing out Iva; I couldn't see Tito in the back seat, but I'll wager he was also laughing; Iva, although trying to apologize and defend himself, was also laughing Important lesson -- don't trust the IvaHawk for distance estimates.
Everyone else was all cleaned up and ready to roll when I pulled in next to Paul's vehicle. I was a marvel of a sweat-soaked creature. But I had powered myself up the entire Hanging Rock climb -- some cycling, more walking. (I later learned that some people had bailed at the bottom of Hanging Rock, and others had bailed "half-way" up. At least Lee had good cause. But all the others had climbed at least Pilot or Sauartown to the top -- I did neither. And at least three -- Paul, Ken T, Tito -- completed all three climbs.)
LT, Laurie, Lee, Ken and Zoe headed for Winston-Salem and some pub (I don't remember the name) for post-ride refreshments. Paul and I followed after I had cleaned up somewhat.
We relived the ride, the good parts and the bad. Ate food. Drank some beer. Maybe talked some other stuff. In retrospect, Laurie and Zoe probably were secretly rolling their eyes at much of the conversation.
As stated earlier, I had had visions of climbing Sauartown and Hanging Rock with cadence. However, I have been doing a lot of soft-pedaling on the brevets, not practicing cadence. Also, it is clear that 400 km left a few reminders in my legs (I have NOT been doing big miles long enough to be a "big miles rider" with a "big miles rider recovery ability"). Finally, I think I envisioned doing the climbs in 72F, slightly overcast weather -- not nearly 90F, with wonderfully clear skies.
Hanging Rock - Pilot - Sauartown - Hanging Rock; 47.3 m.; 3hrs, 50min in-motion time; 12.3 mph.
Q-1 tot: 16 rides; __938.2 m.; _60 hrs, 39 min; 15.5 mph.
Apr tot: 10 rides; __717.9 m.; _45 hrs, 27 min; 15.1 mph.
May tot: _6 rides; __446.2 m.: _32 hrs, 23 min; 13.8 mph.
YTD tot: 32 rides; 2,102.3 m.; 140 hrs, 30 min; 15.0 mph.