Friday, June 17, 2011

We Be Bikin' Now, Honey

Day 47 – 3-5-11 - MST – Highway 8 Family Dollar to Lake Brandt Greenway – 27.5 miles

So my newest challenge on the Mountains-To-Sea Trail – road biking.  Both of my most loyal readers remember that my husband, Jim, is an avid cyclist and biked the length of the Blue Ridge Parkway a couple of years ago with me driving his support vehicle.  Jim also participates in bike challenge rides with charming names like Blue Ridge Brutal and Blood, Sweat & Gears.  More importantly, he knows how to fix a flat tire.  But most of all, Jim is extremely patient and a great cheerleader.
How much am I geared up for this new adventure?  My bike is a hybrid Fuji Crosstown 4.0 because I like to ride rails-to-trails and I want to stay versatile and ease into road biking.  The MST may be all I ever do on pavement.  Cars make me very nervous.  So I’m just wearing sneakers, no special bike shoes, but the padded black Spandex bike shorts are a must, as is a snazzy jersey with pockets across the back to hold all my stuff.  Helmet, fingerless gloves (to keep my hands from getting scraped when I fall) and my rain jacket and I’m ready to go. 
Our first leg was to close the distance from Hanging Rock State Park to the Lake Brandt Greenway in Greensboro, a little over 36 miles.  How hard can that be?  We did a few training rides in advance, up to about 20 miles, good enough, right?  Let’s just see how it goes… I know my legs are good for hiking – does that translate to biking?  It sure will be nice to cover three times the distance in one day.  We set a date for Sunday, March 6, and I began to get mentally psyched.
But biking in the rain is no good and suddenly Sunday’s forecast was all rain.  We decided to change to Saturday.  I had been building up my nerve and now I had one day less to get ready.  Now I was dreading it – 36 miles??
Saturday morning Jim and I headed out in two cars (because shuttling is still part of the MST section hiking mantra) and drove to Greensboro.  Jim had mapped out notes of the route to carry with us.  He was excited to be biking in the Belews Creek area because he worked on a big project at the power plant there during his career with Duke Energy.   We dropped off the end car quickly and followed the route backwards, making and correcting a few wrong turns.  The nearer we got to Hanging Rock SP, the bigger the hills grew and the more nervous I got about my ability to do the climbs.  The clock was ticking too.  Did we have enough time to do the 36 miles before late afternoon and darkness and/or rain fell?  We ultimately decided to cut the first five miles off and start from the Family Dollar on Highway 8.  If we finished with plenty of time, we would come back and pick up that five miles (surprise:  that did not happen).  
The skies were overcast and a little misty but it did not get any worse.  The temp was chilly enough that I never took off my rain jacket.  I followed my hubby’s rear end all day and he never worked up a sweat.  He looked like he was going so slow that he could hardly stay upright.  Me?  I was pedaling and panting for all I was worth.  There were plenty of rolling hills but I took the climbs slow in first gear on my little hybrid and…actually enjoyed myself.  The downhills were exhilarating.  Once I learned that every downhill has an uphill waiting, I let it go and flew down those mini-mountains. 
There was more traffic than I had ever ridden with but I got used to it.  We had to work to stay together so that cars could pass us easily at once rather than passing me and then catching up to and passing Jim.  Only once did I pull over because a car was afraid to pass and there was a line built up behind her.  I’m glad I have a rear view mirror on my left handlebar – it gives me a sense of security to see what’s coming up behind me.  I retained my habit of waving to cars, not quite as cool as the one-finger-salute that cyclists give to each other. 

Readers of my last post know my views of dogs on hiking trails.  Dogs encountered while walking or biking the roads are a different issue and Jim has schooled me to always be on the lookout for the seemingly docile mongrel that can leap to life and cover the distance between in a few seconds.  BUT…today we had no adrenaline encounters, only saw a few man’s-best-friends chained in their yards.  Some barked as if to dare us to come closer while others merely lifted an eyebrow before going back to sleep.
Hikers carry snacks and lunch and eat sitting beside babbling brooks, but cyclists are connoisseurs of roadside joints.  We ate lunch midway at BJ's, a fine establishment next to the Stokesdale post office. 

The rusty ice cream cone beacon is what sucked us in.   A hot dog and French Fries and soda, a good reward for hard work - I could get used to this as opposed to eating a homemade sandwich.

After lunch, though, my thighs were really burning and throbbing.  I expected that to continue until the end of the ride, but after a half hour or so my fuel must have kicked in because I recovered.  Make no mistake, though, this bike ride was hard and I needed to be in better shape and take training more seriously. 

Roadside cemetery for lots of Neals

A patriotic roadside barn

Our last mile was on Highway 220, a major route into Greensboro, that in hindsight we probably should have walked.  A screaming 18-wheeler passed us with inches to spare – don’t want to do that too often.  But I learned the lesson of staying steady upright while praying hard. 
End of the ride – lots of details to take care of

Jim decided he is not a fan of car shuttling, so his reward was eating BBQ at Fuzzy’s in Madison, NC, out of our way, but he had a dim memory of it from his days at the Belews Creek plant.  Memory is usually better than real life, though, and I’d give the place a B-minus.  At least now I can say I’ve eaten at Fuzzy’s.  I have a feeling that with Jim helping me, there will be more BBQ joints in my future.
Aaaannnddd…we still had to drive two cars home.   

Experience is what you get by not having it when you need it
.  ~Author Unknown

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