Well, where does one start? At the beginning, of course. I took several days off this past week because I knew my brother and I were going to Marion, NC to ride the last (hardest!) leg of the Assault on Mt. Mitchell, which is in 57 days! What better way to train for the ride than to do the ride, right?
We left early yesterday morning after a good Cracker Barrel breakfast, and got to Marion about 11am. The weather was beautiful but cool, it's still a little early in the year to be riding on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Took the car up the mountain to take a look around and to talk strategy; even the car when up the hill groaning! Finally, we turned around and headed back to Marion to get started. This area has some of the most beautiful scenery I have ever enjoyed, especially around Lake Tahoma. Sorry I didn't get photos to post, it's hard to think about photography when you're hacking up a lung.
About 8 miles up Hwy. 80 is where the road turns up and the climbing begins. Lately, I have been trying to focus on my cadence and riding at a higher RPM, but that didn't last once the climbing started. I quickly ran out of gear and had to start working. My quads were on fire, and I don't mean that in a good way.
I was happy with the progress I had made since last year, I was able to reach the Parkway in an hour and a half; I think it took me two and a half, last year. I was hurting, though, my cadence had been as low as into the 40's and I couldn't find my rhythm. Still, I pressed on.
It was a good bit cooler on the Parkway, and the climbing had not let up much. Speeds were at 5 to 7 mph, giving plenty of time to take in some of the awesome scenery. Toughed it out best as I could, but finally had to call it a day about two miles from the entrance to Mt. Mitchell State Park; my leg were toast, and the temperature had dropped to 40 degrees with a wind chill of 32.3 degrees. Not good at all when you're sweaty from climbing.
Rested a little while in the grass beside the road, listening to icicles fall from the rock face across the road. Many, many cars passed by, but only one stopped to ask the fat guy laid out beside the road if he was okay. Our world is not as friendly as it once was. But to the young couple in the Camry, I would say "thanks."
After trying to no avail to warm a little in the sun, I decided to point my bike back down the mountain. My brother had returned after a similar experience of freezing, and off we went. You would think that going down was better, but 40 degrees at speeds up to 40mph is just painful. We were glad that after a mile or so, we had to climb back up a two mile grade. It was wonderful to be warm again. Didn't last, though, it was soon time to roll again. Down the mountain we went, like bats out of hell. Fortunately, the lower we got, the warmer the air got, and soon we were back in Marion.
We had climbed just over 5000 feet, saw speeds up to 40mph, and enjoyed God's beautiful Blue Ridge mountains. No one got hurt, best of all. My bike is dirty and I think I have an upper respiratory infection. I'll need to be better soon so I can go back in two weeks. Thank you Lord, for a fantastic day in your sunshine.
Be blessed, be safe.