I was getting close to hitting 3000 miles year-to-date, so I wanted to be somewhere cool when I did hit it; so, I called my brother and said to him, "Let's go climb White Oak Mountain on Saturday." He was game, so this morning we hit the road. White Oak is cool, not only because it is tough to climb, but because it's only two or so hours from home. We parked in Tryon, NC (a beautiful NC mountain town!) and rolled out toward the mountain. This is at the bottom of the climb; they've been doing road repair and haven't taken this sign down. I think it is a very appropriate sign that should stay as long as bikes are climbing White Oak.
I had planned my rides at home earlier in the week to set me up so I would hit 3000 miles at the top and got pretty close; when I reached the summit, I had racked up 3001 miles in 2009! I didn't ride 3000 miles the first 40 years of my life! I'm no rock star on a bicycle, but when I got to the top I was as happy as Alberto Contador on Mont Ventoux!
It's a bit of a hazy day, but behind me is a big, beautiful valley. Here's a shot of it without me polluting the landscape!
We rested at the top for a bit, then rolled through the switches down the other side. That's an experience! Got to the bottom and the wheels were too hot to touch from braking! Some people might think going down the hill is better, but the pucker factor can go through the roof!
We headed north, then turned west to go through the Green River Cove, a heavenly valley with the road running along the Green River. Lots of folks out there today having a great time rafting and tubing down the river. Got a little jealous, wanted to trade the bike for a kayak!
At the upper end of the valley, there is a series of 4.5 million switchbacks to take one up from the valley floor into Saluda, NC. Okay, so I exaggerated just a little. There are MANY switches to take you up, inclines up to 15%! It was on one of these switchbacks that my heart rate hit 175 beats a minute, and I thought it best that I should get off the bike and walk a bit until I recovered and my heart slowed some. It soon did, so I jumped aboard and finished climbing out of the valley to Saluda, another picturesque NC mountain town with several fine restaurants.
The ride from Saluda back to Tryon is a total GAS! About 7 miles of road here, four of which are DOWNHILL!! It was on this stretch of tarmac I hit a max speed of 37.5mph! Talk about FUN! This four miles made the two heart-, mind-, and gut-wrenching climbs worth it all. We finished our ride having gone 38.23 miles and climbing over 4200 feet, cumulative. What a great day it has been!
Be blessed, be safe.
p.s. No one should ever ride in the mountains alone. A rider could accidentally go over the side and be very difficult to locate and provide aid to. Always take a partner, besides, the conversation is always good when you're not hacking up a lung!