Sunday, April 15, 2012

Tuggle Gap to Groundhog Mountain

I've had some great bike rides lately, but yesterday's was hands-down, the best adventure I've had on a bike ever. I rode 50 miles on the Blue Ridge Parkway from Tuggle Gap to Groundhog Mountain (gotta love the names!). It's a 469 mile scenic byway with land on either side protected by the US Forest Service. I'd been on it just twice by car but that smooth road surface, few entry points, long grades, and beautiful vistas are just made for bikes!

I'd grown weary of my same-old routes and could not find another soul around here to join me on an adventure. I looked up cue sheets for other area routes but was not in the mood to navigate on my own (primarily since I'm horrible at it).

I just wanted some open road to go pedal my butt off without thinking. This was perfect - a straight shot and no way to get lost! I made the 40 minute trek to the closest entry point, not really knowing what I was in for.

The speed limit is 45 MPH and traffic was light (and polite). I started off in a pretty stiff headwind, wearing two layers and arm sleeves, and finished up with calm winds, in just a tank, under a clear blue sky.

I passed through rhododendron-lined stretches, over the signature rock arch underpasses, and made a brief stop at one of the many scenic overlooks as well as the Mabry Mill. Would you believe I only saw two other cyclists on the road, but lots of motorcyclists.

Mabry Mill

I'm still getting used to the deeper wheels in the heavy cross-winds I encountered on the ridge tops. But I am enjoying the new cassette Steve picked out that includes a smaller cog (11 instead of 12 I think). In the past, I would sometimes run out of gears on the descents -- no longer. I topped out at 43 MPH, pedaling for every bit of speed on a particularly delectable stretch of downhill at the end.

This ride, especially the all-out fast parts (!), gave me a gigantic adrenaline rush that lasted all day (and even now). It was pure adventure to me and I never thought of it as training, or triathlon prep, or anything I had to do.

Usually part of me is glad when I near the end of a ride long. But when I saw the Tuggle Gap sign, I let out an audible "awwwww". But I'll be back on the Blue Ridge Parkway, that's for sure.