Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Brevard-Cruso Soul Crusher - Day 5

The weather is finally starting to clear up on our fifth day in North Carolina. The horizon was clear in the morning. The temperature was still in the 20's with a windchill in the teens though. Another day with winter layers, but not quite as bulked up as the last three days.

Snowy mountains calling in the morning

I had trouble going up the stairs to make coffee in the morning. I seriously questioned the judgement of getting on a bike again and climbing hills with Arik. He was talking hundred miler, I was talking short bakery ride. I couldn't let the first clear day go to waste. I kitted up and we headed out together. A big loop called the Brevard-Cruso loop was loaded on the GPSs. It ran about 88 miles from our house. For extra credit, Arik played in to find an additional 12+ miles to make it a hundred miler. Not me. This loop passes over the Blue Ridge Parkway twice, a 2500ft climb the first time, closer to 3000ft the second time. 10+ mile steep climbs and descents on both passes.

Arik towed me all the way until the serious climbing began on US-276. Then it was bye-bye until the top. It was pretty frigid at the parkway, around 4500ft elevation. The state had salted and sanded the other side of 276, which was steeper and was going to make the descent interesting. Plus we were going into the wind. Arik carried way more speed that I cared to on uncertain surfaces. I fell on black ice once and didn't care to do it at 40mph with cliffs and guardrails everywhere. At the bottom, something like 10-12 miles later, Arik was pretty much frozen through. He must run on half the calories I do, as evidenced by our abilities to stay warm and post ride food consumption. Probably another slow-twitcher calorie miser.

Part way up US-276

From US-276/BRP junction

After topping off my water in inhaling most of a ham and cheddar sandwich, we agreed Arik should not wait for me at the much higher pass coming up. I couldn't have gone harder than tourist pace if my life depended on it. Besides, I brought the good camera in the fanny pack and it was stellar picture taking conditions. Rarely is the air so clear in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Beginning Rt 215 climb

Little further up Rt 215

Icy falls on Rt 215

Contrasts of colors and brightness at top of Rt 215

Riding a pedestrian pace, I reached the parkway with little difficulty. I think only one car passed me in 45 minutes of climbing. It was an awesome climb, a section of road I've never been on. While it looked pretty wintry at 5300ft, the parkway looked mostly clear. I thought I'd check out the high point heading north that was socked in with clouds on our second ride this trip. There were only a couple patches of snow and ice that went all the way across the road, which were easy to navigate. I stopped to eat, soak in the sun and take in the see-forever views.

High point on BRP north of Rt 215

Turning around, I though just maybe I could ride all the way to the parkway high point above 6000ft heading south of Rt 215. There were several cars parked there, and people were enjoying the parkway in brilliant sun and crisp air on foot. It is gated to traffic.

BRP south of Rt 215

Caney overlook on BRP

I thought the high point was just a couple miles out. I didn't GPS this and was going off-script. After a couple big climbs and plummets to named gaps, I started to get frustrated, gaining no net vertical and riding many miles. Many sections wrapped around north facing benchcut terrain. These were filled with 2" crusty snow. I packed my rims a couple times. Finally I started climbing in earnest, hoping that this would ultimately hit the high point without plummeting again. But as I reached 5800ft, the road became continuously snow covered at 6-8% grade. There's no way I wanted to come back down that. The stuff was very squirelly on 23mm tires. Bummer. Less than 200ft from the BRP parkway high point. I've hit it before, just thought it would be nice on such a pristine day.

BRP at 5800ft. End of road for me.

Turning around, I had to climb back up from multiple gaps before regaining Rt 215. I think noodling around on the parkway netted me another 1500ft or more, which I did not plan. It also meant I would end up with over 100 miles when I got back, and Arik would certainly be back before I would now. I sent him a quick text and began a nearly 4000ft plummet back to civilization.

Fortunately, the mostly south facing side of Rt 215 was not salted. It was pure adrenaline bombing down this, dodging the big clunks of ice that had broken off from high above. Unfortunately, this seemed to be going straight into the wind. How can that be? A couple hours earlier going the opposite way, it was into the wind. Sucks how that happens all the time.

To shorten the ride, I decided to head straight back to Brevard on US-64, which is a shitty road to cycle on. It has a 3ft shoulder, but very high traffic with trucks, etc. This too was straight into the wind, and at times I slowed to 11 mph. I had 20+ miles of this back to the house. I was way passed being wrecked by this point. And I had that lovely 20% driveway climb to look forward to as well.

I'm surprised any muscles fibers were twitching at all when I reached the house. I was almost too tired to unclip. Glad there were railings all around the door to catch myself on. I finished with 101.3mi with 9400ft vertical in about 6.4hrs. Arik rode a few more miles in quite a bit less time but less climbing. He didn't ride through ice and snow either. Arik thoroughly enjoyed the loop and plans to do it in reverse direction on Thursday. I'm out. Thought about picking up a mountain bike for the afternoon at Sycamore Cycles just down the hill from us, but have to figure out shoes/pedals to do that. Brought only road shoes. Maybe I'll just do that bakery run into Brevard...


Michael Scott Long said...

I'm surely slower than you, but I recently completed a 109-mi mountain bike ride with (supposedly) over 13,000 ft of climbing, most of the ascent on dirt roads, and I only ate a banana and two energy bars. I wasn't at all hungry afterwards. I was dehydrated enough to eat snow at the final summit though.

Cameron Cogburn said...

Hey Doug,

I'm glad you got to do my favorite hometown climb, US-215. The up 215 and down 276 loop is my favorite loop, as well.

I just sent you an email - trying to get in touch with you on relatively short notice, although it's not terribly important.