Is that a 30 mph headwind?
Seriously! That’s the question Mike and I were asking ourselves as we pedaled out of my neighborhood on Saturday. Other than the wind, it was a nice springlike day (although I suppose springlike presumes the presence of wind) with a slight threat of rain that we hoped to beat. My stated goal was 50 miles, with our route conceived to take advantage of the wind during the last part.
The question at hand, however, was whether we would get to the point of having the wind help us with the energy to make it home later? It was simply one of those days where average speed doesn’t mean anything and you take comfort in how hard you worked rather than how fast you rode!
We crawled out past Mentor, and headed toward Ozark down Cottonwood Road. At the bottom of Cottonwood, we turned right on Smyrna Road and crossed over the sparkling spring-fed creek several times on our way to the Finley River. I really like that section of the road, but don’t get to ride it much as we used to before the county closed the bridge over the Finley River at Riverside.
The Finley River was as sparkling clear as it often is this time of year. We crossed it twice during the afternoon, and both times there were several people enjoying it’s beauty both places. Heck, even the James River by my house was as pretty and clear on Saturday as I’ve ever seen it.
After crossing the river, we climbed the hill on Hawkens Road and made our way out to McCracken Road and JJ Highway. It was on JJ that we finally got to experience about a quarter of a mile of tailwind for the first time that afternoon.
Talk about sweet! It’s too bad it was short-lived. We had to turn back to the east on Carter Road before we got to enjoy it. When Carter intersected with Highway 125, I made a navigation error, turning right instead of left. I was navigating by cue sheet at that point, and that turn was on a fold in the paper. At any rate, it cost us about two miles into the wind. I kept thinking I didn’t remember our route taking us so far on 125, then when we hit the Sparta city limits I knew what I had done. After we turned around, we got to fly with the wind at our backs for a decent distance this time. We were cruising at 30 MPH with really very little effort.
Once we got back on track, we had some pretty easy cruising, although it was a lot of up and down. At one point, Mike was having so much fun going downhill with the wind that he overshot a turn and had to circle back. I could see it coming and was just about to yell at him when I saw him hit the brakes, so at least I knew I wouldn’t have to chase him down!
As we wound our way back toward Rogersville, we encountered our first gravel of the day. It was just a few hundred yards along a stretch of Audubon Road. We took that primarily because it was a road we hadn’t been on before…I guess I know why now.
From the gravel, we hit Highway U and what I suspected would be the hardest and longest hill of the day. As we came down, the road made a slight bend and the wind came whistling through the creek valley, hitting my bike and giving me a pretty violent shove. It wasn’t fun at all, then we started the slow climb out of the valley. The one saving grace of that climb was that the wind wasn’t against us at the time!
The next and final section of gravel was on Peck Road, and as far as roads go, this was one of the prettiest of the day. The roadbed was hard-packed limestone (mostly dust) that was still slightly damp, so it wasn’t a problem to ride on. There was one nice little creek crossing where I got a foot wet and woods on either side the entire distance.
As the gravel ended we were presented with another steep hill to climb and at this point, Mike decided a quick break was in order. We split a Honey Stinger, gathered our wits and started climbing. As we neared the top, we had to suffer the indignity of a stinking dog chase! Luckily this one was too old and fat to be very serious because we sure couldn’t have outrun her at the time!
Rolling into Rogersville after 35 miles, I immediately headed for the restroom and when I came out I had lost Mike. After wandering into Hardee’s, I found him chowing down on a sandwich! I guess I hungry guy can’t fight the wind and hills all afternoon without taking a little sustenance!
From Rogersville, it was a fairly straight shot back to the house. We detoured slightly to pick up a couple of miles, then cruised over the rollers toward the river.
As we did, we noticed the clouds building in front of us. We were expecting rain in the evening, but cut it closer than intended. I got home and immediately jumped in the shower. By the time I got out, it was raining! Talk about just making it in time!
We ended up riding 49.27 miles, getting close enough to my goal of 50 to be satisfied without having to ride around the block a few times! You can click the map for more details.
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