I was done. Had failed to get 10,000 feet of climbing on my bicycle. Missed by about half.
I’m not sure why I clicked on the Strava Correct Elevation link. I normally don’t. Laid down for a nap.
Shortly thereafter, I received a PM from my riding buddy Monica saying “Shame you can’t go out and get 2200 more feet. You are so close.”
I went back and looked at the corrected elevation. Sure enough, I now had 7797 feet.
I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me go back to the beginning.
I dragged the family up to Dahlonega, GA for a “weekend getaway” but really, my agenda was to complete a challenge from one of my cycling clubs. Nearly every year the Eastside club challenges its members to ride 5,000 miles, climb 10,000 feet in one day, and participate in 20 club rides. Also there is an additional challenge to participate in a charity event (remember this. RT#1. There are several “remember this” moments in this article.)
We decided to drive up on Friday, July 24th and return Monday July 27th, in the wonderful election year of 2020. Not getting in to the whole political thing but we expected everything to be open in Georgia. Almost everything was (remember this #2).
The drive up went quite smoothly. Only the usual rush hour slow down between Macon and South Atlanta. Once we got on to 685, everything was moving along well.
For the first time ever, we actually stayed in a hotel in Dahlonega. This is because every other visit was over Six Gap weekend, when hotels are booked years in advance. The HI Express seemed nice enough but the mattresses are very firm. I didn’t get a good night’s sleep at all. Still I got up early to get some coffee and breakfast. RT#2 kicked in here as the complimentary breakfast was limited to “grab and go” stuff which was mostly crap. I grabbed a plain bagel and a banana with my coffee. Had to sit outside on a bench to eat it, with all the other people grabbing an early breakfast. Went up to the room and started to get dressed.
The first thing I realized was that I forgot my HR strap. Oh well, I’ve got a power meter. Turned out not to be a big thing.
I rode from the hotel on Chestatee Street (Cherokee word meaning “pine torch place”) straight through town and out to Lumpkin County High School, where I did a run down and up the driveway, to simulate starting the Six Gap route. The Garmin and the Stages dash showed between 50-75′ of climb just doing that (RT #3).
I headed out the normal Six Gap route to Turner’s Corner. The weather was partly cloudy, temperature in the high 60s. I was actually cold. Getting used to Florida weather I guess. The forecast was favorable until early afternoon, when isolated showers were predicted (RT #4).
I noticed some slight difficulties shifting and wondered if my derailleur hanger got bent in the car on the way up (RT #5).
I was also noticing that the Stages Dash was showing more feet of climb than the Garmin, and it’s usually the other way. I wasn’t sure what was happening at this point (RT #6).
It’s been 10 years since I stopped at Turner’s on a Saturday. It’s normally very quiet (except on Six Gap Sunday of course, when it is a mad house as SAG #1). Not this morning. Several cyclists and hikers were stopped there. There was a line for the only bathroom. Here’s more RT #2: COVID procedures were in place and for some reason that means closing down the other bathroom (I think it was made “employees only” but it said “supply room” on the door.) I wasted 20 minutes waiting for the bathroom and was in such a hurry I forgot to buy anything. I planned on being back there a few times anyway (RT #7), as I was planning on doing a “double 3 gap” route rather than go up Hog Pen Gap (which I don’t like at all.)
Anyway, I headed out and up Neel’s Gap. There was lots more traffic than I have ever seen on that road. Sports car clubs, motorcycle groups, delivery trucks and even a bunch of punks driving lowered pickup trucks that screamed obnoxious things as they rode by, way too close.
Neel’s is normally not that hard for me. It’s a long, steady climb that averages around 4% incline. The traffic stressed me out, is my best guess, because I arrived at the top feeling pretty lousy. I was shaking and breathing rather hard.
I sat on a bench reserved for those hiking the Appalachian Trail, but nobody bothered me. Georgia doesn’t have a mask mandate so I was surprised at how many people were hiking with masks on. I’m not in favor of this because lots of fresh air is good for your health no matter what. I can see wearing a mask inside in tight quarters, but out in the woods???
I didn’t take a picture but I happened to look up and notice several hundred pairs of sneakers and hiking shoes that had been hung from limbs in the trees next to the trail. Does it mean these people “retired” their shoes here? It means something very different in Florida.
I left the bench and began the descent down Neel’s towards Wolfpen Gap. The new disc brake TCR performed very well and I felt more comfortable on this descent than I had in years. The traffic had lightened some, as I only had to pull over and let cars go by a few times.
The first thing I noticed when I turned on to GA 180 to go up Wolfpen Gap were the huge “SHARE THE ROAD” signs. It was so much quieter. Yes there were a few cars on the road, but they patiently waited for a proper place to pass and were all tremendously respectful. It’s a pleasant, if somewhat difficult climb. The reduction in stress from Neel’s was a huge plus.
Note: CYCLIST TECHIE NERD WARNING for the next paragraph.
The second thing I noticed was my gears making noise. I have the TCR set up with 52×34 in the front and the cassette in the rear is 11×32 (sorry about the cyclist techie talk. That’s the number of teeth on the gears.) I figured the 34 pulling the 32 would be a suitable “granny gear” for Wolfpen. So RT #6 kicks in: Well I looked down and I wasn’t in the 32 in the back. I was in the 2nd gear which I believe is a 30. If I held the shift lever all the way over the noise stopped but it wouldn’t go up to the 32. I figured it was probably a minor adjustment on the thumbscrew so I pulled over and tried to adjust it. That thing would not move! What’s worse, is that after playing with it a bit, it would go higher than the third gear at all. So now I was pedaling a 34 over a 27, on the steepest climb I would have all day. It was doable although a lot more work and power was required.
I decided to stop messing with it before I made it worse, and continued to the top without event. I stopped briefly but there was nothing up there really, no photo op. It’s rather a boring summit really. The descent after is short but exciting, with many double 90 turns and a few blind switchbacks.
Living Off The Road
I have done this ride a few times before when not part of Six Gap Sunday. I had some plans to stop for supplies. There is a convenient store at the stop sign where 180 joins another route (route 9D I think?) RT #2: “NO PUBLIC RESTROOMS”. I know there were restrooms available last time I stopped there.
There were several motorcycles in line for gas. They were out in force today. I bought a 10 oz Coke and a Gatorade. I sat outside, drank a few sips of the Coke, put it in my back pocket, drank some of the Gatorade and poured the rest in to a water bottle, and then continued on to the top of Woody Gap, still limited to 3rd gear.
Upon reaching the top though, it has the most scenic overlook that would be featured along my route, so I stopped to take a picture. It also has a public “dry” restroom. I used it and realized things were not going well for me down there. I was hurting pretty bad at this point and this indicated to me I needed to consider shortening the ride. I was only at 5000′ on the Garmin as well (remember RT #6 for later) and I had pretty much given up on the 10K at this point.
Also, storm clouds were appearing in the distance. I could hear thunder rumbling on occasion.
I had a brain storm and while stopped at Woody, I picked up the bike and cycled through all the downhill gears. Hah, whaddya know. This opened up ALL the gears to me again. Must be some gunk in the derailleur or something.
Stone Pile Decision
There is a big pile of Stone at a place known as “Four Corners”, at the bottom of the Woody descent. It now has a roundabout! Makes sense really, as it is a place where decisions are made. I had a decision to make. Do I turn left and go back to Turner’s for a late lunch, (it was now about 1:30) or do I turn right to R Ranch and go back to Dahlonega? RT#4: While stopped there a big bolt of lightning landed less than a mile away from me. I know that because I heard the thunder almost immediately. That made my mind up. I decided to forgo lunch at Turner’s (RT #7 wasn’t going to happen at all) and head back home.
I managed to beat most of the rain. It was behind me. On nearly every climb though (where I now had use of all my gears) it would almost catch me and I would get sprinkled on. On the descents I would out run it, for a while.
Of course, I had to turn in to the high school and do one down and back just to complete Three Gap route. (We’ll come back to RT #3 in a bit).
Rednecks in Dahlonega
As I made the turn through the square in Dahlonega there was a dark blue Ford F-150 behind me, tag 347-AHJ I think? It may have been AHI. The reason I am posting that info is because the kids in it were absolute jerks. As they passed me they did a diesel smoke trick, where they gunned up the engine and did something to create a huge cloud of black smoke. Of course I screamed at them. They went a few thousand feet down the road and did it again. I almost caught them at the Chestatee light but the driver got scared, and made an illegal left turn, nearly getting in to a wreck. I had planned on having a “come to Jesus” meeting with him if I had caught him. I am famous for these meetings on the Kyle’s Thursday Night Ride in Orlando.
Back at the Hotel, and RT #3
My daughter Grace was in the Hotel, as mom and Sophie were off shopping for antiques. Grace commented, “Oh you are done already? Are you OK?” I wasn’t, really. I inhaled a Gatorade and a couple bottles of water. Had a little “me time” in the bathroom. Uploaded the Garmin file to Strava and messaged the folks that had promised to donate $1 for each 100′ I climbed that I didn’t make it to 10,000 (This was RT #1 wasn’t it?). The Garmin said 5900 ish.
I’m not sure why I clicked on the Correct Elevation link. I normally don’t. Laid down for a nap.
Shortly thereafter, Mom came back with a Dairy Queen Blizzard which I thoroughly enjoyed. I think it was a major part of my recovery. While eating it I received a PM from my riding buddy Monica saying “Shame you can’t go out and get 2200 more feet. You are so close.”
I went back and looked at the corrected elevation. Sure enough, I now had 7797 feet. How did that happen? Also, the weather had mostly cleared. There were some isolated storm clouds off in the distance.
What should I do now? I surely didn’t want to get back in that kit (which was soaking in the sink anyway) and ride any more. I hemmed and hawed, stalled, dawdled, and finally just put my shoes on, carried the bike down to the parking lot and rode in my gym shorts up and down between here and the Best Western next door, which seemed to be about 20 feet lower. I did 4 laps I think, for about .97 miles
37 feet, said the Garmin, after about 1 mile. Pff that isn’t going to work. I went back upstairs. Clicked the elevation correction link again. 216 feet. Wow. That’s a big difference.
OK I had to do this now.
High School Madness
Kathleen drove me over to the High School where I knew I could get 50-75 feet just riding from the entrance to the school and back. “Come back in two hours” I said. “I need to get a little more than 20 miles.”
I think I completed 35 laps. It rained a little during the 25 miles I rode (again in my gym shorts and t-shirt) but I didn’t care. I had to finish this. They picked me up at 7pm, which the Garmin showing 1550 feet. I needed 1998 to make it to exactly 10,000 for the day.
It was only a few minutes but it seemed longer. “2355 feet!” I exclaimed. I am very proud that my wife and both my daughters cheered withe me.
“We did it! Let’s go eat and I’m having a beer!” We jumped in to the car and headed over to Johnny B’s for chicken wings and I had a nice Angry Orchard IPA, which I felt was well deserved.
Let’s review the “Remember This” items.
RT#1: Charity ride. About two weeks ago I announced on Facebook that I would donate $1 for every 100 feet I climbed, and would anyone match me? It took a while but I finally got 4 friends to pledge. I will be donating my portion to JP Russo, who was hit by a car earlier this year while setting up a race course. He has some really big medical bills. One friend is going to donate to a homeless shelter.
RT#2: COVID. Georgia is “open” but there are still some silly and inconsistent “rules” being made here, just like Florida.
RT#3: It was a good thing I dove in to the High School parking and realized how many feet were to be gained on each lap!
RT#4: The weather was a factor. Lightning in the mountains is no laughing matter. Also, descending these mountains on wet roads? Not something I want to do.
RT#5: I will have to ask my mechanic (Bryce, the Bearded Bike Doc) why my derailleur chose such an inopportune time to misbehave.
RT#6: The Garmin altitude error. My latest theory is that my Garmin 520 screen is cracked (I dropped it recently) and this affects the integrity of the internal barometer. It used to be fairly accurate.
RT#7: I owe Turner’s a sale. I feel it is impolite to use a bathroom in a convenient store and not buy something.
I think I’m done with this 10,000 foot challenge. It’s not worth the stress. If I go crazy and decide to do it again, I will go to Fort Mountain. It’s a much easier climb than the Dahlonega climbs, and not so much traffic.