The second weekend in July… the weekend of the traditional “Asheville Trip”, a group of friends heading down from Ohio to Asheville for a weekend of riding. It started out many years ago as an alternative to entering the very pricey, hard to get into, and from what I have heard, logistically nightmarish Assault on Mt. Mitchell. I’ve never done the actual event, but this annual group trip is what led me to move to the Asheville area four years ago.
I didn’t like being limited to a few vacation weekends to do big rides in the mountains.
The ride group has splintered, and splintered again over the years, but my two friends Vince and Todd have stuck with the traditional weekend plans. This year Vince wanted to add an additional day, kicking things off with a mountain bike ride, which he had never done in WNC.
Things didn’t go quite as planned, but we did get that MTB ride in.
July Showers – Week 2
7/08 Monday: Rest Day
7/09 Tuesday: Rest Day
7/10 Wednesday: 151/Parkway Ride
Before Vince and Todd arrived in Asheville, an invite went out on Wednesday afternoon from a couple local guys who wanted to ride up 151, down the parkway and back into Asheville. I headed out right at 5pm to meet up in West Asheville and had a good time riding with some new friends. I tried to take it easy on the smaller climbs and longer ascent up 151, since I knew I’d have some long miles to do the rest of the week. It didn’t help much.
And it rained yet again, including a very heavy downpour as we dropped down through Biltmore Forest.
7/11 Thursday: Modified Plans – Pisgah Parkway Ride with Vince
Vince and I were supposed to go for a ride in Bent Creek, but the heavy rain on Wednesday and early Thursday forced us to change plans. We hopped on the road bikes and road from Vince’s hotel up to Mt. Pisgah. I led him up through Biltmore Forest, whereupon Vince commented that one sure does have to do a lot of climbing just to get to the climbs.
You’d think after, what… 15 or more years of coming down to Asheville he would have figured this out by now.
We made our way onto the Parkway and began the long climb up to Mt. Pisgah from 191 at a measured but relatively relaxed pace. We stopped at the General Store for snack and a coke and then had fun making the descent back down. 55 miles for me with the added miles to/from home and the hotel, and 45 for Vince.
Ride #1 – Craggy Parkway Ride with Vince & Todd
Although it rained a bit more on Thursday, Vince really wanted to get out for the mountain bike ride. First time in all these years he brings some fat tires with him, seemed a shame not to at least get a few miles of singletrack in. So we decided to make Friday a double ride day. We’d do the usual ride up to Craggy Dome starting out earlier than usual, and then spend a bit of time in the late afternoon riding in Bent Creek.
This was gonna be a big day.
We once again headed up through Biltmore Forest to get to the parkway but turned left instead of right when we got there. We then rode on around to the Folk Art Center, whereupon Todd decided to lift the pace significantly. I at first let him go, then decided to close the gap and grab his wheel. He set a fairly aggressive pace and I barely stayed with him on a couple of the steeper sections. As we crested the top of the climb just before Craven Gap, I told Todd that he dropped the rest of the Peloton.
And by Peloton I meant Vince.
He looked back and seemed surprised, having no idea that Vince wasn’t still with us. I guess he just put his head down and got into his own head.
We regrouped and then slowed things down to a more reasonable pace the rest of the way.
Did it rain on us? I honestly can’t remember… all the rides become a blur as far as the weather goes. But I’m fairly certain we did get away, finally, with a rain-free ride. Instead of dropping down Tunnel Rd. for a more direct route back to the hotel, we again went around to the south and came through Biltmore Forest. With the longer ride I ended up with 64 miles.
And this was just ride #1.
Ride #2 – Bent Creek Ride with Vince & Friends
After a brief break to regroup and get some food, I swung by the hotel to pick up Vince and his mountain bike. I had heard from Lorne earlier in the day that he was cleared to ride again after an eye surgery that had put him off the bike for many weeks. I convinced him to come out for the ride with us, so we parked over at his place in Bent Creek Neighborhood and rode from there. Vince found the initial access trail to be quite a challenge… lots of roots and a pretty significant grade change.
Welcome to mountain biking in Western North Carolina!
Just to get a feel for skill levels, since Vince and I have never ridden mountain bikes together before, I pushed the pace on up to Rice-Pinnacle road pretty hard. I planned to take it much easier than that the rest of the ride, but it was kinda fun to go blasting up that little neighborhood trail once again. I hadn’t ridden on it since moving.
We rode over to Rice-Pinnacle parking lot and met up with Jon, who had just returned from a long biking trip out West – one of them “hut to hut” tours, I think from Durango to Moab. He was all smiles as he talked about it, and I’m pretty sure this is something I have to do… soon.
Since the trails were pretty wet we kept the singletrack to a minimum and gave Vince more of a taste of gravel roads. We rode up N. Boundary to Ledford Rd. and then up Ingles Field Connector and upper Ingles Field. That gave Vince a real good dose of climbing, which he rode quite well (but probably wasn’t too big a fan of, given our earlier road ride that day).
We then descended Little Hickory and Sidehill since those trails are actually “troads”, and have a lot of rock. They can be ridden in pretty much any weather conditions. After that we took the lower part of Lower Sidehill which luckily wasn’t too bad, and the Campground Connector over to Hard Times Connector and then on back to Lorne’s place. We ended up with a total of about 15 miles of soggy but pretty good riding and that was plenty, combined with the earlier ride.
A huge meal at Tupelo Honey followed.
7/13 Saturday: Modified Plans – Biltmore Estate in lieu of Hot Doggett (without Vince or Todd)
One of the things Vince and Todd started doing on an annual basis a few years ago is the Hot Doggett century ride. I told Vince I’d do the ride this year, but as Saturday night wore on, I became more and more convinced it would be smarter to stay home or just do something light. After three long rides in a row I was not looking forward to 100 more miles. I’ve done Hot Doggett twice before and have not had a very good ride either time. As a result I have soured on the idea of doing it again. Nothing against the ride organizers, route or volunteers… it’s actually a very good ride! I’ve just either not felt well, had nagging injuries or suffered in the July heat.
Basically, it’s jut not high on my list of things to do in July, even with friends.
So I texted Vince and let him know I wouldn’t be joining them, and got some rest. Late in the day on Sunday I headed out for a much lighter spin through Biltmore Estate, and took my sweet time stopping to smell the roses. OK, so there weren’t any roses to smell, but I did spend some time among the formal and informal gardens and enjoyed the mile-long ribbon of Sunflowers that align the multi-use path down along the French Broad River valley.