CNC Fall Ride – October 1 – 8, 2011
503 miles. That’s the distance we ended up biking over seven days through some of the prettiest back-country North Carolina roads that I never even knew existed. Yesterday Melissa and I completed our first Cycle North Carolina (CNC) fall ride. The route for this ride varies from year to year and this year it started in Elkin and ended in the tiny Outer Banks town of Corolla. Melissa’s dad, Fran, graciously agreed to come out and “sag” us for the entirety of the trip, and for this we will be eternally grateful. Having him there to haul our cycling “stuff”, allowed us to take along considerably more in the way of small comforts than we would have been able to otherwise. For most folks on this ride – those depending on the CNC staff to cart their luggage from campsite to campsite – the bag limit is two per person. Into these two bags one must stuff a tent, sleeping bag and seven days worth of cycling and casual clothes. While this doesn’t necessarily qualify as “roughing it” (shower trucks with warm water are at each camp site and meals are provided), it does make for a rather austere existence for seven days. Melissa and I, on the other hand, were able to bring along a cooler, a small camp table, a plastic box containing various items for bike maintenance, camp chairs, etc. We also brought a small burner for boiling water, a coffee press, good coffee, dark chocolate, wine and bourbon. Yes, friends, on trips like this, the small comforts make all the difference.
Fran picked us up last Saturday (Oct 1) and after stuffing the cavernous interior of his GMC sport utility literally to the ceiling, transferring the bike rack from our car to his (thanks to some brilliant engineering by Melissa’s brother, Grant), and loading the bikes, we were on our way to Elkin. We made it to the campsite at Elkin’s Municipal Recreation Center around 3:30 and after hastily setting up tents, we found the only restaurant in Elkin to watch a college football game – a place called Dodge City, which Melissa found through the miracle of her iPad and whose name somehow conjured up images of drunken, slack-jawed bubbas watching NASCAR. So it was a pleasant surprise as we walked in and found the Carolina vs. Auburn game on almost every one of their half dozen or so televisions scattered around the dining area. Unfortunately, my Gamecocks lost the game but we still had a great meal. Around 8pm, Fran’s Wisconsin Badgers kicked it off vs. Nebraska and we hung around to watch most of that game as well (Badgers won). We didn’t make it back to camp until close to 11pm and we arrived to absolutely no signs of activity within camp – everyone had turned in long ago. 65 miles of cycling awaited us the next day.
Day 1 – Elkin to Mayodan – 65 miles
We woke up at 6am to the jerkings of rain fly zippers and the tinny clinks of tent poles and pegs as people dismantled their campsites and prepared for the day. As I exited the tent I was a little surprised to find a lot of people already dressed for cycling and looking eager to ride. The average age of the 900+ cyclists on this ride was 55 years old. Not surprisingly, most of those dressed and ready to go at 6:15am were the older ones who had probably been up for hours already. The low overnight was around 40 and it felt colder than that. By 7:15 or so, we had broken down camp and loaded Fran’s car and he was headed off to the first rest stop where he was volunteering. Melissa and I ate breakfast and took shelter in the gym of the rec center to warm up a bit before starting our ride. We finally ventured out around 8:30.
We recognized a lot of the day one course from the Three Mountain Madness course we rode back in June. That ride included summits of Sauratown Mountain, Hanging Rock and Pilot Mountain, and while the day one route skipped those summits, much of the route was the same. Considerable climbing, hazardous descents (one in particular including loose gravel) and absolutely gorgeous scenery – it was possibly the most scenic ride of the week.
Beginning a routine that would last all week, Melissa and I dressed warmly to start the ride (cycling jackets, full gloves, tights, etc), knowing that we would be able to shed some of that clothing , passing it off to Fran at rest stop #1 where he volunteered each day. It was an exceptional luxury, as most others had to decide between either dressing warmly early and being over-dressed as it warmed up, or freezing early on and being more comfortable later. With the option of shedding clothes at the first rest stop (usually 12 to 20 miles in and 10 to 15 degrees warmer), we were fairly comfortable all day long. We were spoiled!
We rolled into Autumn Creek Vineyards – a beautiful winery just outside of the town of Mayodan around 3pm. This was our stop-over for the second night and by the time we arrived, Fran had already set up camp. We showered and headed to a local Mexican restaurant where we ate well and watched Green Bay whip Denver. We made it back to camp by 7pm and were probably asleep by 8:30 – exhausted from a late night on Saturday and the first day of cycling. The next day we would pedal 70 miles to Mebane. More to come…