03 May Blueridge Parkway Preparation Ride Day 2
The mosquitoes went away once the temperatures dropped and I slept well in my hammock. I packed and rode my bike a few miles into Helen, GA where I found the Subway. I was planning on an egg sandwich and hot coffee, but Subway did not open until 9 AM. Since it was just after 7 AM, I ate an egg white vegetable omelet, grits, toast, and coffee at the Huddle House. I picked up a pack of fig newtons at the gas station and was soon pedaling my way toward Hog Pen Gap. I detoured at the turnoff for Dukes Creek falls, but chose not to hike to the falls. I also bypassed the Raven Cliffs trail. The climb was tough. I had to stand up on the pedals through entire sections of the steepest road grade. I was drenched with sweat on the climbs and freezing on the descents. I put on my jacket for the final long descent.
On the other side, I turned right onto Craig Gap Road to explore a quiet country a little. The countryside was beautiful, but dogs were allowed to run free on this road. I soon came up on a large dog and I stopped to consider whether I should pass. The dog ran off about a half a mile farther down the road. I went on and soon came up on a hill overlooking the dog’s home where 2 large dogs were relaxing in the yard. I was about 200 yards away. I stopped, but the dogs noticed and started running for me. This little side trip was off my route and I didn’t need to go this way so I chose to avoid the dogs. I turned around and headed away from the dogs at normal speed thinking that they would never catch up from 200 yards out. I was surprised to find that one of the dogs had caught with me. With the dog snapping at my heels I geared it up and went to sprint speed. It must have looked pretty funny to see a cowardly bicyclist being chased down the deserted country roads by a dog J.
I stopped at Sunrise Grocery on Highway 9 for an ice cream cone and water refill before climbing Neals Gap. There was more recent tornado damage on the south side of Neals Gap. Trees were snapped off and splintered over a wide area. Like Unicoi Gap, the tornado only hit isolated wooded areas.
I learned a few things from this preparation ride. Bring long fingered biking gloves. I also added a number of other small items to my packing list. It can be cold in the mountains in the early morning. I will also need to pack more food. The ride went very well and I had 90% of what I needed. I rode about 41 miles the first day and 43 miles the 2nd day. On the 2nd day I finished some steep climbs without too much trouble. I will need to be able to do the same for 50 miles per day over 2 weeks. With a slow and relaxing pace and frequent breaks I managed to carry a heavy load without wearing down my body.