Friday, August 21, 2009
Asheville, NC Ride, Part 2: Hot Springs
This was a good ride. I stopped by a bike shop afterwards and the owner mentioned that variations of it are regular training routes for guys looking to put in some long tough miles. I was totally exhausted, drenched from riding the last seven miles in a torrential downpour, and jelly legged at the time he was telling me this...so I'm not 100% that is what he said or if he said "stop getting my shop all wet you f@#$!"
Map-My-Ride Cue Sheet Map
I started off in downtown Asheville at Over Easy Cafe. This place is legit. The breakfast is healthy and delicious, cheap, they have outdoor seating, and the staff are super friendly. I wasn't sure where I was going to ride that day, so I asked the waitress for a recommendation. She said go down to the river and head north. So I did.
Miles 2 through 23 are along the rive on this road that isn't too traveled and actually has a bike lane for a good portion of it. There are some really small rollers, but it was a great place to warm up, put in some tempo, and take in the scenery. You're right next to the river for most of it (which is nice). The first place to get some water/food is Marshall, NC. Marshall is this neat little town with a good mix of country boys/gals & artists. It is real little, but has this cool coffee bar (Zuma Coffee) where I stopped for a coke, bathroom break, and to fill up on water. At this point I was planning to just ride out 50K and then turn around and ride back, but I met a guy at the coffee place that told me that I could do a big loop to this place called Hot Springs which would take me up some "real steep mountains" as he put it. So I pressed onward north.
Miles 23 through 39 were tougher than the first 23. The road starts to go up a little and there are two brutal climbs before crossing the river at mile 39. One reminded me of an unfinished highway Jay took us on last time at the barn...just straight and consistently steep; a grinder that took it's toll. At this point, I had decided I wasn't going to go back that direction as the downhills were just as long and seemed steeper.
Hot Springs is another neat little town. I got directions for the next segment of the ride from Bluff Mountain Outfitters. Stop in as it is a great outdoors shop. Hot Springs is right on the Appalachian Trail and I happened to see some through hikers hanging out while I got my bearings. I filled up on fuel and had myself a fruit cup at the Gallery at Iron Horse Station.
Miles 39 through 56 were f@#king brutal! Uphill, uphill, uphill. Route 209 is a GREAT road. It climbs steadily, it's through a forest, there are not a lot of cars, and the views are legit. Although I was suffering, it was a beautiful and very relaxing form of suffering (is that possible?). It was hot at this point during the day and I was going through water real quick. I stopped in Spring Creek at this old school that someone had converted into a restaurant and got some water, but there was another place in Trust (where 63 intersects) that I probably would have preferred to stop at. The guy in Hot Springs who gave me my route said to "watch out for a dog on 209"...which messed with my head as I was going uphill since I knew there was no way I'd have the legs to outsprint a dog going up 3% to 7%. Luckily there was no dog (I think he was messing with me).
The rest of the ride is mainly down hill with some risers thrown in as you make your way back to the river. There were a few convenience stores/gas stations along 63 where I got Gatorade and filled up on water. The closer you get back to Asheville, the more "urban" it starts getting. The road widens at one point to 4 lanes, but if you don't miss the turn onto Old Leicester Highway (like I did)...you're only on a busy road for just a little bit. The rain started coming down at this point and it got really bad right when I crossed the river. There is a nice little climb back into downtown Asheville from the river at the end of the ride (which was a nice touch on fried legs) and the road had turned into a roaring river of water.
Overall, I think it ended up being right around 90ish miles (give or take 2 or 3) from the resort and a bit over 5 hours of saddle time. Asheville, NC has got to be one of the cycling centers of the east coast. I didn't see a ton of cyclists on the roads while I was out there (due to weird start times and week day rides), but the terrain is legit. Worth a trip.
at 8:15 AM