62 miles, 4500 feet of climbing during the first 31 miles.
We were staying at the Grove Park Inn Resort (the wife had a conference there and I tagged along for a bit of relaxing and biking while she was working). I had done some research (very minimal) on the surrounding area, but went into this trip knowing that western North Carolina had some terrain that was going to be "fun" to ride. Anyway, on to the ride:
Monday: The Gates of Mt. Mitchell:
I had stopped by a local bike shop and asked some questions on Sunday afternoon (did a little spin to loosen the legs from the drive) and they mentioned that Mt. Mitchell wasn't too far away up the Blue Ridge Parkway. I figured I'd give it a shot. Half way through this ride I was convinced that there were no downhills in North Carolina. From the resort, it is essentially uphill for 31 miles till the entrance to Mt. Mitchell State Park. The road leading up to the parkway is great; small two lane road with plenty of switchbacks and barely any cars. I had never ridden on the parkway before and I was suprised by how few cars there were and how well maintained it was. There was some construction at different points, but nothing to serious. The way they do construction zones on the parkway is that they have a pickup truck lead the waiting cars through the zone to the other end, and then the pickup truck leads the group waiting at that end back down to the other end...works well. One thing to think about is the tunnels on the parkway. They have no lighting in them and between Asheville and Mt. Mitchell there is one that is long enough that you won't be able to see anything (or be seen) when you're in the middle of it. Bringing a blinky or some sort of light might be a good idea (even during the day) for safety. Here are the important notes:
- Bring plenty of food. There are no places to buy anything along the route.
- You can get water at two spots on the ride. Craggy Gardens Picnic area (which is a b!tch of a hill from the parkway at milepost 367.5) and at a visitor center not much farther up the road (milepost 364.6). I took two bottles, filled them up multiple times, but could have used one more.
- A 27 would have been nice, but a 23 is doable.
- When planning for time, remember that it's all downhill on the way back. I was back in Asheville much sooner than I thought I'd be.
- Mt. Mitchell is at Mile Post 355. The mile posts are all on the west side of the road (left as you're going out, right as you're heading back).
Map-My-Ride Cue Sheet
I only did the way out on the cue sheet. From the resort the ride was just around 62-63 miles. From downtown, add another 3 to 6 miles. I've never done continuous climbing like that before. West Virginia gave a taste with some climbs that were 6 miles or longer, but 31 miles uphill was something ridiculous. Nothing was deathly steep, but had I had some time to go up Mitchell (had a date with a Mint Julip or two back at the resort that was calling), I'm sure I would have seen upwards of 10% incline.
After the ride I was reflecting and decided that it would be more fun to live in western North Carolina if I was 5'6" and 110 lbs. Guys over 185lbs in North Carolina should be riding bulls and chewing on tobacco, not riding bicycles...If anyone does the "Assault of Mt. Mitchell" (from South Carolina to the top) they get my respect...102 miles with that at the end would be impressive.
I'll do part 2 later...