5am finds me on the road, heading north through the outskirts of Roswell and Marietta. I pass a desolate 24 hour Kroger, a Publix with a smattering of cars for the early morning baking and stock. I barely see a single car as I pass through the suburbs. Riding on four lane roads that will be packed with speeding traffic in a few hours but for now are empty. Streetlight to streetlight I steal glances at my cue sheet, always slightly jittery at the beginning of a long ride.
By 6am I am Moving through Woodstock and well on my way to Canton, I stop briefly in Holly Springs to replace the tired eneloop batteries in my headlight. The stripmall to my right has a 24 hour gym and even at this early hour there are a few patrons, working for something, just like me.
7am and I am through Canton, past the half-dead strip mall, the Mexican restaurant with their sign painted directly onto the flashing of the roof. The day laborers who will be milling about the abandoned gas station for most of the day are already shuffling the streets, shoulders hunched and faces set for another long day in the sun and the dusty choking heat of a construction site as yet unknown.
8am brings asphalt trucks, dump trucks and what seems like endless gentle rises. I move quickly through Ball Ground, refilling my camelbak at a quiet church. Then I take a wrong turn on the right road and am off track. Before I realize it I have passed through Tate and a strange looking elementary school, outside clad entirely in white marble.
Sitting on the side of the road at 9am, looking for alternative routes to salvage my ride. I may not climb the mountain i had originally intended but I will climb something. Moving down highway 53 I am enjoying the scenery. The road winds through the valleys between large hills, everything is lush and green. Traffic is light and riding is a joy. Mclain Mountain is a winding climb that is not too long or too steep. I have a caffeinated gel a few minutes before the climb and feel very strong, but with slight stomach pains as I climb. I alternate between my 26, 23 and 21 cogs as the gradients undulates and the road curves around the hillside. Cresting the climb and now I am on Cove road. This road has a few gentle climbs and I feel very strong, climbing seated in the drops with a boost from the caffeine and a smile on my face. After a few miles the road drops into a steep descent with a few curves, I take them in style, tires biting the pavement with a racing heart.
I see the turn for Burnt Mountain but decide I have had enough. I ride through Jasper for a few minutes and then am back on the road, planning to stay mostly on the route I took here. 10am passes as I explore the roads around the Cherokee County Airport, scouting to make sure the roads are through roads for future routing. I encounter a short segment of gravel on Bishop road and feel a little tense, always concerned about pinch flats. Thankfully the segment is short and I pass through the white roads with no issues. Soon I am through Canton, then Holly Springs. I find a brand new looking Gu on the side of the road. Tangerine, how long has this been sitting in the sun? Is it still good?
I am feeling strong and making good time as I enter Woodstock pushing the big ring and enjoying the newly paved roads. My judgement lapses for a moment as I cross the railroad tracks at the North end of town, I am travel much too fast and end up pinch flatting both my tires. Thankfully I have two tubes and a good set of levers. I stick to a positive outlook and think the short rest will do me good. I make fairly good time, 17 minutes or so for both flats. 11am has come and gone but I am back on the road.
As noon approaches I am riding on Canton road, a four lane road with no shoulder that is buzzing with traffic. Earlier I noted that a section of road plotted for my return is being paved and is currently in the interim stage where the top layer of asphalt has been removed and what remains is bumpy and terrible riding for a cyclist. Earlier I had though of the best way to deal with this, there are alternates but they add significant time and distance I feel. I end up being indecisive and just ride for several miles on Canton road as the traffic is considerate and I feel very low stress. This strikes me as very odd, perhaps something is in the air today? As I get nearer to my home the traffic picks up significantly, drivers are still courteous but I decide it is rude to be riding on this road when equivalent alternatives are available. I stop several times to check routing but eventually I am on the right track. Which is good because I am growing tired, the sun is hot and I am ready to be done soon. The last major obstacle is the hill at Wallace/Gresham. I knew when I plotted this route that I would not be happy to tackle this hill 110+ miles into a ride but it is worth it to have a very stress free final leg down franklin road. The hill is actually ok, not too difficult since I’ve been eating and drinking well.
It’s almost 1 and I am almost home. My mouth feels dry and I have been out of water for a little bit so when I spy a hose spigot on my loop around Northwest Parkway I stop to refill. The water gushes out brown for a second but after letting it run for a bit I decide that it’s probably ok. I refill my camelbak and the water tastes fine. Back on the road and I am very close to home. I make it all the way to the bridge at Power Ferry and Akers Mill before checking my phone, I had planned to ride the loop by my house a few times to account for the missing mileage and since my phone shows 120.1 I head out for a few more miles. One loop and a slight excursion out and back and I am done. I ride into my apartment complex, climb the stairs and am home. It is a wonderful feeling, slightly more than 8 hours I have been gone. I remove my kit and lay on the floor, feeling my muscles unwind.