It took a lot for me to make this happen. I’ve been struggling with motivation for the past few months. My riding felt stale and I decided a change of scenery was what I needed.I went to bed early Friday night with my alarm set for 4am. Managed to wake up a little early and tip toe out of the house. Park at the Budweiser plant and hope I’m in the right place and won’t get towed.
It’s still dark when I begin my ride. The roads between Cartersville and Rome are narrow and little more than paved carriage paths. Large trees butt up against the road and the powerful, but narrow beam from my headlight creates a spooky atmosphere in the darkness. I actually get turned around and ride a mile or so directly back the way I came on a parallel road. It’s been a while since I had to navigate in darkness, even longer since I had to navigate new roads in darkness.
Eventually I get on my way and make good time to Rome. The roads on the way are narrow and somewhat secluded. A nice sunrise illuminates the rural houses with their huge yards well set back from the road. A couple dogs chase me and I react poorly, I try to accelerate, end up on the other lane and it takes a long time to get them to leave me alone. I criticize myself and remind myself it’s generally better to stop and fight than try to run.
As I move into Rome-proper I pass through the low income suburbs the houses are small, cramped together and in poor disrepair. Oil stains the pavement as I ride by slumped figures lounging on porches just watching the morning go by. The smell of an early barbeque promises a delicious lunch. I contemplate stopping on the way back for a sandwich but as I felt riding through the historically black areas in Atlanta I’m not sure my presence would be welcome. Barbeque probably not the best for a long hard ride in the heat anyway.
I ride through the near northside of Rome and take my turn to Mt Alto. It’s a funny mountain; you can’t see it at all from the east or north. The trees and terrain just hide it from you. Horseleg Creek is a flowing wide road and I make good time to my turn. I know from descending this side last year that the climb starts slowly, ramping up a few tenths of a percent every couple hundred yards until you get to the first switchback and it shoot straight up. I take it slow and easy, clicking around my 23, 26 and 32 as the road and my feeling dictate. A large black dog waits near the summit, but he seems friendly and just looking to bark. I talk to him as I approach and he doesn’t do much more than watch me crawl by. I make it to the lookout feeling good and wondering if I could have gone harder. I am drenched in sweat and my heart is pounding, it’s a good feeling as I Iook over the parts of Rome’s seven hills that I can see.
I take a few pictures and record a short video before descending the northwest side. My route shows me taking a road that does not appear to exist anymore. I descent about a quarter mile before it ends in an abandoned house and a powerline cut. I start to walk but the cut is dense and looking down the hill I see fenced yards and a dog or two, waiting expectantly. There’s no joy here so I climb back through the scrub and get back on the road for the short climb back up. I make my descent and start to head out of town to the Alabama crossing I mapped.
This section is beautiful, the roads are nice and the foothills rise around me as I find my path. My routing put me on a railtrail that is very nice and a welcome break from the rolling hills. My 650b tires perform well and I enjoy the bumpy but fast ride. A few miles and I am back on the road, I cross into Alabama and see the Stateline Tavern. Make a mental checkmark that the first half of my ride is complete and it’s time to return. My legs are pumping and I feel good, caffeine coursing through my body as I retrace mostly the same route back to Rome. Quick stop at the tennis center for water, then back over the river. Into the county I get chased by a few more dogs but I react better. I dope their intercept vector and stop with a chirp of my rear tire and slight scent of burning rubber. The owners are out gardening and assure me the dogs won’t bite but don’t make any move to corral them. So I ride on, tiny yapping following me to the right for a few hundred feet. Then I’m back by myself. The roads roll by and I notice I am running out of water.
There’s nothing nearby so I drink everything and just keep going. I spy a spigot at the recycle center but am too shy to stop. My mouth is so dry and I try to eat a powerbar that feel like eating cement and seems to take forever to swallow. I’m so thirsty but it’s so much mental. I’m still sweating and still putting out power so I will continue my labor under the sun. There’s a gas station a few miles from the car and I stop and get chocolate milk and water and few things have ever tasted so good. I make it back to the lot and my car is still there as are several cyclists in various states of winding up and winding down. What a great ride. I change and head home, a very good ride had.