An hour in and I feel totally alone, the shimmering glow of impending sunrise off to my left creates a warm sensation as I pedal along the narrow road near Ben Hill. The far west side of Atlanta is marked by dense housing spaced by huge swaths of featureless rolling Kudzu covering empty lots.
I stop for a photo and as I get back up to speed a paceline of three roars by with a cheery “good morning” I am startled and let out a laugh as they quickly disappear into the distance. It’s so easy to forget that solitude on the road is almost always an illusion. With a smile I continue heading southwest, passing the suburban tracts with their smaller 1980s style housing stock before entering the more recent developments where the housing appears enormous on tiny lots, barely enough grass for a mower I suppose.
Before long I have left any semblance of urbanity behind and come to the first of many gravel segments. The road is filled with chatter and I bounce around for a bit before I settle in and starting actively riding my bike. It’s so easy to sit on my bike and spin my legs around, lazy riding even if it’s fast. Once the terrain gets rough I need to ride the bike. Lean forward as I encounter a rut heading uphill, counter-steer into the loose gravel turns and raise up ever so slightly with the larger bumps to cushion the impact with my legs.
It’s spirited riding and I make good time through a sampling of the sections of the Dirty Sheets route – a seminal off-road route for Atlanta area riders. The roads here are just chunky enough to make a road rider feel accomplished while at the same time attracting mountain and cross riders with their sweeping curves and short sections of technical terrain.
The roughest section is Upper Wooten Road – a cyclist and pedestrian only section that serves as an entrance into Cochran Mill Park. The gravel gets a little larger and looser with a few steep climbs but I make good time and don’t need to adjust the pressure in my tires, still set for road riding.
Once I near Cochran Mills I see huge swarms of road cyclists, it takes a few times of seeing the pavement marked heart and arrow to recall this is the One Love Century – an event put on by the Metro Atlanta Cycling Club. I ride a fair portion of the route and note the relaxed pace and cheery attitudes of the riders. I have obviously missed the more competitive groups. A relaxing stream of greetings and encouragement flow by as I work my way through the groups here and there on the road back northeast.
Soon enough I turn off onto my own route and head back into the city. I take a short detour to investigate what appears to be a connecting bike path just north of Camp Creek Parkway but it ends after less than a mile with no connection to anything else.
Oh well I think, at least it was a change of pace. Back on track I pass through familiar areas of the far west side. The economic depression of this area is obvious but the passing traffic is courteous and I make good time. Soon enough I am close to home but I feel very good so I add a few more miles before concluding my ride. It feels nice to be on familiar roads for a change so I totter over, around and just like that I am back at the door to my apartment, smile still on my face.