It’s already humid at 7am, my hands are wet in the heavy air within a few minutes of riding. The sun is up and it’s going to be a clear, hot day.
I’m meeting Emory and Jacob Payne at the Silver Comet and then we’re going to go ride our brains out in the middle of nowhere. Jacob arrives first and we chat for a sec as our last meeting was months prior after a fast overnight to Chattanooga. Emory arrives and we ride off onto the mostly empty trail. Speed comes easy and we pedal and chat and get together mentally.
Dallas comes fast, water, food and a little rest and then we head out.
Quick stop at the water fall to show Emory, soon a road closed sign appears and having forgotten it’s Monday I ride full-speed into the worksite only to see the bridge is completely gone and there’s a full work crew.
We reconnoiter in the shade and find an alternate route that requires wet feet and a little trespassing through someone’s field. The stream has sheer sides down to the water and it’s too high to jump so I go first and have the others hand down their bikes before we all ford across. The water reaches mid-thigh and feels wonderfully cool. Onto the other bank we follow a deer trail for a short distance before it disappears into brambles and weeds. Emory’s eyes get a little big when I take out my folding knife and hack away some of the vegetation but we eventually get through the brush, over the barb wire fence and onto the road. Resplendent in scrapes and with shoes full of sand.
Back astride we feel good and head into the Wildlife Management Area, the gate is closed but I know there aren’t any bridges here so we should be fine. Closed to cars and trucks not to randonneurs. The gravel comes and it’s loose and climby but often shaded and oh so quiet away from the road. Jacob is riding 32/28 tires and I had worried he might have difficulty with the larger gravel but he floats along not a care in the world. We yell to each out across the rumble of the gravel and laugh and smile while we pedal along. It’s hard going but so much easier with friends.
Soon we are back on the road, a massive honey bee welcomes us to Braswell and we roll along the beautiful country side to Rockmart. Quick stop for water and chocolate milk and then back to pedaling through Rockmart, Aragon, Taylorsville and into the farmland south of Euharlee. We wind around fields of corn and strawberries while the massive power Plant Bowen looms in the background, appearing from time to time as we pedal through the terrain.
Shortly we’re back on gravel and we wind up and around through the woods towards civilization. We’re back on the road and there’s traffic so the really fun parts are over. A stop at Publix is heavenly. Cold chocolate milk and water is wonderful in the heat of the day. We rest for a bit and then head out, the next section I was worried about traffic but there’s not much of a better option. We deal with it fine, some cars but everyone’s nice.
As our route passes Kennesaw mountain we have no choice but to climb it. 100+ miles into a tough ride the mountain pulls us in. Emory and Jacob disappear immediately while I saunter up the road trying not to catch fire in the blazing afternoon sun. Once at the top the climb feels easier than I expected and we’re all in good spirits smiling and happy to have done it.
We sail down the mountain and head to Marietta for ice cream. It’s so delicious and gives me a little boost. But now we’re definitely back in the city, traffic is every where and Emory almost gets blasted as we ride through a signed and signaled crosswalk for the Mountain to River trail. The driver is in the wrong but wants to argue for a second and then we ride on, no one’s hurt so nothing happens. So we speed down Atlanta road and then it’s time for me to head North to home and Jacob and Emory to keep going south. We say bye and then we’re all off apart. I laugh a little at the silly feeling of riding alone now. It’s funny how quickly I get used to riding with others, we were a little team but now it’s time to go home.
I know I should eat something for the 40 minutes I have left but I don’t feel like it so I pedal slowly up every hill and coast as much as possible. I think about doing a quick gravel loop to get to a full 200 kilometers but then my feet hurt and I’m tired so I end the day at 123 miles. By the time I’m home Jacob is as well and Emory is taking a break at his shop for a beer. All ridden well I may say.