Massive storms all across the north georgia tri-state area blew through late morning, pouring rain crashing lightning and high winds were forecast. I was touch and go for making this ride but after much deliberation I committed to the traffic, potential rain riding and other bumps that might have otherwise ruined my weekend plans.
The ride itself was amazing, new roads at new times are always so invigorating. The storms made for lower temperatures and heavy overcast kept the sun hidden much of the time even if the humidity was very high. Friday is an especially interesting time to ride, there is an excitement in the air as work ceases and people prepare for their short respite from the grind of sustaining their life.
There were several loose dogs, one especially committed to the chase on Towe Chapel road that worried me on the return leg. Thankfully when I did retrace my path the hour was late and the hound had retired from his duties for the evening.
This area of Georgia, maybe only on lazy summer Fridays, seems very relaxed. There was a bit of traffic but it was courteous and accommodating. As I strode north at a fast pace in a high gear, the daylight slowly diminishing I was as relaxed as I’ve ever been.
Dalton has all the potential to be a post-industrial wasteland – home to more than a hundred carpet manufacturers and associated sibling shipping and storage facilities – but still beset by the occasional empty, dilapidated buildings and homes. However an incomparable concentration of one type of industry has prevented the slow-collapse I’ve seen in so many other areas. There is neglect and turnover but it is indicative of nothing more than normal urban industrial life-cycle. Businesses come and go but there is still growth in both production and population.
Young families sit outside eating at a corner pizza place, a small crowd gathers for an outdoor concert, downtown is relaxed and active in that southern slow-motion way that can be so comforting.
Shortly I reach my climb for the day, a winding road up to Ray’s Gap. The climb is typical of this area, glimpses of the surrounding country side can barely be had through the thick trees and the summit is little more than a cul-de-sac of very expensive homes with only a small window of visibility to the west. The climb is a leg-breaker with the final section being 13-16% – my legs give up twice and I walk for a time before remounting and finishing astride my bike. I have a chuckle before descending and starting the ride home – the gentleman walking his dogs on the lower slope had told me there was a panoramic view from the top – but he also told me he hadn’t ridden it in a long time – time for him to ride it and see how the trees have hidden the view now.
As the sun sets and darkness falls on unfamiliar country roads the sense of solitude and isolation is overwhelming. Country houses are not brightly lit like the more urban and suburban landscapes familiar to me. Dogs bark and unknown creatures rustle from the darkness as I ride by. Long sections of road where there is nothing but trees and weeds encroaching right up to the road edge. It’s dark and lonely and I miss the people I love. But I ride on, strong emotions are the flavor of life and this ride is packed with them.
So I ride in the dark and pedal and eat and think. My legs feel weary and I am restless, I do not trust the convenience store I see coming into Resaca. Leaving my bike outside in the poorly lit storefront bordered by impenetrable darkness on either side does not seem like a good idea. I crave the frigid burn of a soda, I stop at a vending machine that intially accepts my dollar bill and then after consideration (during which I press the button for Dr. Pepper) the machine rejects the note and refuses to engage anymore. “Too late for me”, it seems to say, “I’m closed.”
So I pedal on, my lights bright and my heart singing. Shortly I see another vending machine I had passed earlier. I stop, once again paranoid in the dark unfamiliar country and slide a dollar into the machine. I press the button for Dr. Pepper and am rewarded with a cold can, I open it and drink it as quickly as I can. The cold carbonated sweetness burns my throat and nose and fills me with joy.
Fortified once more I pedal like mad through the dark back to my car. This last leg is almost an hour and a half but it feels like no time at all. Shortly I am in the parking lot of the Sosebee Cyling park, removing my damp clothes and fighting the veil of sleepiness that accompanies the end of a long ride late at night in an unfamiliar place.