Mostly recaps of two wheeled rambles through the countryside, but sometimes thoughts on other things.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Max's Mt. Cheaha Ride

It seems so long ago now, that Max started riding with our Tues/Thurs hill ride group. I say that because we have already been on so many rides together. In fact, it has only been since this past Spring that Max showed up on a knobby tire mountain bike and did a fairly good job at keeping pace with us roadies up and down the Autauga and Elmore hills. Now he rides a trek road bike and has several centuries under his belt. Pretty great progress! Starting a couple of weeks ago, Max began to plan for an away ride to see if all our hill drills would be helpful on some bigger heights. He mapped out a route up Mt Cheaha, our highest elevation here in Alabama, and organized his dad to ride SAG for us, planned the drive and the breakfast stop. Great job! 7 of us gathered here in Prattville at o'dark-thirty to organize a carpool for the two hour drive north to Oxford. Ray and Ron are out of the frame, but here, L_R are Michael (apparently still in his PJs), Jean, Max and Frank.

We packed all the gear, left the surplus vehicles in the parking lot, and headed north to Alabaster for breakfast at Cracker Barrel.

I had the low carb breakfast, but did put 1/2 a jam packet on the toast (It's low carb bread).

I was supposed to call Joe when we left the restaurant. He was coming from Birmingham to meet us. I remembered after we were already 30 mins on the road, but as it happened, his timing and ours worked very close together. We met at the Wal-Mart in Oxford and used their facilities, getting ready for the ride. Some of us older people took more time, but it wasn't long before everyone was suited up with what they wanted to wear and ready to go. I packed a jacket for the downhill return and wind proof gloves, but wore open weave wool gloves and no jacket on the way up. It was all wool, of course. Max's SAG driving dad took the picture.

The initial approach was about 6 smooth and fairly level miles. We pulled over to get a shot of our goal. It's the one with the tower on top. The middle one if you don't have Super-Vision.

Soon we left the level lands and were climbing. The grades on the way up seemed to max out at about 14%, but they were fairly lengthy. Ray regretted not having a triple crank. Michael wasn't keen about the 39 small ring, but it didn't slow him much. He was just out for an enjoyable scenic ride. He has good company, but not tested the way the rest of us were by the conditions. Here Joe & I are working up one of those grades. Max was ahead of us and took the shot.

We paused a few times on the way up as a group, and I paused a few times when my chest felt like it would explode if I didn't. Just a minute or two pause to let my heart rate percolate back down did wonders for enhancing the climbing experience. We had an official stop at the scenic overlook.

From here it was a tough slog uphill, but everyone made it and we sat down to lunch in the state park's scenic restaurant.
Floor to ceiling windows offer a great view

 and the food was okay, if not spectacular. We look pretty tame after our meal.

This is the view out of the windows. I went outside to take the picture, as shooting through the glass was not working well.

After lunch we climbed some more to get to the actual TOP of the mountain. There is an observation tower there you can CLIMB up into, but I passed on that opportunity to rest while others used up the last few ergs of energy they had. We did pose by the sign tho..

It was colder now, and I put my jacket on and switched to wind proof gloves. Ray & Ron wanted to explore some more park roads, but I was ready to head down. Joe, Jean, and Frank were quick to cast in with me, and Max decided to as well. Since Ray & Ron were carpoolers, that worked out neatly. There were some uphills on the down trip as well. In fact, they were steeper than the uphills coming up! A couple of LONG 17% ers!  Here is Jean, who by the way was only on her 1st BEGINNER ride last Sunday, and today climbed Mt Cheaha on an ancient and stone dead heavy Mongoose mountain bike, smiling as she uses ALL the gears to climb. Ray and Ron are at the bottom, catching a breather and adjusting clothes.

The final "insult" was the common cyclists woe. The wind stiffened in our faces at the end, when we were already most tired, and the last 6 miles in was quite the slog. We made it though, all of us, and while our pace was somewhat beginner-ish at 11 mph avg, we had somewhat more climb at a total of 4,472' (most of it at 9% and greater as well) in just 39 miles. we had just one injury today, and Ron has no idea of how or when he got it. Chain ring probably.

We were happy to get back to the cars and finish the trip. Max is already working on a drive to Anniston to ride the Chief Ladiga-Silver Comet combo for the Spring. I think I have Joe interested in doing an S240, or longer. That's where we pedal to somewhere, pitch tents and camp, and then pedal home the next day. Something to work on for the spring.

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