It’s really misnamed. I know it’s supposed to be a play on the name of the band, but “tears” is what I was reduced to. I think if there had been one more climb after Mast Gap, I would’ve burst into tears. Here’s a “big guy’s” account of this tearful event.
Getting in line by 7 am was a good idea. Though I wasn’t going to come close to finishing under 6hrs, the opportunity to “fall back” on the climb up Shull’s Mill without getting totally dropped helped me finish with other riders in sight.
I returned to BSG after a year hiatus to ride with 2005 BSG comrade, Dr. Pete (seen here atop Snake Mountain). Peter, a good climber was off on Shull’s Mill as I laid back to conserve energy. We finally hooked back up at the rest stop on Railroad Grade Road. The ride up to that point was not exceptionally noteworthy. I got the usual comments, “Lookin’ good, Big Guy,” and the commiseration of other ‘big ‘uns,’ “These climbs are hard on guys like us….” I did, though have opportunity to put my particular gifts to use. The descent from the Parkway on Philip’s Gap Road was suited to me; I gobbled up and pulled along a half dozen riders all the way to beginning climb on Idlewild Road. While climbing Idlewild, a rider in a Bicycle Inn Jersey commented that I was, “powerful.” How much more gracious than the, “You’re a strong rider…for a big guy.”
At any rate, we turned onto Big Hill Road, a route change from previous years which had a 1/4 mile gravel section. The new asphalt on what had been previously gravel was great, but apparently one land owner would not give the county permission to pave the easement, so gravel it remained. Big Hill Road had a Birds Eye View photographer, who sadly, was on the little hill. The big hill was, uh, bigger.
We stopped at Meat Camp to stretch out the legs in preparation for the climb through Potterstown and on up Snake Mt. I had forgotten. Granted, I was tired by then, but Wow. Having done previous rides certainly helped the leg strength, but a lot of riders were cramping or just didn’t have the leg strength to turn the peddle over. There were a lot of cheering supporters who encouraged us forward, and Peter and I made it to the top. Incidentally, it seemed that no one was in a hurry to descend. We recuperated a long time. The decent wasn’t as bad as I feared with the new chip and seal pavement. But the three cars we followed at 23 mph on the decent was a little a tedious. I wasn’t long that our escort moved on and Big Red motored past the group.
A couple of rollers later, we arrived at Trade, TN which was holding “Trade Days” a throw back to the early 18th Century wilderness Rendezvous. Rendezvous were a set time when trappers and traders in the back country of colonial America would gather to trade wears and well, party — a lot. You can see by the traffic that Trade Days is still quite a draw. (You can see the west side of Snake Mountain in the distance).
I was dropped good by the group of riders ahead in the picture by the time we reached old US 421. The false flat (really a decent) was a gas. Again, just the terrain for a diesel. Peter and I swallowed up the group and caught several others by the time we reached Cove Creek. But that was the last time I saw most of them.
What else can you say? George’s Gap? No so difficult, but after 80 strenuous miles? Ouch! Oh, and the Bethel Climb up to 321. Ach! By the time we reached Mast Gap, I was pitiful. I didn’t have anything left to power in the finish. I was just glad to be done with it.