Tuesday Trippin’

Do you have a mental file of pictures you didn’t take?

We had storms this week. Normally “thunderstorms” in the forecast is an absolute no go for me, but Russ called from work and said that the weather was spotty and I might give it a try at Big Creek (Greenway) because that’s the closest trail. I wanted the ride and was eager to go.

I parked in Alpharetta because boardwalks in Roswell were closed for repairs. The lot was empty, but the Greenway is an urban trail with parking lots and access points around every turn. There were some people out, mostly walkers. I wasn’t riding for long before I heard thunder behind me. It was between me and the car. That’s my automatic turn around signal, but I’d have to be turning toward the thunder. The Y was up ahead. I’m a member. I could shelter there if I needed to. In fact, I’d expect them to let non-members shelter there too.

When I got to the Y, I’d only heard thunder once more, and it still didn’t sound close, but I knew I was now headed toward it. Still, I called Russ, told him I was headed for the car and to check on me if he hadn’t heard from me. As soon as I hung up, I nearly changed my mind and went for shelter. I’ve never ridden through a storm before. I never saw the lightning, but the thunder was close by and it got worse before I got back to the car.

I saw a party balloon on a ribbon. It was a pale pearl pink, almost white, gently rocking on the ground in the rain. I thought about what a poignant photo it might make, but I sped on by. I’m not sure I could have taken the image in my head if I’d had the Nikon with me, but the thought of it was a welcome distraction. The wondering if I’d pay for my choice was peaking with the rumbles in the sky.

As I approached my parking lot, things were beginning to settle. I came over a bridge and saw the muddy orange water roiling. I thought it would make a good snippet of video. Because the Greenway is in a stream bed, it floods often. Because that streambed is in an urban area it floods even more often. The low spots on the Greenway are pretty evenly distributed and they often bring sandy silty mud with them. Mountain bikes are more adventurous, but it’s not ideal for road bikes. So, when it floods, riding is interrupted until the water recedes. Then it’s still slippery till the maintenance crews scape the mud away. Just about the only time a cyclist on a road bike sees the water roiling like that is when they do exactly what I did, try to make it out before the storm moves in and fail. My foot lightened on the pedal and I was reaching for my phone. Then the thunder grumbled and I pushed on. This time it was behind me. I was considering that it might mean the storm had passed, but I wasn’t slowing while I thought about it.

The ride was short and fast. A sprint is a good ride. It leaves you feeling energized. So, does being alive! I looked at my texts. I saw one from my son who had also been out in the area. “I’m seeing lightning. Be careful.” Since I made it through unscathed, I’m glad I went. But I wouldn’t have if I’d seen that text when he wrote it.

The next day the storms were due to return, but the morning window was longer and safer, so was my ride. I started the week happy that I’d been able to ride on days I might not have. It felt really good, that sense of being out ahead of things, especially after the challenges of recent months. I’m now at two solid weeks of being happy with my mileage and I’m back to pushing for longer individual rides.

I signed up for a century scheduled for the end of next month. It will be my second ever.

Signing up for the century was another thing I wouldn’t have normally done. My first century was the flattest century you could imagine. This one has 5000 feet of climb, or at least the 2019 route did. But, a woman in a car stopped me in the parking lot at Big Creek one day. She called out her car window “Have you heard about the bike ride?” It was so random, I reached for the most likely thing I could think of. Since I was on a road bike, I said “You mean the 400 Century?” and was stunned when I had guessed correctly. She said “Yes. This is the last year…They cancelled last year for Covid and they’re never going to do it again after this year.”

The 400 is a ride that was on my list, if only for the part that goes down 400, a limited access 4 lane highway that’s a major commuter artery for Atlanta. Now, I was hearing that this better be the year, if ever. “Why? I asked. “Their about to do construction on 400 and the DOT said they won’t issue any more permits after that. The date was the end of June.” I said “I’m not sure I can be ready.” She said “You don’t have to ride the whole thing.” I was thinking about what construction was likely to do to my Big Creek Commute. Big Creek is now back on my ride rotation list, but the intersection with 400 is the reason traffic makes the 18 mile round trip take almost as long to drive as the 52 mile round trip that takes me to the closest spot on the Silver Comet (SC).

But, as I drove home, I was thinking. “You better be ready.” The only big hill on the SC is Trash Mountain, so named because it’s beside a landfill (right when you want to breathe deep, is also right when you’d least like to). The “sisters” are the challenging hills on the $00 Century. “Big sister” is behind my backyard, literally. I found out about this ride asking passers by if they were part of an event. I can sit in my backyard and hear riders groan as they come up Big Sister (or talk about how pretty that lake they just passed was if they’re doing fine). Middle sister is in the neighborhood adjoining mine, and little sister is in the neighborhood after that. I passed by an “Avoid the Sisters” directional that never got picked up for months after the last ride. If I’m willing to dodge traffic, I can practice the sisters without ever putting my bike on the back of the car.

I signed up as soon as I got home. There are serious athletes in Atlanta. I’ll be at the back of the pack, so traffic will be more of a frustration for me. But, I’m hoping that the worst I can do is to walk up Big Sister and into my neighborhood to get a ride back to my car. I eventually talked Russ into it as well. Well give it a shot together. All of the websites for the ride are out of date, but there is a link that works to sign-up and a live link to a 2019 Jersey (the registration doesn’t come with one). For all of my lack of interest in Jerseys, this one is not more expensive that what I’d pay for any other jersey. If they update it to artwork that makes it a last ride jersey, I’ll probably order it.

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