Tag Archives: grandfather mountain

Bridge to Bridge Preview

Mile High Swinging Bridge

Mile High Swinging Bridge

Here I go again. In a few more days, I will be embarking on my last big mountain adventure of 2011 — the Bridge to Bridge ride out of Lenoir, NC. They call this the “grand finale in the annual trilogy of century cycling events in Western North Carolina.” I’m not sure what the other two are. Mount Mitchell has to be one and maybe Cashiers, maybe Hot Doggett, or maybe Blood, Sweat and Gears. Someone this past weekend told me that Bridge to Bridge is considered one of the ten toughest century rides in the US. That sounds high, but it is possible.

When looking at the elevation chart, it looks similar to the Assault on Mount Mitchell. It should start relatively flat with maybe a few rollers early, then the real climbing will begin around Mile 50. I believe that is when we head up Schull’s Mill Road and up to the Blue Ridge Parkway. From there it will be typical parkway riding with moderately steep climbs and fast descents, until a super steep climb to reach the top of Grandfather Mountain. The last push of 100 yards will be in the 20% range. I have seen the climb and know that it’ll hurt.

The weather will be interesting. It looks like in lower elevation the lows will be in the 50s and highs in the low 70s. In higher elevation, the highs could be in the upper 50s. The top of Grandfather Mountain could be in the 40s, similar to Mitchell a few months ago. This may be ideal for me since I perform poorly in heat. I’ll bring arm warmers in case it gets too cool, but these conditions could be ideal. Heat does not agree with me, so no complaints here.

One drawback is that I caught a little virus this week. It had me out of work one day and not 100% on the bike. Right now I am feeling a little better, although still slightly congested and it has made its way to my chest. With three days remaining, I am hoping the crud works its way out of my system. As long as it is not in my lungs, I should be alright.

I’m still up in the air on how to approach the ride. For my Mitchell ride, I went out at a moderate pace and didn’t start pushing myself until the climbs. It was a difficult ride, yet I felt afterward that I still had something left in the tank. Of course if I spend that fuel early, I could end up tired on the climbs. The last thing I want is to wear myself and make it tougher at the end, especially since I am nursing a head and possibly chest cold.

I probably will take a similar approach. Now I have improved tremendously since Mitchell and should be stronger, but I’m not going to get overconfident and jump out with the lead pack. I’ll ride at a moderate and comfortable pace and not worry about time. It would be nice to finish faster than my Mitchell time, but it is not something I am going to push to achieve. I will do what my body tells me and enjoy the ride.

Grandfather Mountain, Roan Mountain

This may be my first blog post about climbing mountains off the bike. As it happened, I had the opportunity to check out two mountains that I will likely climb in the future. The first of which, Grandfather Mountain, I will be climbing next month when I complete the Bridge to Bridge ride.

We entered Grandfather Mountain the old fashioned way, in a car, paying admission, and driving in. We drove about halfway to the hiking parking lot and made the rest of the way on foot via the hiking trail. It was not terribly long or difficult, just about half a mile and the climbing seemed easier because we were able to use the rocks as stairs. For going up such a steep mountain, it was not too difficult.

After about 20 minutes, we heard some creaking and out of the shadows emerged the Mile High Swinging Bridge, which meant we were at the top. After checking out the summit and climbing to the easy peak, we went back down only to get drenched by a torrential downpour.

Mile High Swinging Bridge

Mile High Swinging Bridge

After racing to the car, I wanted to drive up and get an idea what to expect when I try it on a bike. Oh my! That might have been a bad idea. This is going to be a tough climb! There are a number tight, steep switchbacks. One of them was used in the Forrest Gump movie. It is hard to estimate grades from the car, but I am guessing 15% for the switchbacks. Just before reaching the top, the road straightens out and curves up towards the stars for a few hundred feet. That is going to be one helluva grunt! Here I am guessing it is 20%.

From top of Grandfather

The View from Grandfather Mountain

The next day when leaving Boone, I decided to take a scenic route through Roan Mountain. This is a mammoth mountain, similar in scale to Mitchell, albeit not quite as tall. This mountain was part of the Roan Moan ride, which just occurred on July 27th of this year. I missed it, but might give it a shot next year. Or I may try to tackle this mountain on my own time.

The one thing about this climb is that it is long. I turned on my GPS shortly after entering Roan Mountain State Park. The summit came about 14 miles and 4,000 feet later. Again, it is difficult to gauge a bicycle climb in a car, but this one did not seem terribly difficult. That is, it didn’t seem too steep. The climb just keeps going, and going, and going. The turns are not very tight or too long. There are even some stretches where it levels off. It will just be a ride to keep spinning and getting in a zone.

I can’t wait to ride up this one for the scenery. I only got a few glimpses of the view from the car and they were spectacular. This mountain is around 6,000 feet, but unlike other big mountains I have been on, it is not near anything too big. So from the road, you are able to see about 4,000 feet downward from every direction.

From top of Roan Mountain

The view from the road to Roan Mountain

At the top of the initial climb is Carver’s Gap. This is where the road meets the Appalachian Trail. I could tell from the road marking that this is also the peak of the Roan Moan climb. There was yet another climb from there to the park area, about two miles. I drove up to get a glimpse, but it was covered in clouds and I could not see much. The ranger station was unoccupied and there were no others there, so I went back down.

The descent will be little scary because of the height alone, but this is not a very technical downhill. There are only a few tight turns and the grade is nothing too severe. Like the climb up, it will probably be tiring because of the length.

So that was my weekend — a short ride on the parkway and exploring two other mountains that I will probably see again someday.

Linn Cove Viaduct, Blue Ridge Parkway

Blue Ridge Parkway signWith a big event just a week away, this weekend was supposed to be light and relaxing. Rather than do anything with the bike, I planned to visit some family in Chapel Hill, NC. To my surprise, they decided to rent a mountain cabin instead and invited me to stay. I cannot avoid the mountains even when I try! Naturally I brought my bike and had a couple mini adventures, even if the trip was not dedicated to cycling.

The cabin was in the Boone, Banner Elk, Blowing Rock area, not too far from Grandfather Mountain. That was another coincidence, as I’ll be climbing to the summit next month.

Since I was still in rest mode, I only had one bike ride. There were many areas and routes to choose from, but it was hard to resist the Blue Ridge Parkway. I found a short stretch that begins at Schull’s Mill Rd near Blowing Rock, and rides over the Linn Cove Viaduct right by Grandfather Mountain. I thought it would be right around 20 miles, which turned out to be 24. Because this was the Parkway, it was pretty much either uphill or downhill the entire time.

I parked at the Schull’s Mill rest stop and climbed up to the parkway. It was relatively early in the morning and I started in a light fog. Although the initial fog burned off quickly, it would be back. Once I hit the parkway, I immediately started descending at a 7-8% grade. While this was an easy way to warm up, I knew it would be a tough way to finish. The temperature was in the mid 60s, which is usually ideal for cycling, but going downhill on a lightly misted parkway made for a slightly chilling start. The fact that I have been riding in 90-100 degree temperatures didn’t help matters. The descent continued for a couple miles until it leveled off and then started the slow ascent up to the Viaduct.

Blue Ridge Parkway scenic view

One of many scenic views from the Parkway

The Linn Cove Viaduct is an engineering marvel. As I understand, it was the last completed part of the of the parkway, finished roughly 60 years after it’s beginning. It is a constructed bridge along the shelf of a mountain at around 4500 feet elevation. In addition to the viaduct, there are a few similarly scenic bridges before and afterward.

To get there, I had to climb about 1,000 feet — no easy task. Thankfully the parkway is never particularly steep. I hardly noticed when the climb began as it was very slight. The road looked and felt flat, but the GPS told me it was around 1-2%. That went on more or less for a number of miles. It then kicked up to a more difficult 6-10% climb, which went on for another 2-3 miles. Since I’m within the taper period, I made sure to spin comfortably and keep my heart rate down. This was about the experience more than the performance.

Grandfather Mountain from the Blue Ridge Parkway

Grandfather Mountain from the Blue Ridge Parkway

The best distraction to excessive cardio is the type of scenic vistas found all along the Blue Ridge Parkway. This route was absolutely gorgeous. When I first turned the corner that revealed Grandfather Mountain, I was almost blown away by the beauty. As I got closer, I could also see the bridges along the wall of the mountain, some of which were obscured in clouds. I continued to climb and the faraway bridge came closer and closer, until I was upon it. Once I reached it, I was fittingly enveloped in clouds.

Linn Cove Viaduct

Linn Cove Viaduct

Shortly afterward I decided the ride had gone far enough. I had to get back to family activities. It was a great ride and a nice taste of parkway riding. Next week I’ll get another, longer dose, as I undertake the Blue Ridge Breakaway.

Garmin GPS Link