Friday, April 19, 2013

Roads Less Travelled

This past Saturday, Jeff Bauer, Alan Gosart, and I went to Baxter, TN, to ride the Green Acres 200K permanent. We were all trying to remember the last time that we did this permanent -- consensus was that it had been at least a couple of years -- and could not remember why it had been so long.

The weather was excellent -- a little chilly at the start, winds lighter than they have been (it's been a rough spring), and no chance of rain. The miles passed easily as we rolled through Smithville and on to Rock Island State Park.

We had a quick second breakfast at the Rock Island Cafe, and then headed for Fall Creek Falls State Park. This meant that we got to return to a place that we had enjoyed two weekends before: Baker Mountain Road.

Just to make things interesting, we also decided to try a different way up the mountain. I had often wondered about J.P. Hale Road, which Hwy 30 and Baker Mountain Road. So we tried it.

About 100 yards from Hwy 30, the pavement on J.P. Hale Road ended and we were climbing gravel with an easy grade. Within half a mile, it was a 15% grade, occasionally pitching up towards "ouch" steep. The gravel was also the small stuff, which tends to shift and spin out from under your wheels.

Needless to say, we all walked part of this road. When we got to the top, we saw that they were putting up a cell tower.

You know you're at the top of the climb when you see a cell tower.

There was another quarter-mile or so of gravel, and then the pavement returned for the last quarter-mile. Jeff and I were telling Alan about how Old Baker Mountain Road was probably as steep as J.P. Hale Road, but at least it was paved. Alan said that he had never been up Old Baker Mountain Road, so since it was right there when J.P. Hale Road ended, we took it.

Alan was riding very strong, getting ready to do the Gold Rush Randonnee 1200K again this summer, and he zipped up ahead of us. Unlike Baker Mountain Road, there were no cars here ... just as there had been no cars on J.P. Hale Road.

When we used to ride this route more regularly, it was later in the year. Since spring had just sprung, and since Old Baker Mountain Road is closer to the edge of the ridge, you could see a long way down into the valley towards McMinnville. This house near the top of the road had an incredible view.

The sign is pretty cool, too:

Sure, we didn't need to go up those roads -- they weren't even on the route -- but we were glad that we did. Very often, the harder road is the one less-travelled. Aside from the personal victory of knowing that you took it, the harder road has hidden rewards.

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