Wednesday, February 6, 2013

P4W2 Day 31 Centre, AL - Talking Rock, GA 88 miles

This started kind of like Day 30 ended.  Rain and really heavy traffic on narrow two-laned roads forced me to purposely drive into the grass a few times in the tight spots.  It's not the drivers...they've been considerate here in the southeast.  The roads are not designed for road biking.  And the traffic volume speaks to either a populated part of the country or low number of paved roads, or both.  It's amazing to think that 150 relatively short years ago Atlanta was reduced to rubble, because now its traffic extends out like 50 miles from city center.  Late in the day I stopped over the I-75 bridge and watched traffic pouring down a six lane interstate in both directions.  Getting across these interchanges is pretty challenging with a bike when you have that many trucks and commuters on a mission to get where they are going.  Sensory overload with traffic avoidance, lights, and billboards everywhere trying to grab your attention.

By noon today I had made it to Rome, GA, a very busy city in its own right, with traffic issues to boot.  Getting frustrated by biking on the sidewalk, I needed a timeout and committed to a slow time-draining ride through downtown.  I am glad I did.  Unfortunately many downtown squares in America have died and their businesses left to the outskirts, or left altogether.  That was not the case in Rome.  I got a tip from a local to go visit Trey Smith at Cycle Therapy, a locally owned shop that provided me some really nice, friendly service.  Turns out that the road salt way, way back on snowy Day 1 rotted one of my cables.  A visit to the bike shop and a local bakery was a good way to forget about the traffic and break up the day.   The city was marked by beautiful architecture.  Several lovely churches lined the city streets.

A tailwind after leaving Cycle Therapy let me cover the next 25 miles easily.  The trucks lifted me up a bit when they passed.  I then crossed through tiny Adairsville, which I later learned had an F-3 tornado go through a week earlier.  My point-and-shoot camera wouldn't capture the damage.  The destruction to houses and trees was alarming.  Two people died from this tornado.

The late day featured a couple sharp climbs on mountain roads with lighter traffic, clear skies, calm winds, and views of stands of beautiful hardwoods on steep hillsides.  With the hills and re-entry into the eastern time zone, I soon realized with the daylight compression that I wouldn't make my destination of Amicalola State Park even an hour after dark.  A stop at a country store, consumption of a pint of ice cream, and fish talk (reservoir striped bass) with the owner revealed that one Talona Creek Campground was just five miles away. 

Talona Creek Campground is what you would picture in the Georgia mountains:  go to the top of one hill, turn right, and drop down a short but intensely steep hill into a hollow filled with apple trees to get there...the kind of hill you are already hoping you don't have to go back up the next morning (I don't - there's a cryptic dirt road shortcut I plan to take.).  The picturesque campground sits right next to  - you guessed it - Talona Creek.  The owner John Rausch informed me that the creek has several species of rare darters in it.   I pulled into the campground right at dark.  Over the sound of bluegrass music John and I shot the breeze for an hour in his cabin by the creek.  It felt really good to be inside by an oak wood stove fire on a cold Georgia night.  It turns out that formidable Burnt Mountain would have blocked my passage to the state park tonight; I am glad I didn't try this climb at night. 

With the rush of cold mountain water by my tent and barred owls calling from the woods, the traffic, at least for a spell of time, felt a like a really long way away. 

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