Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Weekend Ride: The Silver Comet Trail

Last Sunday with the rest of my family out of town I finally did something that I have been wanting to do ever since taking up biking. I rode on the Silver Comet Trail. This trail starts just west of Atlanta and ventures all the way to the Alabama state line. There it joins up with the Chief Ladiga trail and continues on to Anniston, AL. That's about 90 miles of paved trail. Most of the trail is on a former rail bed, and is part of the rails to trails conservancy. As a result, the trail contains (mostly) low grade inclines and descents and has very few street crossings. For me this is a welcome relief from the typical north Georgia riding with steep hills, narrow shoulders, and lots of automobile traffic. I freely admit it: I am a hill climbing wimp. Sadly I am not like some bike riders who love to climb mountains. I look at a "steep" incline and groan. In fact I have no idea what grade any of these roads are around here. I like to think they're 8% or something because it makes me feel less wimpy, but they're probably more like 3%.

Due to the recent flooding in our area part of the trail was temporarily closed. So I attached the bike rack and my trusty Cannondale to the back of my green Miata (with tan roof) and drove out to Dallas, GA, to a point just beyond the closed portion. There I found the Tara Drummond trailhead. As I pulled in to the parking lot I was amazed to see another green Miata, with tan roof, and bike rack attached to the back, already parked. I could not resist: I had to park next to it. I really wish I had brought a camera! I wonder what the driver of that Miata thought when he or she arrived back at the car.

As I was standing behind my car in my spandex and cleated biker shoes, detaching my bike from the rack, a couple came up to me and the woman said "you look like you know what you're doing." Isn't it amazing how dressing the part can fool so many people? Turned out they had never worn helmets before (!) and weren't sure they had them on correctly. After reassuring them that indeed they had got it right, I felt compelled to tell her that I only looked like I knew what I was doing.

Then it was time to tackle the trail. I love this trail. If I lived closed to it I would ride it every day the weather let me. Oh what an easy ride. Even on a Sunday the trail was not crowded. The walkers and joggers were easy to get around and none of the dogs chased me. There were very few bikers and the ones I came across were easy to pass. It felt really wonderful to just ride and not worry about cars, stoplights, road hazards, and many of the other things on a typical road that interfere with a good ride. But the ride was not without its challenges. There were several underpasses and each one of them had mud and dirt piled up from the recent heavy rains. The longest tunnel (the Brushy Mountain tunnel) was so bad that I had to dismount and walk the bike through the worst of it. The skinny tires of my road bike were no match for all that mud. Despite those little obstacles I had a good ride. I did get passed by one rider, just as a reminder that I'm really not as fast as I like to pretend I am.

I rode from Dallas all the way to Rockmart, GA. In Rockmart the trail leaves the railroad bed and joins a riverwalk through downtown. This part of the trail is narrow and windy, and has a speed limit of 10. Just after downtown Rockmart the trail climbs a little hill and for a brief time shares pavement with a cemetary road. That was rather unusual! Just past that it goes across a short boardwalk (gives the rider a nice massage), then hits a very steep uphill to a street crossing. It was at that point that I said "no thanks" (remember, I'm a hill climbing wimp), turned around and headed back. I stopped at a park in Rockmart, ate my snack (a Clif bar), and swapped water bottles. Then I rode back to my starting point. 2.45 hours of riding (with only one stop for snack) and 37.45 miles. That was only a rate of 15.3 miles per hour. I was hoping for higher with the easy road conditions, but I'm not in very good shape. Maybe next time. But I am pleased that I was able to ride that far for that long with only one stop.

I will definitely return to the Silver Comet. Hopefully soon.

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