Monday, November 19, 2007

Local Adventure

This idea came to me a few weeks ago while on a Spamerton road ride that heads north back up to Hwy 74 along the Catawba River, which is the biggest river basin in the Carolinas. Not being an expert on drought or anything it was real obvious that the river was indeed well below it's normal level, as a matter of fact it has never been this low on record. Interestingly enough this below stage scenario has created a hard sand surface that runs along the waters edge on the east side and west sides of the river which sparked the thought that the river could be traveled by bicycle as far as a bridge, then cross, travel in the opposite direction, find another bridge, cross and then ride back in the direction of the originating point. In addition to the spectacular newness of such an overland journey this ride could also have the benefit of seeing surface that has not been seen before, since the Catawba as never been so low.

So I rooked Jesse 'Dude' Hooks inventor of the "Not Right Ride" and Jordy "SSWC06 Cyclo-cross Champ" Moore into the ride which was set to head out North along the river from the US National White Water center(formally the Catawba River Mountain Bike Park) at 0830hrs yesterday. I woke up just before 0600hrs, dressed, had some oats and coffee after I fed the mules and got the kid started by casting off her latest knitting project. Out the door by 0700hrs for a scoop by dude at 0745 from the Rue de Grit 7 miles to my almost immediate west. I was one minute early and he was one minute late, we loaded up my bike and were at the trail head on schedule. Jordy showed up and after a few minute pre ride we were off, descending a small hill through the woods down to the flat water put in along the river. At the waters edge we turned north for the journey to Mt. Holly which was our northern most goal or at least where we knew there would be a bridge. Not long up river the surface changed into tree strewn endless hurdles that caused me to realize this could be the worst idea ever. We were off the bike, on the bike and off the bike some more pushing over debris. At one juncture a never seen before rock outcrop appeared where we stopped and made a gear adjustment as we weighed our options for continuing. Just past our position was an impassable semi wide tributary running inland east, so we decided to bush whack up to the main bike trail and get to the center where we could go north on power line trail. That power line trail took us to Moores Chapel Road and north to a train track running west past Clariant where they make Coca Cola plastic 2 liter bottles. Jesse led out on the tracks with Jordy and I in tow, it was slightly bizarre riding my mountain bike down these tracks towards Mt Hollywood. In a short time we made it to a train tress over the mighty drought effected Catawba that was built in 1917 by a firm from Richmond. We collectively really wanted to cross this steel and wood bridge but the no trespassing signage caused us to consider a Sunday in custody somewhere in Gaston county. Seeing I'm old and scared of authority, we back tracked a little and dove off onto the Hwy 27 bridge and across the river into Mt Holly where somehow Dude found eggs, bacon, hash browns and flap jacks. Jordy and I dined on coffee while we discussed our options for our SS mountain bike ride from the west side of the river. The vote was official, we would head south along the river until we got to I-85, either go under or over it, then continue down to Hwy 74, go back over the river east, then head north back into the mountain bike park at Heavy Equipment Rd, ride the Toilet Bowl Loop, then Single track back to the car.

We left the Mt. Hollywood diner and twisted down towards the western side of the river through the Cape Fear neighborhood and to a man working on his Flowers race car. He was very helpful and told us a way to get to the waters edge through a Soviet Power Station like area. We made good going along the river for a few miles on a wide wooded path, at times we dropped right down along the water when the surface was clear. At one point we passed a tent that looked recently occupied and shortly there after hit a tributary coming in from our west that caused us to go inland and back out to the edge of the water. It was then that Jordy discovered the skeleton of something huge, fish like and smelly. I had never seen anything like it. After pictures of the scientific find we took off and went west up a hill and then another to a road that led us over I-85 and down to 74 for our left hand turn and back across the river. On Hwy 74 we passed a man on a bike with way worse technique than we had, then he passed us when we stopped to fix the only mechanical of the day, thanks to Dude's flat. No biggy, ten minutes and a shot of whisky did us good. Over the river and now north towards the Heavy equipment Rd. and the Toilet Bowl loop. We rolled into the park and were back at our starting point by 1300hrs.

Even though it was not a great idea by any means it was still sort of an interesting ride that I learned first hand what the Catawba looks like in our region. Without rain the river is in trouble, you can see it and it coming in the forward future which will have a direct impact on our livity here in Charlotte very soon at the present rate.

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