This is the fifth in a series of blogs in which I am documenting my 2013 Back Bear Rampage experience. Previous blogs in this series:
Please note that this week’s blogs and videos contain content and language that some may find objectionable and/or offensive.
Day 5: Monday, September 9, 2013.
As I rolled out of bed, stood and stretched, my legs quickly reminded me that I’d completed the Black Bear Rampage less than 24 hours ago.
The plan for our final day in Ducktown was to pack up, eat breakfast at a random greasy spoon, hit a local bike shop so J.C. could replace his broken handlebars and then ride a trail called Blankets Creek before making the long drive back to Central Florida.
After the race I told everyone that I was not going to ride Blankets Creek: not only were my legs shredded from three days of hard riding, I did not want to ride and then make the ~8 hour drive back to Florida without a shower. My sensible plan was gently contested by my friends, who–as friends are wont to do–offered some helpful words of encouragement such as, “You big pussy!” and “You suck!”
Rob said, “We’ll make it a light recovery ride, dude.”
Okay. Fine. I’m in.
Actually once I got up and moving my legs didn’t feel that bad. Also, Blankets Creek has a bike wash, so I knew I could at least rinse the sweat and dirt off of my body before making the trek back to the Sunshine state.
It took a couple of trips to get all my stuff from the yurt to the truck, and my aching legs didn’t enjoy the repeated steep climbs up the stairs leading to the yurts.
After we were all loaded up and ready to roll out, I took one last look around and thought about how much I was going to miss the place.
We found a great place to grab breakfast called “American Drive in”, which is located in Blue Ridge, Georgia. The food was excellent, especially the homemade biscuits.
After we ate it was off to Out Spokin’, which is a great LBS in Woodstock, Georgia. The staff was really helpful and friendly, and J.C. got his handlebars replaced for a song. I thought the name of the shop was pretty genius, so I picked up a couple of their T-shirts while I was there.
Next stop: Blankets Creek Mountain bike trails!
All my bib shorts, jerseys and Halo skullcaps were dirty and soaked in sweat. While I could have washed them (the yurts have a washer and dryer), I was too busy drinking beer for that. Since this was supposed to be a light recovery ride, I decided to just wear a pair of baggy Fox MTB shorts and a sleeveless shirt. I also didn’t bother with my GoPro since we were supposed to just be soft-pedaling around.
Things started off innocently enough on a very mild trail called “Mosquito Flats”, which then transitioned into another easy trail called “Mosquito Bite”. Just riding along. Nice. 🙂
A little over a mile in we came to a juncture. This juncture is where the Van Michael trail started on the day we were there (it’s run clockwise on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday and counter-clockwise from another entrance the remaining days). Van Michael is a 4 mile Black Diamond (expert level) trail. Not only is Van Michael a Black Diamond trail, the guys at the LBS told us it was the toughest trail at Blankets Creek.
Rob said, “Well at least we can get it out of the way early!”
I knew it. Some recovery ride.
So we took off down the trail. Things got crazy real quick…
We started climbing. And Climbing. And climbing some more. Tough climbs with tech, followed by fairly short, punchy downhills.
At one point Mike and I lost sight of Rob. Not too much further in Mike and I came to a fork in the trail. Later Rob said he yelled back to us, but we didn’t hear him. Rob went one way, while Mike and I went the other. Mike and I wound up doing the entire trail, including all expert alt lines and the alt inner loop.
After a few miles of the Van Michael trail my legs felt like they were going to fall off. Doing this trail on fresh legs would have been very challenging, but lots of fun. Less than 24 hours after a 40 mile mountain bike race with 4,000 feet of climbing? NOT PLEASANT.
On one particularly long and brutal climb I yelled back to Mike that the second I saw Rob I was going to drop to one knee and Falcon Punch him. Recovery ride my ass.
Mike and I continued our ascent up Mount Mygodthishurts while hurling a barrage of curse words at Rob. This went on for at least 20 minutes.
What goes up must come down, and eventually all that climbing paid off. We were flying down the mountain and enjoying a truly fantastic trail.
J.C. started the Van Michael trail with us, but he wisely bailed to another trail called “Dwelling Loop”, which is a 4.2 mile Intermediate loop. Mike and I jumped onto Dwelling right after finishing Van Michael, and really enjoyed it. There was actually some pretty tough climbing on Dwelling, but after the Van Michael trail my legs were numb, so whatever.
I wound up riding a little over 11 tough miles with almost 1,000 feet of climbing on our “recovery ride”.
All kidding aside, I can’t wait to come back and ride these trails again–especially Van Michael–on fresh legs. Excellent trail system with something for all levels of experience. Check it out if you can.
After the ride I think it was around 2:00 PM. We took “showers” in the bike wash, changed clothes in the parking lot (Rob is infamous for dropping his drawers without warning in the midst of post-ride conversation), loaded our bikes onto the bike rack and hit the road.
We stopped off at Shane’s Rib Shack in Canton, Georgia for one final meal before we began the long drive back to Florida.
We were all tired, and ready to be home. The drive went by pretty quickly. We talked and joked around a bit, but not as much as usual. We all perked up about an hour out as we passed by Santos. We joked about going and doing an “all reds” loop. Rob was probably not joking.
Wow. What an amazing, truly epic experience! I’m already counting the days to the next Rampage.
I’ll have a final wrap-up in tomorrow’s blog.