No one answered my invitation to join in the fun, so I rode solo all day. I chose to ride my Soma Doublecross with 700x32 Pasela TG tires. I had a nice conversation with Jimmy Williams, the perm owner at the start and heeded his advice on tire pressures. The first gravel section was just a taste- an easy 1.4 miles, but I could tell I was set up well. The bike had a nice floaty feel on the gravel and my legs were feeling good. I pushed a bit to see how fast I could go on the dirt roads...
The scenery aint too shabby
Paved roads for awhile and then the cue sheet tells me I'm approaching the 2nd gravel section, but it never comes... The state has been busy and they went and paved the road! Fresh asphalt took over about a 1.5 mile section of what looked like it was good fun dirt road. Oh well, it's on to the first control at a convenience store- but it's Memorial Day weekend and the store is closed. I lurked around the buildings a bit looking for a spigot to fill my bottles, but to no avail. I was down to about half a bottle of water and the next section included the big gravel climb up Brushy Mountain.
During our conversation in the early morning, Jimmy told me lots of stuff about the route- more than I could possibly recall, but when I saw a sign for Love Valley I remembered him suggesting I could go past a turn half a mile to visit the town. "Real old west" feel to it he said, horse country with hitching posts outside the general store and whatnot. I'd pretty much figured I couldn't take the extra time, but now I needed to go look for water. What I found was a real watering hole! The owner was quite a character, and when I told him I was heading up the gravel roads to climb Brushy Mountain he gave me another bottle of water for my jersey pocket. Full up with H2O and a dash of good rando luck I headed up the mountain, passing friendly folks on horses and enjoying some beautiful weather.
I stopped... to take a picture...
Extreme rando cyclocross!
Did a couple more easy gravel sections and then stopped at an old gas station that was closed but had a spigot out front. I was down to less than half a bottle. The water was rust-colored at first, but then became slightly less rust-colored so I filled my empty bottle and carried it in case I ran out before finding a store. A little while later I passed a school with a ball field and went on the hunt again, finding a much better spigot. I dumped the rust water, rinsed and filled up for the last 20 miles.
Nice paved roads, too
The last gravel section came at 11 miles to go, and I was happy to be well ahead of time limits- now it looked like I'd finish in under 12 hours so once I got back to asphalt I texted Jimmy and let him know my ETA. Rolled up to the Starbucks finish at 11 hours, 46 minutes! I had a great time, and this was a beautiful & challenging route. Afterwards I've looked at the RUSA results for this route and I am just the 6th person to finish it. Jimmy is the only one who had done it twice, and no one had ridden it since 2012! There really are some great gravel roads still in Wilkes County, but watch out- the state is out there paving them...
Yep, still in NC