What a strange lot we are! We live in America, ride Euro bikes and live to ride events only described in French! It’s no wonder our friends look at us with confusion.
I went on a newly approved Populaire authored by Luke Heller. The route is literally in my “hood”. So, I decided to test drive it and journal it up for all who want to dip their wheel in the mountains. This route has all you could ask for in terrain, views, culture (or lack thereof). The roads are in fantastic shape. Wanna see? read and discover!
The route begins on the west end of the “lively” town of Black Mountain NC, The best coffee roasted anywhere is Control #1 and #4: Dynamite Coffee Roasters. May I heartily recommend purchasing the dark roast, Suplicar Clemencia (Beg for Mercy).
After you get your ticket punched and your buzz on, you will head towards the south to Hwy 9 and climb up over the Continental Divide. Your legs will be warmed up before the top. There is a spring just before the crest. Feel free to refresh your bottles with cool mountain water. Once you are over the divide, you will encounter a sweet descent testing your courage and your brakes through the curves. WATCH OUT FOR GRAVEL!
For the next 10-15 miles you should enjoy riding down to Bat Cave pedaling on some rolling terrain. There are several small climbs and one fun fast descent into Bat Cave.Soon you will have the opportunity to meet the Bridgeclub girls of Bat Cave! Lovely, yes?
Now be careful when you come up on this, LEFT to Chimney Rock and Control #2.The next several miles is one of the sweetest downriver rides you legs will feel. The road is smooth as glass and you can own the road, except for the summertime when Chimney Rock becomes a tourist destination. Be careful: PEOPLE! Only 20 miles into your populaire is Control #2 at the Riverwatch Deli and Grill. Here is where I met my Soigner Andrea for lunch. Doesn’t every rondonneur have a soigner?
Time to scoot towards Lake Lure! The road winds around the lake and is super fun to pedal through. There are vacation homes surrounding the lake. Some are cute, cozy and well settled! Soon, you will travel away from the rivers and lake and head to more rural hillsides climbing up out of the valley and making a northerly route to Control #3.
Welcome to countryside:
Halfway done and the fun resumes as the riding continues on a few rural roads with very little traffic. Take notice of all the oncoming pickup trucks. Almost all the men driving will raise one or possibly two fingers off the steering wheel peaceably acknowledging your existence. Ever notice women drivers rarely do? The back roads to Old Fort are rolling, quiet with every intersecting road tattered with several cycling event’s paint leading you astray if you follow. Keep the focus on your cue sheet.
There’s a nice descent into historic Old Fort. It intersects with I-40 which you will pass below. This would be a fine place to stop and build up your energy. Leaving Old Fort, you will begin to follow the Norfolk & Southern Railroad line paralleling up Point Lookout Trail (old Hwy 70). You may get a chance to race the train to the top! Ouch! This 4+ mile section of nicely paved road is closed to autos. The climb is very curvey and has 1500′ vertical at 3-7% grade. It is fascinating! Mountainbikers use the road to ride Kitzuma, one of the best downhiller trails in the US. It is part of ORRAMM (Off Road Assault on Mt. Mitchell) race. Dont’ be surprised if you encounter critters too, such as coyote, bobcat, turkey, rabbit and bear. I wonder why they all must deficate on the trail.There are a couple of places to stop to catch your breath. It may be a long climb. Once you reach the top, You may want to confer with the big Man as you descend down past Ridegcrest Christian Coneference Center..
So, there it is…an incredible little randonneur at the foot of the Blue Ridge mountains. A great introduction to a taste randonneuring. Bonne Route!