Saturday, November 26, 2011

Fun and Games

I've never been much for playing games like Scrabble, Uno, Chutes and Ladders, but when it comes to cycling..........well, that's another story. I'm all about fun and games when on the bike. Perhaps that's why I never took to racing and hung my number up years ago. It was too much game and not enough fun for me. This holiday weekend, we had the chance to have some fun on our bikes with a bit of game thrown in for good measure. Mulberry Gap hosted a Turkey Shuffle ride the Saturday after Thanksgiving and the concept peaked our interest.

Everybody knows when you get a group of cyclists together and give them a list of rules and a time frame, then it's a race. No race fee, no number plate, no course markings, deny it is a race all you want, but it's not going to change the heart of the cyclist. Throw us a challenge and the game is on! These are the kind of "races" I like, because it is truly all about having fun while pushing yourself as hard or light as you want.

We had just under 5 hours to cover as much territory as possible. We were given a map of the area trails with places of interest marked. The goal was to reach as many marked areas as possible accumulating points for each landmark visited. Knowledge of the trail system was invaluable, because a bit of strategy would help to hit as many points as you could. Harder to reach spots held a higher point value than the easier ones and a photo of you or your bike at each spot was proof "you were there". Riders had to finish by 3:00 or points would be deducted for each minute arrived after the deadline. For every point accumulated, you received a raffle ticket. Riders could choose between about a dozen prize baskets to deposit their raffle tickets, therefore, the more tickets you had the better your chances to win the raffle.

With maps in hand (I forgot mine), we hit the trails at 10:15. Not everyone had the same strategy, but the majority of us all headed up the same forest service road. We were getting the nitty gritty climb out of the way acquiring little points along the way en route to a 5 pointer at the top of Potato Patch. Then we bombed back down the road to hit the fun trails like Bear Creek and Pinhoti!

My friends, Martina and Leandro, were visiting from Florida for the weekend and came along for a mtn bike ride. Since they didn't know these trails, I offered to be their guide to make sure they would hit all the right designated spots! Realizing I had forgotten the "treasure map" after we'd already started the "non-race", I felt a bit daft. Raja and Joe were still up ahead in range, so I bolted ahead to plead for a look see at their map. Riding and reading the map at the same time proved a challenge, but I managed to key in on our targets. Now, if I could just manage to remember it..........

I felt a bit like a tourist as we stopped at places and took each other's pictures. It was fun! Of course, it would not do for Martina to simply stand and have her photo taken. Before I could finish documenting Leandro's points, Martina would already be scaling the Falls or climbing up on the sign. She's more like a monkey than a cyclist.
"Come along, Martina," I would yell, "We've got to keep moving!" I could see this was going to be Fun and Games in more way than one. Stopping at the Falls was a pleasant change from riding on by like we normally do. Usually we're on a mission to get to the top as fast as we can. It reminds me that it is good to take the time to notice your surroundings, even when it is a place you have been seeing for decades. There is always something new to notice or appreciate. You just have to take the time.

Each time we would get to a "point" there would be various groups or pairs of riders there taking their picture. We'd cheer each other on and counsel if this was the right spot. For the first few points, Raja and Joe would have just finished taking their pictures when we arrived and be heading off to the next point. We waved them on, knowing that once the downhills came we would not see them again.

As laborious as a forest service road climb can be, this one isn't too terribly awful. It's pretty enough and you can easily see your progress when you look at the road below you.There were heartier racers that were going for the points over towards Windy Gap, but not us. We stuck to our plan doing the long road climb first knowing that we had a sweet descent awaiting. After that it was lots of nice singletrack on the Pinhoti trails. Once we got up to the overlook, I knew Martina would be smiling. As long as she can see mountains, she is a happy camper. No, it's no Switzerland, but we do have mountains here in Georgia. In fact, Mulberry Gap is gaining popularity with many out of state mtn bikers as a great riding destination. When you have some of the sweetest singletrack out your backdoor, it's easy to take it for granted. I forget that not everyone has this at their fingertips. Yes, we have mountains and we have singletrack. It will make you smile.
This Thanksgiving has brought us unseasonably nice weather. Thanksgiving Day was bright and sunny. Yesterday we did a wonderful 55 mile road ride under clear blue skies with the sun warming us nicely. Today was cloudy, but it wasn't bone chilling cold and I rode in a short sleeve jersey and arm warmers. No chemical toe warmers or woolies. Old man winter hasn't come yet, and I'd just as well he not. Riding through creeks is much easier without him.

The antics continued with Martina insisting we hug the Gennett Poplar.And see what I mean.....notice she's climbing on top of the sign here behind Leandro! It's a wonder we ever finished the ride with monkey girl climbing all over the place.

I always love taking someone to ride the Pinhoti 2 downhill. It's such a FUN run and you are guaranteed to see the newbie come out of the trail with a huge grin on their face. This was no exception, and Leandro ended the section beaming as he said, "Those jumps are so much fun!"

Technically we still had enough time to shoot for the 5 pointer on Hwy 52, but we decided not to push it. Instead, we pedaled a few miles up Pinhoti 3 because I did not want Leandro to miss seeing more of our fantastic trails. We ran into Carey as she was coming down P3. She had successfully reached the 5 pointer up at the top and was heading to the finish. "You think you're going to make it," she asked me? "Nah, we're not going to risk it, but we figured we'd at least ride this while we're here," I replied. "Yea, it's too good to pass up, isn't it," she said as she grinned ear to ear. Yep, that pretty much sums it up!!!

With just over 3 hrs riding, we rolled into Mulberry Gap eager to show our photos to the "non-race" official. With 7 of the landmarks attained, we were like giddy kids to have earned 20 points, that's 20 raffle tickets! Whoohoo! Pouring over the multitude of prize selections, I hopefully placed tickets in the bowl keeping fingers crossed that I would be a winner.

Hungry riders trickled in the Rec Room, turning in their photos and collecting tickets. Other riders sat hunched over steaming hot bowls of chili shoveling the food in fast as they could. Ginni at Mulberry takes her role seriously of feeding the hungry masses and she understands a ravenous cyclist! With all riders present and accounted for, the raffle began. Hoots and hollers rang out with the winning numbers, but nobody was happier than when #660714 was called. That was ME! I won! I won a session with Rolfer, Amy Lynn Larimer! To say I as excited would be an understatement!

What a good day! It was all fun and games to be had while riding a bike. I'm pretty simple, that's all it takes to make me a happy girl. I hope you're having as much fun out on the trails as well. Keep in touch and let me know what fun and games you've been up to this season! Whatever you do, keep on riding!

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