Gary’s Climb

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The problem we’re facing as we stand in our lycra, straddling our road bikes, is the road doesn’t connect. Well, on the map it connects. It’s clear as day—a little white line going from the bottom of the mountain to the top of the mountain, but here we are, standing at the end of a gravel road looking at a faint path going into the woods. This definitely ain’t no road. I check the GPS map again, then look at the dense woods in front of us. We’re definitely in the right spot. But no road. Then the farmer who owns the land we’re apparently trespassing on starts yelling at us. This isn’t how I saw my Thursday going.

All we wanted was something a little different. A bit of adventure, a slight departure from our normal lunch ride route. So I looked at the map for a different road we could pedal and found this scribble of a white line climbing the back side of Elk Mountain, between Asheville and Weaverville, and here we are looking at either bushwhacking up the side of a mountain with our road bikes or getting shot by a farmer. Possibly both.

Turns out the farmer is cool and just wants to make sure we know where we’re going. His name is Gary. People get lost on his property all the time. He says if we push through the woods a ways, hang a left on a brutally steep gravel road, we’ll find some pavement that climbs back to the top of Elk Mountain.

“It’s straight up, but the pavement’s good,” he says. “You might even be able to ride some of it.”

Sounds promising, so we push, climbing over blowdowns and ducking under spider webs and climbing over rocks with our skinny road bikes on our shoulders and our bike shoes slipping beneath us until we find road, glorious road. It’s a high-end home development that went under after the real estate crash in 07/08. The road is there, complete with perfect cul-de-sacs, but no homes.

And Gary is right. The road is steep, but we can pedal it, and it has big views of the mountain range looking west. It would’ve been a hell-of-a neighborhood. We’re tired from the bushwhack, but we’re climbing so we’re happy. And we’re headed towards beer. Something light and refreshing. A kolsch perhaps. Maybe three.

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