Hanging Rock State Park

Ride summary by David Cole

bicycle chain

Note: This is a summary of the ride which Ed Downing lead from Hanging Rock State Park, to Sauratown Mountain, to Pilot Mountain, and back on Sunday, April 13th, and which had been featured in the NCBC newsletter, web page, and ride calendar. (If you missed the promo, click here.) The riders were Chris Blancher, David Cole, Ed Downing, Jim Fredley, Rich Giroux, David Hayes, Kim Hunter, and Darrel Uithoven.

Ordinarily I don't care much for rides where you spend more time in the car than you do in the saddle. One way to address this type of situation is to make the ride so scenic and enjoyable that you don't mind the car trip. Another way is to ride so slowly (as I ended up doing) that you throw the cycling side of the ratio in your favor.

Ed Downing's Hanging Rock State Park ride on April 13th (moved from the 12th due to rain) was one of the types of rides that's worth doing for the scenery and the challenge. Eight rider left REI at 7:45 (on Ed's tight schedule - no time for rest stops!). We were on our bikes from the parking area at Hanging Rock State Park at 10:45, and began with the 2 mile descent from the park, a wonderful exercise in high speed cornering skills.

From there we headed west. I have cycled up Pilot Mountain before but was otherwise unfamiliar with the route. After only six miles or so through scenic rolling hills we turned onto the road up Sauratown Mountain. Being unfamiliar with the route I didn't realize we'd be hitting hills this steep and long so quickly. I parked my shifters in the 38x28 gearing I had installed for this ride and slowly worked my way up. This climb offers you a long view of what's ahead, making it psychologically challenging. Perhaps it's that I was recovering from a cold, or perhaps I'm just not in the early season shape I'd like to be in, but after a couple miles of climbing I was in oxygen debt. I stopped to suck wind and catch my breath, and offered encouragement to Ed and the others as they rode by.

Ed's riding impressed me. Here's a guy in his early sixties having recovered from two broken hips (and hip replacement) and two broken collarbones over the past few years and he's dropping me on the climb like I'm a cycling newbie. I hope I'm still riding like that in twenty-some years.

Shortly Jim and Darrel come zooming by on their decsents. The road up Sauratown just sort of ends, so there's nothing at the top to stop and see. Each of us in turn makes it to the end and enjoys that wonderful moment where the endless climbing has ceased and we can relax in the saddle and enjoy the wild, 3-mile ride back down.

Next we work our way over to Pilot Mountain. The terrain is hilly, so there's little opportunity for an organized pace line. That's OK, because it means you can spare a little concentration to notice the stunning mountain scenery of Stokes county. I'm impressed too with the combination of good roads yet light traffic. What a ride!

As we enter Pilot Mountain State Park we work our way up the spur road, through the switch-backs, and finally reach the top. It's a long, hard, climb, and I shamelessly stop to catch my breath several times, in spite of my low gearing. At the top I simply laid in the grass for a few minutes and enjoyed the warmth of the sum in the clear blue sky. Ahhhh. Meanwhile Rich and Kim did a little exploring, and when they returned we began our descent. Heading down I noticed the sign warning of 10% grades - probably good we didn't see that on the way up. I notice two things on the way down: the guard rails are at just the right height to throw a cyclist over the top, and I sure wouldn't want to descend this stretch of road with wet brakes.

We had planned to regroup at the Pantry in Pinnacle, but alas, the Pantry was no longer open. Chris and Dave were still behind us, but Ed, Rich, Kim, and I headed on. Once again we riding rolling hill after rolling hill. At about the 50 mile mark I was feeling on the onset of cramps, so I stopped to stretch and then tried spinning as evenly as I could up the hills. That got me across the Dan River and ultimately back up to the entrance to Hanging Rock, but there was no way I was going to be able to make the climb to the top. I ended up doing it, though, about a hundred yards at a time. I'd walk a bit to stretch my legs, and then pedal a bit until they got tight again. A couple other cyclists passed by, who it turns out had planned to meet up with us at Hanging Rock but arrived late.

I finally met up with the others at the top, and we changed clothes and got the bikes back on the van. We were heading back to pick up Rich who was also battling cramps, but he was almost at the top, too, by the time we got underway.

Next stop was Sam's Pizza in Walnut Cove. Ed and I split a pepper-covered pizza, and damn it was good! Several of us were getting up to walk off cramps - it had been a hard ride! The afterglow made it feel good, though, and we were all in a good mood, in spite of some occasional pain.

We were back at REI around 7:30. It had been a wonderful day. This is a ride worth doing again, in spite of the drive! It's only 100K, but it feels like a hard century.

Note: I will post Ed's cue sheet here as soon as I'm able to get in HTML format. -DLC

Page maintained by David L. Cole and last revised on Wednesday, April 23, 1997.
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