Monthly Archives: October 2008

Sassafras Mountain Epic Ride

Here is the map from the Sassafras ride I did this past Monday to officially end my racing season. This was definitely an epic ride that I think is the best way to end a season of hard training and racing. The ride was 98.3 miles and nearly 8500′ of climbing. This was a little longer than last year with the loop through Clemson, but it also had slightly less total climbing. Below the map, I have included a detailed list of points along the route and other fun tidbits of information about the area:

2008 Season-ending epic - Sassafras Mountain via Clemson

2008 Season-ending epic - Sassafras Mountain via Clemson. Click on the image for a very-high resolution map (2.8MB)

  1. Fieldstone Farm Inn Bed and Breakfast – this has been our fall break getaway spot for the past three years. There were eight horses in the large field right outside our modular cabin on the farm. The kids loved them and had a great time while I went on my nearly six hour epic ride (it was only supposed to be 5 hours!)
  2. This is Seneca, South Carolina. On Sunday night before my Monday morning ride, we drove through Seneca on one of my old cycling routes and got to watch a long, fast train pass right in front of us. The kids (especially Josiah) were fascinated as it was only a few feet away!
  3. The turn here takes you onto a very scenic road past the Oconee County airport. It is up on a high area with a magnificent view of the mountains.
  4. Sunday night and then again on Monday night, we took the kids on “Roller Coaster Road” which is a road right off the airport road with three consecutive short steep hill/valley combos where you can actually feel the g-force when the car bottoms out in the valley and starts the climb up the next hill. I told the kids to put their hands in the air and Josiah just kept his hands in the air for a long time after we made it through the roller coaster hills. They absolutely loved it!
  5. I rode right through Clemson University during my ride. I went right by Death Valley (the football field) and turned left to go up the hill by my first dorm on campus — Holmes Hall. Very sentimental as I used to end the season with a 200 mile epic that I would officially start and end in front of another building on campus — Tillman Hall.
  6. This long stretch of road (from 5 all the way past 7) is state highway 133 which goes from Clemson to pickens and then all the way up to state highway 11. This is the very first road that I rode on when I was at Clemson – and that one ride cured me of the homesickness I was feeling as a 17 year old starting college!
  7. Here is the town of Six Mile at the base of Six Mile mountain. I only climbed it once while I was at Clemson, but it was definitely a memorable climb. First, the road is a dirt road with lots of “do not enter”, “private property” signs – but hey, it’s on the USGS map and it is a completely irresistible road since it winds around the mountain completely circling it like you would see on a cartoon map or cartoon show. When I finally made it to the top, it looked like Fort Knox with fences, radio equipment, radio towers, small utility buildings everywhere. There was also a tall fire tower behind a tall fence with the top spikes unbent. I tried to climb it to be able to make it up to the top of the fire tower to see the view, but I made it to the top and realized that I was going to cut myself pretty bad if I tried to go over so I started to climb back down. I made it a few feet from the bottom and decided to jump the rest of the way forgetting that with bike cleats on the bottom of my shoes when I landed all my weight would be pushed back to my heels. So when I landed I promptly fell straight onto my back and head hitting my head very hard on a rock — fortunately I still had my helmet on so it just dented the helmet and didn’t knock me unconscious. Then I felt kinda silly because I realized the lock gate was loose enough (and I was skinny enough) to simply pull the two sides of the gate apart as far as they would go and squeeze behind them. By this time the sun was about to set so I rushed up the tower and then waited and watched the sunset. It was so absolutely beautiful. The only problem, of course, was that Six Mile is about an hour away from Clemson by bike! So I got to ride that in the dark without lights or reflectors. But before that I had to get back down the mountain and one of the houses I passed by safely on the way up had a rather large dog come chase me on the way back down. I stood up and sprinted on a dirt, rocky, windy road down the mountain with the dog chasing me. If I had fallen, it wouldn’t have been pretty. Anyway all that is to say that it was definitely an epic ride. On Monday, though, I just rode by the road that takes you to the top. I didn’t have time to include it on my ride.

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End of the season epic – Sassafras Mountain

It has been a longstanding tradition dating back to my college days at Clemson to end the season the week after the Michellin Classic (now called the Greenville Cycling Classic) with an epic solo ride. While I was at Clemson, I had a 200 mile loop from Clemson with an insane amount of climbing including Brasstown Bald – the highest point in Georgia – and the climb up to Highlands, North Carolina. The ride would take me about 12 hours (7am to 7pm).

Well, I moved away to grad school and stopped racing for several years. I still managed to squeeze in a few epic rides out in California (e.g., Mix Canyon), which were even more epic since I wasn’t training as much and there was always a real possibility of not being able to finish a 4 or 5 hours ride. I picked up racing again in 2005 and at the same time began teaching at Samford University. Along with that came a 2 day fall break right at the end of the season so for the past three years, we have been heading back to Clemson in the middle of October and I have been able to continue the old tradition of an epic ride while Kristine graciously watches the kids for 5 (or sometimes 6) hours.

For the past three years we have been staying at the Fieldstone Farm Bed and Breakfast which is on one of the roads I used in my 200 mile ride! It is also a great launching point for a number of other rides. And it is a very cool farm, too. When we first stayed here, I did a 90 mile loop through Highlands, North Carolina. For the past couple years, I have headed out to Sassafras Mountain instead. Last year, I did an out and back ride that ended up being about 92 miles and over 9200′ feet of climbing (

This year I wanted to ride to Sassafras again, but I wanted to turn it into a loop through Clemson. It ended up being close to 100 miles taking 5 hours 45 minutes. The ride was awesome. I took roads that made up cycling routes from my days at Clemson and the reminiscing of long ago rides was nearly as awesome as the ride itself. I wound my way over to Clemson through Seneca remembering sprints for stop ahead signs, county line, and city limits signs – through the university passing dorms that I lived in when I was a student – then taking the traditional route (map to be posted soon) up 133 through Six Mile passing Six Mile Mountain and Woodall Mountain before making it to the first real obstacle – Beasley Gap (13 minutes of hard climbing in zone 5), a short rest during a 1 mile switchback descent to Rocky Bottom and finally a 35 minute climb up beautiful Sassafras Mountain finally making it to some real fall colors in the higher elevations. It almost doesn’t do the ride justice to try and describe it so I’ll leave it at that, post a detailed annotated map, and encourage everyone to go try it some day. You won’t regret it (if you can make it)!