How is that for a scenic view and ride profile? It took just over two hours to do the 22 mile climb out of Gatlinburg up to the Clingman’s Dome parking lot – and then only 42 minutes to make it all the way back down! That works out to an average speed of 11mph on the way up and 31mph on the way back down. My one mistake for the ride was not realizing that there is actually a paved path the rest of the way up to the lookout tower that is like a hot wheel’s track for grown-ups. When Kristine and I drove back up to the top later, we passed a small group of cyclists nearing the top. We then saw them riding up the path and caught up to them while they rested at the lookout tower. I found out they race for a team in the tri-state area (TN-NC-VA). The view is absolutely amazing. Check out the rest of the photos from the ride.
Yesterday I took two of my programming students to the University of South Alabama just west of Mobile for a programming competition. The competition involves a 5-hour session where we cannot make any contact at all with the students. What is a biking professor to do for those 5 hours? Well, let’s see, I’ll go for a bike ride! Here’s a topocreator.com map of the route I took from the university down to the coast and across a 4 mile long bridge.
I started out heading due south on Hillcrest Road which was surprisingly hilly with some 5, 6, and 7% grades. It was a very wide 4 lane road, but there was a bit of traffic. Eventually, I made my way down to Carol Plantation Rd which took me for the next 14 miles south towards the coast. This road had much less traffic, but it was a narrower 2 lane road with a speed limit of 55mph. The road was very straight so most cars passed on the opposite of the road. I had a pretty strong side-headwind to battle so my pace hovered right around 20mph. It was very windy once I made it to the bridge. The middle of the bridge rose up very sharply with a maximum grade of 7%. Just to the right of the white line was about 18 inches of smooth, debris-free shoulder which allowed me to ride the bridge without being in traffic and without worrying about getting a flat tire. The actual shoulder was probably 6 feet wide, but it was quite debris-strewn past that 18 inch mark. It didn’t matter much though because there was hardly any traffic.
Dauphin Island itself was a great place to ride with low speed limits, and wide smooth roads. I rode to the easternmost point of the island just past the ferry which is a 45 minute trip across the bay to Fort Morgan. Unfortunately there wasn’t enough time for me to ride the ferry across, so I turned around and headed back with a strong tailwind. I was able to average much closer to 25mph for large sections of the return trip, except for the portions of the route which turned northeast since it was a strong southeasterly wind. It was an awesome change of pace from my normal riding in Birmingham.