Friday, July 22, 2005

Smith Road Metric

I call this one the Smith Road Metric because it's a metric century and the second turn-around point is at Smith Road on the Natchez Trace, some five miles south of the Jeff Busby campground. Technically speaking, this is a double out-and-back, which allows for plenty of refueling (one time at your car so bring a cooler), or if the winds are contrary and you're too tired to continue, an easy out after only 36 miles.

Park your car at Pigeon Roost - the historic area about half a mile south of Mathiston, MS on the Natchez Trace. The first out-and-back is north for 18 miles to Old Trace - along the way you'll pass Line Creek, after rolling down the highest point of this stage at the eight mile point (I call it Eight Mile Hill, though this only really applies if you're coming from Pigeon Roost). Next up is Highway 46 and, if you need to refuel, the County Line No. 2 convenience store. I haven't used their restrooms - but they have plenty of cold bottled water. Then just a few miles past this is Old Trace. From there it's time to turn around and head back the way you came. The hardest part is the long uphill section back up Eight Mile Hill - it's not steep so much as just one of those that just keeps on going up - in a low gear it's an easy spin.
The nice part about a double-out-and-back is that you can stop at your car and pick up some more water,a beer, donuts, or even bananas. Then it's southward again, but after three miles the road turns rough and stays that way. Another Old Trace comes up at the 41 mile mark, then five miles later it's Jeff Busby - a very popular place on weekends as it's the only place to get gas that's right on the Trace - there's a good convenience store there, and clean restrooms - but save all that and continue southward to the highest and steepest point of this route, a sneaky 3.3% grade at 46 miles. Then onward just a few more miles to Smith Road - time for a breather, then back around, The return climb doesn't seem as bad. After stopping at Jeff Busby for a refuel you look forward to where the road turns smooth. Officially you'll have completed 100 kilometers before the road stops chattering about on hands and seat, and then you are treated to a very welcome return to the car on what feels like the smoothest and best thing ever.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

GTR Out-And-Back

Here's a good mix of an urban start with rural road riding and notable landmarks to land you at the the air-conditioned, vending-laden (yet free cold water) regional airport terminal a few miles west of Columbus. The route starts at the intersection of Jackson and Garrard, which might make for a nice extension for riders inbound from Pheba on Highway 389. The first few miles are north on Montgomery to Butler Road. Turn right on Butler and enjoy a bit of rural sprawl for several miles, passing over a few creeks, and then a short hill topping out at Stowood. Right on Stowood, more unkempt roads, and soon enough the Highway 82 bypass appears on your right. Continue along to Old West Point Rd and turn left at the church with the steeple. Old West Point Road is much smoother than Stowood, and a bit more hilly as you wind around a VFW post, then short rollers to farmland, where the road straightens out and levels at 16 Section Rd. Turn right at 16 Section and watch for trains. Farmland. Descending gradually to some trees look for Sonny's BBQ on your right, then turn left on Highway 182.

Highway 182 is a two-laner with mostly moderate rolling hills. Soon enough you'll pass the State golf course on your left, and then settle in for a good pace on to cross under Highway 82, then over US-45, but not before passing another BBQ joint on your right. After the community college the road takes on a service-road demeanor, passing through more open farmland, and the big, busy highway on your left. This is probably the flattest section of the route, yet it ascends ever so to 789, where you take a right and continue along a nice section of road to the terminal. Refresh yourself at KGTR. Clean restrooms, cold water fountains, vending machines (with sports drinks), air-conditioning, CNN, and mechanical voices telling you to please watch your belongings.