Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Fly - Ride - Bike:
Oxford, AL to Atlanta, GA Tour

 Don't like reading?  Skip to the video at the end.

Thanks to the bicycle layer of Google maps my attention was drawn to the Chief Ladiga/Silver Comet trail that extends west from Atlanta into Alabama.  It would be a perfect activity in conjunction to my upcoming work trip to Atlanta.  Since then I decided to purchase a Brompton folding bike and of course being picky I had to special order it.  About four weeks before my trip I learned that the factory in Great Britain had a delay and wouldn't ship the bike until the following week.  Not knowing how long the shipping would take I started to think what to do if I wouldn't get the bike in time.  Other shipments from Europe that I received have easily taken more than a month to arrive.  So plan B was born, hiking the Springer Mountain summit from the Amicalola Falls, which is the southern end of the Appalachian trail.  The night would be spend at the Springer Mountain camp.

The time of my travel got closer and I found out the week before my trip that the Brompton is in the US but was shipped to a bicycle store in California.  John from All Ability Cycles, where I purchased the Brompton, was confident that they could ship it to his store by Friday and that he could get the bicycle ready for me in time for the trip.  I still had my doubts but I got a call Friday morning that the Brompton arrived and I could pick it up in the afternoon.  I took the afternoon off to go get the bike and start figuring out how to pack everything.  Though I didn't had the full evening to get ready for the trip since I had to coach my son's soccer team that had a rescheduled game that night.  This certainly proves that you don't need tremendous amount of time to pack.

Brompton next to a chair.  Just to show how tiny it is.

The next morning I caught the 6am flight to Atlanta.  From the airport I took the metro train downtown to the hotel that I'll be staying after the bike ride.  At the hotel I repacked what I needed into the T-bag and left the other stuff at the bell desk.  Then I headed to the Greyhound bus station. I got the ticket to Oxford Alabama just as they where calling people to the bus.  Riding the Greyhound was a pleasant experience, nothing like what I read on the Internet.  Finally after arriving at the Oxford stop around noon the bike ride began.  In Anniston was a town celebration and bicycle race.  Of course they wouldn't allow me to race but I crossed the race track a couple times.  The ride between Oxford and the Chief Ladiga trail head isn't too bad if you can keep yourself off the major roads.  I needed to stop at Walmart to get an USB charger cable and thus had to ride a  few miles on the busy roads there.  Instead of locking the bike outside I folded it up and put it in a shopping cart along with my bag.  I even asked an employee if it was OK and they didn't complain.  Much better than having to worry about your bike especially if you depend on it.

Artillery, every small towns pride.

Sad to hear that it's being used a few times a year.
Just recently they used it to get to somebody in the forest that shot a police officer.

The Sunny King Criterium bike race at Anninston.

There were a few parts that wasn't perfect due to the roots buckling the path but otherwise the Chief Ladiga trail is a nice asphalt trail.  I'm sure I would still have complained had I ridden on 26 inch wheels instead of 16 inch.  I stopped at a bamboo forest that was right next to the path. I didn't knew that bamboo grew in the US.  It was pretty cool as it was mature and I could go into it.  On the Alabama trail were mostly local kids that rode their bikes and stray dogs that don't chase bicycles.  Instead I scared them when I approached and rang the bell.    The whole trail is shaded by trees.  On the trail a police car pulled over a four-wheeler since motorized vehicles are strictly forbidden on the trail.  Makes me wonder if e-bikes would be allowed.  The part through the Talladega national forest was cut through the hills and was a longer stretch that didn't pass through towns.  Soon after the national forest I crossed the border into Georgia.  At that point I was exhausted and salt covered from sweat.  But I pushed forward to reach Cedartown for dinner and then Camp Comet for the night. In contrast to the Chief Ladiga trail the Silver Comet trail is nice smooth concrete.  The first section even had a couple of metal awnings setup in middle of nowhere as a rain shelter which would have come handy had it rained.

At the beginning of the trail.

Bamboo forest next to the trail.

Somewhere near mile marker 22.5 on the Chief Ladiga trail.

The project that never happened.

Alabama - Georgia border.

I arrived in the evening in Cedartown and the local businesses were closed already.  I had to go further into town to reach the more common fast food restaurants.  Being stupid I didn't fold my bike asked if I could take it into the Subway restaurant.  Of course the employee said no and leaving it outside was a no-go for me.  So I went next door to a local Chinese restaurant, folded the bike and carried everything inside.  They didn't know what to make of it and nobody commented on it.  Unfortunately Chinese food wasn't what I needed being this exhausted and the food smell wasn't much help either.  I ended up to eat only a little before continuing on.

On the way out of town I filled my water bladder and strapped it on the rack with the tent and sleeping mat.  The ride to the Camp Comet camp site dragged out as the sun was setting and the trail was quite hilly, not being on an old railroad track for this stretch.  Because of exhaustion I pushed the bike on the steeper hills.  I finally arrived the spot where the camp site should have been but the forest there was fenced of from the trail.  That didn't look good.  In addition to that it was already dark.  I decided to ride a bit further than where my GPS indicated the camp site should be and soon found a signage for the camp site and a gate at the fence.  I pushed the bike into the forest along the hiking path.  Not very far in were the tent pads, nicely build up.  But the gravel fill gave me some issue with the tent stake that didn't hold in it.

I'm quite surprised that the folded Brompton fits into the vestibule of the Tarptent Moment without blocking the entry of the tent.  The night was a bit noisy with deers coming into the valley where the camp is to drink water at the creek that ran past my tent.

Tent at Camp Comet.
(Do you see the bicycle?)

Entrance to the Camp Comet primitive camp sites.
While the first day was a bit tough with squeezing a 60 mile ride into half a day, the second day was much easier since I had all day to ride the remaining 60 miles.  Riding a bike trail you're kind of isolated from stores and restaurants this also applies to the Chief Ladiga / Silver Comet trail.  I did find a Waffle House not to far off the trail where I stopped for a big brunch.  Getting closer to Atlanta also meant that there were more recreational users of the path, especially since it was a Sunday.  Most of the guys in Lycra on their race bikes weren't going faster than I did.  Serious bikers hit the rural roads where they don't have to worry and fight the crowds. Some passed me, I passed others and even played tag with a couple riders that were taking frequent breaks.  Six speeds and tiny wheels doesn't mean you're slow.

Riding in Atlanta was quite interesting.  The roads are patchy and have lots of pot holes.  One road had bicycle chevron painted on it but with the road condition you had to ride in the middle of the road and constantly swerve the pot holes and bad patches.

Tunnel on the Silver Comet trail.

Mile marker zero of the Silver Comet trail.

Atlanta skyline.

On this trip I used my phone to take some videos of my ride.  I curious if you'd rather read the blog, watch the video or both.

Below is the full route from the Greyhound bus stop in Oxford, Alabama all the way to the hotel in Atlanta. Added to it is also a loop to Decatur where I went for dinner one evening.

Bike route 1550212 

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