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Skating the Full Silver Comet and Chief Ladiga Trail Again: 94 Miles of Hot Fun in Georgia and Alabama

roadskater's picture



Driving down from North Carolina late at night, I asked eebee to post a note to the APRR (Atlanta Peachtree Road Rollers) list inviting people to join us for a long slow distance skate the next day, or perhaps the day after. We had earlier this year done our favorite 62-miler from Mile 0 near Nickajack Elementary School to mile 31 at Brushy Mountain Tunnel and back.

But I remembered wondering (when we were last at the tunnel) how much further it would be to skate out to Coot's Lake where there's a convenience store with cool liquid and salty snack goodies. Eebee looked it up and it turns out that for 2.5 extra miles out and back, the trip could be enhanced and made safer by a halfway stop with generous resources, making the total distance 67 miles. It would be five miles more, but with much quicker access to water, ice, ade, snacks, even lunch perhaps, rest rooms, air conditioning and an outdoor bench. 

We decided that would be a nice skate for the next day and that we could do that later in the day Saturday with less worry since the convenience store stop would provide some extra comfort and a way to check progress to make sure we were good to continue. We didn't expect to need to bail, but if we needed to it would be a civilized location to seek a solution. 

I asked eebee to mention that if anyone wanted to do the whole trail of 94 miles, we could do that Sunday (instead of 67 on Saturday) with company and a ride home. We thought that perhaps TomB might be eager to do that, if Ileana would be willing to retrieve us in Anniston at the end of the day...but were content that doing 67 miles either day would still be great, and we could decide much about the route even very late on Sunday (like turning around somewhere else instead of going to Anniston).

My cell rang before I had even made it through South Carolina and it was TomB. We had a plan or at least the semblence of one for Sunday by the time we hung up. Yay!

There is nothing quite like skating the entire daylight or almost all of it away, with stops when needed or wanted, and we knew we (I knew I) would need it as the forecast was for mid-nineties and Orange Air Quality Indices at least near Atlanta in the afternoon on Sunday. 

We took the weather forecast seriously, and after some talk about going from Alabama to end up in Georgia, we decided it was better to do the near-Atlanta section during the day for higher air quality. 

So, Saturday was made easier, and we thus waited too late to start preparing, but we did make it to REI and Wal-Mart (perhaps in the wrong order) to purchase provisions: mostly Gu (triberry, orange and chocolate mint) packets at REI; dried fruit, Gatorade, chewing gum, Good'n'Plenty, and other salty and sweet junk food (plus some raisin, date, and walnut oatmeal to mix with cranberries for breakfast) at Wal-Mart. I had Atomic Fireballs to wake up a dead mouth, and eebee had some Morton's lite salt (sodium, potassium) left over from previous adventures.

As is often the case, I was too excited or irresponsible to sleep a lot, but not in as much deficit from previous days as is sometimes the case. I guess I got 3 hours of sleep, maybe less. That might make for higher heart rates, might not, but I didn't feel I had much other choice once I waited too late to start getting ready and to start sleeping. I didn't want to take anything to make me groggy that wouldn't have time to wear off before we were set to start. 

Sunday morning we got ready and got to TomB's OK and decided to drive to the start and meet him there instead of adding a mile of skating and a first time through the trail from his house to the Silver Comet Trail. It was not much to worry over unless you were hoping to skate something epic and feared injury at the start. I qualified for that desire not to have such a startup mishap. 

The Silver Comet Trailhead parking lot at Mile 0 was entirely full. It was like someone had just held a 75% off bike sale in the parking lot...packed with cyclists buzzing about clickityclacking across the lot to get to the rest room. We parked at Nickajack Elementary nearby and TomB showed up and we got under way very well, but forgetting the usual pre-roll photo.

Rolling out, we did have one unsettling hardware issue. As I tried to tighten my front two axles on the right side, both were spinning freely. I had had some trouble with this over the last few weeks, but thought it was under control. I knew I had extra axles with me, so I decided to try it and fix it at mile 4, Floyd Road. I'm not sure why I didn't just do it before we started, except for stupid optimism, but OK.

I got the cam out when we hit the first visually interesting bridge, but I knew I was going to take lots fewer photos than the last trip, and since it was to be so hot that day, I felt it important to not spend as much energy on it. Unfortunately there are not many shots of TomB from the front as he was usually in front of me, and when not, I was trying to focus on not slowing too much.

My heartrate was OK but after a few miles I'd say it was on the upper end of what I could sustain for nine to eleven hours. This year eebee's has not been as close to mine as last, so there was a gap there, but not so troubling. I was operating under the average heartrate I can usually sustain. By mile 4, I can usually have an idea if I'm doing OK, as it's slightly uphill to there. Seemed fine, but I'd need to keep an eye on the average particularly in the first fifty miles. 

While there at Floyd Rd., we met a couple from Long Island, Michael and Jackie, who were out skating that day as well. We had a nice talk but I forgot to take their photo as I was swapping out front axles. Still, well met, and I think we may see them again someday, somehow. The stop and swap was worth it as the new axles with loctite on them seemed snug. This is an issue with which I will need to deal before too long I guess, but I'm not sure the best things to try other than spend money on a frame and maybe new boots too. I'll report if I find an inexpensive cure, of course.

The delay at Floyd helped me some but I was fiddling with hardware so that's not as restful when people are waiting on you. Nevertheless, feeling more assured, we rolled out and did familiar territories without much note. There were TONS of cyclists using the trail early in the morning, and more than I usually notice without helmets. We usually show up later in the day so this is probably the key difference, plus many had heard the air quality forecast perhaps and wanted to be out ahead of the worst part of the day for AQI.

We made it to 11 miles or so where we stopped to top off our water. I had been carrying a 32 ounce Powerade bottle, starting out with it as a frozen chunk of Powerade, drinking as it thawed, planning to refill once empty with water and my skaterade powder (gatorade and lite salt). I made the first refill at 11 miles, and we met several nice folk who were interested in what we were doing.

I remember we made it to the awesome bridge over the train tracks at 17 miles sooner and more easily than I really expected. Things were going really well but I knew I needed to watch my average heart rate as it was only a beat or two below the average I could do all day. It didn't seem too hot, but I was sweating a lot, and I know cramps can come from a day of heavy sweating (or go with it).

Nice and easy. Rolling slowly is faster than sitting.

TomB was leading most of the time, not rotating often (as he didn't need to, and it is fine if he wants to stay up front), and eebee was up front a fair amount especially in the middle third or third fourth of the trip, staying longer than she had to as well.

Me? I got up front when they didn't want to be and I stayed 1 to 3 minutes before I decided I would top out if I didn't go to the back. If you want me to pull I'll be happy to, but if you wait too long to rotate I'll get tired of looking around skaters in front of me for rocks and cracks and sticks and holes and I'll go to the back to recover, sometimes with a small gap so I can see around! Just for me, it works better to have steady, frequent rotations, varying speed a bit as the person up front naturally changes the pace to what they can do. There's a lot of free information in that scheme, without conversation required. 

We made the nice stop at 20 miles near Dallas for more water and for me to mix another 32 oz. of skaterade. The ziploc powderpacks I made were coming in very handy and the saltiness of it was not bothering me.

I try to do the electrolytes at the beginning of the day, because once you need them, it's sort of too late to catch up (still worth trying, especially after you have quit the event, so you don't land in the hospital, of course). The side benefit is that once you get to drinks without the lite salt, they taste superamazingood...even "electrolyte replacement" drinks. And I've found that a bottle of water in there somewhere after a few hours of electrolytes is good too. That probably means I overdo the electro sometimes, of course. I remember a few times at T2T or A2A where I have felt a boost after switching FROM electrolytes to plain water. (Again going four hours or more without any electrolytes and drinking all plain water is asking for trouble in general (hyponatremia/hypokalemia); I'm talking about switching out from electrolytes for one or two bottles of water now and then amid a full day of electrovasser.)

I can't recall when I decided that my left boot frame had moved and I was not going make the others stop so I could try to fix it, but I mentioned it somewhere. I would have made an adjustment had I been clear about what would be required. But shifting frames is experimental at best, usually. Also I was noticing my right boot was hurting, rubbing at the inner front of my ankle, and I almost never mention my right skate as hurting at all...except maybe the inner side of my right big toe after a long day.

I remember feeling some snarliness around mile 20 but things were smooth again not much later, and we were making good progress. TomB planted a bomb of doubt when he said something about how long it takes to get to the Brushy Mountain Tunnel because it all starts to look alike out there (something like that, said better, I'm sure). I don't usually feel that way, but now I was starting to agree that the tunnel was taking a while to get here in the roadskatercentric view of the universe. I recall stopping to take photos of some orange-red berries in the shape of a flame and it took some effort to stop, turn, go back, stop, snap, catch up. I realized that if I kept looking at mileposts for confirmation and not looking for cues in the shape of the trail, I could avoid repeated disappointments of "this is it." It did seem to take some extra mental time to get to the tunnel.

And here's a reminder to me and everyone else. The tunnel is almost always wet at least at one spot, so when deciding on lube for the day, use the water resistant waxy PTFE teflonish stuff (like white lightning) or some of the oilish ptfe made for wet (maybe trilube but there are definitely some that say wet on the bottle). The cheap stuff I use often is not always even claimed as lube (WD-40 not being officially a lube as we know, but handy for water displacement, especially when followed by some lube), and sometimes even if it is lube (Wal-Mart has some Liquid Wrench stuff with PTFE teflonalike in it but I don't think it stays in there if you go through the wet). Continuing this aside, I got some of the White Lightning or other similar waxy PTFE on my car bumper at Carolina Century last year and it was still on the bumper in late Spring when I tried to finally clean it off. So it does last through weather! The point: Is it going to rain? Doesn't matter if you're going through Brushy Mountain Tunnel.

One thing I missed since we were not turning around at milepost 31 just past the tunnel was sitting a moment on the far side among the cool rocks. TomB was cooly rocking his way to Coot's Lake so eebee and I rollergoofed some pics and crept along before getting back up to normal speed. We were up with TomB when we got to Coot's Lake, commenting how much less we could see the lake than years ago, simply meaning the trees along the trail had grown lots in the years we'd been coming out.

We hooked left along the road to Coot's Lake convenience store where we were greeted warmly by the attendant (a different one than last year) and coolly by the air conditioning. It was wonderful. Eebee and I scanned the coolers for drinkytreats and settled on an unusual choice for me...an "citrus cooler" drink that was extremely good at that moment. I had drunk much blue ade by now, perhaps 100 oz. of salty skaterade. We paid for a cup for ice (rarely do I do this but gladly did I) and I think I got a 20 oz. Coke and I bought some fat cheezits (usually I won't eat fat during long slow distance but these had jalapeno flavor and salt on them; I had thought to lick the stuff of and blow the chips out on the pavement but I didn't). 

I think at this point I had not drunk from the waterpack but had carried that 40 oz. or so the whole 33.5 miles...not necessarily the smartest way to handle it all, but I wanted that pack as backup I guess. The pack ade started out with lots of ice but by now was probably tepid. 

Warning: Vague gastronomic details in this paragraph only, not afterward. For some time I had noticed that my prior evening's trouble with "losing hydration in a less than optimal way" might not be over. I had noticed the rest room at Coot's Lake was reasonably nice, so I visited the echo chamber. When I came out I said a rarely used phrase, "God bless Coot's Lake Convenience Store!" Enough said. Maybe too much. But it was part of managing the day.

Rolling out of Coot's Lake by the trail parking lot we saw a guy with a somewhat bloody arm holding it level in front of him in the I've broken my collarbone position. At first I failed to grasp the situation and I think I said a too cheerful hello, then an oh sorry kind of goodbye. He didn't seem in a lot of pain but his cycling was done for a few weeks I'd guess. 

I don't recall much other than more nice scenery between Coot's Lake and Rockmart along the unfortunately hard and rough cement found from mile 13 to the border (at 61.5 miles). But I know that problems I don't feel on asphalt do show up after 20 or so miles on the cement. It's great having the trail, cement or not, but it is a different surface. I think roots crack asphalt more easily so there's a price for the smoother, softer asphalt, but it's nicer on the feet and knees. 

Rolling in to the edge of Rockmart brought nice memories from when this was the end of the trail, and some times I went out by myself to explore all day, plus many times later with pals of course. It's nice in there if you take it just a touch easy along the river in a few tight spots to be safe. It all opens up to the downtown area where they've done a bit of sprucing up for the trail visitors. Nice!

There's a Not Everybody Welcome Center that says something about rollerblades but we didn't read it all and nobody was around to make us read the signs anyway. There's a rest room around in back of that building, and you can get water there from the sink. 

At this point, the tricky parts of the "temporary" (as in many years) route of the trail out at 45, about 7 miles away, were looming in my mind, and despite the fact that I had felt I had plenty of brake for the whole day at the start, the heat (perhaps) and some extra stops had made my installed brakepad useless, so not far after stopping briefly at the unwelcome center, we stopped again by the graveyard in Rockmart for me to install a replacement brake pad. 

So at mile 38 or so, TomB and eebee waited on me again to deal with a hardware issue. As before, my heartrate improved but not as much as if 1) I had not been the one fooling with hardware, and 2) I had not been trying to be part of a conversation, which I so love to do.

This is a GatorBrake system which works well, but this batch of brake pads doesn't seem as durable as others, and not as long lasting as Rollerblade or K2 pads I've used. I'm going to have to work on this subject as well. Also, pad replacement requires removal of 4 bolts, pulling 2 bolt receiver axle-like pieces out of the old pad, putting them in the new pad, then putting the washers and bolts back on. This took longer than any of us wanted. 

The highlight of the day for TomB, though, was watching the ants march along a line to my ziploc of jalapeno cheezits to try to get in, and failing that, attacking my stinky wrist guards and the soft surfaces of the inside of my helmet, which was at this point resting on the ground while I worked on a fresh brakepad. I feared a day of ants in the helmet, but it didn't happen or I was too numb to know. 

By now I had probably reached the highest average heart rate of the day. (I'm not certain as my Forerunner must not have had a full charge. It closed shop before the end of the day and I haven't looked at the data I have.) Our pace was manageable and the heat of the day was coming along. The rest of the day, at this mileage and heat, would be about managing muscles and body temperature, plus whatever pains we collected in our feet or otherwise. For me it was a square edged callous forming on the inside back of my left heel (recurring after a long time gone, again probably frame placement related), the burning on my right front ankle (as noted, highly unusual), and soreness on the insides of my big toes where, yes, callouses were growing and softening simultaneously in my rolling inward feet fronts. I had kept my feet dry so far. Could I do it all day? Unlikely.

At this mileage, 38 or so, we were not much more than a third of the way there, but we knew there were wooden bridges with rough surfaces, followed by concrete downhill twists and a T at a Stop with a ditch beyond. That's if we didn't take a road detour, and we knew TomB wanted to do the trail not the road, and I thought we should all stay together. So trail it was, and new brakepad I'd need.

We made it along a scenic section through farmland and woods and I'm not sure what else besides train tracks to mile 45 or so, where the dubious fun begins, at the point where the railway right-of-way reverted back to the landowners somehow, and landowners didn't want the Silver Comet Trail where the railway was for some reason. The option was to live with a road detour and then to build an overmountain (or overhill) route, which ended up including some sharper, faster turns than usual for a rail trail. I don't mind the uphill portions, but two of the downhill sections are really very annoying to me...NOT because they are fast, but because they mix fast downhills with opposing turns or downhill T-stops. 

It's not that I mind fast descents or even descents with curves or even S-curves, but the first of these is challenging enough even when braking most of the way. I think the concrete being harder rips through brake pads more quickly, and the heat was perhaps a factor making it worse. Also my concern for eebee meant I wanted to slow down even AFTER the sharp right-left downhill, as she had waited for me to clear out of the way before starting in case I didn't succeed. I'm sure these turns are not as problematic on a well-tuned bicycle, but they are not like the rest of the trail by any means. And on a less that well-tuned bicycle, they could be challenging as well. The main point is that a little extra engineering by someone who knew the challenges or consulted people who did could have made a difference, we believe. 

Note: If we recall it correctly, the S is after the fourth hill on the detour, and after the bench on the left going west. There's also a spot that looks like it could be used as a runout (if you are going slowly enough) to the left before the downhill right-left.

The second section is where TomB acquired a Torx wrench last year, and just beyond the split-rail locust fence (or similar wood) on the left, the trail goes down somewhat sharply to Woodall Rd. (sometimes called Cemetery Rd.) at the bottom of which you are to make a 90 degree right, go over train tracks, and take a sharp left. If you miss the first turn you go into the ditch across the street or gravel near the tracks. TomB did patient semicircles down the trail. I was not feeling so patient, and neither was eebee. I think I could have done the semi slaloms, but by this point my feet were feeling pretty bad and I was not too sure about it. Here's a street view.


Again there are plenty of skaters who can handle this, but that's not the entire point of a rail trail. We're fairly experienced with downhills but I still consider this not great fun in at least these two places. I hope the PATH folk have not given up on making the trail follow the old Silver Comet route more closely in the future. I don't wish for someone to die, but once the right ones do, I hope this part of the trail will be rebuilt along the old route. It could be a real money maker for them over the years to let the trail go through. Now that the cement is down, I wonder if they'll do it. 

To be fair, I don't know how the road detour would have felt on such a hot day. We had picked one that went around the hill as the old Silver Comet did, but on the southern side. There would likely have been less shade, perhaps would have been some rough road, and probably would not have been much traffic on the roads we chose, but without doing it, there's no way to know how it may have felt. (That's true every time you go out, but with three of us I think it likely would have gone very well. And if I could have the climbs on the trail without the sharp turns, that'd be fine.)

Coming into Cedartown, I realized the WHOLE NEW BRAKEPAD was burned up and I had very little left for the rest of the day. This was unfathomable to me! Near downtown we went off trail to do straight-right on the road instead of right-leftbend into the station, because I was not going to brake there but loop back. We passed a fire truck blocking traffic because of a downed power line here, and they let us pass with nothing but a few strange friendly looks.

Next was a much-anticipated visit into the Citgo Niña Blanca #2 where we knew there were Coca-Colas and Gatorades and smiles. It was true, but they didn't have chilled chocolate milk, so TomB went elsewhere to look for his sustanance. The crowd of family and friends in the Citgo store (a small grocery with a fresh meat counter at the back!) were very amused and friendly, and they gave us some ice to take with us. We went over to the Cedartown rail station converted to a welcome center and a woman name Lillie let us sit and recover a bit as we rehydrated and recoloried in air conditioned comfort. It was at this point we considered pickup times at Anniston and TomB called our ride hero, Ileana.

Leaving Cedartown, I still had a popsicle and I think so did eebee, and we were munching on that as we rolled. I was conscious of having very little brake, so I was skating with that in mind (letting others call traffic instead of going up to do it as I often do, just altering my usual way to accomodate not using the brake). Eebee was behind a bit for some reason like eating the popsicle, and TomB and I went through some strange reflector bumpstrips installed in a turn leading onto a wooden slatted bridge...these were silly things installed by people who don't ride or skate, surely. Crazy dangerous things that look good in a catalog or presentation. I feared sliding laterally and falling due to those strips, but it didn't happen. 

Heading out of town I sensed some urgency in TomB. I thought maybe we had taken too long at rest and maybe he wanted to get on with it, though he was entirely friendly all day. It takes determination to make it and I think he was dreading the section from Cedartown to the border of Alabama, as (when you are hot and tired) it is boring (scenic but the same scenic), concrete and largely long slow uphill or feels that way. Whatever the case, I was conscious that he was setting a bit of a hot or at least persistently constant instead of flowing pace in terms of being able to do it the rest of the day, at least for me. (Oh by the way, my muscles had started to spell C-R-A-M-P-S and I was nursing them by coasting when I could and rubbing my quads.)

Also, now, it seemed hot, really hot, and still, very still, out there on the long straight stretches of the trail between the tall trees and not much else.

This was a tough section, as it was last time, but I looked forward to the border, thinking incorrectly of it as the high elevation around there, and knowing if we needed it there were some tables in shade. 

At some point eebee and I noticed TomB rotating back to 3rd or 2nd and when 2nd not closing the gap on 1st as much as he normally would. He said something about being tired and maybe something about it being hot. We all looked forward to the border. When you think of it, if there's no water there, the border is not that much to hope for, but I think the surface switches to asphalt there too. 

I was prepared to not stop but it seemed we should. I could tell eebee was feeling good then, and strong, and TomB and I thought it was really hot there with no wind. I said something like can we go on and make it a rolling rest stop so we'd have some wind blowing on us at least. I think at this point eebee thought we'd already been taking it somewhat slow. That's a good sign that she was strong at mile 61.5. 

I felt I was heating up at the border picnic tables, and the rest agreed, so we rolled on and I determined to be serious about recovering the legs from cramps, keeping or getting cool, and making sure I kept a pace I could maintain. 

Now on the Chief Ladiga Trail, we were on a really beautiful section with lots of stream crossings, well made bridges, nearby small mountain views, a few farms, interesting walls of rock through which the train tracks were blasted initially, and more rocks and debris as well. I was recovering the quads and they were coming along, eebee seemed very strong, and TomB was a bit better off there but looking forward to the grocery store in Piedmont, AL. 

[Tourism note: A really great short visit which we have done is to go to the Piedmont, AL Welcome Center and go east to the border about 13.5 miles away (or as far as you like) and return. This puts you on one of the scenic sections of the trail without having to get there too tired or too behind schedule to pause and enjoy some fine scenery, including streams and ponds and opportunities to see wildlife, plus open farmland by roads with mountains behind.]

I was looking forward to the water fountain there, as I had realized with some pride and perhaps relief that I wasn't sweating much. At first I commented on this to see if others' jerseys had dried in the front mostly, and I didn't get much reply or didn't understand it. The sun was getting lower in the sky and I thought maybe it was cooling off, but I wasn't feeling that cool or hot at the moment. As I thought of it more I thought this lack of sweating might be a sign of some heat problems, so I considered if I had chills at all. I think I had a very few moments with a slight chill but I recalled no chill bumps so I was not too worried. I felt good, not at all dizzy, not all that hot, just a bit cramped but with only 20-25 miles to go.

But I also decided then that when I got to the Piedmont, AL welcome center I was going to take eebee up on her offers to dowse some water on me. I had decided by then that one difference in her comfort level was she had put water on herself and I had kept mine to drink, and had not filled a water only bottle for the border section...which is a mistake, especially since there's no water out there at the border in the middle of nowhere, even if there must be some new cell phone towers going up, given that we saw communications company trucks out there on a hot Sunday afternoon. 

SO IT IS IMPORTANT TO CARRY EXTRA WATER BETWEEN CEDARTOWN, GA AT 50 MILES OR SO AND PIEDMONT, AL AT 75 MILES OR SO. This would be a great improvement for the trail if they could put a water stop at the border. If there was water there, I didn't see it. 

So we somewhat slogged through some of the prettiest sections of the Chief Ladiga, not stopping for views or photos, hoping that pretty stuff could go by so we could get to Piedmont's welcoming facilities at around mile 75 from our start. When we hit the welcome center I sat by the water fountain and waited my turn, deciding I could pour water on myself and maybe not get any in my boots if I remained seated with my legs extended (well it didn't work that way in the end, as I was so joyously wet when I stood up that a lot of water eventually ran down on and inside my boots).

The artificial sweat of clean water revived me considerably. I knew we had about 19 miles to go, and I remembered that some of those miles were not entirely easy, at least mentally. But as a man came along to ask eebee how we were doing, I realized I could do that 19 miles without doubt and without it feeling dangerous health wise. I just should have put water on me more often and earlier, I think...and certainly as soon as I felt my jersey being dry.

So we went to join TomB at the Lively's Foodland grocery, where they were also amused and friendly and happy to sell us what we needed. I got a couple of 20 oz. Cokes and a 32 oz. Gatorade I think, and also bought a small plastic bottle of 3-in-1 oil to cure the sound of mice in training that had been driving me crazy for several miles. I gave some to TomB who also had some noises in his bearings I had imagined.

From Piedmont, I had remembered lots of roots and debris from last year. That's good, because there was less of this than I remembered, even if there was a lot. As I had said to the man at Piedmont, you pay for shade with roots and limbs. And after all those miles, roots underfoot mean pain. 

I think I enjoyed this section more than previous times, and I was feeling stronger and actually for brief moments, perhaps useful to the other two, who had done so much time up front and waiting on my mechanical problems, especially. There were times I was taking a rotation up front or as 2nd to pull the 3rd while 1st was gapped up front a bit. eebee seemed to do less well a few minutes after Piedmont, and I think it was a combination of the roots and rough bridge slats and other roadshocks, and a decision at Jacksonville to not bring her cooloff pouring water.

At some point after the University at 87 miles or so, we reminded TomB that he didn't have to stay with us if he wanted to sprint ahead for the last couple of miles. He took us up on it at some point and eebee and I rolled on with me asking her how she felt. She gave me a puke factor of 7 at one point, which got to 8, but no higher. We generally agree that if one of us throws up it's time to quit, so we were avoiding that at all costs. Once I realized she had just water in her pack, we blew air in to make water spray over her head and neck and back, and that seemed to help.

Once we saw the Dollar General in Weaver, we knew we were near the finish and we relaxed some knowing the pain or possible dangers were mostly over. I had considerable left foot pains and truly rare right foot rubbing (the latter must have been just how I put the boots on), and since Piedmont, my feet had been squishing in water and softening along the way, making it possible that I was getting some (thicker) callouses and blisters of note.

On the last stretch by the road, a car driver from slightly below and maybe thirty yards away, honked at us in an unexpectedly friendly gesture, and that was a nice moment. One more little bridge, then slow enough to make the turn into the parking lot and gazebo, and we were done! TomB was there chilling at the gazebo, and Ileana arrived within three minutes it seemed.

I had extra clothes along and enjoyed a warm shower in the rest room facility at the gazebo. I had noticed this the last time, and this time I decided to give it a try. What an excellent way to finish before getting into the car to ride back the couple of hours to our start location.

After lots of tech talk on the way back, including the Google Nexus One, Android, Google Voice, Java ME/J2ME, the LG Rumor Touch, Sprint.com, Verizon.com, Google Mail, eBay.com, AdSense and more, we were back at Nickajack Elementary School. Postponing dinner as a bunch, eebee and I chose our bad food carefully as we went homeward, selecting appropriately named Tombstone Pizzas.

Was there a time I thought we would not finish? No. Did I think we'd not finish by sunset? No. I had more doubt before we started than once we started. I knew we were taking it as a tour and the time would be slow once I got a look at my heart rates in the first third and had the mechanical delays. I knew the hilly twisty section would be hard in the heat (uphill) and on the feet (downhill twisty) and on the S turn I had to clamp down on my brain to not bail out but commit to slide out if I had to. I probably wasn't close to losing grip on the pavement in those conditions, but it felt possible!

I don't yet know how long we took as I avoided knowing, but I am dead sure it was pretty slow including stops (many would say not including them). But TomB knew ahead of time that we'd be tour skating and wasn't too worried about time, so it was a fine day out. Hopefully putting in 94 miles is better than a lot of other options, even if slow miles are in order. I think we did spend more time stopped than he'd do on his own, so I hope he gets to do this with skaters at his level.

But on this hot day it was not so bad that we took some breaks, especially where it was relatively comfortable. We stayed too long at the border with no water or wind and probably would have been better off slow skating to the top of the elevation and coasting some down the next slope. Next time out I'd hope to rotate more often and remind others to rotate more. I can be up front more if we rotate more often and evenly especially early so we all set the pace and learn without having to speak how everyone's pace is doing. But all this is unimportant observation.

What's important is we spent many hours skating and meeting people and spending time with friends during and on the way home.

Thanks to Ileana, we all had a full day of pursuing skateylove.





Silver Comet Trail Mile 0
United States
33° 50' 30.3144" N, 84° 31' 4.0692" W
Chief Ladiga Western Terminus
United States
33° 44' 15.4536" N, 85° 49' 5.4804" W


Difficult, roadskater, but easier the more you do it

Ah, Blake, you know I'm a sucker who will always join you for these crazy skates when I can!  I'll comment on a few items from your post, in order.

But first, I have to ask: Where are the pictures?

Regarding skating to Coot's Lake store and back, rather than tunnel & back, I would suggest going all the way to Rockmart and back.  Not much further, and you can stop and have lunch at Frankie's.

Someday we'll try the trail in the other direction.  Yes, probably more difficult, but it's on the list!

I have to say that I don't prepare as meticulously as you do.  6-8 gels, maybe 12-14 Endurolytes, a couple aspirin just in case, three full water bottles (on a day like we had) so I have enough to drink between refill opportunities.

I love living on the trail.  So easy to skate down from Mile 1.1 to Mile 0 for a skate like this.

I love this comment: "TomB planted a bomb of doubt when he said something about how long it takes to get to the Brushy Mountain Tunnel because it all starts to look alike out there..."  Yes, there are some parts of the trail that seem to take forever.  That stretch before the tunnel is one part.  There are a lot of false positives, when it looks like the tunnel is right around the corner but it's not.  I think that the stretch between Cedartown and the state line is like that.  As is the stretch just before you pull into Piedmont.

I love your description of the bathrooms in Rockmart, the "Not Everybody Welcome Center."  It's true, but that's never stopped us!

The portion fo the trail between Rockmart and Cedartown is the toughest part of the trail.  They call it the Silver Comet Rail Trail, but it simply is not a rail trail at that point.  I had a lot of fun with Paula when she and I skated it on July 4th.  I would point at the railroad tracks and say "rail trail" and then quickly point to the Silver Comet and say "not a rail trail"!  I did that over and over.  Never got tired of it!

Yes, those ants were very entertaining.  Which reminds me, where are the pictures I took of the ants?!

The downed power line in Cedartown was very interesting!  That is a very dangerous situation.

That hispanic store in Cedartown has lost my business twice now.  If you don't have chocolate milk, I'm taking my business elsewhere!  Simple as that.

At the state line I was feeling my worst.  I did want to get moving so I recall that I pulled most of the way from Cedartown to the state line.  And it was HOT!  I was overheated at that point.  After we started the downhill towards Piedmont, with less effort (although going faster, because it was downhill), I cooled down and began to feel a lot better.  By the time we got to Piedmont (and after cooling down in the frozen foods section of the grocery store PLUS my usual chocolate milk) I felt a lot better, ready to finish strong (or at least strongER).  Blake, I know you loved being doused with water at the fountain near the Piedmont visitor's center, but the frozen food section in the grocery store was every bit as good, I assure you.

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