I have been waiting for this weekend for a few years now and it did not disappoint. Not literally this weekend per say, but the weekend that I could bring my boy to Pisgah to ride. And if the weekend had a theme, it would be, "Welcome to Pisgah"
We got to N.Mills River campground area around 7:15 to meet up with some local trouble makers, Jonathan, J, and Shrimper. We were all volunteering to help at the P111 this weekend and they were running around marking the course when we got to camp. By the time they showed up, camp was set and I was enjoying a Dog Fish Head 60min IPA while Logan gulped down a IBC Root Beer. (Camping Tradition).
Knowing that we needed to be at the Start/Finish around 5:30, we got to bed fairly early. Saturday 4:30AM rolled around pretty quickly. We packed up everything except the tent and headed out for our first MTB adventure in Pisgah.
Logan was excited by the race environment and the thought of riding later. At 6am, race starts at 8, he requested that the bike be removed from the car so he could ride around. I initially thought this is a bad idea with cars and riders everywhere, but what the heck, we are here to ride. Go enjoy. Well shortly after the start of the race we got our things together for our first ride. I decided we should head up Thrift Cove and ride the bottom of Black Mountain. This would be the first test. He did really well and kept a good pace the whole way up the two mile climb. We paused at the trail intersection for some safety advice and then proceeded to drop in. For the most part he kept the speed in check and totally enjoyed the ride. About 100 yards before the bottom he hits a football size rock, it pops up and smacks his big ring and bends it all up. Welcome to Pisgah! We walk the bike back to the car, perform some delicate surgery with a pair of pliers, and we head out for round 2. This time I drive us to the top of 225 and park at the campsite right before the connector trail. I explained to him the whole way up 475 and 225 that we were going to ride back up this, so be prepared. The only reason we are doing it this way is because I want you fresh for the technical downhill section. We drop into Cove Creek and he quickly realized this is much more technical than Black. There are 2' drops, large rocks, and mud holes everywhere. He only slipped out one time and hit the ground pretty quickly on a slimy rocky rooty section. Welcome to Pisgah! Then we get to one of the many stream crossing that are bridged by a few logs. He slips, barely holds on to his bike, I grab his hoodie, and we recover. That was a close one! It was about a 6' drop to a rocky wet stream bed. A little more caution was shown at the remaining 5 crossings. He also got to experience some technical hike a bike after one of the bridges. It was a really good introduction to what is out there. We press on, hit the Davidson River Trail and then start our climb up 475. My expectations of the climbing pace where quickly changed. Surprisingly, he was holding a pace typical of an all day ride with the guys, ~6mph. Then the next thing I know he starts turning the screws a little and pulling away. This makes me chuckle because I know we still have about 3 miles of this left, but I follow and don't say anything. This pace starts to become a little uncomfortable. I pass him at a switch back to see what he has and then I turn around and he has stopped for a drink. Looking back, I should have attacked, but I did not know it was that kind of ride. Instead I turn around and talk to him about being half way there. I remind him that once you see Looking Glass on your Right it is a left hand turn and you are almost there. We start up again and the pace is even faster, ~8mph. This is the kind of pace you might carry on a long endurance race day, sustainable yet painful. He has about a 30' gap on me and he keeps checking to see if I am still back there. It occurs to me that we are now racing. So I turn it up enough that I think I can catch him at the end, because he has to blow up at this rate. I turn the left hand corner after looking at the big rock to the right and holly crap, he has a 70 yrd gap. This is not good. First, was he listening about the left hand turn up 225 or is he going to go down the back side of 475B? I start yelling take the left because I realize that I will not catch him by the turn. I get to the intersection and I can not see him, luckily another rider is coming up at the same time and responds that a 10 year old did not pass him a few seconds ago. Cool, now I just have to catch him. So at this point I am in full attack mode. There is no way he is going to beat me to the car on his first real Pisgah Climb. I pulled to within about 20yrds of him, but could not make close the gap. He beat me back! "Wow" is all I could say. That was unexpected and emotions of pride and defeat overwhelmed me. He explained that he thought he was going to throw up and how bad it hurt. He could not believe he just climbed for 4 miles. "Welcome to Pisgah!" I love the fact that he is willing to go that far into the pain cave for a win. You can not teach that.
We loaded up the car again. At this point we had about 13 miles under our belts and it was 11AM. If we hurry, we can see the leaders coming down Pilot Rock in time to make it back to the start/finish. This time we hike, and I continually explain to him that this is one of the hardest downhills in the forest. I really wanted him to see first hand how dangerous this area can be. We stopped a few of the scenic areas for drinks and lunch, then press on. We met up with Shrimper at the top where Logan learned the valuable skill of heckling the racers as only Shrimper can teach. Shrimper would blow his horn and yell "PEDAL" at the top of his lungs. Logan apparently thought this was really cool, because on the way down the mountain he yelled PEDAL as loud as he could at everyone that passed no matter how technical the section was. We made our way down slowly getting passed every few minutes and jumping into the woods. We got back to the car around 2pm and I quickly realized that I do not have my keys. Oh Crap! So I tell Logan that I remember having them at the Pilot rock garden and I be back. I make it back up there and look around, no keys. This is not good. I get back to the car, starting to panic, borrow a cell phone, and call the Wife. She calls the Ranger station and Jonathan. Since I don't know what is going on, I start thinking about my options. 1. I can break the car window. 2. walk up to the check point and get a ride to the start finish. 3. go back up Pilot again. Since it was about 3PM at this point, I figure I have about 5-6 hours of day light. I might as well keep looking. So I start up Pilot for the 3rd time after telling Logan to hang tight at the car. On the way up I say a little prayer and request a small miracle. I don't need any seas parted or talking bushes, just a ray of light shining on my lost keys. My way up this time is much more methodical. I am trying to remember every spot I jumped off the trail to let a racer by, or where I may have stopped to adjust the back pack that the keys were in. Then about a mile up I see the blue shine of my bottle opener and the keys are just sitting on a rock that we had stopped and took a break on. Oh Yeah! I grab them up and hold them tight as I run back towards the car. On the way down I pass Logan while laughing and and dangling the keys from my hand. What a relief to open the car and start it up.
And in typical Pisgah fashion there is always an adventure. "Welcome to Pisgah!"
Once I got a signal on my phone, I called Heather to let her know everything is okay, and I send a text to Jonathan letting him know that we will not be going back to the start finish. We are spent and just going to the camp since it is now 5:30PM.
We resolve to the fact that we are just going to get some dogs and roast them over the camp fire and relax the rest of the day. On the way out to Food Lion we pass a P111 racer. He is walking up N. Mills Road towards 280. I pull over and ask him if he is okay. His response is that he wrecked bad around Trace, his knee and helmet was busted up, and was just going to ride the road back to the start finish. Dude that is like 25 miles back. Let me pull over, arrange some things, and take you back. We drive him back and I can't help but think that maybe losing my keys was not so bad after all. It gave me the opportunity to help a racer that may not have been helped otherwise. We drop him off and because we are so tired we just head to the store for food and straight back to the campsite. I was in bed by 8:30 completely toasted from a day that I thought would be fairly easy.
Before I laid my head on the Thermarest, I had to tell Logan how great the day was and "Welcome to Pisgah!"
Now that is a weekend to remember.
Enjoy the Experience.