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Chasing windmills

On Thursday before the snow, I had the day off and the opportunity to go for a long bicycle ride. My plans were for a return trip to the New River Trail at Foster Falls, Va. But on Wednesday I received an e-mail from Gary Poole about a series of measured rides that start at Gold Hill. The rides are used as a fundraiser for the Historic Preservation of Gold Hill, and were last done this past Memorial Day. The distances range from 36 miles to 62 miles, and are listed as 60, 70, 85, and 95 kilometer rides. The listed name for the series of rides is “The Windmill Tour Invitational.”
So, I loaded my bike with a camera, some energy bars and water and drove to the Gold Hill Park. No one was around, so I put on the bike helmet and dressed warmly for what I thought would be a fairly easy ride. I love to ride long trails, so riding on the pavement didn’t seem too daunting.
The course starts on St. Stephens Church Road and travels very quickly out of Gold Hill heading south. Countryside views are extraordinary on this course, yet I soon realized that there are way more hills than I expected. Some of those hills are very steep, and there are long grades that require downshifting to significantly lower gears.
As the difficulty increased, so did the sightings of windmills. The first one was in the middle of a field at about 7.9 miles of my intended 60K (36.3 miles). This windmill was still pumping water, as it had been for many years.
There were two more windmill sightings as I traveled through a portion of Cabarrus County. My 60K course was intended to differentiate from the longer courses at about 15.6 miles, but somehow I made a wrong turn and continued with the longer courses.
At this point, the hills and the cold wind were taking their toll. I thought the ride was turning into a scavenger hunt. I had plans for the evening and couldn’t get lost again, so concentration on each of the 25 turns became more important.
I saw another windmill at 18.4 and headed through a section of Stanly County called the Kendall Valley, then rode up a long grade back to U.S 52 at the Mauney Feed Mill. After a short, traffic-laden stint on U.S. 52, the course continued into New London and a food stop.
The energy provided by two Little Debbie Blueberry Cheese danishes and a couple bottles of water got me started on the home stretch back north at 28 miles. Just 14.1 to go and the hills became much less severe. Long stretches on familiar roads like Stokes Ferry, Bringle Ferry and finally St. Stephens Church Road brought the course to the end with the sighting of one more windmill.
Totals for the day included a 70K ride of 42.1 miles. There were five sightings of windmills; I missed two along the way.
There are about 18 miles of the 90K course that I have yet to ride, and two more windmills to see. That will be for another day!
More information on the Windmill Tour Invitational and the Historic Preservation of Gold Hill can be found at www.historicgoldhill.com or from Gary Poole at gpoole11@carolina.rr.com.
Future plans call for another official ride on Memorial Day 2010, and the $20 fee will include lunch after the ride.
It is still OK if you stop for blueberry danishes in New London.
– – –
David Freeze lives in Rowan County and is president of Salisbury-Rowan Runners.

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