Looking back towards Black Mountain from near the end of US 70
Note the start of fall colors
Barbara, my wife, and I drove from our home in north Asheville to Black Mountain. This saved me about 20 miles and meant I didn't have to deal with riding through Asheville. We stopped for coffee and scones at a bakery and then she headed back to work and I headed east on US 70.
US 70 parallels I-40 for a few miles east of Black Mountain. Then it is closed - has been for more than 20 years - so I rode Mill Creek Road down out of the mountains to near where US 70 starts again. Mill Creek Road is dirt with some fairly large gravel, so it isn't a great road for road bike -even on my touring bike that long descent beats me up - but it a very pretty ride down a steep, heavily forested valley.
Old 70 is also a very pretty ride before Old Fort, and it is much smoother, and flatter, than Mill Creek. After Old Fort, it gets hillier and, between Old Fort and Marion - about ten miles - it has a fair amount of traffic and no shoulder. After Marion the traffic is much lighter.
It took me about half an hour to ride through Marion, so it was almost noon when I stopped for lunch at the east side of Marion - The Market Grill. The food was cheap, good, and there was lots of it. Too much of it (!) since, after cleaning my plate, I suffered some tummy pain as I climbed the bigger hills on my way to Morganton. The hills get steeper around Glen Alpine, up to 5 or 6% grade from the 2 0r 3% grade before that. Nice riding, but it would have been even nicer if I had not eaten quite so much lunch!
I took NC 18 / US 64 northeast from Morganton to Lenoir and NC 18 on to wilksboro. It is a good road with a decent shoulder almost all the way. In Lenoir, I took the 18 bypass which was nice fast riding, but a mile or two longer that going directly through town on 18. Between Morganton and Lenoir I began seeing puffy white clouds ahead. After Lenoir they turned dark and threatening. I knew there was a big storm front coming, and I sped up a bit hoping to make it to Wilksboro before the storm hit.
I did get rained on several times before I reached Wilksboro, but just by passing bands of light rain. When I reached Wilksboro, it was raining lightly so I headed over to the first service station / convenience store I saw to ask about motels. There was a long line at the counter, so I walked over to a utility truck that had just pulled in and asked the two guys in it where I should go to find a motel. They told me, but it was a bit complicated so without my asking and without saying they would, they led me to the motels. A nice way to end a nice day of riding.
At the motel, the woman at the desk asked me if I had "been on the road long." I grinned and said "only since 10 AM this morning." I was pleased that, after over two months off the road, I still look like I have been on the road for a while.
88 miles with 3500 feet of climbing in 6 hrs and 20 minutes of riding. In addition to stopping for lunch in Marion, I stopped for two snack breaks between Morganton and Wilksboro. The weather was warm, dry, and the wind was light until north of Lenoir.