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The Roan Moan
I consider the origin of the Roan Moan “Century” to be one of a couple of rides with the Yancey and Mitchell County boys. These boys were Wade Barnett, Donnie Laws, and Chris Boone. It may have been the second ride that we were joined by Bob Scofield and others.
These rides were the first that I had ridden over Roan Mountain. So I consider the introductory Roan Moan to be with these riders who live neath the "Roan".
We left Burnsville and descended beautiful Jack’s Creek!
We then rode along the Toe River and then the Cane River through Green Mountain, Relief, and Sioux. At Sioux we climbed the 4 miles over Spivey Mountain, also called Flat Top, and across the North Carolina/Tennessee State line. Also here at the Gap we start our 6-7 mile descent toward Ernestville, Tennessee.
The descent, toward Ernestville, is very dangerous. Riders need to be careful. Speed can be obtained quickly. A rider can often be “lulled” into a “flow of the road” and what was constant- is adverse. Curves become switch-backs. But this can often be said of mountainous roads.
We then rode through downtown Erwin, Tennessee.
From Erwin we rode to Limestone Cove, down Simmerly Creek over to 19East.
We took virtually the same route that is taken on the current Roan Moan. There are two differences. One is that today both the Roan Moan Metric and Century rides start in Bakersville. The second is that the first rides stayed on 19E to the town of Roan Mountain, TN. We actually made at least one U-turn on what was marked as “Old 19E” but is now merely a driveway.
The Roan Moan Century-A Work of Art!
Enjoy this video that includes part of the beautiful descent off the Roan.
Today both the Metric and Century go onto the Tweetsie Railroad Grade.
I found my way to the old Tweetsie Railroad Grade on a wintry day.
Since I can consider the first Roan Moan "century" (100 miles) to be with my "Roan" friends, I can also consider the first Roan Moan Metric to be a solo. I was now living “there”, below the Roan. And that first Roan "metric" was epic.
The year fails me now. My daughter was very young. Must have been late eighties/early nineties.
It was a cold January as always. Asheville had always been frozen in the winter. Bakersville was higher and colder than Asheville. There was a break on the Sunday. Toward mid-day the sun was bright. The warmth beckoned my bike and me into the light.
I would make a loop around Roan Mountain from Bakersville, NC. I studied maps and saw roads that left 19 East fairly quickly after leaving Simmerly Creek..
“This is what I may do today. I’ll knock this out and have a great evening with my family.” I assumed.
I had not ridden much. The Christmas season had me chained to the "Pro-Bikes" bike shop I owned in Asheville, NC.
This Sunday in January, I was naïve.
Starting from McKinney Cove the ride would be close to 68 miles – if I don’t go out of the way, get lost, etc.
The Metric route takes the rider through Loafers Glory, Red Hill, and Bula Dean.
Then there is the 2 mile climb over Iron Mountain.
Here riders can see the western view of the "Roan".
Over Iron Mountain is a dangerous descent of 4 miles to Limestone Cove. There we turn onto beautiful Simmerly Creek and enjoy a descent that is most of the 7 miles of Simmerly Creek to 19 East.
After I was on 19E for a mile I saw the road I was looking for, Bearcage. Bearcage would take me over to the Railroad Grade. But the map only had numbers.
I went the wrong way for a short time before getting back onto this new route and adventure.
For the first time- I saw the “cuts” where the railroad was made possible through a rugged terrain. The one lane road was the old Tweetsie Railroad Grade. The “Tweetsie Train” is now a tourist attraction in Blowing Rock, NC. But Tweetsie used to make two daily trips to Johnson City, Tennesse from Boone, North Carolina.
I can never ride through this area without thinking of how pleasant it seems to have been to clackity-clack from town to town and through gorges and by the Doe River on the Tweetsie. A newspaper, some coffee, scenery and clackity-clack.
I emerged from a new wilderness – at least for me -onto 19 East very near the village of Roan Mountain, TN.
Carvers Gap is 13 miles from the town of Roan Mountain, TN. Carvers Gap is the “top” for anyone in dire straits trying to get home. The very “summit” is another couple of miles on a road from Carvers Gap. From Carvers Gap though, one merely descends down a mountain to safety – if the road isn’t frozen. The sun was setting. By the time I was 4 miles from the Carvers Gap, it was completely dark. At the 3 mile point from the top of Carvers Gap, the road was ice. It was not just ice. It was ice about 3 or 4 inches thick. There was no traffic. There were no signs warning of peril of what ice on mountains can be.
I was able to ride for a long time. I always compare these “long times” to having a hand on a hot stove. A long time is “relative”.
I rode on ice for “a long time”.
Finally I couldn’t ride. The surface was too slippery. The surface was too smooth for traction. I put my foot down and would walk the rest of the way to the top of Roan –Carvers Gap.
I walked for a mile? I walked for two miles? I really don’t know.
Thoughts were running through my frozen head. “Perhaps tomorrow my body will be found. Next week in the weekly local paper a column may headline, “Local idiot cyclist freezes to death on Roan Mountain.”
After many eons I came to Carvers Gap. There was a different world on the North Carolina side of Roan Mountain. This side actually faces the south. The road was scraped but it also received more sun than much of the Tennessee side of Roan Mountain.
I was able to ride. But the road crackled. It crackled like the pavement on a lot of the Blue Ridge Parkway during the winter. But I imagined that it was ice crackling. I could hear streams and water-falls by the road and trickling under the road.
Being forgetful, over-confident, cocky, naïve – I brought no lights.
Now it was dark and I was descending on ice – or so I thought.
I slowly descended balancing safety and the thought of freezing to death high on the mountain.
It was another “hand on the hot stove”.
I drifted down to the Roan Valley Baptist Church. The service had ended and the congregation was disappearing into the night. And I would disappear right behind some of those who were heading downhill.
I was able to see very clearly using the lights of the cars as my own.
So – that was the first Roan Moan Metric bicycle ride for me.
The memory of that first "metric ride" is seared into me.
The Roan Moan is one of the prettiest bicycle rides a cyclist can take.
I didn’t have the view from the last couple miles. It's one of the prettiest ever.
I couldn’t see anything. But the ride is very vivid.
The route is sublime. And if one does ride the Roan often enough, they will be rewarded with the best memories that money cannot buy.
It takes heart and grit.
The Roan Moan is a magnificent test of character.
The Roan is majestic!
Roan Moan - Majestic Metric
Take a little time and enjoy this video I put together as well.
I've added another part of the Roan descent here.
The 16th Roan Moan for 2011 is Saturday, July 30.
The start/finish is 306 Baker Lane, Bakersville, NC which is also a corner for 226 North. The sponsor is always the Bakersville Volunteer Fire and Rescue Event.
The ride coordinator is Jim Carroll.
Event website is: http://bakersvillefireandrescue.org/roan.htm
" The Roan Moan offers a strenuous century, metric, quarter century. The metric and century rides tour the Toe River valley before passing into Tennessee. Major highlights include the old Tweetsie Railroad Grade and Doe River before the 7 mile "Moan" up and then over Roan Mountain, one of the highest peaks in the Eastern US. Barbecue and showers are provided after the ride."
The accumulative climbing for the Century is about 8700 feet.
The accumulative climbing for the Metric is about 5900.
Both- the Roan Moan Century and Roan Moan Metric -are MAJESTIC!
The Roan Moan is on active.com:
Following the 7 mile climb from the Tennessee side is the 13 mile descent on the North Carolina side. Of the 13 miles back to Bakersville - only a half mile to a mile has an ascent. The rest is almost free-fall.
Ride The Roan! It's MAJESTIC!
Check out some previous "Roan Moans":