Posts tagged ‘photos’

Red Mountain 1200s – revisited

After riding out to see firsthand yesterday’s tornado damage, I decided to go climb my favorite spots on Red Mountain that have an elevation greater than 1200ft because I spent a lot of time yesterday looking at the topo maps of the far northern end of Red Mountain near Chalkville and Clay. I call all of these spots the “Red Mountain 1200s”, and I wrote about them just over a year ago when I climbed them in December 2010.

Complete ride map Strava data here –

I pieced together these panorama photos I took on Shades Mountain looking towards Red Mountain. The labeled spots are all the places I crossed Red Mountain on my ride today. The 1200 ft spots are Ruffner Mountain (#5), St Vincents East Water Tower (#6), and Turncliff (#7). Ruffner and Turncliff each have two different 1200 ft summits for a total of 5 different 1200+ summits on the ride.

Part 1 – Red Mountain ridge crossings annotated – the 1200ft spots are #5, #6, and #7 on the northern end of the ridge which starts out from higher elevation (i.e, the whole valley is uplifted in that direction). This picture is taken from the Vestavia Dr high pt on Shades Mountain.

Part 2 – Red Mountain ridge crossings annotated – the 1200ft spots are #5, #6, and #7 on the northern end of the ridge which starts out from higher elevation (i.e, the whole valley is uplifted in that direction). This picture is taken from towards the bottom of Vestavia Dr on Shades Mountain.

Birmingham annotated along with the mountains northeast of Birmingham … this picture was taken on Crest Ln on Red Mountain

So I wasn’t planning on going hard, but I knew that there were ton of steep climbs. As I got farther into the ride, I realized that trying to “go easy” was pretty much pointless because the terrain was either straight up or straight down pretty much the whole ride. I started out with a new climb up the Vestavia Forest ridge using the road that Jacob Tubbs had posted to Strava the other day. Then I took one of my favorite routes through Homewood to my first crossing of Red Mountain by the WBRC42 radio tower … this route involves climbing through a couple alleys, one driveway, a radio tower, two tree crossings and the Vulcan trail.

Then I headed down the mountain part of the way towards 5 points south before climbing back up towards the Vulcan before veering onto Warwick Dr to finish the second crossing of Red Mountain. I headed back down via a 49mph descent of Woodcrest before climbing back up via the 16th ave south alley with its super steep gradient including one section that might be close to 30% if you take the inside part of the switchback.

Google Maps streetview image of the 16 ave so climb up Red Mountain … this is the unrotated version giving you an idea of the angle the Google Maps car was at when it took this picture

I descended again off the mountain over by Altamont before climbing back up again via Clairmont / 58th and then descending again at 49mph on Southcrest. I headed over to Oporto Madrid Blvd which could be better known as the “Ruffner Mountain” bikeway since it is the easiest way to get from Crestwood over to Ruffner Mountain. Technically, Oporto Madrid also crossed the Red Mountain ridge, but it is so low that I don’t really count it.

Finally, I made it to the first of the Red Mountain 1200s … Ruffner Mountain starts out with a gradual climb on Rugby before the grade really kicks up on 81st all the way to the Nature Center where you can hop a curb onto a somewhat paved trail up to the old firetower. From the nature center to the firetower averages 12% for 1/2 mile with a few short sections well over 20%. My original plan was to head back down the mountain past the nature center and take an alternate road in the valley to get back to the next crossing, but instead I decided to explore the trail across the top of the mountain, which I had never done before. It switches from paved to double track as soon as you turn right off the firetower. Then the double track turns into a dirt single track which takes you down very steeply to a saddle between the two 1200+ ft summits. The second ridge was way too steep (20-30%) and rutted for me to ride with the wet conditions from the rain from the thunderstorms yesterday morning so I just ran up the whole thing (maybe 1/10th of a mile). Once you make it to the water tower on top of the second ridge, there is a dirt / gravel access rd that descends very steeply to the Observatory Rd neighborhood.

From Observatory Rd, I descended down into South Roebuck before climbing back up to the St Vincents East hospital. There is a cement access ramp (see pics at the end) with a gradient well over 30% that leads onto a gravel rd which eventually turns into a leaf covered double track 16-18% climb to the water tower which at 1275 ft is the highest 1200+ ft summit that is accessible by bike (that I know of) on Red Mountain. Turning around at the top so as not to disturb the person working on the radio tower, I headed back down to the hospital and descended the other side towards Trussville. Just before you cross under the interstate, you can turn left into a really odd (but extremely cool) neighborhood called “Turncliff”. What makes this neighborhood really cool is that there are no houses until you get to the somewhat flattened summit of the climb. Along the way there are a few switchbacks and then a rolling section through a kudzu forest (i.e., kudzu has completely taken over). Towards the top, there is a very steep access road to the radio towers that is gated off. You can go around the gate, but you have to dismount and crawl through a narrow opening in the kudzu. Today, however, the gate was wide open so that made it much easier since I didn’t have to remount and start uphill on a 15% gradient. At the top, I turned around immediately and went back down to finish climbing the rest of the way up to the Turncliff neighborhood which is lower than the radio tower summit, but still just barely above 1200 ft. There are some cool 90 degree turns right before you get to the neighborhood … then you finally make it to the neighborhood and there are maybe 15 houses all on the summit of the mountain.

This was the “out” part of my out/back ride so from there I turned around and headed back home – bypassing all the summit side roads/trails but crossing back over the ridges. On the way back, I descended the Valley Hill climb which I think might be the steepest climb in Birmingham at 27% … the Google Maps streetview pictures below are the best I can do to illustrate how steep the climb is. I took some pictures, which are in the gallery but nothing ever looks as steep in a picture.

Google maps streetview image of the Valley Hill climb

Rotated version of the Google maps streetview image of the Valley Hill climb

On the way back home, I ran into Lennie’s friend Aaron and rode back with him from Ruffner Mountain all the way to Cherokee Rd in Mountain Brook … it was fun talking about Leadville with him (he did it in 2009). When I finally made it back, I had climbed over 10,000 ft in a 63 mile ride. Here are some of the pics I took along the way:

January 24, 2012 at 11:17 pm Leave a comment

Adventures riding in the cold northland

New fallen snow at the lodge - sidewalks coveredTwo to one ratioDark!Snow covered ice skating pondThis is the hill warning sign on the opposite side of the valley from the hill sign that I took a picture of yesterdayBoth hills in one view
Lake Namekogan - distances to all the cabins along with the names of people living thereSnowmobile and ATV routes criss-cross all the roads up hereSnowmobile stop sign and curve sign (the backs of them)Lake Namekogan looking east - note the snowmobile tracks coming out from under the bridgeIce fishingSnowmobile tracks disappearing into the water
Great Divide of Northern WisconsinSnowmobile pulling an ice fishing hut

Wisconsin Divide, a set on Flickr.

We had an inch and a half of new snow last night so today’s ride was again on the mountain bike. The snow is perfect depth and texture for good riding as I discovered today since the road to the ski resort was completely covered all the way back out to Co Rd M. In northern Wisconsin, all the county roads get treated with salt and plowed on a regular basis so they remain relatively snow and ice free even with temps in the teens. Today I was riding through puddles and wet roads on Co Rd M and Co Rd D even with the temperature hovering around 20 degF.

The ride highlight for the day was on Co Rd D where I unexpected came across this large sign indicating the Great Divide of Northern Wisconsin. On the other side of the divide, was a long downhill. The internet connection here at the hotel is really spotty so I am waiting to upload the ride to see if it was an actual categorized climb. If you are ever wondering what I think about on long bike rides, I spent about 10 minutes of the climb working out in my head the vertical gain needed over a particular distance for it to count as a Strava Cat 4. I think to hit the 3% threshold, you need 158.4 feet of climbing per mile – I worked this out in my head making for a good distraction as I was trying to push the pace realizing that it was probably going to be pretty dark by the time I made it back to the lodge.

I pushed the pace really hard over the top of the climb and all the way back across Co Rd D to Co Rd M. I hit M just after sunset with about 12 miles left to get back to the lodge. With a cloudy, overcast sky it was already pretty dark. I could see fine even without a light, but I had to rely on my bright green neon vest for visibility. I got passed by about five or six cars on the mostly deserted road, but the last car was a local sheriff who put on his lights and told me to get in the truck that I couldn’t be out without a light. He was very nice and gave me a ride the last 3 miles back to the lodge. I apologized profusely for riding without a light as I had expected to be back well before sunset but had gotten delayed on my ride.

All in all, it was a great ride, and the pics at the top of this post are the ones I took along the way.

Yesterday, I did a shorter ride out/back on Co Rd M and also snapped a few pictures. Here they are on flickr enjoy!

Wind burnIce skating pondMountain bike beforehandRolling hills partial snow/ice coverageRustic roadTalk about multi-use … hiking, biking, ATVing, and snowmobiling
You can find hills anywhere if you look hard enough!Telemark ski resort mountainCold and pretty far north - check out the sunrise/sunset times!Finishing just after sunset 16.6 degF

Co Rd M – Mountain Bike, a set on Flickr.

December 29, 2011 at 9:16 pm Leave a comment

Sunday Adventure

Wow, what a great adventure yesterday was! We had tickets for the Andrew Peterson Christmas concert “Behold the Lamb” last night at the Ryman Center in Nashville and went on a fun double date with my cousins in Nashville. I left right after my daughter sang in a trio at Lakeside in the morning church service and rode north to Smoke Rise, AL where Kristine picked me up to drive the rest of the way to Nashville in time for the concert. The drive was highlighted by a u-turn on I-65 which had been blocked from an accident and then AWESOME rally car driving with Kristine as the navigator calling out distances to turns on very narrow country roads following my GPS set on bicycle directions. After a great dinner at Demos with Richard and Christy, an AMAZING concert, and a three hour drive back to Birmingham we were home by 2AM.

The Details
Analise was singing in a trio at the 10:30 church service at Lakeside so my original plans to ride from Birmingham to Huntsville and have Kristine pick me up got shortened to riding from Birmingham to Smoke Rise – a rural community south of Cullman atop the same ridge line as the finishing climb for the Tour de Cullman. I went ahead and rode to Lakeside so that I could leave straight from there after Analise finished singing and still make it to Smoke Rise in time for Kristine to pick me up to drive the rest of the way to Nashville.

The route was amazing. Check out the annotated topocreator maps of the route below the picture gallery. Low traffic, lots of great climbing, nearly half the route on roads I have never ridden before, and some fun adventure to boot! Adventure highlights from the bike ride include:

  • Exploring a neighborhood abandoned years ago after the streets were built but before any houses were built
  • Getting stung by a wasp or yellow jacket on my head just above my ear
  • Exploring new roads
  • The cool boat landing climb up from the Warrior river
  • And finally the Smoke Rise climb and descent

Probably the most adventuresome thing that happened on our drive up to Nashville was an accident that blocked the interstate causing us to do some rally car driving through the rural Tennessee countryside between exit 22 and exit 27. What I mean by rally car driving is that I set my GPS to biking directions and asked it to give us directions to the next exit, which it did by taking us on these really small, sometimes gravel roads. There were lots of sudden turns so I put the GPS on the screen which shows distances to the next turn, and Kristine counted down the distance to the next turn, which means we could drive fast without worrying about missing a turn. It was absolutely awesome because the terrain was really steep and there were a bunch of turns. I was careful though to slow down at any blind spots in case there were any cyclists, horses, people, or cars just around the corner. We saw nobody!

There’s a lot more I could say about the ride, but I’ll just leave this post with a lot of pictures. Most of these were taken while riding, which is not easy with an iphone.

topocreator map of the route

topocreator map of the route

December 19, 2011 at 9:29 pm 2 comments

Thankful for mostly traffic free roads

An annual tradition for me for the past three years (including this year) has been to incorporate some of the more busy roads around Birmingham into a Thanksgiving morning ride since there is relatively little traffic out on the roads on this holiday. This year I hit all four US highways that run through Birmingham (31, 11, 78, and 280) as part of a ride that climbed nearly 8000′ in just over 56 miles.

Topocreator ride map with lots of annotations Download huge version (4MB) here –

Ride elevation profile

Looking northeast along the Red Mountain ridge line towards Ruffner Mountain

UAB and Birmingham-Southern

Downtown Birmingham – annotated Carraway Hospital closed in 2008 –

Standing at the base of the lookout fire tower.

Steep switchback on the way back down from the lookout fire tower.

The last part of the climb up to the top of Vestavia Dr. A tornado leveled the trees here in April 2000, the trees that were planted have started to grow back (scroll down to the bottom of the church history page, righthand column to read about the tornado).

View looking northwest from Vestavia Dr towards Samford

View looking north towards Homewood from Vestavia Dr

Descent off of Hwy 31 – looking towards Oak Mountain, Indian Crest, Little Valley Mountain

Complete interactive ride data on Strava:

November 24, 2011 at 9:51 pm 2 comments

Mount Cheaha Revisited 4.25x

Awesome ride today doing hill repeats out on Mount Cheaha. I managed to climb it 4.25 times (yes I turned around about a quarter of the way up to restart the climb from state highway 49 when I was not happy with how the climb was going … just a number of random things interrupting the climb that made me say “enough” let’s go try this again since it was a first ascent for me from Lake Henry on Hwy 49). Yes, with the climb from Lake Henry, I think that means I have climbed Cheaha from every conceivable direction except for the mountain bike trail. This has been an unusual year in that I have had the opportunity to ride out at Cheaha at least 3 times this year including one ride from Birmingham.

About the Strava climbing competition, this ride today gives me even greater respect for the guys out in California who do most of their climbing on longer climbs like this one. It took me almost 5 and a half hours and a lot more effort to climb the same amount that I could do in under 4 hours on the smaller climbs and rollers around Birmingham. You just never get a chance to rest on these long climbs! Give me a 500′ rolling monster with pitches of 20+% any day over a 7% climb that just goes on and on forever. Still, it’s always fun to change things up a bit with long climbs like today on Cheaha and last weekend on Clingman’s Dome and the Blue Ridge Parkway. My personal preference for now is the smaller, steeper stuff because the descents are faster and more frequent.

View of a cloud covered Mount Cheaha from Cheaha Lake about 1200 vertical feet below the summit.

Nearing the top on the first time up the Cheaha climb — the longest version of the climb from below Camp Mac with an elevation difference of about 1800′ and total climbing exceeding 2500′.

The lookout tower on top of Mount Cheaha – the highest point in the state of Alabama – trying to peak out through the clouds.

Switchbacks climbing out of the Lake Chinnabee canyon.

The view looking southwest down the ridge line, plus a view of the road climbing up from the western side.

My bike after the ride … not looking so good after my accident on Wednesday (check out the right handlebar tape and the seat).

Finally, here is a link to the interactive data on Strava as well as a gallery of all the pictures I took on the ride. Hover over each picture for a caption.

November 21, 2011 at 1:47 am 2 comments

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Beach scenes Got to ride a couple miles of unfinished hwy 331. Any alligators out there?

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Brian Toone

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AT power estimated by critical power curve in Golden Cheetah, which predicts I should be able to maintain 315 watts for 1 hour.

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