How I Made it to the Top of Brasstown Bald

Through a little luck, perseverance, and the help of a few friends from the Dodge Tour de Georgia media crew, I reached the summit of Brasstown Bald where it is lightly snowing at the present time. Here's my story:

  • 12:10pm, [ Left the parking lot in Gainesville, GA after the start of Stage 5 of the Tour de Georgia. Headed for the mountain top finish at Brasstown Bald. ]

  • 1:14, We left the race start in Gainesville, GA at noon in a rush today, in order to get to Brasstown Bald. I was originally scheduled to ride with another reporter covering the race, but we were unable to connect. My car was supposed to be driven by a Tour de Georgia security person, but I ended up taking it back.

    Now I'm following a Tour de Georgia marshall's vehicle that contains the staff from the Media Tent in Gainesville. We're racing up the "Alternate Route" and we're making very good time. At one point we were on Georgia Highway 60 and we passed Dahlonega, but I'm not sure what road we're on now. I'm planning to show my media credential if anyone tries to stop me from going up the road at any point.

  • 1:17, I guess the trip odometer on the Nissan Sentra I rented only goes up to 1,000 miles, since the last time I looked it said 990-something. That's kinda funny.

  • 1:20, I wish there was someone who was riding with me to man a video camera so we could record the kind of lines we're taking through some of these turns. The road is not switch-backed at this point, but we're doing turns where we're going 1/3 to halfway around a circle and the road is definitely banked one way or the other. The marshalls van is hard to follow because it stands so upright on the road that I can't see cars or bikes in front of them.

    As the road went up hill, some of the more performance-oriented Dodge vehicles provided by the sponsor blew by the Sprinter van. I decided to stay with the Sprinter because they helped me get to this point.

    We just passed a Lone Star Flag painted on the road with the word "Thanks" written above it. I wonder if this stretch of the road is part of the course.

  • 1:23, We just passed a sign that read "Entering Union County" and another that said an Appalachian Trail trail head is here.

  • 1:29, One of the things we still have questions about is a directive sent out yesterday that said that credentialed vehicles would be allowed on the Georgia Highway 180 Spur until 3:00pm. The van in front of me is an official Tour de Georgia vehicle, while my car is not, but I have a credential around my neck. It will be interesting to see what the police are going to have us do up ahead.

  • 1:31, We just made a right turn on Georgia Highway 180 and passed a sign that said 12 miles to Brasstown Bald.

  • 1:36, We're about 10 miles from Brasstown Bald and we're starting to see spectators standing up here. I've seen course markers so we are on the course now. Another thing we're seeing is that amateur cyclists are riding in both directions on Highway 180, which is a two-way road. We had been told that cyclists other than the racers would not be allowed on Brasstown Bald, but where this exclusion takes effect is unclear to me. Another thing I saw was a sign staked by the side of the road that reads "No Paint on the Road". I wonder why. [ Subesequent reports indicate that this is a National Park Service restriction. ]

  • 1:38, I just got a call from Robbie {Bain} from the vehicle in front of me. I didn't realize that they knew I was behind them, They said that I would probably have to park my car someplace along here and jump in the back with them. That's real nice of them that they will help me get to the shuttle. Good thing that I brought my little recorder so I'll be able to describe where the car is parked.

  • 1:43, It's suddenly wall to wall cars parked on both sides of the road. Apparently this is the outer limits of the big crowds. We're just within 10 kilometers to go.

  • 1:44, I'm really surprised that they've let all these vehicles come up this far. It's just wall-to-wall cars up here. I should take a picture of this because it's just insane. I've never seen this many cars parked along the roadside in the Tour de France. I'm sure that by the time they get to this point, the riders will be fairly strung out. I hope there's some place for me to park up here.

  • 1:52, We just hit 5 km. We're coming to the 180 Spur junction. I'm assuming that I'm going to have to dump my car here somewhere and get in an official vehicle. I can't believe they're going to allow me to go up the spur.

  • 1:55, Believe it or not, they've let me onto the spur. Now I'm on the road going up the hill onto the Brasstown Bald. I just passed a sign that says "No parking for the next 3 miles." I'm driving up the road that the riders are going to ride up to the finish. I have no idea where we are going to park up at the top, but they let me in, so here I go.

  • 1:56, I thought that no bikers other than racers we're going to be allowed on the mountain, but now I see amateurs ascending and descending on this road. This makes driving tough because we are having to take whatever line we can up this narrow two-way road to avoid both walking spectators and cyclists.

  • 1:58, I wish I'd brought my Garmin Forerunner 201 because it would be really interesting to plot the slope of the 180 Spur to see how steep it really is. I would say this is not as steep as l'Alpe d'Huez and it's not as switchbacked to that extent, but the people who are walking up here have a good forward lean going. Oh, now we're coming to the first switchback. I can see from the sign ahead.

  • 2:08, I've hit a large parking area. There's room for quite a few cars here. The cars ahead of me have come to a stop. It looks like this is the end. I'm seeing fencing to separate riders and spectators. It looks like where we might end up parking.

    I just spotted a road which exits this area and continues up the hill. God knows where that goes. Maybe this isn't the end.

  • 2:10, Here's the big screen, so I guess maybe this is 1 km to go. Man, we've got another kilometer. Where are we going to go?

  • 2:19. I've found the Clif Bars in the trunk of the car!

  • 2:32, I'm walking and about half a k from the summit {breathing heavily, carrying a fanny pack and a full laptop bag}. I'm inside the barriers now.

  • 2:43, Arrived at the Media Center in the Brasstown Bald Observation Tower. Started up my laptop.