I have a passion for creating cycling routes and providing event consulting . Bonus when the routes are in an area that is new to me. I believe that fresh eyes (and legs) open an area to a new perspective that can reveal roads that have been passed by local cyclists out of habit. We all tend to ride the same routes and loops over and over because, well, it’s easy and it takes time to plan new routes and we’re all short on time.
I was honored and excited when a non-profit group located just a short distance east of the state capital of Raleigh NC engaged me to design routes and provide cycling-specific consulting for a new charity cycling event. This group has members with deep experience in event management, but little experience with cycling events.
Raleigh is widely recognized as the Silicon Valley of the east and community leaders have done an excellent job to make their streets and trails cycling friendly. The Capital Area Greenway Trail System boasts over 100 miles of trails to explore. Naturally, there are thousands of cyclists who live and ride in the capital city. I am excited to introduce these cyclists to the communities of Wilson, Goldsboro and Rocky Mount to experience riding on the quiet country roads that are home to many of the farms that provide food to the capital city and beyond. Located only an hour drive or short Amtrak ride to the east of the Raleigh, Wilson NC is easily accessible for city dwellers. And, as many San Francisco Bay area knowledge workers know, there’s a direct flight from SFO to RDU…just sayin’.
My consulting work for this non-profit group includes creating routes for a new cycling event that will be held in April 2020 to raise funds and awareness for the North Carolina Jaycees Burn Center at UNC Health Center. I did the initial work from my office chair exploring maps, using satellite views, and images. The area is mostly undiscovered by cyclists and there was little pre-existing information to help guide my efforts. Perfect! I had a totally clean slate to begin my work and I embraced the challenge. I used my favorite route mapping tool, RideWithGPS, to design my first draft routes.
In early April 2019, I traveled to Wilson NC to test the draft routes by experiencing them on the bike. Here’s a summary of what I learned from the saddle:
The “wave factor” (my unscientific method of measuring how well a community accepts and welcomes cyclists) within the Wilson NC city limits was 100%. All of the people that I waved to, waved back at me and many said “how ya doing?”. As a cyclist, this made me feel very welcomed by the community which is not always the case. In fact, this is the highest wave factor that I’ve personally measured to-date, surpassing the excellent wave factor recorded in Staunton VA. Well done, Wilson!
The pavement is butter smooth for 99.9% of the route that I designed. I did find two potholes and, on my final day of riding, I spotted a NCDOT worker repairing one of them. The fuel tax in North Carolina, already considered high by residents, was increased from 35.1 to 36.2 cents per gallon in 2019 and evidence that the tax dollars are being used for road improvements is widespread in this portion of the state.
Spring brings lovely flowers and greenery to life throughout the route and multiple creek and river crossings provide scenic photo ops.
The route travels through farmland on mostly quiet country roads that are lightly traveled by motorists. Cotton is one of the crops grown in the area. According to a convenience store clerk who served up some ice cold water and regional information, other crops grown in the area include sweet potatoes, peanuts, tobacco and soybeans.
As the route travels north and approaches Rocky Mount NC, I learned more about the history of the area. Zoom in on the second historical marker in the photo above to learn about the “Y” Community that I passed through. Although much of the content is heavy and sad, I took time to stop, read and reflect on our collective history. I still have hope that humanity can stop repeating the poor decisions and behaviors of our history.
As the route travels south and approaches Goldsboro NC, the influence of nearby Seymour Johnson Air Force Base is present. The event director plans to tap into the military community to find volunteers with a variety of skills and training.
As I experienced my route, I made tweaks to improve safety and enhance the overall experience for cyclists. And I learned one reason why Wilson NC is home to the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park & Museum. You guessed, it…WIND. Although the century route that I created is flat (by Western North Carolina standards), the wind will challenge riders on this flat and fast course. Bring your Big Ring!
As plans for this new and exciting century fundraiser are finalized, I’ll share more information and links with you. This is going to be an excellent early season ride to kick off your season and I am eager to make the introduction.