Wednesday, October 04, 2017

"Us" Not "They"

Lots of talk about road rage, cyclists rights and what we can do to make cycling safer for everybody. 

As a trend, people tend to say things like "why doesn't somebody do something" or "they, ie: the gov't, should do something", "they should make bike lanes". Always "they". 

Why not us? Why don't you take on that responsibility. 

Ideally, someone would write a big check and have some PSA's made for radio and tv, that would be the quickest way to educate the public. But there is no profit in said PSA's so that likely won't happen.

Well,  what can "we" do to help "them" make our roads a safer place to ride?  

In my opinion, we have to start with the kids.  

How many of you have driven a vehicle with elementary/ middle school aged kids and they remind you of every single freaking traffic law in the book?   2 mph over the speed limit? Didn't use your turn signal?  Following too closely?  Yup,  they will call you out on it every single time!  

Why not use that to our advantage?  Why not have a school based curriculum that teaches cyclists rights and etiquette in  school or Driver's Ed?   Because then, once again, we are relying on "them" and that is going to take a while and quite possibly forever.... never.  Because in order to add/ change anything in a text book.....  ugh.

What if "you" could make a difference? What if "you" could make a difference and only "sacrifice" 2 hrs, 1 day per week?  Would you be willing to give that up?  To offer your skills and talents to work with us in making our area more cycling friendly?  

If you answered yes, let me recommend that you get involved in one of the many youth bike related programs in our area ( and yes, buckle up for a shameless plug, because I believe that I am making a difference that will affect every cyclist on the road)  

Trips For Kids WNC and Asheville on Bikes both offer after school bike clubs at local middle and elementary schools.  Each club meets after school, 1 day per week for about 1.5- 2 hrs.  We start each club teaching the kids to do their own bike check,  making sure their bikes are safe and ready to ride.  We also discuss skills, riding etiquette, and how to properly ride on the road, including hand signals and other safety and awareness skills.   

The Blue Ridge Bicycle Club offers Kid Bike Safety Rodeos, to offer the same skills that we offer in bike club, setting up a street scenario in a safe location for kids to practice what they learned.  

And guess what? At some point, these kids will earn their driver's license, and be driving a car or a big truck.  I believe that what we teach them now about bikes on the road, will encourage them to be more aware and understanding when they encounter cyclists.

So,  if you want to make a change, invest in your future, and let's get together to teach these kids what they need to know to help make our roads a safer, more cycling friendly community.  

Carve out 2 hours from your week and help the above programs,  we have a great crew of volunteers and are always looking to expand,  but we can't do it, if no one steps up to help out.  

Contact us today:
Trips For Kids WNC: stephen@tripsforkidswnc.com
Asheville on Bikes:  https://ashevilleonbikes.com/
Blue Ridge Bicycle Club: http://www.blueridgebicycleclub.org/

In closing, I want to give a huge thanks to all of our local bike shops that contribute in countless ways to keeping our youth ride programs running.  We could not do it without their help.  Please support them!  

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

The Asheville Oak: Vacation Rental

As you might have noticed, I have been busy, and absent for a long time.  I spend 4.5 months off the bike and hardly doing anything fun.  I'm burned out and tired, and deep down inside I know the pain and suffering has been worth it!!

Let's back up a bit.  Spring 2016,  we decided to work hard to get our vehicle loans paid off and then work on putting money away in savings so that we could live a simple non complex life. 

Summer 2016,  an opportunity was presented to us to purchase a bit of land next door.  I didn't realize that we had that capability, but after discussing with some good friends and talking to a local banker, found out that we were in a good position to invest in some land. This is the result of countless hours and effort, rebuilding the home we currently have lived in for 13 yrs. Along with the help of the popularity of Asheville, our house tripled in value. 

Before the land purchase dust had settled, we were already applying for a construction loan, ie more debt and a less simple life. 


Now,  1 yr later,  we have something to be proud of: The Asheille Oak: Vacation Rental

If you are headed to the area, check it out as an option.  1 bedroom, 1 loft, 1 bathroom, full kitchen, central heat and air, washer/dryer,  convenient location, easy access to Interstates, downtown, breweries, restaurants, trails, Pisgah National Forest etc.    

Monday, August 21, 2017

Miracles

Miracles.  Sometimes they can be explained away with science,  sometimes not.  Sometimes it is better to simply enjoy than to try to figure out.  Too many why's, how's, and could be's, and a person loses focus of what is really going on around us.  What is really the purpose for the things happening around us.  Why birds fly and pigs don't.

For the past year, I have been on a mission.  My question was, do miracles really happen?  Then I started observing small things.... and some major.  I watched a family narrowly miss getting hit by a car,  I watched the sun come up,  everyday, on time,   I saw flowers bloom, hate turned to love.   Good grief, I saw a lot, and continue to see it.  Once I stopped expecting and started observing,  my perspective changed.  I have also become more grateful to be alive, and thankful that I am a small part in this huge tapestry of life. 

We headed out to Ocracoke Island for our end of summer vacation.  We dragged the sailboat and windsurfing equipment out and I was excited about the great wind forecast. 

But, alas,  Tropical Storm Gert/Hurricane Gert swooped in and sucked all of the wind out to sea. 

Man, I was disappointed.  I had waited all year for this and now, no windsurfing for me.  I was on vacation, with my family and it took a lot of hard thinking to reset my mind. 

We did get in some good sailing, and I sent to wife and kid out on a para sail trip! 

The wife and kid, 800 feet above the Pamlico Sound
Me,  living the dream on the Pamlico Sound

The Ultimate Windsurf Mobile

We saw sunsets, on the beach

And from the sailboat



Poor conditions for windsurfing, tend to be good conditions for sailing....and parasailing

We met some amazing locals on the island.  Locals who invited us into their daily life!

....dog's life

The last evening, the wind finally kicked up just enough....thankful.
And then it was time to leave.  Sadness.  I am super happy and thankful for the opportunity to  visit the island, but leaving feels the same as so long ago, when I was 16 and I left the small island of Bonaire to move to Charlotte.... sadness.

We pulled onto the ferry, and headed towards Swan Quarter.  I wandered the deck with the kid and the dog, talking about the week, life and stuff.  Quality time that I don't regret.  2.5 hrs later we started the engine to point west and head for the mountains.
And then things went south.  15 miles out of Swan Quarter and we crossed the Pungo River Brigde.  Where the bridge meets the pavement on the other side, there is a dip.  We hit that and the trailer boat trailer bounced.  I heard a pop and saw smoke and debris on the left side.  I figured that we blew a tire and pulled over asap.  I got out and was shocked and a bit panicked to see that the axle had snapped. 

The start of the miracle.  Last year, we made this trip in the mini van.  Over the winter, we were able to purchase a pick up truck fits out lifestyle needs.  Had we been in the min van when this happened, our options would have been severely limited.  

Solutions raced through my mind.  It was 4 pm.  4 hours til sunset.  20 miles to the nearest town: Belhaven.  I unhooked the trailer and decided to drive to find a tow service or possibly a U-haul Trailer.  

3 miles up the road, at a roadside convenience store and deli, I could not believe my eyes.  A U-haul trailer rental site, with the exact trailer that I hoped would work.    Hopeful, I went inside and rented the trailer.  I felt like it took forever for the guy to slowly type in all the info,  with the warning that often times, the U-haul system does not work right.  Arggh.  We were burning daylight. 

The folks were very kind in understanding our plight though and we were soon on our way.   I hooked the trailer up and drove back to the broken boat trailer.  Everything was as we left it.  I turned around and got into position.  I was going to figure out some way to hoist, winch, drag that boat trailer up onto the U-haul trailer. 

As I got into position,  a jacked up, blacked out Chevy Silverado pulled up and I heard angels singing: " Do yall need some help?"  Without looking up ( I get pretty focused sometimes) I said: " I would love some help!".    The fellas pulled over jumped out and went to work.   Less than 1 minute later, another truck pulled over and a guy jumped out to chip in.   5-10 minutes later, another guy stopped by to get in  on the action. 

I was amazed at what was happening and am a bit teary eyed as I write this.  The 5 of us, hoisted, pulled, pushed, pried, winched and miraculously got that broker trailer up onto the U Haul trailer.   We got it chained and strapped down securely and just as quickly as they came, they were gone.  Alone again on the side of the road, I said a quick prayer of thanks, did one more quick check to make sure everything was secure, jumped in the truck and headed West once again. 
The time?  5pm.  1 hour.  If I would have succeeded in accomplishing that task alone,  it would have taken far more than 1 hour total. In fact,  I don't know if I could have done it alone. 

Do I believe in miracles? Yes.  Miracles happen, when we least expect them.  Not on demand miracles though.  Not miracles to get us what we want when we want it.  No,  miracles that surprise us and get us what we need when we don't know that we need it.  An extra boost, an  extra bit of encouragement, a fresh perspective on life. 
Start to watch for the miracles in you life,  you will be amazed!

Saturday, August 05, 2017

Yancey Ridge S240


Wow,  it has bee an while since I posted an adventure.  A lot has been going on and I'm excited to share.  This adventure has been about more than  just riding a bike on a route.  This adventure has been a test of my mind and soul.   Over the past 2 years  I have had some unsuccessful trips and wondered if I was even capable of bikepacking any more.

One obvious thing I allowed myself to admit is that  I'm not in the same kind of shape I was back when I did the Allegheny Mountains Loop, 4 yrs ago.  I did 400 miles in 4 days!  I still think back fondly on that trip and hope to get in that kind of riding shape again!

The other thing holding me back is realizing that I have some  level of separation anxiety.  It turns out that this condition is recognized in children but while being fairly common among adults, it  is not acknowledged, talked about or dealt  with.

The week leading up to an adventure, I would stay stressed out and look for any and every reason  to cancel the  trip.  I love bikepacking, but so many excuses  come to mind  and failure of many sorts  ensued.

Once I figured out what was going on, I did a bunch of research and the symptoms matched.  I talked with the wife about it and she found ways that she could be  more supportive.  More about this in  another post.

On to the route: The Yancey Ridge S240 from Bikepacking.com 

I made a to do list over the summer.  Realizing that I can't ride 80 miles a day back to back right now, and admitting that although I love an epic ride, I needed to start  small,  I started with the shorted  local route I could find.

Free overnight parking at  the Wilson Creek Visitor Center.  I parked and headed out around 2pm.

 I was feeling good and enjoyed the ride immensely.  I was feeling like I had started  to conquer something and was enjoying a new found freedom.  In addition, I have been off the bike for 4 months and was so glad to be able to ride again! 
 The route grinds up some  beautiful, mostly shady gravel roads.  I opted not to visit  the Lost Cove Cliffs, but plan on stopping there next time. 
                                        Turk's Cap Lilies: native flower and somewhat rare. 
  

 

 After about 3.5 hrs of climbing  gravel, I made it up into the highlands  south of Boone. 


  I went off route to camp at a campground.  I usually carry all of my camping gear and  end up trying to find a motel or  something to sleep in.  This time, I had made a commitment to myself to camp out, no matter what.  Fortunately, the weather was amazing and I wasn't even tempted  to find indoor lodging.  I had made a reservation at The Down By The River Campground and fulfilled that reservation.  I do enjoy  some comforts  while camping, and a hot shower and clothes dryer  are  a nice  touch.  

 After getting camp set up, my next dilemma was deciding if I should eat freeze dried, Mexican or Italian...  I opted  for Italian and ate some pizza!   Stuffed, I headed back to the campground and enjoyed being bored for once.  It seemed like I had a pretty good  handle on my emotions  at the moment, and embraced where I was, relaxing and enjoying  my trip.  Small victories.  

 I did not sleep great but got up and packed the next  morning, excited to see what the  day had in store.     Being in the area,  I could not miss getting breakfast  at  Christa's Country Corner.   Homemade  yeast rolls with bacon, egg and cheese, one  for now, one to go:  without the egg.
 Feeling a litte  stuffed,   I set out for  what  I assumed would be a chill day descending back into the valley. 
 There was nothing chill about the day, but is  was the  most fun I have had on a bike in a long time!

 I turned off of the pavement on to the next 8miles  of single track and experienced all of the best trails  in  Pisgah, packed into  one. 

 Amazing, decent, with some punchy climbs, techy, hike  a bike, to smooth buff flowy.  So nice.
 Glad to be  almost back, out of  water, but no worries,  because half a mile  to...
 Hot dog, Cheetos and Coke.  Life does not get much better  than  this!
Wrapping my time up in the woods, it was great  to face a challenge, face  the trauma from  my past and move forward  once again.  We all have things  in life holding us back and  it is not until we realize these things, not until we figure out positive coping skills that we can face the issues and move beyond them.   Who knows the  limit of our capabilities?  One day, I might even spend the night, in the middle of Pisgah, alone...







Monday, June 12, 2017

Blue Ridge Epic: First Finisher

Congrats to Angie Baker who came all the way from California.  She is the first person ever to complete the entire Blue Ridge Epic,  a 245 mile loop in Western North Carolina.


She completed the loop in about 2.5 days and as wrote in the description, got a taste of back country Appalachia!

Being the first to complete the loop using the cues created by Ride with GPS, she was lucky enough to be the guinea pig and work out some kinks.  Thanks for doing that Angie. 

As soon as I figure out how to add an alternate route to the map, I will be doing that so folks have the option of avoiding the thigh deep river crossing, and the chest deep field of poison ivy!

Angie's attitude was nothing but positive and I appreciate that.  When I checked in to her Spot tracker and realized she was having some navigational troubles, I felt terrible.  She claims she only hated me for a little while.   I think the beer at the finish smoothed things over.  

I asked her if she enjoyed the route, if it was worth the trip and would other people enjoy it.  She said something like:" Only if you enjoy waterfalls and beautiful scenery"!! 

Who is next?

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Updated Route

I update the Blue Ridge Mtns Epic route to include color, showing pavement vs offroad/gravel.

Blue Ridge Mtns Epic


Saturday, April 22, 2017

Blue Ridge Mountains Epic, Unveiled.


 The time has come to finally unveil this bike packing route.  Two routes in fact.  One just under 200 miles and the other closer to 250.

I wanted to ride the entire route first, but I'm out of time this spring so I figured I would share these jewels with the general public.

I have spent several years working on this route, trying to get the most amount of gravel as a reward for the amount of pavement included. 

At some point, NC decided to pass a law requiring the state to pave every single road in the state.  Not many roads were left unpaved.   The  last 3rd of the route is an example of this (without going through sketchy backwoods, farm road, mooshine trails).   But the last major climb up the gravel heavy Stoney Fork Rd to the Blue Ridge Parkway is a local classic that could not be left out.  

Even the paved sections are mostly back roads and give a good flavor of life in southern Appalachia.

You will find some good gravel with the longest stretch passing through local elk habitat.  I saw an adolescent elk on one of my exploration trips!

The longer route goes right below Max Patch, a local bald with 360 degree views.  If you are following the Lite Route, Max Patch can be reached with a short out and back off route.  Totally worth the time.

After Del Rio, on the Epic Route, you will ride a stretch of pavement before crossing the French Broad River on a bridge.  You will then enter the forest again and find some steep single track, hike a bike.  I could not find Chimney Rocks Trail on Ride With GPS, but the route follows FS Trail 154, to Trail 7 to Paint Rock area.  ( you asked for it).

The great thing about this area is that it is considered a temperate rain forest, and there is always some sort of water to be found.  

There are no re-supply stops between mile 64 and mile 188.5.  Be prepared.  Hot Springs is easily accessible from Paint Rock,  just under 7 miles one way next to the French Broad River.

I'll add important beta as it comes to mind.

I hope you enjoy riding the route as much as I have!
Get out and ride!

Blue Ridge Mountains Epic Lite



Blue Ridge Mountains Epic