Sunday, March 31, 2013

Day 3 Roanoke to Asheville, 2013

 I have noticed that day 2 of my rides is typically the hardest.  Mentally and physically, I'm not sure why.  Nutrition, hydration and RPE seem to be the same,  but by the end of the day, I am usually ready to throw in the towel.  Add in the day long freezing temps and, well,  I called the wife and made plans to ride 45 miles to the interstate in TN to bail early. 

Day 3 dawned, and as I looked at myself in the mirror, I confirmed that I was making the right decision.  I ate breakfast, drank some more crappy hotel coffee, and got dressed and loaded.   But, I couldn't do it.  I couldn't throw in the towel just yet.  I called the wife back and set a cut off time with her so that we could touch base in a couple of hours and reassess.   By the time that cut off rolled around, I was still cold, and not having a great time,   but I decided to go for it and attempt to make it to Asheville.

3 hours later I arrived at Christa's in Pineola.  This awesome little deli on 181 and the Parkway is a must.  The pulled pork was tempting but I went for a bacon, egg and cheese with tomato on a homemade yeast roll.   The ladies tempted me with coconut cake, but I don't ride well when stuffed, so I passed.  

I mailed a post card to the kid and headed out.  Instead of attempting the parkway, I took 181 to 183 to 221 all the way to Marion.  As I dropped down into the valley, I was greeted by warmer temps and sunshine.  My body started to warm and my spirits lifted.  Only 50 miles to go.  Once into the valley, I stopped and shed my layers down to knee warmers, arm warmers and short sleeve jersey.  I swapped the insulated gloves for some lightweight gloves and took of the toe warmers and toe covers.   Then I cruised.  It was not all easy the rest of the way, and I was definitely beat, but I knew that I had stood up to the challenge and succeeded.  
I wanted to get home and had only 15 miles to go, but I knew that I needed a boost.  I stopped at a gas station for a coke and that gave me the kick I needed to make it the rest of the way. 

It was my first long ride on the Siren John Henry and I am pleased with the piece of art that I get to ride.  The steel frame provided a smooth and stable ride,  and I will soon need to go for a Wobblenaught fit to perfect the comfort level!   I swapped the fat tires out for a set of 700c x  35 semi slicks and they worked well.  The night before leaving, I considered taking the Foundry road bike but did not want to risk the slick tires on snowy/icy conditions.  That turned out to be a good choice.

Leaving the camping gear behind was a good choice too.  It was great to be able to eat well and rest well, not having to deal with trying to stay warm for 12 hrs of darkness.  

I look forward to the next trip, but will be spending my time until then, cherishing the here and now, loving my family and growing with them.

Day 2 Roanoke to Asheville, 2013

 Day 2 dawned and I was on the road again.  I pedaled about 2 miles to the Mountain View Restaurant in at Fancy Gap and the parkway, and ordered a bacon and cheese sandwich on toast, with a piece of pecan pie to go.  I had eaten at the hotel and was getting ready for lunch several hours later.  I omitted the egg, for fear that it would go bad.  It was probably cold enough not to worry about it, but, I passed anyway.

 I headed south on the parkway.  I rode on a closed section for about a mile and it was clear of snow and ice.  I ended up riding almost entirely on the parkway today.  It was a welcome change from yesterday, not having to battle a bunch of traffic.  I was cold.  I was layered well, but with the temps below 30 still, especially down in the valleys near the creeks, there was simply no way to stay warm.  Most of the climbs are east facing and most of the gaps and decents were south west facing.  Climbing in the warm sun, unzipping the jacket,  cresting the climb, zipping up,  descending and shivering became the routing for the day.

 I spent a lot of time trying to figure out exactly why I was doing what I was doing.  Pedaling for hours, uncomfortable etc.  Some people say that they do it because it makes them feel alive.  That's not it for me.  The experience really made me wish I was dead.......   But I was out there, and as mentioned before, it was better than sitting on the couch all day.   In addition this was another aspect to a challenge that I had not yet taken on.  I have done 2-3 hour rides in the snow and freezing temps, but not all day,  multiple days.    I suppose that I wanted to find out if I could handle it.  And I am pleased to say that I did.  Will I do it again?   Possibly, but I don't plan on doing the ride if I do not have access to the parkway. 
 I arrived at Doughton Park at 11 am and sat down for lunch.  Tasty and cold, but I didn't care, because it was tasty.  And it was tasty....

The view for lunch.
The rest of the day was spent grinding uphill and bombing downhill.  Up until Doughton Park the hills are mostly bearable with lots of relative flats,  south of Doughton though and things start to get long and steep.

I finally ground my way to Deep Gap and took 421 south into Boone,  with a headwind on a 4 lane hwy,  not the most pleasant way to end the day.  Rolling in to the hotel, I'm not sure what I looked like, but I had some difficulty getting complete thoughts out, and the clerk must have wondered about me.

After a shower and some rest, I walked across the street for 2 tacos, an enchilada, rice, beans and chips with some Ben and Jerry's for dessert.

Lights out at 8:15 pm,  I slept hard until 6am.

Day 1 Roanoke to Asheville, 2013

After nixing my plans to take a trip on The Palmetto Trail, I spent the next couple of days hanging out with my wife and kid.  I was definitely disappointed that I was not going to be riding this difficult but scenic route through South Carolina, but as the hours went by, I was increasingly thankful for the quality time.  It was then I realized that for me,  bikepacking is a privileged, not an entitlement.  Somewhere along the line, I picked up an entitlement mentality and that was quickly reeled in.

After some deep thought and discussion with the wife, we decided that it would be feasible to drive with them up to Roanoke and then ride back home.  I was excited to get out on the bike for an overnight trip, it had been late summer since my last trip and I was jonesing.  

 I found a cool online map that shows current Blue Ridge Parkway closures.  Day one I planned to ride to Fancy Gap, which turned out to be 70 miles.  The temp at the start was just below freezing with 15-20 mph winds and highs maybe up to the 40s.   I layered up.  If you have kept up with me since Snake Creek Gap, you know that I am tired of riding in the cold temps.  But, considering the alternative, being cooped up in a house for 3 days.......I took this as an opportunity to challenge myself.

Grover, the ultimate traveling companion.
My Love
 Since the parkway was closed and snowed under, I opted to take Hwy 221 south.  A mostly 2 lane road with mostly rural traffic, cattle farms and houses.  Not as scenic as the parkway, with lots of rolling grunt climbs and some longer climbs.   Picture taking was difficult with the big gloves on.  I managed to take some pictures on day one, less by day 3.  

Bent Mountain, Hwy 221 S.
 I was happy  to be on the bike, semi warm, and quickly deciding that I was not cut out to be a cold weather explorer.  I have had plenty of cold weather adventures, hiking and camping in the snow,  long rides in the snow, and can honestly say that it is not my forte.  I read an article recently that reported some recent research confirming that exercise in the cold is harder on the body than in milder temps.  I can confirm that research. 
Most of the scenery looked like this.
 I made it 30 miles to the town of Floyd, VA and stopped at Subway for lunch.  It was a welcome break, but I got a little chilled while eating.  After a 6inch Italian BMT, I was a distorted kind of happy to get back out on the bike generating some warmth again.  

Floyd, VA
Another 40 miles and I found myself at the destination of Fancy Gap.  I decided before I left to leave the camping gear at home and spend the money for hotels.  I didn't want to battle the cold all night too, so I traveled lighter, and slept really well. 

 Dinner consisted of a mediocre BBQ pulled pork sandwich, and undercooked fries, followed by a pint of Breyers Chocolate ice cream.  Lights out by 9pm and up at 6am after a good nights sleep!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Gotta Listen To The Voice

Here I sit,  about 1 hr from my planned departure time.  Everything worked out for me to take a ride on The Palmetto Trail again.  The weather is  looking decent.   I have  a window of time, ( although  a little less than last year).  I have a ride to Charleston, with another ride to the trail head.  I'm even all packed up and excited about getting out. 

And then, last night I pulled the plug.  The inner voice is telling me not to go,  and no matter how much I argue with it, the answer is still no.   That voice is difficult to argue with because it does not give me anything concrete to argue with.  It simply says no, quietly and subtly.  I allow my mind to wander to different aspects of the trip: weather, financial cost, possible danger, etc eliminating every tangible reason that I should not go.  I then go back to square one and repeat the process until I am convinced that there is nothing left except for that still, small voice..... still saying no, don't go.

I have learned to listen to that voice, and less than 12 hrs before loading up, I pulled the plug on the trip.  I'm not sure where that leaves me other than feeling somewhat sad, but very peaceful about the decision. 

So,  here I sit, watching the snow fall outside, steaming hot cup of coffee in hand, listening to fire crackling, and waiting for the family to wake up.  I feel like a kid on Christmas day, knowing that today will be special.  Maybe not out of the ordinary, but definitely special!

Friday, March 22, 2013

So Cold.. but trying not to complain

I keep waiting for a warmer day.  I put off riding, even on the rollers, knowing it will be here soon.  The trees are budding and the daffodils are blooming but now frozen,  and spring is here but the temperatures disagree.

I convinced myself that I needed to ride so I layered up and rode out to Liberty Bikes for the Thursday road ride.  No one showed.  Kevin and I were left to ride alone and we chose an alternate route.  A shorter route, and a route with less wind.  We were out for about 1.5 hrs, and that was just enough.

I am tired of the cold, but definitely trying not to complain.  My mind and body ache for sunshine like we had this past weekend. My skin yearns for some solar warmth.  It might be time to migrate to some warm temps for a while..........

Coming home to black bean and rice soup was great!

If you have not heard about this year's I-9 wheelset raffle to benefit Trips For Kids WNC,  it is on.  100 tickets,  $20 each : Click here

Monday, March 18, 2013

Just Another Weekend

Saturday I drove out to the studios of Appalachain Bicycle Institute.  At one point in my life I looked into the Appalachian Bible Institute,   be assured that the former is preferable.   I had signed up for the wheel building class and that is what I learned. 

Jenny sat us down at a table piled high with nipples, spokes, hubs and rim, and put us to work.  I got the entire first wheel laced up and things didn't look right,  with some of the spokes sticking out farther than others.   We located the mistake, about 1/4 way into the build so I had to take it apart.

Then I was discouraged and the self doubt crept in.   I had an internal argument and stuck with it.  Just like anything we do, we occasionally hit a wall and have to back up and take a break.  I ended up getting the rest of the build, then moving to the rear wheel without a hitch.  I came away with some great pointers on truing as well.

Jenny fed us a wholesome lunch and gave us the time and instruction we needed to be competent wheel builders.  I can't wait to get back into The Bicycle Thrift Shop and work on some of those wheels.

I got home on Saturday in time for a ride so found Matt Dinsmore and road up Elk Mountain together.  A chill easy pace with good conversation.

Sunday ,  I pedaled over to Biltmore Square Mall to watch the roadies beat up on each other.  Jay Middleton is in the pink Hoffenchard kit.   He broke away with another dude,  who it appeared didn't want to work together, so they got caught.   I don't know why.

I headed home, took the family for a hike, and then went about getting ready for this week.  It was a great chill weekend and good to spend time with my family.  I love them!

If you have not heard: I-9 Wheelset Raffle to Benefit Trips For Kids WNC.  
Only 100 tickets at $20 each,  very good chances.

Friday, March 15, 2013


 It was cold and as stated previously, I'm not riding in the cold anymore.  I blew off the first Thursday Night Liberty Road ride and stayed home instead.  But the time wasn't wasted, and there will be plenty more Thursdays. 

Instead of riding, I stayed home with the family,  harvested some bamboo from Eagledove Greenhouse, who just moved in down the road from us,  and built a fence around the garden.   It was a fun project with some way for everyone to help out. 

It was really cool, being outside, working together on something that will benefit everybody.   This fence encloses our garden and will provide some shade on the long hot afternoons,  a place for beans to climb, and keep soccer balls and kids from trampling the plants.
After finishing and cleaning up, I spent the rest of the evening looking at maps.  Waiting for the window of time and watching the weather.....

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Slow Walk

I took a walk through the woods.  The sun was warm but the wind was whipping and cold.   I have lots going on and the slow pace of walking was a welcome change to spinning and grinding gears. 

The rear differential on my truck is worn out, and needs to be replaced to a tune of $1200.  Ouch.  For about the first time in my life, for some reason, I'm not stressing about where the money will come from. ( I'm not writing this to put the spot light on me, or brag but rather to point out that motives might change perspective).  Possibly the reason is that although the truck is mine, I use it to help the kids in our community.  Hauling bikes and supplies so that I can provide an  experience that they would not otherwise have.  Every single detail from the start of this program until now has worked out, whether I worry about it or not.  I believe that this community was ready for this sort of program and the support I have received in starting and running the program is proof of that.

Like so any other youth organization, they start with a small dream and reach a large number of kids,  not because of one person, but because of a whole community of people, each pitching in, in their own way.

I'll be without the truck for a couple of days,  and I'll take the time to, instead of stressing, to look around and be thankful for what I have,  what I have been given to take care of,  the people around me. 

This is a great community, filled with great people, and I look forward to continuing to work with you all.

Have a great day.

Sunday, March 10, 2013


 After getting home from the Snake Creek Gap TT, I was totally burned out on riding in the cold.  I can force myself to do something only for so long, and then something has to give.  I gave.  I maintained some fitness and rode the rollers a couple of times, but basically did nothing on the bike, or even remotely related to a workout for the rest of the week.  Rest is good, for the body and mind.  Considering I had just worked through my first 3 month training cycle, I'm ok with it.

Saturday,  after the kid's soccer game though, I saddled up the race bike a took to the woods.  The temps were nearing 60 and I wore knee warmers with arm warmers.  The arm warmers only lasted til I got warmed up.  I ripped around Bent Creek not worrying so much about heart rate, but more focused on fun rate.  I'm sure I went into fun rate zone 5b several times!

 Then Sunday rolled around and I had a little over an hour to ride.  I couldn't figure out which steed to take out, and then it dawned on me that it was time to take the new Siren : John Henry out.  I got this bike several weeks ago and didn't ride it, due to the fact that I was focusing on my time at Snake Creek.  I drove to the trailhead and pedaled, made a few adjustments and spun up the first climb into some single track.  Love at first drop.   This bike is smooth and stable.  Steel framed and perfect for what I bought it for: bikepacking.   I have most of the bags on the bike and it wasn't totally loaded down, so I bombed the downhills faster than I normally would with a full load.  Smooth, stable and smile inducing. 
It was one of those days that when the ride ended, I was craving more.  I'll get more, I'll just have to wait for it!

Friday, March 08, 2013


Ever feel like life is going by too fast?  The world is spinning and my feet are glued to it, and there does  not seem to be a way to stop it?

Playing soccer with the kid yesterday and watching him run after the ball was a way different feeling than doing the exact same thing 4 yrs ago.  Things in my life have become more complicated,  he has the full capability to think and make decisions for himself and I have the obligation to let him do that more on a daily basis.  In 8 yrs, he will be driving a car (if we still have that right),  I hope to do what I can to insure that he is prepared.

And so I look for my pause button.  It doesn't really pause everything, it just gives me a time out,  a place to regroup.  

I'm sitting here trying to plan my next adventure.  I can almost smell the moist spring dirt crunching under my sleeping pad.  The morning chill burning off at the mercy of the rising sun.  The feel of sweat running down my body as I spin the pedals then climb off the bike to push it up the steep grunt climb. 

I have 4 options and a 4 day window in the near future: Trans North GA, Palmetto Trail, Allegheny Mtns Loop and Pisgah Traverse.

The first two options present logistical barriers with shuttling, and the latter two could simply turn really cold.  I'll have to wait until closer to the time to figure out which one.   It always seems to work out and become very apparent which direction I should go.  Sometime not till the last minute.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Ripley's Aquarium

 Saturday after the Snake we headed towards Gatlinburg, got a hotel for the night and then headed to the Ripley's Aquarium in Gatlinburg on Sunday.   The kid was pretty amazed as we drove through Pigeon Forge,  seeing all of the attractions and tourist gimmicks that encourage a person to spend money.  Poor little kid,  having to go hiking and riding and all that outdoorsy stuff, never seeing such a spectacle until he is nine yrs old...... 

The aquarium was a great time and I recommend it to anybody,  kids or not.  I was fully entertained and the animals held my attention for a full 3.5 hrs.  That says a lot.  It was relaxing to wander around,  naming the fish that I used to swim with and eat back in the days that I lived on an island.

Several areas where one is able to touch horseshoe crabs and stingrays/manta rays was pretty cool.   The shark tank has a long tunnel under it, complete with conveyer belt that you stand on and watch the fish as you float gently through.   Although, the kid was  just as excited about the conveyer belt as he was about the sharks.

Fun times were had by all and we hope to return one day.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

The Snake # 3

 The 3rd installment of the Snake Creek Gap TT rolled around and I had not gotten much riding in within the past two weeks.  The month had started well and I had continued to stick to a training plan, then the weather got cold and rainy, and my enthusiasm was waterlogged.

Then I decided that I would simply ride and enjoy it,  finish so I could get the belt buckle.  How bad did I want the buckle?  Bad enough to follow through even though the forecast was for cold and rain/snow.

Saturday morning, there was snow on the van, the pavement was wet and the sun was peeking over the horizon.  As we pulled into the parking lot, I had already selected what I wanted to wear and I was looking forward to having long ride on the bike.  I promised to myself that I would not be riding in temps below 40 degrees for a very long time after this.

I lined up, and headed out.   Taking it easy and using the road before the creek to warm up my legs.   I hit the creek crossing, barely noticing the dozen people stopping to remove socks and shoes.  I rolled through the creek and up the road.   Either way you get wet feet.

I was sticking to my  plan and not paying attention to the time.  This really is a beautiful piece of country, and someday, I am going to really take my time.   But now, as I road, I fell into "race mode" and started riding my limit.  Knowing that when I finished, if I could have gone faster, I would regret that I didn't.  So, after about 10 minutes on the bike,  this ride to finish, became a race against myself.

I rode, ate, checked in with myself.  Pushed hard up some climbs,  maintained a steady pace, recovered and repeated.  According to RPE I had no idea of my past month of training had achieved anything.  I would simply have to wait to find out. 

At the half way point, the wife and kid met me and I restocked and lubed.   I didn't stay long, only long enough to do what I needed.   After my first couple of races/rides,  I realized how much time adds up by stopping to refuel, take a layer off etc.  Seconds turn into minutes very quickly.

My goal going into this was to see if I could at least beat 4 hrs.  My record was 4 yrs ago on a single speed.  It was a dry warm day in January.   Conditions today were different.   The first creek crossing was bottom bracket deep and there was lots of wet and some trail after that.

Overnight, the storm that rolled through had brought snow along the ridges.  Trees were plastered with snow and I took a few glimpses of the ridges and valleys.  The mountains in GA hold a special place in my heart, as they are the mountains that fostered my adventure spirit.    College in NE GA meant that the mountains were a place of respite for a person not quite cut out for college.

About 4 miles from the finish, I was simply maintaining pace.  I attempted to speed up, but I got winded and slowed, so I went back to maintaining.  Instead of focusing on the cold and how tired I was, I reminded myself that I was riding my bike, and how much I love to ride my bike (when its warm).  And that when I finished, I would get a cool belt buckle.   I reminded myself one of the reasons I ride: to inspire my kid,  with hopes that one day, he will follow his dreams and reach for his goals.  I thought about the wife who has been with me through all of the training, races and DNF's.  Who for some reason thinks I'm great.   I thought about The Snake,  the volunteers and all of the people involved.  It was a good day to be out on the bike.

And then I crested the ridge at the water towers,  headed down the gravel and the pavement grade for the last time.   They handed me the belt buckle, I ate some cobble and was glad.

It took me a while after the results were posted to realize what I had accomplished.  I finished #3 in 4:08,   17 minutes faster than #2.  Huge improvement and considering all of the factors involved, I am uber pleased with that result.  I had about 7 minutes overall of stoppage time. That figures out to 12 seconds per mile over 34 miles.   Not much, and looking back,  not much I could do to change that.   I'll take it.

What's next?