Monday, November 29, 2010

Asheville to Roanoke- 2010

 Tuesday, November 23, 2010:  I set out on an adventure that I have longed to attempt since moving to Asheville.  The timing and equipment were never quite there until now.   275 miles from my house in Asheville, NC to the house where Rhonda grew up in Roanoke, VA.  I figured that if the weather was good, I could make it in 3-5 days.

I got the bikepacking bug about 1 yr ago, and have been scheming ever since.  This summer, when I was still fully employed and had no clue about my uncertain future, I ordered a frame bag, and a seat bag from Eric at Revelate Designs.  I was excited to get going but again, timing did not allow it.  I even planned an assault of the TNGA route in early November, but ended up pulling the plug due to life circumstances.

So, after weeks of packing, scheming, arranging and re-arranging, I took a look at the weather and knew that I would have a short window of time to attempt my first self-supported trip ever.

I got the kid off to school and hit the road.  Pedaling my bike north on the Parkway, I was excited with a touch of nervousness.

5 miles into the ride though, I was concerned.  I had decided to wear an older pair of cycling shoes for the trip, but apparently the insole was worn out as I developed a pain in the sole of my right foot.   I didn't hesitate to call Rhonda to bring my better pair of shoes.  The pain stopped immediately.
 My goal today was to ride 100 miles to Boone,NC and figure out where to spend the night.  The forecast was for rain, so things were tentative, and although, I had a plan, I wanted to leave it open and enjoy the ride.  That is, after all, why I was out here.  I realized that while goals are great, as this point it was better to pull over and take a nap in the afternoon sunshine if that is what the moment called for.  I had discussed my "plan" with Rhonda and she understood that I needed to take my time.

I arrived at Craggy Gardens Visitor Center feeling good and excited to get past Mt Mitchell.  The mountain, the highest east of the Mississippi River, was my no turning back point.  Once I got there, it would be a huge inconvenience to call for a ride home.  I kept watching the clouds rolling in from the West with a nervous eye.  The forecast when I left was telling me that there was a 40% chance of rain.  From my experience in the outdoors, and watching the storm roll in, I knew that there was more like a 90% chance of rain.
 After approx. 4 hrs of pedaling, I got to the Mt Mitchell overlook and cheered, loud and proud.  I needed this ride, and I was looking forward to the challenge.  I continued pedaling and soaking in the view.  It was chilly and the wind was whipping through the tree tops and gaps in the ridge line,  howling and bringing a storm with it.  When I arrived at Little Switzerland, I called Rhonda for an update in the weather.  What I had feared was true:  rain from here to Boone.   55 miles into the ride, 2:30pm, I was not ready to call it a day.  I also was not ready to ride for 50 more miles in the cold rain,  not on the first day of my trip.
 I had a backup plan and I pulled it out.  I called a good friend who has a house in Little S, and asked if I could stay there for the night.  He looked at the weather map for me and assured me that it would be wise not to continue tonight.  So, with gratefulness, I welcomed his generosity and ended the first day of riding.

After resting the rest of the afternoon,  I ended up not sleeping well due to being alone in a big house combined with frustration for having to cut my ride short, on top of being excited about getting going.  I was up at 5 am and on the road by 6:10am.  It was my first time re-packing my kit on the road and I wanted to make sure it was done right so I would not have to stop to readjust later on.
 After riding for the first hour in the dark, with temps around 45 degrees,  the sunrise over Table Rock, NC was beautiful and worth the wait.  I had been comfortable so far but what I did not realize was that I was climbing in elevation, up and over to the Linville Gorge.   As soon as I started down into the Gorge, the temps dropped about 10 degrees, leaving frost on the ground, and me shivering.   Knowing the area, I looked forward to stopping at Christa's and hoped that they would be open.
 After a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich, ( I should have gotten one for the road), I continued North on the Parkway.  As the sun rose, I started to warm.  There was only a soft breeze which helped prevent wind chills that would have been miserable. 
The Viaduct on this route is an impressive piece of engineering.  Part bridge, part balcony, the views are great.  At an elevation just over 5000 feet, it would be an interesting place to see after a winter storm.
Blue skies, no clouds, bright sunshine,  early morning chill, and feeling tired....
Somewhere around the middle of the day, I made it to the 100 mile mark for the trip.  With 175 still to go, I was concerned that I would not make it,  but decided just to ride, to focus on the here and now, and enjoy it. 
Later, around milepost 348 I came upon a detour. The detour bypasses one of my favorite areas on the parkway.  I pondered my options: I could either keep riding and hope that they let me through,  or I could play it safe, take the detour and not have to backtrack if they did not let me through.

I decided to conform,( not an easy decision) and exited the parkway.  I filled my water bladder at a spigot behind the motel, thought about stopping for a burger, decided not to and hit the road.   Then a miracle began.  I did not realize that the rest of the day would be a mix between a blur, some desperation, and my creator looking out for me.

As I pedaled, I realized that traffic was giving me a wide berth,  slowing down to pass safely.  And then I realized that everybody was waving to me.   People in their yards, on-coming traffic....everybody.  It was strange.
I arrived at the town of Sparta and stopped for coffee.  I ordered a Mocha, and nibbled on some leftover pumpkin cake from Christa's. I talked to the old guy at the bar about road conditions.  From here I could turn east and head 7 miles back to the parkway, or continue north, 19 miles to the parkway.  If I turned east, I would add mileage, which normally would be fine, but with cold and rain in the near forecast, I wanted to keep the mileage down.  The man informed me that the road to the north was nice, with few climbs.

As I sat outside, sipping on my cup of chocolate and coffee love, a 20 something kid came out to chat.  He was pretty excited to be talking to me and was over eager to give me a ride to the parkway.  Contrary to what I had experienced, he told me that people would run over me if I attempted to ride any road out of Sparta.  His name is Hank.  Hank also told me that the 7 mile east option was mostly down hill to the parkway.  The wheels in my head started turning.  If there were 7 miles downhill, that would mean quite a bit of climbing back up on the parkway.  At this point in the day, that was a deterrent.
After some more chatting, and sipping, Hank headed back in to study insurance,  and I headed north on Hwy 18. I estimated that I would be at the parkway in about 2 hours and realized that it would be dark when I got there.  I had yet to set up camp in the dark, much less find a suitable campsite in the woods.  I was a little nervous about this since the next day was Thanksgiving, prime hunting season.   As I road, I started to slack on my nutrition, and started to fade.  I was eyeballing every stand of trees in the fields next to the road.  I knew that I would not make it much farther tonight.  I also lost track of time and mileage and was not sure exactly where I was.

I was starting to feel the end coming on when I came to a crossroads; a gas station, convenience store, seafood restaurant, and cafe.  I stumble into the convenience store and ordered a sandwich.  Feeling nauseous, I also bought a Coke. Again, the people were overly but not annoyingly friendly.  I felt like I was at home.  After asking about a nearby campground, knowing that I needed to call it a day, they told me that there was one, "right down there" and pointed down the road.  I was concerned.  A lot of times " right down the road" could mean 5 or even 10 miles.  I went outside and sipped on my Coke.  Feeling a little better, I asked someone else.  The assured me that the campground was "right down there".

So, I went "right down there" and sure enough there was an RV park.  I was excited but worried because no one was there.  I ended up getting permission from the maintenance guy to set up in a stand of trees on the corner of the property.  When I asked how much it would cost me,  he said"  It's about that?".  I told him that was great and to have a Happy Thanksgiving!!

And so, after 110 miles of riding,  I set up camp, ate some Ramen, which is disgusting by the way, and I will never eat Ramen again,  rolled into my sleeping bag and tried to sleep.

The problem with winter camping is that there is 12 hours of darkness.  12 hours to do nothing.  I thought about heading back to the convenience store to get a pizza, but I was not feeling great.  I ended up just laying under my tarp, looking out over the field and thinking about life. Eventually I drifted to sleep, sometime after midnite.  At one point I woke up to hear something nearby growling,  I'm not sure if it was a dream or not, but I did not see anything.  Later, I woke up again, looked out across the field and saw what looked like a couple of bears running.  Again, I'm not sure.  The moon was up, but it was overcast, and I was groggy. 
I wanted to get up early, in the early morning darkness and get going, but I did not want to ride the local country roads in the dark.  I estimated that I had about 10 miles left to go, and did not want to risk it, even though I felt I was in the friendliest place in the world.

I had brought only one pot, that would double as a coffee mug.  I boiled water, ate a packet of grits, and then made coffee.  I didn't like this system so much, and decided to add a coffee cup to my kit.  I went about packing up camp, carefully packing, trying to figure out what to wear, etc.   I got packed and rolling as the sky grew brighter.  It was light enough that I felt safe riding now, and I pointed my steel horse northward.

Sometimes, we are better off not knowing certain things and when I rode onto the parkway, 1 mile after leaving camp, I admitted that it was good that I did not know it was this close.  While it would have been nice to get going earlier, and ride in the darkness of morning,  I would most likely have ridden on last night, despite needing to stop and rest. 
The day dawn grey and stayed grey.  Overcast and windy, I feared rain.  When I stopped at the convenience store in Fancy Gap and got the last biscuit, I felt that this would be a good day.  I kept my rain gear on for most of the day and hoped that the drizzly mist would not turn to pouring rain.  I had over 100 miles to ride to Roanoke and I was cautiously optimistic. 
As I rode, the overcast skies turned into a fog, swept across the road and fields by the blowing wind.  I was just warm enough and not worried about being too cold, unless it started to rain.  As I climbed slowly upwards, gaining elevation, I was glad that there would be no 2 hr climbs like the one out of Asheville. 
Once I reached Rocky Knob and 45 miles to go, the fog started to dissipate.  An hour later, the sun came out, and I had clear, cold skies the rest of the day.  I was again feeling fatigued and really wanted to take a nap in the sunny field next to a giant hay bale, but after calculating, I decided to keep on spinning towards my goal.  I also decided it was time to delve into the Honey Stinger products that I had saved for this end of the trip.  I am glad I did save them because not only are they tasty,  they gave me the boost I needed to make it the rest of the way.
The picture above is the spot near Rocky Knob that I asked Rhonda to marry me.  Lucky for me she said yes, she didn't know what she was getting....I didn't either,  no regrets!

The road south of Roanoke meanders through some fairly level terrain, with lots of homes, farms and ranches near the road.  It was nice to put the mind on cruise control and just ride.  I had calculated that I would get there just after the sun set.
I exited the Parkway at Mill Mountain, and rode through a deserted city,  most of the people tucked away in their warm homes stuffing their faces.   I made my way the last 5 miles, passing the airport as the sun set on my right side. 
One mile left to go, through the tunnel,  a couple of turns then coast downhill to the in-law's house.  It was good to be there, a great trips with lots of time to process where I've been, where I am and where I am going. 

After a nice hot shower, I sat down to some face stuffing of my own......then I slept.

277 miles in 3 days: day1; 57 miles, day 2; 110 miles, day 3; 110 miles.
22.5 hours on the bike,   Average MPH 12.3

Have a great day.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

New Web-Site

Happy Thanksgiving week everybody.

Take a moment to go over to the Trips For Kids WNC web-site: click here.  It is in it's infant stages but as things start to pick up, more info and pictures will be posted. 

We are looking for people who can support us financially.  Whether you want to give a one time donation, or maybe pledge monthly, we need you to help up get this program up and running.  You can click on the "You Can Help" button on the web-site, or you can send a check to the office, at 33 Davidson Rd, Asheville NC, 28803
(TFK WNC is a 501(c) 3 non profit,  donations are tax deductible.

The community is excited to see us get going too, and have welcomed us with open arms.  Remember, your donation will give a kid an experience on the trails that he/she would not otherwise have.

Have a great day.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Pisgah Area Sorba Party

Come on out and celebrate with us!! 
Raffles, movie, food and beverages.  You don't want to miss this one!!!

Have a great day.

Friday, November 19, 2010


Thanks to everyone who made my birthday fabulous.  I have so many people to be thankful for....I'm blessed.

Have a great day.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Trips For Kids WNC

Ladies and Gentlemen, I proudly introduce: Trips For Kids WNC.

My dream is becoming reality.  For years I have dreamed of doing something like this and now it is happening.  I can count on 4 fingers the times that I have felt so overwhelmingly excited as I am now.  I have huge plans and dreams of what can happen here in Western North Carolina by using bicycles as the catalyst to help kids reach their fullest potential.  Its going to be awesome, fun with a pinch of frustration thrown in for good measure, but in the end, I fully believe that it will help my community, our community grown stronger, physically and mentally.  

In the coming days, I will be launching a web-site, Facebook page and fund raising ideas. Stay tuned.

I acknowledge that I cannot do this alone.  I will need your help, both in person, helping to lead rides, and financially, with fundraisers and possibly you as a funder of this program.  I will be filling you in on what you can do to help in the coming days.  I realize it would have been much cleaner to get all of the web-site, etc logistics nailed down first, but hey,  its my birthday and I want to celebrate with this announcement.

So, celebrate with me.

Have a great day.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


I woke up to rain and wind.  I looked at the "weather in motion" and it showed a big green blob headed out way.  It was then that I decided to ride inside.  So, I got the wife and kid to school, aired up the tires, lubed the chain, put in 24 Solo, and got rolling.  That lasted about 45minutes and I felt good. 

I then showered and got dressed.   I was in a relaxed mood and wanted to have some coffee, eat a big cookie and read.  So, I headed to Earth Fare.  I got a call from Chris at Cane Creek and had to run by there for a few minutes, thanks Chris.  I figured I could go get a cookie after that. 

While I was there, my phone rang,  I didn't answer it, but when I got outside, I saw that it was the number for Liberty Bikes.  I called back, and it turns out that Tyler called.  He wanted me to ride with him, on this cold, rainy day.  I thought about it for about 3 seconds, did some logistical figuring for another 5 seconds, and we came up with a plan.   I would simply get a cookie and coffee after the ride.

The ride was great,  I pretty much stomped poor Tyler into the ground,  he was looking really slow and weak, so I took advantage of him....ok, not really.  Tyler is strong and as soon as he hires me as his coach, he will be unstoppable,  and that is the truth.

We road around for a while, my phone vibrated in my jersey pocket but I decided again, not to answer it.

After 1.5 hrs, we wound up at our cars, and headed our separate ways.  My mouth started watering when I thought about dipping that giant, soft, chewy peanut butter cookie in my coffee and slowly savoring the pea-nutty goodness.   I checked the message on my phone, it was the kid's teacher.  The kid has a fever and I need to come get cookie.

So much for that idea.  But, I would not trade a cookie for all of the other experiences I had yesterday,  sometimes you have to make sacrifices!!

Stay tuned.  Tomorrow is the big announcement we have all been waiting for,  and no, I am not pregnant!!

Have a great day.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Rainy Day

The rain comes in waves, pushed along by the wind.  The sky is dreary and the day only somewhat lighter as the sun rises behind the thick grey clouds.   As I sit and ponder, I think back to a day much like this,  about 12 yrs ago. 

It was the week before my wedding, late spring 1998,  but the weather was similar.  I was curled up in my little green dome tent, Walmart special,  waiting for the rain to pass.  Deep in the Georgia mountains and headed for North Carolina.  I was camped out just north of the Walasi-Yi center, in a small clearing surrounded by huge old oak trees. 

I was on a journey,  hopefully not my last,  before getting married.   I wanted to do something,  a sort of rite of passage, before I stepped into another chapter of my life.  I had Rhonda, my then fiance, drop me off out in the middle of nowhere, at the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail.  It was my dream to one day hike the entire AT.  We bid adieu and I felt a twinge of loneliness as she drove away.  I would literally not see her again until our wedding day.  She gave me a journal and wrote on the first page:

"I'm so excited about your trip.  This is definitely an experience you will never forget.  God is going to protect you and He is going to teach you some neat things.  I wish I could be with you all the way, but...  So, I thought it would be neat if I could read about your experience.  I want to know your struggles, joys, meditations, desires and sights.  I love you, Stephen, and I can't wait to see you again.  I'll be praying for and thinking about you everyday.  Have a good trip.  Don't do anything I wouldn't do. :)  You're the best!!

I love you,


I ended up staying on the trail for 5 days/4 nights.  I had pushed a little too hard and was having knee troubles.  Not wanting to injure myself, I called it a trip at Unicoi Gap, and hitched a ride to my car where it was parked at the Blueberry Patch Hiker Hostel.

Have a great day.

Monday, November 15, 2010


 Saturday after waiting all day for Rhonda to get home from work, I was getting ready to go for my ride on the mtn bike.  The air was warm and the sun was bright.  The kid was sitting on the couch looking sad and I couldn't stand it.  I asked if he wanted to go and unsurprisingly he did.   We loaded up and headed to Hardtimes parking, rode the little connector to the gravel, down the hill then left to follow the creek to the Arboretum.   We rode all the way to take a right uphill on Hardtimes Rd.  As we paused for a break, I pulled a strap out of my pocket, and much to his relief, attached it to our bikes so I could pull him up the 1.5 mile hill.  I realized immediately that this was going to be a good workout. 

We got to the top and the kid asked what that gray stuff was that cars were driving on.  I informed him that is was the Blue Ridge Parkway.  His eyes widened with surprise and delight at having ridden so far.  We took another quick break and headed down the long down hill.  Cruising down the contours of the mountains, I felt like things could not be better than they were right at that moment.

Sunday we went to check out the rodeo. We got there early and walked around back to the holding pens and got to see the cowboys herding the horses and cattle into the Ag Center.   It was the kids' first time and nachos with cheese were needed to make the experience that much better.

I'm still waiting in extreme anticipation to share something new that is going on, but that will just have to wait for the right time.  

Have a great day.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Camp Out

 I rode to the edge of the word and sat down to look around.  "Clear eyes clear, clear heart, can't lose!!".  I just sat, pondering, breathing fresh air, observing the world below.
 And I got hungry so I  had a little  Honey Stinger snack. Delish.
 I came back to life and took the kid camping.  We roasted hot dogs and marshmallows,  chased beams of light through the dark woods,  threw the football ( I finally figured out why I don't like football, but I won't share that today....).  We drove around the forest, chatted with a passel of bear hunters who had just missed a "big one".  
We attempted to take the scenic route,  to take time to "smell the roses",  but we had to take the pavement.  Sometimes that happens.

Have a great day!!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

First Night Ride

 I set out for a quick ride.  I got out while it was still light and warm.  I was wearing a jersey with arm warmers and shorts.  It was cool in the hollers by the creeks and warm on the ridges.  The leaves are still bright.  Some trees are totally bare, then rounding a corner, my senses are rocked with bright red, orange and yellow.  I had to stop several times to soak it in.
 The sun set and it started getting dark.  The forest was alive with squirrels, birds and bears.  I saw a mama bear and two cubs.  I tried to pet them, but they ran away....
 Twilight was long tonight.  The afterglow of the setting sun lasted about45 minutes.  I stopped at the new overlook at 5 points to ponder the sounds of civilization far below.  The dog barking, kids playing, the crowd at the ballfield cheering.
Dark finally closed in, and it was just me and my beam of light, slicing through the thick blackness, cruising down Ingles Field.....peaceful, not wanting to be anywhere else, living in the moment.

Have a great day.

Monday, November 08, 2010


                                          Double the fun:

I had a great weekend hanging out with friends and family.  There is too much to tell on here, so I'll narrow it down to a few thoughts.

                                           A touch of snow at the top of Greens Lick:
  Riding home from Bent Creek on the Parkway..headwind and running from  the dark gray clouds that you cannot see in this picture:
477,  leading away from the top of Farlow Gap:
Double checking race course marking for Swank 65:
I love to ride:
Saturday was the Bikerumor Swag toss, and then a spin around Bent Creek with my Siren/WBR teammate Chris Strout.  We both were having a hard time getting the legs going, but it was great to be out in the 37 degree wintry weather.  Chris was getting ready to ride Swank 65, and I was not.  Good ride.  I headed home after a couple of hours and took my family out to Okie Dokies Smokehouse.

Sunday was an odd sort  of introspective day.  I got up way too early and headed out alone to volunteer in the woods.  Some of that time I spent around people, some of it I spent alone, way out in the woods.  At one point, I was walking along the trail, my shadow centered on the trail in front of me, and I took a moment to look at myself.  To quickly analyze where I am and what I am doing.  What I discovered brought peace.

I am exactly where I want and need to be,  doing what I want and need to be doing.  It is not all fun stuff, a lot of it is, but not all of it.  I look forward to the future, sometimes get anxious about cash flow or other day to day things,  but looking forward and not only looking but moving. 

I think that moving is one of the biggest motivators in someones day to day living.  Just the simple act of getting up off the couch and getting out the door.  Even if you don't go far or fast on a particular day,  at least one would have experienced some forward motion. 

And so, one step at a time, I move.  Off the couch, out the front door, and into the day.

Have a great day.

Friday, November 05, 2010

November 5, 2009

I posted this though last year on this day.  Interestingly, I remember the emotions that went with writing that piece.  I remember the exact struggles I was having and why.  I also remember resolving to do something about it.  One year later, I am in a totally different place in life.  I have found clarity, my situation is different, better, still a struggle but one more worth fighting for. 

Seek balance and it will rock your world!!

Have a great day.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Elk Mtn

Fall in Asheville, NC equals fun times.  With the winter storm still in the forcast, I rolled out the door for a loop up Elk Mtn Scenic Hwy.  I put on long sleeves and knickers, which was just a little too much.  But this time of year, especially gaining altitude, its not always bad to be a little overdressed.  I've been under dressed plenty of times and it ruins a good ride,  turns into survival.
1.5hrs and back in time to eat some delicious stew handmade by the wife....with cornbread to boot.  Yeah.

Have a great day.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010


I went for a ride last night at Bent Creek.  I rode with people: Frank, Larry, O'Neill, Tyler.  We rode fast and slow, we laughed and giggled.  We talked about the future, about new ventures and old.  Talked about racing, and riding, bike parts and clothes.  The air was cool and dry, with a hint of the approaching "winter storm".  It was close to dark when we finished.  Time to pull out the lights.
Have a great day.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010


I've been in a funk lately.  Why?  I wasn't sure.  Things creep up in a person's head and before they realize it, they feel certain ways and don't know why.   It's important to process those feeling and deal with them.  On the ride yesterday, I processed.  Now I can deal.  There are some really exciting things happening in my life, daily.  I can't waste these moments,  I have to seize them and enjoy them,  can't let the funk overrule the joy!!

 I used to think that the sign said: " Bicycles, speed limit eight", then I realized that it says:" Bicycles, Speed Limit- Infinity".
It's about perspective...

Have a great day.

Monday, November 01, 2010


The picture sums up my weekend,  minus the time that was spent with the wife.
It was one of those milestones in the kid's mtn biking career.   A 44 degree ride on Explorer Loop, 2.5 miles.  He talked about doing it again.  The next day we went back.  He wanted to do two loops but was feeling tired.  I recommended next time it was warm, we could do two loops.  He said" or maybe three loops".  That's my kid.  

I am still waiting on some things to happen concerning my future.  I keep making little bits of progress, then have to wait twice as long for something else that pops up.   Nothing to do except keep looking forward.  I can't wait until I get to make the big announcement.  If this works out, its going to be a dream come true.... 

Have a great day!!