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

Friday, April 21, 2017

My Rocket Ship

First up Fox Asheville for keeping my fork dialed.  After upgrading from my Rockshock over the winter, I rode more techy trail than I have before, and with more smooth confidence.  Love the Fox!
 Trips For Kids WNC and the community that makes the program work like a well oiled machine!  I would not be racing without all of the support.  I hope I'm an inspiration to the kids we work with!
 Of course, no rocket ship is complete without I-9 wheels and Endless Bike Components.  The best of the best and local!!  I love these  companies.

I switched to Maxxis Crossmarks before the race.  They used to be my favorite tire, and now they are again.  Gordon mentioned that one does not see the Crossmark much anymore,  and wondered why?  I figure it is because tire companies have come out with about 2 billion "newer, better" tires since.   Stick with what works, don't be afraid to try something new, and then go back to what works!
 Cane Creek,  for the headset that never fails and keeps my turns smooth like buttah!
And of course, thanks to Liberty Bikes for helping me get on this Salsa El Mar Ti!!  

Livin' the dream!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Catchin' Up

 So much fun to be had, so little time.

Last week was my 9th consecutive Pisgah Stage Race.  And I missed two days.  With Todd's no DNF rule, I still managed a 10th out of 11 single speeders.

I took it easy on stage 1 and scored an 8th or 9th place.  I wasn't concerned.   I knew that was going to miss Thursday and Friday, so I wasn't going for it.  I decided to just enjoy the ride.  No regrets.

Stage 2, the bottom 9 single speeders tried to have a neutral roll out, but that became difficult on the 6 mile road ride to the first single track.  I tried to keep a moderate pace, but when geared wheels went by, offering a good draft,  I had to take it.

13 miles into the stage, I cam across a racer sitting next to the trail nursing a dislocated ankle.  I borrowed a phone from another racer and called the race director then 911, giving them the exact location of the injured guy. In the 7.5 minutes it took to make the calls, most of the other single speeders caught up to me.  I think at the end of the day, with the time adjustment, I scored a 4th place. But, I'm not really worried about that.

Thursday and Friday, I found myself suffering in the trenches with a shovel, struggling with the emotions of being a kid stuck in a grown up life.   The contractor was available, and in this growing down,  you can't ask them to wait, or it might be another month before they can get to you.   I kept telling myself it will be worth it in the end.... really, it will.

I was really excited about this year's race because I had just gotten this little camper built up.  Still have some finishing to do, but with 3 bunks and room to sit and play cards,  I'm hoping this will get us out of the house more this summer.

I bought the aluminum shell and built the rest to create a lightweight slide in camper.  I need a couple more windows, and ac/heat window unit and a couple of other minor things.  Staying in Brevard made a huge difference in my race.

As soon as I hear the dates, I'm going to make reservations for next year's Stage Race!

 I made it back out to Brevard on Friday night.  As I said before, it is so nice to wake up, have coffee and head to the venue 10 minutes down the road, rather than drive 45 minutes......

Stage 5, I hid in the middle of the pack and then worked up towards the front of the race.  Within a mile, the single speed leader slid out and I was momentarily in 1st place.   Of course it didn't last long.  I settled in to my pace.  My goal today was to beat Markley.  A super cool guy from Ohio, who has done quite a bit of self supported endurance racing.  He has a strong steady pace.  We rode together a couple of days.  Not today, I was in front and as much as I wanted to slow down and hang out,  I felt like I needed to prove something to myself.

I went for it, to my limit and finished the day in 4th place,  45 seconds behind 3rd!   
Before the race, I was pretty discouraged about my "training".  Due to life, it had been inconsistent, and, well, I didn't think I had it in me.  Apparently I was wrong.  I was thinking this would be my last, but I had so much fun this year....  I'll be back until Todd tells me to leave!!

Monday, April 10, 2017

PSR #9

I got my camper built up just in time for the race.  I'm slightly more excited about trying it out than I am about racing. 

In fact,  I'm not racing.  I'm just going to enjoy the ride.  You think I jest, but no Ms Jackson, I am for real. 

Several key factors have helped me make that decision.  One is that I am going to miss 2 days of the race this year.  Fortunately, Todd, the race director has some cool rules that keep everyone in the event and prevent DNF's.   If someone doesn't start, or misses a stage, he takes the last finisher's time in your category, adds 1 hour and the result is your posted time for the day. 

I have been riding, but not consistently.  Last week's 150 mile adventure gave me the boost of confidence, telling me that I have the endurance to finish.  But, I have not ridden since.  ( I ran 2.5 miles with the kid yesterday though)

In addition to my binge riding habit,  I have a major construction project going on which is also time consuming.   I've hired someone to do the work, but I'm helping out to keep costs down.  

Of course, after months of logistics and waiting,  this Thursday and Friday appear to be big days that I need to be present for....

So,  I'll be racing and digging at the same time. 

I love the Pisgah Stage Race,  I love the trails we ride.  This is my 9th time and I admit my interest is slightly waning.  Do want to round it up to an even 10?  Too soon. 

Wednesday, April 05, 2017


I'm glad I quit when I did.  I'm glad that I chose to get a ride with a stranger. 

I was able to get out and scout the next section of the route this evening and holy freakin' cow.  More climbing.  Lots more climbing.  Narrow two lane roads.  Back woods, back country, out there, don't turn down that side road kind of place.

And I got turned around and lost.... not good.

But, beautiful and a good taste of Appalachia.   I might need to change the name of the route. 

I wish there were more gravel roads on the loop, but it simply cannot be.  

Sometime back, NC decided that it would be a good idea to pave every single road in NC.  And that is what they attempted to do, and got pretty far.

Fortunately,  the Forest Service roads escaped the pavement rampage. 

With my crazy busy schedule, I'm hoping to get out there again this weekend to scout more of the route, and make sure it is reasonable and relatively safe for passage.  I can't have anyone ending up in Spillcorn!

Stay tuned!

Monday, April 03, 2017

The Blue Ridge Mountains Loop

 The Blue Ridge Mountains Loop is a loop that I have mapped out that circles the mountains and valleys around Asheville and deep into Pisgah National Forest and the Smokey Mountains National Park.  The route is a mix of gravel and pavement.  The final route is about 30%gravel with 70% pavement. 
 I've been working on the route for a long time, about 4 years.   I came home after doing the Allegheny Mtns Loop and decided to map out something similar in our area. 

Our scenery is beautiful and challenging and I want to share it with the bike packing world.
So I sat down at the computer and started mapping, planning, routing and re-routing.  The original route was about 350 miles.  Pretty huge and some fairly long stretches of pavement.  The route circumnavigated Mt Mitchell

But, as time went by I started whittling  the route down into something more manageable.  Not an easy feat, because there are so many gravel roads in certain areas and I wanted to include a lot of it.   But, then I realized that there is no reason to include everything in this one route. 
 So,  I thought about my goals:
  • Leave from my front door, or anywhere in the Asheville area.
  • Manageable mileage for the weekend warrior or the beginning bike-packer
  • A challenge for those who enjoy pushing through the night and traveling light and fast.  The long distance racer types.  
  • Easy access to services for refills, so one could travel lightly and "live off the land" without having to carry 3 days worth of food, etc.  
  • Access to lodging options including campgrounds, cabins and hotels for those who no longer enjoy sleeping in ditches. 
  • And finally, a route that would showcase our mountains and give a taste of Pisgah and the Smoky Mountains.
 I wound up with a 190 mile route that meets all of the above criteria.   I have not released the map yet, because I wanted to be the first to ride the route, obviously. 

But,  I wanted to release it early this year so that folks could have access to a great route for training or simply the challenge.  I have attempted to complete the route several times but have not quite finished for different reasons.

I'm not quite ready to release the route yet, because there is a portion that I have not scouted, and I don't want to send someone up the wrong road, in the middle of Madison County.   My desire to do this was confirmed when Grace Moon, who kindly gave me  a ride back to civilization when I was disoriented and fatigued.  She asked if I had heard of a place in Madison County called Spillcorn. 

No, I had not. 

She warned that that is one place I didn't want to end up especially on a bike....  I told her I have a way with folks and wasn't too worried.  After all, she had picked me up.   We agreed that not just anyone could pull that off!
 I have  a little bit more route recon to do before releasing the map.  I hope to get that done in the next week or two. 

Stay tuned!

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Why I keep DNF'ing And Why You Should Too.

 Life.  Has been coming at me fast and hard lately.   That's why,  even though I was feeling about 75%, I headed out the door on Friday morning.  I'm not sure what was up, but I think stress and fatigue were huge factors.  

Anyway,  I rolled out, excited deep down and hoping that my nausea would turn to elation at some point.

I have been working on  a bike-packing loop for a couple of years now.  Trying to create a loop that would include as much gravel as possible without making it too huge.  Something that would be attainable to a weekend warrior, such as myself. 

Several years ago, I was getting good long rides in most Saturdays and Sundays.  In addition, I was attending Liberty's Thursday night road ride, and some others.  I was fit and decently fast.  My point is, back then,  I could load up my bike and ride the 275 miles to Roanoke, on a whim.  Or set out on the Allegheny Mountains Loop and ride 400 miles in 4 days.
 Not anymore.  My priorities have changed.  And this is what I told the kid when he wondered why I came home early, DNF'ed.
 I'm now asst soccer coach for the kid's school team,  I drive a school bus to help the school out when they are short on drivers.  The wife works every other weekend, so the weekends in between,  I don't want to be gone all day on long rides.  Family time is important.  I have a couple of secret projects that have been consuming my time.  Trips For Kids WNC is healthy and slowly growing, which means more time invested to keep it solid. 
Lots of things. 
I had a lot of time to process this as I climbed the giant hill coming out of Hot Springs,  the hill that did me in, sapped the last of my energy,  forced me to understand that 25 more hilly miles was not going to be possible for me today.   ( I rode 70 yesterday and already had 50 today)
And you know what?

I have no regrets.  I love cycling, but I also love the things that distract me from cycling. And I will continue to be distracted.  I will also continue to set out on big trips with lofty goals of huge mileage,  just to see how far I can go.  Just to test my limits.   Because if I "fail"  I still haven't failed. 

I would feel like a failure if I didn't try. 

I think that's worse than not trying at all.