Saturday, March 14, 2020

That Didn't Happen

My first DNS ( did not start )

Was pretty pumped to go ride Stagecoach 400 this year. Signed up, packed the bike in the car and drove to Idyllwild. Took the scenic route up S2 so I could see what some of the desert areas looked like. It rained a lot on the drive over, in lots of places where I've only seen hot dryness.

Got into Idy, checked into the hotel and listened to the rain at night. Up the next morning, scored some breakfast and went to a shop there and bought some rain pants ( since I forget mine .. lying on the chair by my desk ! ).  Loaded up the bike and went out in the rain and up the first big hill just like I had done before ... windy, rainy, sloppy, water all over the place ... I had a good time actually !  Was fun to see the route on my new Wahoo Roam.

Back to the hotel, dried off some and went for a burger. I think my stomach was already a bit "off", remember eating maybe 2/3 of it.  Went back to the hotel and napped.  Didn't feel all that great, putting some of it to "butterflies". 

Went to the rider's meeting, met a bunch of other riders, talked about rides and stuff, that's always fun. Brendan and Meg talked about some of the reroutes we'd be doing because of the rain. Wasn't clear exactly where those would be, just figured if it wasn't passable, we'd bail for pavement.

Back to the hotel and I didn't feel good. Slept a little and then woke up and just barely made it to the bathroom. After a couple of trips my system was empty. Started thinking "do I have the freaking Covid ?" ... lots of worry.

Got up weak and empty on Friday morning for the Grand Depart .... and decided to bail for home. Got my trash in the car and drove home to Tucson, all 420 miles of it. Took a nap, had a tiny bit of soup and then went to bed for about 15 hours or so with a little fever. Better to be sick at home than some hotel room in another state.

Went out in the garage a few minues ago, and my bike is sitting there all ready to go, but I wasn't.  Watching trackleaders and wishing I was out there. Looked like it was a really hard, cold, wet ride and would be memorable for all that started it.

Good Luck everyone.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Bellbreaker 2020

"Where are you headed" he says
"Tucson" Says me 
"Do you know how far it is"
"Yeah, I think it's about 14 or 15 miles"  ( I was a little east of Piety Hill on Redington Road )
"There's a lot of climbing to do"
"Yeah, it's kinda downhill in a bit"
"No, there's a lot of climbing, lot of ups and downs, think you'll be ok"
"Yeah I think so"

The black Jeep Patriot continued feeling it's way down the rubbly road and I continued pushing my very tired butt up, hoping to get to Piety Hill and at least do that nice downhill to the A7 Ranch headquarters, then somehow get to the AZ Trailhead and get off most of Redington by sundown. I think it was about 4 pm ... the sun goes down quickly at this time of the year.

So there we are on a Sunday evening, having started this crazy ride on Saturday morning at about 7:15 am. Tired, just wanting to be done, and knowing I still had 15 or 16 more miles of pavement to get to where I parked my car.

Saturday morning was promising as all of these rides are. Blue Dog Bicycles hosted Bellbreaker this year, with a changed route because of snow on top of Mt Lemmon. Most riders got to the shop in plenty of time to chat a little, score some breakfast that was being cooked on spot and look at each other's rides. There were the fast people, with almost nothing being carried, on a gravel only bike. And the in between people with a little bit of stuff. And then there were clowns like me with the full bike packing suite.

Getting ready at BlueDog

7:15 came, no countdown, we just rolled out, down Mountain to the Rillito path and headed east. I had my buff on and I looked a bit like Kenny from South Park, all bundled up. Was freezing cold down by the river where the cold air settles. At Udall Park, I stopped to pee and unlayer some, as the main group headed east, the last I would see of most of them. 

Quick stop for a Coke at the Circle K on TV and then up Redington. I've done that route several times and think I set a new slow, just couldn't get my ST. But I passed a couple of people, then stopped and got passed by them. Chatted with a girl who had a van, was sitting on a rock with cool music playing and her orange and white cat was just chilling out with her. 

Back up Redington. Lots of water on the road, it had frozen overnight and there were little bits of ice in the potholes. Someplace on the back side of Redington, I looked at the time and realized I had been going for 5 hours and was just now on San Pedro road.

San Pedro valley

Getting to the San Manuel turnoff was pretty easy, then got the dirt section to Mammoth. Crossed the San Pedro with a little bit of water in it, pretty good rolling to Mammoth. I took a picture at the old bar, then got to the Mexican restaurant and scored some tacos and rice and beans. The food was great, and I got another Coke from the Circle K and a to go asada burrito. Three other riders were leaving and I tagged on their back for a bit and followed them on the dirt road going towards Dudleyville. They moved away and I fell back ... thought I had eaten enough, maybe not ?? .... wheels coming off ... riding slower ... this sucks.

This would have been a fun place 

I think I ate enough

Through the mud puddles, slight detour near the railroad siding that was on private land, had to heft the bike over a locked gate ( might have been a few feet off course ?? ) .. Finally I get to Freeman Road.

Getting dark on Freeman road looking towards the Galiuro Mountains

Know I had a GU, drank some Coke, but just no strength. Rode some, got pass the memorial markers, it's getting dark, it's getting cold, the sun is down. Someplace way up ahead I think I see a red bicycle taillight. Out of energy and cold maybe 3 miles from the AZ Trail trailhead, I pull over and camp. 7 pm, tired, asleep.

Cold. Wake up to pee. Cold. Back in the sleeping bag. 3:15 I wake up. Figure I better get my ST and head out. Pack up, ride a little in the cold and dark, walk more than I should. Two vehicles at the trail head, no lights, I move on.

Turned onto Willow Springs road in the dark. Ride some, walk a little. Slow, cold, tired. Get a little more energy as the sun comes up and I'm going through the Willow Springs archway. Turn onto the gas line road, climb the green gate and get on the bypass for 77.  Three more gates, heavy assed bicycle. Get through it.

Mexican restaurant in Oracle. It was warm inside. Iced tea and huevos ranchers and a hot tortilla. So damn good. Cleaned my plate. Saw some strong people had quit. Thought about quitting. Pain in the ass to ride home after quitting. Pain in the ass to keep riding. Better to finish than quit. Rode up the hill, scored a chocolate mile and orange juice at the Circle K at the top of the hill.

Fun to ride downhill to San Manuel, but knowing every inch of elevation would have to be regained.

Starbucks drink, some candy, 15 minutes there, left. Breezy heading south, saw three gals riding going north. Stopped, ate a little.

Long ways in either direction

Back up that hill. Probably the slowest I've ever done it. Saw the jeep guy near Piety Hill. Yeah, got some food, got camping stuff, can just hangout another night if I don't make it, but screw that, time to go home.

Cross the AZ trail and my speed picks up. Suddenly I can ride the climbs ... no more walking, like I'm some kinda rejuvenated or something.  I had fun going downhill, getting dark, with red necks blasting their guns away on the north side of the road at three or four places, rolling along. 

Snow and Granite in the Rincons

At the top of the switchbacks the view was amazing, sundown, lights on in Tucson, pitch black otherwise, red sky, lights on in campers along the switchbacks. Getting cold. Gonna make it.

Bombing the downhill, so much fun, splashed through the creek at the bottom. Turn on my tail light ( bonus, it's not discharged like it was during Sunset ! ).  Pretty well lit, if they run my ass over at least that wasn't the reason.

Nice way to end a day

I get to Bear Canyon and go into the pizza place. Got a grinder for some dumb reason ... wasn't what I wanted at all, nibbled at it, ate some of the fries, downed a glass of orange soda, left most of the sandwich on the table, outta there.

Got down TV and survived, didn't get ran over. Got to the Rillito bike path. Safe now. Coyotes howling in the river, howled back at them. Craycroft, Swan, Alvernon, Country Club, Campbell, finally Mountain. Up the hill to Paul's house, got my car, and drove two blocks to Blue Dog. Took a picture at 9:02 and I'm done.

Done

So about 38 hours to do 200 miles. Gotta be the oldest person to do this ride ... like Ever !  Good to be done.  Something like 92 miles on Saturday and 108 on Sunday.


Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Sunset Limited

Four hundred miles from Tucson to Las Cruces.  Seemed like a fun thing to do, when I first heard that Blue Dog Bicycles was going to sponsor it and so I went to their kickoff meeting back in September.

It all seemed straightforward, ride from Tucson over Redington Pass to Benson ( which I had done ), and then from Benson over MiddleMarch ( also done ) and then into the Chiricahua Mountains, Portal and through New Mexico to El Paso and then north to Cruces.  Why not ?  Signed up and ready to go.

Day 1 - Tucson to Benson

Got up on Friday morning and it was raining just a little bit so I got my rain layer out ( which I was thinking about leaving at home ).  I rode to Blue Dog and waited for the others to show up, coffee'd up at Starbucks and around 7:15 we began to ride out.  Like most of these big group rides, everyone was all excited and we made great time getting to the Circle K on Tanque Verde, the last stop before Benson.  I got a Coke and a Fanta there and left pretty quickly.  Nate, who organized the ride, passed me a couple of minutes later and then we started up Redington road.
Nate presiding over the festivities 

Redington is a nice climb, and Nate was waiting at the top. Matthew was up there also and we chatted for seconds before rolling along. I looked down and there were 3 riders abreast perhaps 4 or 5 switchbacks downhill.  Kept on going, maybe a bit slower than I've done the ride over to the San Pedro before, but it went well.  When I got to the river, I was going to take that little shortcut past the ranch houses and the fields, but the river was running strong because of the rain that had fallen, I put one wheel in and it sunk and I said "no way" and beat a quick retreat.  You could see all of the rain off on the San Pedro road, and back behind me up in the mountains .. lots of thunder and booming.
Get out of the road little guy
Dark and Stormy
Ponies at the Circle K

San Pedro road had some mud, but was starting to dry out.  I got a turtle out of the road so he didn't get ran over, not that much traffic out there, but good for him to be someplace else. Near Cascabel, I stopped for a couple of minutes and it was totally quiet and then I heard the crunching of gravel and here comes Ian. He had a flat tire right in the parking lot before the group left, had taken maybe a half hour or more to get it fixed and had caught up. He quickly rode out of sight and that was the last rider I saw on the course. After a while I got to Pomerene, and I was pretty dehydrated ... had plenty of water, but hadn't drank enough because it was cloudy and such up in the mountains and I got into a deficit situation.  Sure could have used a little store or gas station, but there is nothing except a Post Office in Pomerene.  So I rode on into Benson and stopped at the first Circle K.  A Big Gulp hit the spot as I sat and drank it. Few minutes later, I headed for the Horseshoe Cafe which was really busy,  I wasn't ready to eat, so got a grilled ham and cheese to go, and went outside. Turned on my rear light and it was dead ... must've left the thing on all day.  This meant I was going to have to ride down AZ 80 toward St David with no taillight.  As I pondered that, I rode past a little motel and decided it was time to bag it for the night, recharge myself and my batteries and hit it in the morning. $40 for a room worked out just fine.

Day 2 - Benson to Chiricahua Mtns

Early up, rolling just before sunrise. Ate that ham and cheese sandwich in my room, swung by the food mart and then went south. St David was quiet, and the ride down 80 to Clifford Ranch road went well, but it is a LOT easier going the other way like I did during the Cochise Classic.  At Clifford Ranch road, there is a big windmill and you take the road east towards MiddleMarch road.  It rode well, till a little section that was overgrown with cat claw. I thought it was fun, I pushed a little bit to get around most of the cat claw, got to the top  of a rise, took some pictures, and then I saw a badger run out in front of me. He ran for maybe 20 or 30 feet and then bailed back into the brush. Cool !
Catclaw and barbed wire on the crossover
Middlemarch ( you can see the sheeps head )
Survived the Climb

MiddleMarch road is just a wide, pretty well graded pain, getting hot, sweaty.  I passed Slavin Gulch road, stopped for a second, and got to the top and met Tyler, who was running the Salsa Cycles aid station. He cooked up a brat and had some bacon already cooked and it was soooo good !  He had a couple of ice cold sodas, and I could have sat there and BS'd all afternoon, but made myself get up and start downhill towards Pearce. There is nothing in Pearce, in spite of Google saying that TJ's is there !  ( I did remember that ).  On to Sunizona and I stopped at Sandy's, got another grilled ham and cheese and took half of it to go.  They were really wonderful people there, highly recommend it.

Nice ride towards the mountains, but the wind changed and it was getting tiring.  At someplace I saw a cell tower, checked my phone, and nope ... still no service !  ( must've been another carrier ).  Into the Chiricahua's near sundown and started looking for a camping spot and as it was getting dark, passed from private property into the forest, found a little road that turned near a windmill and I stopped.
Saturday night

Put the bike down and saw something running and it was a little skunk leaving the area.  I camped, cooked a stroganoff thing I had bought ( not that good ), and went to bed. Before getting into the bivy, heard a rustling and there was another skunk .. he left when I shined my light on him.  The stars were spectacular, and the old windmill groaned in the wind.

Day 3 - Chiricahua Mtns to Hachita

Sunday morning. Tried to ride before dawn and didn't really get the sun on me until the top of Onion Saddle. It was a nice climb, dark and cool in the shadows, and beautiful views. At the top you can see forever, I think it's about 7400 feet. A fast downhill pretty much all the way to Portal, passing the Southwest Research station, and seeing a lot of deer along the road near the campgrounds down there.
Nice morning


The Portal Lodge's breakfast was delicious and got me recharged for the later morning.  Leaving Portal had a nice downhill, but a strong south wind, when I turned north I was flying !  The ride to Animas went well but it was sure good to find the Bootheel grocery open as you leave Animas.  Such a little town, out in the middle of nowhere.
Portal deer

More riding, heading east on NM 9.  Stopped at the only tree to drink some and rest for a couple of minutes before the Playas training center.

almost to Hachita
Not McDonald's
Then over the next range of mountains and I was coming into Hachita when I passed Jeff's Bike Ranch and Martin, a GDMBR rider was out front telling me "they're all here". Turned out Nate and Simone had stopped and were heading back to Tucson.  There were some hot dogs, and Jeff came in and fixed me a pitcher of lemonade which really hit the spot.  Nate and Simone and the guys left, I talked with Lisa, another GDMBR rider for a few minutes and then I left, so I could get out of town before sundown.  I stopped at the grocery and talked with Jeff for a bit and he took my photo.  The shadows were getting long and I made about 8 miles before I saw a little road off to the left and I cut onto it and bivied for the night.  The stars were even more spectacular and there was lightening off to the east.  Cows and coyotes for company.

Day 4 - Hachita to El Paso
New Mexico sunrises rock
Basin and Range

Up, made coffee, rolled out.  Lots of Border Patrol on this road ... like every mile or so it seemed. Passed the BP Ramsey station, and just kept going. Not that much to say or comment about as it was just flattish, more Basin and Range country with easy climbs. I stopped at a place called Hermanos which was a cattle collection point.  Took a couple of pictures and felt something funny and realized my leg was covered in mosquitoes.  Time to leave !

Finally got to Columbus and hit the little restaurant. She fixed me a steak and scrambled egg plate with beans and tortillas ... it tasted so good !!  Seriously, food is such a treat when you have been riding for a while, but this was good even if you weren't starving !

I called Susan from the little park there, where the old guys were sitting around. You know in some ways, I am one of those old guys, was thinking I could just sit there a complain about the kids or something. But it's getting warm and I need to get to El Paso.

That part was hot. There was a bag of ice I should have bought in Columbus, and as the miles ticked on I really regretted not buying it, and filling up all of my bottles.  My water got hot and there was little shade. Got pass all of the interesting terrain stuff and then wind was changing blowing right at me.  The last few miles before Santa Theresa were hard and slow.  Finally, I got there and turned and immediately I was zooming along the Decominici highway at 20 something mph.  There was dirt blowing all over the place, I was over on the newly build highway skirting all of the traffic. As I crossed into Texas it began to rain.  Stopped at a Subway and the guy asked me where I came from and said "Hachita" ... he hadn't heard of it.

So it was getting dark and I wasn't sure about camping along the bike path and really wanted something besides Subway, so I found a hotel for the night and figured I could start early and get to Las Cruces and back to El Paso to make a 1:30 Amtrak back to Tucson.

Day 5 - El Paso to Las Cruces

Pretty ride. Light rain at the start, you ride on some concrete bike path, and then along the levee system on either side of the river.  Crossed the Rio Grande several times, and then there was an easy street ride into Las Cruces, past the University and suddenly we are done.
Urban bike path
Rio Grande

Done
I got a coffee the folks at Outdoor Adventures and got an Uber on the phone and he was there in no time at all.  Marzan pulled up and we started trying to figure out how to get my bike in his car. He didn't think the seat went down so we tried it without folding it down.  No way !  Was thinking we were going to have to cancel the ride when I saw there was a cutout from the trunk area and then we noticed the two little handles on either side that released the seats ..  yay, they folded down, the bike fit  ( with the wheels off ) and away we went.

El Paso Amtrak station is a beautiful building constructed in 1904.  The train was supposed to arrive at 1:30 but kept getting pushed back and finally got there at 5:45.  Lots of clouds and it all made for a beautiful sunset as we rolled towards Tucson. Got into Tucson at about 11:30, put the bike together and rode home and it was done.
Trizzle, trazzle, trozzle, trone .. time for this one to go home

Was really nice to see my blue dot "bounce" when I got to Las Cruces, especially after bailing on ATR two years in a row.  This was a fun ride, and hats off to Blue Dog Bicycles, Overland Adventures and Salsa Bikes for setting this up and supporting it.  Next up is doing the Mount Lemmon Gravel Grinder on Oct 26.





Sunday, July 21, 2019

ATR 2019

Well, I lasted 12 days on the American Trail Race this year before I bailed on it. Wish I hadn't done that, but I was pretty frustrated at the progress I was making.  But the 12 days and the couple of days before were pretty darn cool and I'll see if I can remember some of the highlights of the thing here.

I rented a car in Tucson and drove myself and the bike to Jacksonville, NC.  First day, I drove to the Guadalupe Mountains in Texas and stopped at the park for a bit.  I then realized that it was coming up on Memorial Day weekend and every park was going to be full. All the campsites at GMNP were full, so I drove through the Permian Basin and all of the oil patch to beautiful Pecos, Texas and grabbed a room in a little hotel there.

The Guadalupe Mountains are the highest points in Texas, right down there on the New Mexico and Texas border. Beautiful rocks that used to be part of a giant reef at the bottom of the Ocean.  And then just a few miles further one drives through some pretty countryside before you get to an area that is pretty much totally trashed out by energy development.

Another day of driving and as I go along I-20 I get a warning light that I have a low tire pressure on the rental car. Stop at a food mart/gas station and buy a pressure gauge and refill all the tires.  About 15 miles later it comes on again, so yeah ... there's a problem.  I pull off and find Mike's Tire Shop, just a little tiny truck/car tire repair place and they got me patched and going again for $15 and maybe 30 minutes total.  Not too bad.

Friday afternoon traffic through Dallas was a pain, and I got to Shreveport and stopped.  The next day was pretty uneventful, a stop in Vicksburg, MS to look at the Mississippi River, followed by a wrong turn onto the westbound direction taking me back across the Mississippi to make a u-turn in Louisiana and come back across again ... dummy !

Got almost to the Georgia line and stopped for the night, and next day drove to Wilmington, NC and checked out the USS North Carolina. I saw this ship when I was about 12 right after it had been bought by the State and moored as a museum saving it from scrap.  Kinda moving to think about where she had been, as I know my Dad saw her in action at Iwo and Leyte.

Off to Jacksonville to drop off the rental car at the airport, and then I dug the bike out, put the wheels on and rode to Atlantic Beach.  This is a fun ride, lots of bike path until I got to Camp Lejeune, a bit of highway riding and then beach town riding.  Stayed at a cute little hotel called the Caraibe Inn in Atlantic Beach, had a great dinner and decided the next day to camp on the beach someplace.

I got up and rode to Davis, NC and took the ferry over to the Outer Banks, part of the Cape Lookout National Seashore ... an area about 12 miles north of the actual Cape Lookout we would depart from on Saturday.  It was hot and windy.  Perhaps not the best plan in the world, as I get to the seashore at about 1 pm and there is no cover out there.  Once again I failed to zip up the tent at night and woke up being chewed on by sand fleas at around 2 am when the wind died down.  But the beach in the early morning was spectacular, with big shells being washed up and no one else around to grab them up.

Skiff Ride from Davis to National Seashore

I took the ferry back to the mainland and rode to Morehead City. Thought I would save some money and stayed in a really cheap hotel there.  Another bug mistake, as I got chewed on by bed bugs or something most of the night ... one of the more miserable nights of sleeping I've had.

Up the next day to ride off to Cape Lookout.

I met Tim and his parents and had lunch with them on Hawker's Island, and then met Peggy and Adam who are still pressing on with the ride in the middle of Oregon as I write this.  Then got to the ferry and Park headquarters and met Bill and Lindsay and Bill's wife Ann.  Took the ferry over to the island and met Zo and Hannah, and then Indiana, Brian, Giovani and Cristina, and Scott.  The whole group was all assembled, ready to spend the night at Cape Lookout and head out the next morning.

Bill and Ann and I went off to visit the lighthouse and climbed the many ( 200 something ?? ) steps to the top of the lighthouse.  Nice and cool up there !
Friday Evening at Cape Lookout

Hiding from the rainstorm

We took a group photo, and then around sundown got ourselves hit by a thunderstorm.  We were hanging out by a structure near the Park visitor center.  Just about all of us set up right there for the night and went to bed. About 11 pm, I heard some voices talking about a storm and felt some raindrops, and dragged my stuff to the center of the overhang/sun shelter thing.  About 3 minutes later, there is a 30 mph wind blowing hard rain with lightening and I'm getting wet and gathering up my tent ( that I was using as a bug screen ), and sleeping bag and a couple of clothes and running for the bathroom where about a dozen other people were hiding out !   Inventoried my junk and found out I was missing a sock, that I found that had blown completely off the deck ...   About 1 am the storm was gone and we went to bed.



Day 1 Cape Lookout to Kenansville

Such an exciting night last night with the storm.  The boat was coming at 7 am to take us back to Hawkers so everyone was up and getting packed.  It showed up on time and it was surprisingly cool on the ride over. Pretty quick, all of 15 minutes or so.  I was sitting in the very back of the boat, and as it neared to dock, everyone got up, holding bicycles.  The boat had a little gate on the front and I thought "we're storming this beach, only just not getting shot at" :-)
Almost to Hawkers Island

In a matter of 20 seconds, Lindsay, Indiana, and most of the others were gone.  I was still stuffing my puffy jacket into storage ... that would be the last I would see of those guys !   Scott and Bill were still around and I managed to catch up with a couple of folks on the first few miles away from Hawkers.  I stopped and got some more breakfast goodies and tried to make a good first day of it, and was pretty happy.

Was a hot day, and we were routed through the Hoffman Forest.  Turns out it's some kind of private forest and you need a permit to ride through it. Some guys on an ATV told me that and that we could get some kind of ticket for it.  I didn't see any enforcement, but Bill was unlucky enough to get turned around by them and had to go back out the way he came, making him do and extra 20 miles I think.

Think I got close to 136 miles in for the day.  I went through Kenansville and stopped at a 55 Diner for supper and then rode into the night some, finally camping at what I think was an old homesite close to someone's farm.

Day 2 Kenansville to Carthage

I was up early before dawn and back on the bike, wanting to make Mount Olive to get some breakfast.  I hear a "hello" behind me, and it's Giovanni and Christina on their tandem as they were passing me.  No way to keep up with them, but they slowed in Mount Olive and I had breakfast with them at a McDonald's.  They rolled out as I used the bathroom and that was the last time I saw another one of the riders ( until I picked up Tim in Oklahoma )

I went through Newton Grove, stopped at the same Hardee's I did last year, then rode past Dunn and the point where I bailed last year. Felt good to be rolling right along.

When I got to Carthage, I saw a Mexican restaurant and stopped at it ... talk about weak salsa ... the place was busy, but the food was just not that good at all.  I filled up anyways, and then it was getting dark and I found a place to camp in the woods ... more private property, but the no trespassing signs weren't that obvious and I was pretty well hidden.



Day 3 Carthage to China Grove

Woke up early from my campsite in the woods and wanted to make China Grove, NC.  North Carolina has three different elevation ranges and this would take us out of the low lying areas near the coast and start climbing.  The middle portion of the day was spent through the Uwharrie National Forest and going around a set of lakes.  There was some really pretty riding in here, and quite a few of those cabins back in the woods with big no trespassing signs.  Seems like the ones with the biggest signs were the ones that you would figure had nothing of value that anyone would want anyways ...  and usually marked by a traitor flag flying someplace on the property.
Beautiful Streams

Ran across some logging near Ophir, but otherwise a pretty hot and uneventful day until I got closer to China Grove.  There was a road detour and I rode all the way down to look the construction site over and then elected to take the detour ... turns out some of the other riders went through it, guess I should have gotten off the bike and looked it over better, was maybe a 5 mile detour.  Anyways, I got to China Grove, ate at a Hardee's and then camped by the edge of a corn field just outside of town.

Something like 103 miles and 4400 feet for the day.

Day 4 China Grove to Lenoir

Got up pretty early in China Grove and headed for a diner that I knew would be open. Scored on a big breakfast with eggs and country ham and biscuits and gravy !   That's the kind of thing I was looking for last night, but had to settle for Hardee's. ( ugh ).

I stopped in Troutman for breakfast #2 at a BBQ place, and then rolled along. It was a pretty warm day, I think I took one picture of some farmland.  Lots and lots of farmland.

Getting to Lenoir, I was still scratching all over from the sand flea bites and the bed bug bites and decided that I wanted a hotel. Turns out in Lenoir, the route is to the south of the city and all of the hotels are north, so I rode about 3 1/2 miles off route to get to one.  Ate at a Long John Silver's restaurant and got cleaned up.  Someplace in the middle of the night felt sick and almost threw up, but kept it all down.  It did feel really good to be clean after 4 nights out and a Benadryl seemed to be helping with the bug bites.

Day 5 Lenoir to Linville

Knew this was going to be a hard day and I wanted to avoid work traffic early in the morning getting from my hotel back to the route on the south end of town, so I think I was up at about 4:30.  I went by a diner that I thought would be open but there were closed and had some sort of police bust going on outside, so moved on ...  I got to the freeway at the south end of town and missed my exit, riding about another mile or so, then had to turn around and go back up a hill, but finally got out of Lenoir.

And then we were on a beautiful dirt road going up into the mountains, just exactly the thing I needed for my spirits.  The weather had cooled and the road was pretty smooth and the grade was great.  It started raining and I climbed more and then descended to a little place called Mortimer.  On the way, I saw a bunch of box turtles, some digging in the middle of the dirt road to lay their eggs ...  I picked up a couple of them and moved them to the side before I realized that's their thing .. to dig in the middle of the road as they must like the soil and there is almost no traffic ( hope that works out guys ).  In Mortimer, there is a little general store with an Israeli and American flags out front.  She fixed me a roast beef sandwich and a hot dog and I talked to a couple of fisherman for a while on the front porch. It rained pretty much half of the morning and into the early afternoon, but the scenery was just beautiful and the temperature not bad at all.
Turtle wanted to lay eggs in the road

Mortimer, NC .. best sandwich ever

Somehow I thought it was a quick downhill to Linville.  Silly me.  I rode a bit and felt something funny with the chain and I stopped ... good I did because another pedal stroke would have ripped off my derailleur, as a rock with asphalt on it was stuck in the chain and about to jam in the pulley wheels.  Found it, got it out and then was faced with a pretty much straight up climb.  Finally I realized that I was on the back side of Grandmother Mountain !  Don't know why I thought this was downhill ... the downhill part started once I got to the Blue Ridge Parkway at the very top.  Finally made the climb ... man it was painful ! 

There isn't much in Linville, I seem to remember it being bigger.  I found a BBQ place and got some food, that was pretty dry actually, and then got a nice hotel room for the night.  61 miles and 7300 feet for the day.


Day 6 Linville to Hickory Fork Tailhead

Pretty uneventful ride into Spruce Pine, found some food and then on to Burnsville, NC where I found a little cafe/coffee shop. Had a great sandwich there and then I rolled for Tennessee.  At some point I recall seeing a sign that said Roan Mountain was 15 miles away, so we were way up north now and did more climbing. Then I followed a river for a while and climbed on 19W to the Tennessee state line. That was pretty cool to hit another state.

On a downhill headed in the direction of Erwin, I came around a corner with a groundhog running along in the ditch on the side of the road ... he looked behind himself and realized I was catching up with him and he stopped, stood up and chirped as if to say "ok you caught me but I'll fight you ! "

I got to the TN Visitor Center on I-26 and checked out the vending machines ... they had pretty much everything, soups, stews, a microwave, was pretty impressed by the selection. I watched the lawnmower guys for a while and ate and then rode on, going back into North Carolina.
Heading to off route campsite

As it grew dark I didn't see any good places to camp on the road into Hot Springs, so I saw a brown sign for a trailhead at Hickory Fork and took that .. great choice !  I got back into the woods in dense forest, found a nice bench to set my tent up on, heated up some supper and was in the tent before the rain really started !

Day 7 Hickory Fork to Maggie Valley

The next day was a climby day. I took one turn and the road went almost straight up ( well, it seemed like that ).. lots of rain and low clouds. Pretty country.

I stopped in Hot Springs dripping wet from the morning's rain, a little embarrassed at how much water I was leaving on the floor ... but the breakfast there was outstanding !

At some point in the early afternoon, I got up into the woods on a dirt road and heard a thunderstorm above me and then it opened up .. I was by then on a downhill and got back to where some houses were ...  there was an old store along the road with a tiny little porch on it and I sat under that porch for a bit as the brunt of the rain hit.  It had a little sign on it about I-40 being 15 miles away ... somehow I seemed to peddle 30 or 40 miles before I actually got to I-40.

Once I crossed I-40 the ride to Maggie Valley wasn't too bad, but Maggie Valley was pretty full of traffic and it was one big 4 lane highway, strip mall'ed on either side with lots of fast traffic.  Ugh !

Made it to a hotel in Maggie V just before the rain totally dumped.  I ate in the restaurant at the hotel there ( Maggie Valley Conference Center I think was the name ) and ordered a steak ... that was the worst steak I have had in a long time.


Day 8 Maggie Valley to Smokemont in GSMNP

Well I wasn't eating at the restaurant at the hotel again and I rolled along in MV for a bit and found another little diner .. another super breakfast, followed by this ridiculous gravelly climb past a few houses ... it was a huff and puff to get to the top of it.  Pretty soon I was on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The riding on the Parkway was nice.  It was early enough in the morning and I climbed and then took a seldom used road to get over to Heintooga Round Bottom Road  that would take me back down and towards the Cherokee Reservation.
Heintooga Road ... beautiful

That road was one of the highlights of the whole trip, as it quickly went into a canopy covered forest, with moss on the sides and middle of the road, wild turkeys walking around and more mist. I came upon one turkey, startled it and watched it take flight and make a beautiful turn to the right. Yes they can fly ... not far, but they can fly !

Several miles later the road stopped at a Cherokee Reservation fish hatchery and the rain started hard.  I was pretty soaked and spend several minutes seeking shelter at what was basically a little bus stop shelter.  I put on the only dry thing I had and warmed up a little.  After that I rode into the Great Smokey Mountains National Park via and up to the Smokemont Campground where I grabbed a spot for the night.  As I setup the tent, the rain stopped, but it would come back during the night.



Day 9 Smokemont to Parsons Gap

One thing about GSMNP is that it's probably the most visited National Park. I was up early in the morning and headed up towards Newfound Gap, which is at the peak separating North Carolina and Tennessee. The traffic was pretty light when I started the climb and the rain continued and the mist came in ... it was pretty chilly when I stopped at the top.  This was a place I have been to before, I remembered the Rockefeller plaque in the parking lot from childhood visits with my parents to the Smokies.  I was pretty bundled up, and quite a few of the tourists were in t shirts and shorts ... but then I was soaked and they had just come out of dry cars.
Newfound Gap

Mamma and two cubs ( to her right past the big tree )

More magical flowers

Parsons Gap Road

A fast downhill section got me down to the Sugarlands entrance to the Park. Talk about a nut house ... it was Sunday and the place was hopping !   I scored a couple of sodas from a vending machine and bought a couple of chocolate bars in the visitor center. Surprisingly, that was the only food options available there, and more surprising was that there was no cell reception ... I know we were close to Gatlinburg and really thought the phone would work, but nope !

Next up was to ride through Cades Cove and that was a pretty good ride, but with lots of traffic behind me ... fortunately, there were lots of pull outs and I could swing over into one of them and most of the cars behind me would get by before I needed to pop back into the main flow .. at some point I saw a line of cars stopped and passed several of them and found everyone was watching a mom black bear and her two cubs.

Finally got to the Cades Cove center, scored a burger and chips and sodas at the camp store, and then rode the 8 mile loop going in the flow of traffic ( ATR had us going the other way for some reason ... that would have been suicidal on this Sunday afternoon ! ).  Saw some people trying to get a car started and hear someone say "if we had some Coke we could clean up the corrosion on these battery terminals" ... and I had Coke !  Didn't fix the problem but was interesting to watch everyone problem solve on trying to fix some guy's car.

Finally got to Parson's Gap Road, which had a big closed sign. A fellow and his wife came up behind me and started chatting ... he had all of the Sam's maps for TAT ... basically the motorcycle version of ATR and was really interesting in what I was doing.

Parson's Gap was another beautiful piece of road going through forest. Beautiful flowers in there and it was getting dark and I camped. Turns out I camped about 200 feet from the crest of the high point.

More rain at night.

Day 10 Parsons Gap to Cherola Skyway

Got up, crested that hill and had a nice fast downhill for most of the way to pavement. I managed to scare a bear who ran off the road and got to about mile 3.5 of the Tail of the Dragon.  This is a curvy paved road that motorcyclists come from miles around to ride ... 11 miles downhill, back up, back down, on and on.  Lucky me, I hit it early Monday morning when the thundering noisy herd had left.

Skyway


Stopped at the restaurant in Dales Gap and got breakfast #1, then rode past the Tellico Dam to the Tapoca Inn and stopped there.  Was too late for breakfast, but the lady at the desk said lunch would happen at 11 and it was 10:30, so I sat down in a big civilized overstuffed chair in a beautiful "sitting room" and recharged my phone and used their wifi.  Five minutes later a major rainstorm came and lasted for about 20 minutes ( I would have drowned ! ).  Got my lunch and headed out.

This view was worth a lot of climbing
I stopped at a little store ( the last place to stock up for the day ) and chatted with the lady there. She said one of the earlier riders had stopped right after the store had closed and knocked on the door and she opened up and took care of them ... she was also impressed that we had ridden Parson's Gap ... apparently it's been closed for some time.

Left there and then through a campground and down a muddy trail that ended at a river.  Apparently the track went across to the other side, but all I saw were down trees, briar bushes and places where a couple of someone's had tramped down the grass, but I couldn't see any evidence that anyone went across the river.  Then remembered something about using NC 143, so backtracked and ended up on the Cherola Skyway.

That was a really pretty ride.  Getting late in the day and I got maybe 8 miles or so of it in, and camped.  It rained again and the wind blew. Later in the night I saw lights above the tent ... thought it was distant lightening. I got up and it was some sort of lightening bug, but not the ones I remember as a kid ... these had a spherical light on them vs the cylindrical ones I remember and were much brighter and were there in a little bit of wind.  Tried to look them up, but haven't figured out what they were.


Day 11 Cherola Skyway to Tennessee line

Actually crossed into Tennessee twice this day. First I climbed a bit on the Cherola Skyway ( NC 143 ) and then had a pretty beautiful descent and into TN, rode through forest for a bit and then along a river.  A bit later in the day I got to what was called a Tennessee Welcome Center, just a little curio shop that had a fridge with soda's and some chips and stuff, but the soda's were awesome.  After that I followed part of the Trail of Tears for a bit back into North Carolina.  That was a short little piece and it turned back west and I was back into Tennessee.  Did some climbing and pretty soon it was close to dark and I camped in the woods.
Wildlife Linkages .. the poles allow flying squirrels to cross the road 

Day 12 Tennessee line to Dayton

Was another good day. Had a nice downhill to start, rode along another river and got to highway 411 I think. Was hungry and took a little detour to a deli/gas station and got a great cheeseburger. Back to the route and stopped at a little Amish stand and scored some cookies, and then rode through a bunch of Amish farms.

A little later in the day I got to Calhoun, TN and got to ride along the Trail of Tears for a bit. What a national tragedy that was. More riding got me to the Tennessee River and I crossed it and rode in rain into Dayton which was a couple of miles off route from Graysville, TN.   Couple of hotels were full, but I found one and it rained that night.
Tennessee River

Day 13 We Quit

It was sunny, I got up, ate at a McDonald's and then stopped at a Walmart and got more lithium batteries and something else and was back in Graysville.  And then I got chased by another group of dogs and somehow I decided that I had had enough of riding past "some guy's front yard" and I stopped on a hill and sat there for a while.  I was going to go on. And then somehow the fact that several others had stopped for various reasons and I was way the heck in the back and probably was going to need 70 to 80 days to finish just weighed on me and it all seemed so damn hopeless.

So I looked at the phone and found a car. And then I checked Uber and they didn't have anything, so I almost started up the hill. But I remembered I had Lyft on my phone, so I checked it and a guy said he'd be there in 15 minutes.  So I rolled over to the city office building and he met me and suddenly I was at the Chattanooga airport picking up a car and headed into Alabama.

Driving Back

I drove to Pearl, Mississippi that evening, and up the next morning and into Texas.  I stopped at a combination BBQ/gas station/curio place and looked at my phone and Tim was in Salida Ok already and was going to drop. So I drove a few hours up to Salida on Texas back roads with 70 mph speed limits on 2 lane roads ( Texans are nuts ! )

Met Tim at a Subway in Salida, and we managed to get two 29" mountain bikes into the back of a Nissan Sentra without destroying either one of them.  We drove to Muskogee, OK ( and yes they smoke marijuana in Muskogee .. I saw the shop that sells weed ) and managed to get a couple of smelly smoking rooms ( yuck ).  We drove to Holbrook, AZ and the next morning got up and stopped at the "Standing on the Corner" sign in Winslow, AZ.  I dropped Tim off in Flagstaff and headed for Tucson.
Standing on the Corner - Winslow

And that was the end of the trip.  As I'm writing this Peggy and Adam are going to finish tomorrow with 48 days and Indiana finished on the 4th of July at 34 days.  Giovani and Christina ended up on the road riding into San Francisco and the rest of us dropped.  I had a half baked plan to ride the western portion and I went to Utah and rode all of one day and managed to bake myself, so I am done with anything long distance for a few months.

I saw a line from a woman who was doing Tour Divide this year and was doing well and she quit in Colorado. She said "the thing I wanted was out of reach and slipping away" and I guess that kinda sums up what happened to me ... I just couldn't see that I could do it and magnified the distance between me and my goal, when all I had to do was just ride each day at a time.  Nuts.





Friday, July 12, 2019

Derailment Number Two

I sat there for at least a half hour, perhaps forty minutes, my heart still racing at a hard pace, and the heart rate wouldn't go down. I don't think I have ever been that fried, that exhausted. I remember a few mosquito's coming by and feasting on me and I just didn't care. The Interstate guardrail behind me was hard, but I leaned my Camelback against it and sat there, hoping someone might stop and throw a bottle of water my way ... I still had water, but it was more than hot enough to bathe in, good water, but oh so hot.

For some reason, I pulled the Spot out. I looked at it, and then did something I've never done before, as I lifted the little flap and pushed the button and watched the green light come on.  I sat longer, half expecting to hear the wail of a siren coming from Green River, all of 4 miles away, to help my sorry butt out. I didn't hear any, just more semi's heading west on I-70.

I fell asleep as the darkness began to fall and then I woke up. The heart rate wasn't as crazy as before, but it was still up high, and I found I had a little more strength and I got on the bike and started riding toward Green River with my tail light on. Got a mile or so, and a Utah Highway Patrol car pulls up and the officer gets out and asks if I was the guy that needed help. I talked with him for a bit, he said Green River was close and I thanked him and headed out.

Got to a gas station/food mart and that big gulp soda was one of the best things I have ever had.  I sat with the mosquito's for a while longer and then headed for a hotel and a quick bite to eat at a restaurant across the street.  Couldn't really eat, but enjoyed some iced tea and a root beer float.

Then I get the txt and call from Susan. Apparently GECOS had called her and she was worried sick about me, since GECOS couldn't get in touch with me because my phone was in airplane mode.  #epicfail

Next morning, I got up and turned backwards toward Moab and rode a fairly easy 50 miles on I-70 and US 191, and it was pretty darn hot when I got there, even with two cold drink stops along the way.  At this point, I just wasn't into continuing, especially with several more days of heat forecast for the southern Utah region. And, Susan was really freaked out by my "emergency" and I was pretty tired and right now, on Friday, am still just resting some.

So what happened ?  I know I ate something that didn't agree with me on Monday ,as I drove up and really didn't have that much in my system when I started out to ride to Green River.  ( was spending a lot of time in the bathroom too before I left and that probably dehydrated me some ).  Then it was really hot, maybe 102 in Moab, maybe warmer in some places. The route was really pretty, but had absolutely zero cover, not a tree or decent sized bush to hide under. And I thought ... it's only 70 miles, I don't need the Camelback, the water bottles and the couple of soda's I'm taking will be enough.  Talk about miscalculations !

The ride out of Moab was beautiful. There is a great bike path that goes all the way to US 321, the highway going into Canyonlands National Park on the north side.  I exited that road about a mile from 321, and went toward Gemini Bridges, then a campground, past a lot of mountain bike trails, up into some scrub forest, past a very dry well with a still spinning windmill,  and then down into a hot featureless area with a line of electrical transmission lines before connecting with I-70. I was so fried at I-70 I wasn't taking a chance on the frontage road turning into dirt and slowing me down, so I went on the Interstate, which actually was pretty pleasant riding, the shoulder was really wide, and not scary even with an 80 mph speed limit. It was 4 miles from Green River when I just couldn't go any further, pulling over next to a guardrail, like I said earlier, probably the freakiest bonk/heat stress/high heart rate event I have ever had.

Colorado River

Climbing above US 191

At the Top




Dry Well
So that was the end of the little attempt to ride part of the ATR route in Utah. Maybe when it cools down, maybe not, I just don't know.  I have to stop trying to do things and then not finish them.  The ride home was nice though, drove through Mexican Hat and then Monument Valley, a couple of places I've never seen before.  Till next time.

Mexican Hat

I think I'll go home now ....