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When Your Neighbors Don’t Want You to Play in Their Yard

You play in your own yard!

Since the Canadian border is still closed due to COVID-19, we postponed our Great Divide ride to summer 2021 and instead opted to ride the C&O Canal Towpath and GAP Trail. Thanks to our friends Dan, Christie, Dave, Kathleen, Paul and Terri for the ride intel. You were spot on.

You can learn more about the C&O Canal Towpath and GAP Trails here.  We figured that in a relatively short bike tour we could knock out four more states and DC on our 50 state cycling quest while enjoying spectacular scenery, laid back riding and continue to physically (not socially) distance ourselves from others during the pandemic.

Cyclists can ride all or part of either trail but the big question is how to get back to where you started if you don’t want to cycle back. We opted to drive to Pittsburgh, park our car and ride the Amtrak train to Washington, DC with our bikes on board. Once in DC, we rode bikes back to our car.

We’re grateful when a plan comes together! It seems like cycling back to our car always works for us on linear routes since there aren’t any time constraints. We used the same logistics on the Natchez Trace, Katy Trail and Appalachian Gravel Growler.

Where did we stay? What did we ride? What did we pack?

We planned on camping every night but we always weasel into at least one hotel for a hot shower and since this was my birthday week… well I wasn’t going to argue about choosing to stay at a Fairfield Marriott in town rather than camping at the YMCA in Cumberland.  Here’s where we stayed all week.

Our go-to bikes for touring are our Salsa Cutthroats and we pack the same thing every trip whether we’re going to be gone for two days, two weeks or two months. About the only optional items are based on the season. Obviously we didn’t pack our puffies. And yes I know, the amount of electronics we carry is ridiculous.

I’ll tell you what we’re not schlepping around anymore – a stove, a cookset and groceries. We can most always find a c-store or restaurant. Doing this saves a lot of time in the morning when packing up and it’s less weight (for me) to carry. And yes, Tom still has to carry the two pound Big Agnes tent.

So here’s how it all went down. It’s something we can look back on a year from now when I hope we’re riding south of Banff.

Day 1, Thursday: Washington, DC to White’s Ferry, MD – 41 miles

  • Wake up at 3:30 am and ride bikes to the Amtrak station
  • Seven hour Amtrak train ride from Pittsburgh to DC. Arrive at 2pm. Begin riding at 3:45pm
  • It’s immediately apparent that the towpath is home to a multitude of deer, turtles, and blue herons. We even saw an osprey and a beaver!

  • Rain on the C & O turns the towpath into a quagmire with lots of puddles, mud and ruts.  We’re good though! That’s what these bikes are made for.
  • Amidst a downpour, a trail angel at White’s Ferry offers to let us camp under his pavilion
  • Tom sleeps soundly in the tent while I monitor the Weather Channel and notice that the storm cell is NOT moving on. For over three hours there was intense lightening, thunder and wind.  Look at the time stamp on the weather radar below. Was this our version of the Midwest derecho?

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Day 2, Friday: White’s Ferry, MD to Harpers Ferry, WV – 59 miles

  • Beautiful morning for a ferry ride over to Leesburg, Virginia for breakfast and exploring
  • Rode 20 miles of the Old Dominion Trail
  • Return to Maryland and continue on C & O. Lots of downed trees from storm.

  • Intersect with the Appalachian Trail for a mile before Harpers Ferry
  • Take footbridge (aka stairs with loaded bikes – ouch!) to Harpers Ferry for the night

  • Dinner and bevvies outside at Coach’s Ale House

Day 3, Saturday: Harpers Ferry, WV to Hancock, MD – 66 miles

  • Lots of debris on the towpath. A rider tells us that at mile post 88 the trail is impassable and to turn around. Ummmm just no.  We pushed on and climbed over, ducked under or plowed through the obstacles.
  • Met a cute family of four stopped along the trail. They were riding with their two sons age eight and ten. The Pringle cannister actually caught my eye. This family is biketouring a section of the C&O at a time. They carry everything they need, use the free hiker/biker campsites and homeschool the kiddos. (even before COVID). Grateful to see families out and about sharing time together and enjoying the outdoors.
  • Tony’s pizzeria for outdoor lunch. It’s a family owned business in operation for over 35 years. I highly recommend! Be sure to try the garlic knots with homemade Ranch dressing. Good enough to include in Christmas stockings or an Easter basket.
  • Tip from a cyclist going in the opposite direction told us about the bicycle bunkhouse in Hancock, MD. Since Hancock was our planned stopping place for the evening, we decided to check out the bunkhouse.

  • We had the bunkhouse to ourselves except for Dave who was bike touring with his pupper named Ozzer. Prosecutors, hair stylists, bartenders and teachers have the BEST stories.
  • Dinner outside at Buddielous. Highly recommend their fried green tomatoes and rueben.

Day 4, Sunday: Hancock, MD to Cumberland, MD – 61 miles (end of C & O towpath, beginning of GAP trail)

  • Last day of riding the C&O Towpath
  • Got to ride through the Paw Paw Tunnel at the same time a boy scout troop (travelling with 30 or so cyclists) rode the opposite direction as us. The Paw Paw is over 3,000 feet long and the scouts thought they might be able to ride the whole thing instead of walking their bikes as was recommended.
  • They tried to ride. Without lights. One even had his sunglasses on.  We giggled. God bless them and their leader. They were all having a good time, wearing helmets, had face coverings on and also reflective vests. Gotta admit though, we did feel like a couple of salmon swimming upstream to the spawning grounds via the Paw Paw.

Day 5, Monday: Cumberland, MD to Ohiopyle, PA – 74 miles

  • The beginning of the GAP trail!
  • Let’s start the day with a 25 mile, mild uphill grade. Really not hard. Just put an ear bud in, enjoy the scenery and follow the railroad tracks. We both actually enjoyed this quite a bit,

  • Pretty much biking nirvana here on the GAP where the surface is even, trail towns are every 15 miles or so if we need to resupply. The hiker/biker campsites are immaculate and even come “stocked” with split campfire wood, weenie roasters for hotdogs and smores, plenty of picnic tables and three sided shelters.
  • Both Tom and I both believe that God puts people, places and opportunities in our paths for a reason. It’s not always evident what the reason is and it might take a while to figure it out but we met Marie Bartoletti near Rockwood, Pennsylvania. Marie is 62 years old, has completed well over 450 marathons and several triathalons (including Kona) and she is a retired teacher. She is also a stroke survivor. She came out of nowhere and introduced herself and invited us to her home to retrieve a book she’d written entitled Perseverance.

  • Having been delayed an hour on a conference phone call, we really needed to get moving on, but as providence would have it, she cycled four houses down to her home, retrieved her book and we got one. I can’t wait to read it. I know this special lady has something for us to learn.
  • We cross into Pennsylvania, crossed the Mason-Dixon Line, crossed the Eastern Continental Divide (ironic we would have been riding along the Western Continental Divide had COVID not exploded). Plus we cycled through the Big Savage Tunnel (even longer than the Paw Paw albeit no Boy Scouts this time). It mighta been my fave day of the trip.
  • Finally the ten miles between Confluence and Ohiopyle, was just about the most perfect section of riding all week. Downhill, sunny, scenic.

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  • It’s all rainbows and unicorns until you get to the access trail to Ohiopyle State Park. Ever done it? You don’t wanna. It’s steep, rocky and not what you want to tackle when you’re approaching the 80 mile mark and you’re tired, hungry and thirsty. Not only did we get ‘er done, we set up our tent and then walked back down the ratchet trail into town for an outdoor dinner and bevvie. Of course that meant we had to walk back up it again. In the dark. But at least this time we weren’t pushing loaded bikes.

Day 6, Tuesday: Ohiopyle, PA to Pittsburgh – 78 miles

  • Last day of riding the GAP and the last day of the trip
  • Today was just about getting back to Pittsburgh and we took our time
  • For those of you who followed along on social media, it was nice having you with us. And even if we are restricted to playing in our own backyard. It’s a most beautiful yard in which to play.
  • Though our country may seem divided at times and its warts and imperfections obvious, she’s still evolving and we were grateful to rock our way through the USA.

 

 

 

Predictions and Preferences | Whaddya Think?

Most of you know that Tom and I have a fun little tradition on New Year’s Eve. We write predictions for the coming year. Then on the following New Year’s Eve we open the sealed envelopes, share our predictions and find out who’s most accurate.

Prediction Evn

Some of the 2020 prediction questions were:

  1. How many books will each of us read in 2020?
  2. What will each of our total bike miles be in 2020?
  3. How many days will it take to complete riding the 2,700 mile Great Divide Mountain Bike Route (GDMBR)?
  4. How many “0” days will we take on the GDMBR? (A zero day is when riders take a rest day.)
  5. How many flat tires will each bike have on the GDMBR? 
  6. What teams will play in the Super Bowl and who will win?
  7. What will the average price per gallon of gas be on 12-31-20? 
  8. What will the Dow Jones Industrial Average be on 12-31-20? 
  9. Will Steak N Shake at Keystone and 54th still be open?
  10. When will Katy and Eric’s baby be born? She’s due on May 18th (two days ago).

Many prediction questions were about our planned ride in August on the GDMBR.

Ummmm I’m not sure anyone could have predicted a global pandemic in early 2020. Well unless you’re Bill Gates.

And think about it. Anyone who was asked the typical question during a job interview in 2015 missed the mark.

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So now we are faced with another (unanticipated) prediction. Will the GDMBR even happen for us in 2020? Friends, family and followers have been asking.

The short answer is “yes” – that is if Canada will let us into their country and the US will let us return.  The travel restriction that began on March 21st between our two countries has  been extended (again) for 30 days until June 21. If it’s extended again until July 21, that’s pretty much a show stopper since we need time to ship our bikes to Canada ahead of our August 5th arrival.

With all the COVID cray-cray I can’t say quarantine life since mid March hasn’t been good. I’ve been doing lots of “procrastibaking”, weekly sit down family dinners for 17 have transitioned to no-contact, carry-out dinners for 15.  We took a long break from seeing our littles, and that was tough. I’ve kept up with running and Tom’s working from home so his bike commute to work just turned into longer morning bike rides. Sometimes I even tag along. We’ve made masks, meals for COVID-19 caregivers, checked in on neighbors, finished a lot of yard work and home projects, and “zoomed” and FaceTimed with friends. We can even give haircuts – except bangs. We have a #nobang rule.

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Like everyone else though, there are many things we miss like face-to-face visits with our parents, volunteering, Mass and visiting our fave craft breweries, local restaurants and spending time with family and friends. I do believe we have (so far) successfully maneuvered “shelter at home” and managed to stay healthy(ish).

Regarding cycling, May is Bike Month so we’ve been riding everyday.  During shelter in place, however, we rarely got any gravel rides in and central Indiana is flat as a pancake so training for the mountainous GDMBR has been sketchy. Thinking positively, we are ready to get back to gravel riding, some hills, camping and loading up our bikes with some weight to prepare for the Great Divide ride.

What’s YOUR preference?

If the border doesn’t open, we have two contingency bike ride options and both enable us to knock off more states in our 50 State Bike Chase.

Option 1: Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) Trail/Chesapeake & Ohio (C & O) Canal Towpath. Total Miles – 340, knock off four states. We can then take the Amtrak train back to the start point. It’s kind of an easy-peasy self supported bike tour.

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Option 2: Cowboy Trail to the Mickelson Trail. This is a bit more complicated as the western terminus of the Cowboy Trail (195 miles long ) in Nebraska is about 250 miles from the southern terminus of the Mickelson Trail (109 miles) in South Dakota.  Total Miles: 554 miles, knock off two states. This ride is a bit more of a challenge and adventure.

There’s also logistics to work on about how we get back to Nebraska from northern South Dakota. Should we just ride our bikes back to Indianapolis?

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So whaddya think?

If the GDMBR  doesn’t happen in 2020 would your preference be riding the GAP/C&O or the Cowboy/Mick?


What’s your prediction?

Do you think the Canadian border will open on or before June 21st?

 

 

 

 

 

Just Practicin’ with the Cuttys

We’ve been out and about lately, practicing with our Salsa Cutthroats down in Georgia, South Carolina and some of the most stellar locales in southern Indiana. It’s been cold. It’s been windy. But at least we’re not carrying any weight on the bikes yet. That comes in a few weeks.

 

Another month from now this part of the ride will look and feel a lot different.

After posting on social media some questions have been asked about what we’re practicing for, how we are preparing, bike set up, etc.  Here’s wazzup right now:

Commitment:

We bought our one way tickets to Calgary. Hoping that the Coronavirus and concern over flying is well behind us by the beginning of August, we committed to flying to Calgary and starting the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route (GDMBR) in Banff. We’ll ship our bikes ahead of time and bring our bike bags, clothing, etc. in two duffel bags when we fly to Calgary. Once the bike bags are loaded, we’ll mail the duffels home and from then on it’s nothing but us and the bikes until Antelope Wells and the border of Mexico.

You may be wondering how we are going to get home. More on that later.

 

The old and the new of “wheelie” great technology

Preparation:

How do Hoosier flatlanders practice for a long distance bike ride that’s noted for its elevation?  Well it’s not perfect, but technology makes it easier.

Wondering is someday soon this railway will be converted to a bike path #railstotrails

Using Ride with GPS or the Gravel Mapping website, rides that cyclists have already ridden provide distance, elevation, location and many times even cue sheets. These route maps are downloaded to our Garmins.

Just a “baby” hill but you get the gist

We both have a Garmin Edge that provides turn by turn directions. Typically we have a second and third back up for navigation. Google maps on our cell phones and hard copy cue sheets help when there is confusion about the route. That was a lesson learned when we cycled the Appalachian Gravel Growler last year.

Probably the only person riding in shorts on this day #freezing

For now we are opting for gravel routes, riding some hills, working on endurance and getting reacquainted with our Cuttys, especially the saddle and being out in all kinds weather.  Soon we will add our loaded Revelate bike bags and plan some overnights.

The twins

We consider our recent car camping excursions a luxury when we bring firewood, extra clothes, the kitchen and extra food. Sure makes everything easier. And less expensive. #lesshotelexpense #moreadventure

 

Uber easy “just add water” dinner
Car camping. Everything stays dry and BAYW (bring all ya want) in food, clothing and bevvies
No neighbors. No water, electricity or bathrooms either.  Yikes!
Just one night away from the first super moon of the calendar year.

Bike Set Up:

The most notable enhancement in this area is converting our bike tires to tubeless. (Thanks for the help Terry Mitchell!)

“The Shop” in the basement

Tubeless tires “self heal” when they are working the way they are supposed to. Instead of an inner tube inside the bike tire, a special valve stem is used and four ounces of sealant is inserted into the tire.  Pump the tire up with a few blasts of air and it’s all set.  The sealant rolls happily around in the tire ready to seal up punctures should they occur.

Tubeless tires aren’t full proof, but they do improve the odds of having a “no flat” day. We also carry a spare inner tube and tire plugs.

Below is a two minute video recap from our most recent trip to southern Indiana where we visited three lakes and cycled up a few hills showing what a typical practice weekend looks like. And, the best part? You get to see what it looks like riding gravel without ever getting cold, wet or tired.

 

 

 

 

Southwest Saguaro Magic

A last minute (and I mean last minute) weekend getaway took us to clear and sunny Tucson, AZ to escape the cold, gray, rainy weather in Indy.  Tucson was everything we hoped for and more.

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We opted out of the typical hotel accommodations and found two properties through Air BnB: both stellar, although both different.  The tiny trailer was, well… tiny, but well provisioned, immaculately clean and adorable.  The hosts even provided firewood for the fire pit, just past the compost toilet and outdoor shower, which also were immaculately clean.

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The last two nights we stayed at an aptly named property, Serenity in the Saguaro Forest. Its peaceful location was close enough to the National Park to quickly get to a trail head or scenic sunset view yet close enough to town to explore the local restaurants and breweries, which we did. A few times.

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After landing in Phoenix and renting a van that enabled us to transport rented road bikes, we headed south and within a little over two hours we were at the trail head ready to hike up tallest peak in the Tucson Mountain District of Saguaro National Park. There’s nothing like hiking to stretch and loosen up after flying in a plane all morning.

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While hiking among the cacti, the most notable were the saguaro. These gentle giants are ancient and resilient.  And they all look different, kinda like us humans! It’s as if they will magically awaken, speak to one another and then begin spewing stories about the storms, drought, and invasive animals they’d survived.  We passed time on our hike up Wasson Peak imagining if the saguaro could talk what they might say.  Based on their unique postures, and the longer we hiked, the more creative and racy our musings. It’s a fun way to pass the time on an eight mile hike in the desert.

One of the biggest weekend surprises, however, was what Tucsonans call “The Loop.” It’s a paved dedicated bike, pedestrian trail that encircles Tucson. We’d rented road bikes for Saturday and Sunday and downloaded some decent routes on our Garmins but The Loop was just too good to pass up. And it was scenic, not crowded and easy to navigate.

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I expected it to be similar to the Monon here in Indy: narrow, crowded, lots of stopping for traffic but not so.   The Loop is a gem.  We haven’t been riding much in 2020 but managed to squeeze in a 57 mile ride under smurf blue skies and pleasant temps. And we scouted out a brewery stop for a quick post ride bevvie.

We like to hit Mass up when we travel and Mission San Xavier del Bac was a short drive south so off we went before our Sunday morning bike ride.  The Mission exterior was imposing against the blue skies and gave me pause to think about the people, the mission, and all the prayers said since its beginning in 1700.

But, it’s when I entered this church that I experienced an overwhelming feeling of awe.  It was simple, yet ornate and majestic. There was remarkable detail in the walls, ceiling and statues, but I couldn’t help notice the simplicity of the worship space with its  wooden pews (no cushions or kneelers) and simple flooring.

 

During Mass an older gentleman, one of the ushers, would casually and inconspicuously walk over to the nativity scene and gently rock the Child Jesus’ cradle. This man emanated such love and devotion to the the Christ Child in this simple act. It made me smile.

Outside after Mass, local vendors were beginning to set up booths selling food and souvies.  Pretty sure we could have stayed all day to poke around the Mission. It was lovely and there was so much history, but other plans for the day beckoned.

We’d been told a visit to Arizona isn’t complete unless a cyclist hits some trails so our Air BnB host, Justin,  led us on a short mountain bike ride through scenic Sweetwater Preserve.  In the late afternoon, the sun was low and gave an even more interesting perspective to the giant saguaros.

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I tried hard to remember what Sally, Liv and Nichole at Sundance Mountain Bike Clinic taught us a few months ago while riding: cover brakes, feet at 9 and 3 o’clock and be fluid and wide on the bike.  Those cacti though, positioned like sentinels along the trail. … with big thorns. I have run into trees before but I definitely didn’t want to run into a saguaro or even a teddy bear cholla. The mountain bike ride through Sweetwater Preserve was just about the best way I can think of to wrap up our short cycling weekend in Tucson. And, gratefully, there were no cacti collisions.

Just before driving back to Phoenix we snuck in one more short three mile hike and met a gentleman on our descent.  He was hiking the west side of the Hugh Norris Trail again, only 20 years later. He said the trail felt a little different now.  Go figure. I completely understand.  How about you?

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We chatted for a while and he claimed to be more of a cyclist than a hiker and had come to Tucson from Colorado with his bike.  And darn if he didn’t share that he’d cycled on every continent. Even Antarctica! How cool is that?  You know how ideas for new adventures are born from adventures we are currently on. Maybe this is something to plan for someday. #bucketlist #gettingenormous

But at the end of the weekend, we did get to color in another state on our “Bike the US Map”.  So there’s that.

All we can say to Tucson is, this isn’t goodbye, it’s until next time.

Did you say RUN 100 miles or RIDE a hundred miles?

I said RUN a hundred miles!

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Back in early November 2018, at the Lindsey Hein Run Rise Retreat Meet Up in Portsmouth, NH when Lindsey asked about what might be my next big goal after coming off a self supported cross country bike trip with Tom, I shared I might consider running a 100 mile event some day. Even though I was taking some time off running to nurse a leg ouchie, I put it out there.

In front of everyone.

Using a mic.

And yea, when I wasn’t even running. At all.

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So in January the work began, but slowly.  First I tested the water at the Polar Bear Winter Classic Run (5k/8K), then at the Sam Costa Half Marathon (13.1 miles) and finally after a BQ finish at the Chicagoland Spring Marathon, and with the encouragement of Tom, we signed me up for the Hennepin 100 that would take place the first weekend in October 2019.

We put a training plan in place that would take into consideration time off from running to squeeze in a 444 mile bike trip up the Natchez Trace, a bikepacking trip on the Appalachian Gravel Growler, and a week in Hawaii to celebrate our daughter’s destination wedding on Kauai.

Come to think of it, this year also included a winter adventure to Whitefish, MT, another son’s wedding, welcoming another grandson, a couple of gravel bike races, a weekend at Sundance Mountain Bike Camp and celebrating 60th birthdays for both of us. It’s been a BIG year. Sometimes I don’t think I look back enough because I’m always looking forward.

Is that a good thing?

I think enough’s been said and shared about the Hennepin Hundred already but a friend of ours created a short vid about the event while he interviewed me on the run.  Literally. We were both running when we chatted.

And we started running uphill.  Notice me sucking wind at the beginning of the video.

Honestly the best thing about the video is not what I had to say about running 100 miles, but the way he shot the video using a 360 camera, and interviewed me while running.

Take a look. Chris is a talented, enthusiastic and speedy video storyteller and a speedy runner in his own right.  And in just a week he’s running his first trail ultra at the Tecumseh Trail Challenge. Good luck, Chris!

 

Appalachian Gravel Growler, Asheville to Brevard, 51 Miles | 12 Mile Downhill to the Finish!

Riding Stats

Accommodations

Route Tracker

Having had a nice little respite in Asheville and after discussing options for the remaining 60 miles we set out on Saturday prepared to make a game day decision on whether to break up the day into two shorter rides or shoot for the whole 60 miles. It would depend on weather and terrain.

The day started with a scenic bike path along the French Broad River passing the back end of New Belgium Brewing. Because you know. The route IS called the Appalachian Gravel Growler.

About 25 miles in we were feeling good but loaded up with snacks and water still thinking we may break up the 60 mile ride into two days. Since we didn’t bring a water filter and didn’t know if there would be places to resupply if camping I loaded up with a LOT of water.

We cycled farther and farther out of town and in the middle of nowhere the Garmin said the course turned right.

I wish we would have taken a pic for the turn was nothing more than an overgrown footpath. It felt like we were going back into the abyss once again as sure enough there was more very steep uphill hike-a-bike ahead. And now my bike was heavier than it had been all week with water.

Eventually we got to some single track where was one side of the area was pretty wet and rooty but the back side of the trail was a lot of fun. There were lots of mountain bikers and even hikers on the trail and there we were with our big ole loaded gravel bikes.

The sun was out, and soon the mountain bike trail dumped out onto nice gravel when somehow my tire picked up a metal chard and my front tire went flat. Everyone who passed offered help but Tom fixed it quickly and we were back on the road.

About noon we decided to lunch at a horse camp and pulled out two sammies we had stored in our frame bags. That’s when rain started and didn’t let up until the end of our ride. Thunder, lightning, continuous downpours and lots of uphill switchbacks. That was Saturday afternoon. 🤣

We put our heads together and decided to head straight into Brevard instead of going back into the wet sloppy mess and rode 12 miles (all downhill) on a road with smooth pavement, gorgeous waterfalls and reasonable traffic. And it was ALL downhill and of course, still raining. We ended up at The Hub, exactly where our car was parked and in time to get some souvies and celebrate riding the Appalachian Gravel Growler with one last pint.

We experienced a little bit of everything this week with respect to road surface that included the pristine Blue Ridge Parkway, well groomed gravel to rutty forest roads, many variations of single track, ungroomed hiking trails and that doesn’t even include the rocky steep descent down the power line easement. Haha I don’t know how to characterize that part of the course.

Our weather ranged from sunny to stormy on the last day. We bathed in the Catawba River with bandannas while primitive camping and then stayed at the Pine Grove Resort where the white towels were over the top fluffy.

It really was a week of continuums and not knowing exactly what the route or weather was going to throw at us next.

Not sure how Logan Watts created the route but it’s a worthy one. We bailed on a couple of sections due to weather and timing but would consider returning and doing those sections again someday.

In hindsight there are two things we would do differently. Break it down into six days and reduce the daily mileage and definitely bring a GoPro to capture more of the ride.

NC we got to know you a little bit this week and can’t wait to come back and get reacquainted with you soon!

Appalachian Gravel Growler, Marion to Ashville, 38 Miles | Into Asheville!

Riding Stats

Accommodations

Route Tracker

After all the hike-a-bike Wednesday, the planned mileage for the day on Thursdays (plus the eight miles we had to make up the day before) and not knowing the trail or gravel road conditions, we decided to reroute our ride into Ashville and cycle on back roads. Hence we shaved 20 miles off our of planned 60 mile day.

We are also considering breaking up the 60 mile ride on the last day into two days. Bite size bits of the Appalachian Gravel Growler with its terrain is a lot easier to swallow than gulping down as much as possible everyday.

Not many pics on Thursday. We just pedaled our little hearts out and arrived at the historic Grove Park Inn in time to enjoy a cold bevvie and three apps on the veranda with a righteous view of the mountains.

Friday we took a zero day to walk into town and do laundry, tour the Biltmore home and gardens and of course, visit some of the craft breweries for which Asheville is well known.

Cheers to Asheville and the Appalachian Gravel Growler!

 

Appalachian Gravel Growler, Collettsville to Marion, 55 miles | Hike-A-Bike (Emphasis on Hike)

Riding Stats

Accommodations

Route Tracker

We’ve never really had a day cycling like today. Here’s how it all went down:

We got an early start, taking pics of Betsey’s, cycled a stellar segment of the Blue Ridge Parkway, stopped for second breakfast at Famous Louise’s Rock House enjoying an exemplary $5.95 breakfast including grits and strawberry rhubarb jelly and thought we had the toughest part of the day behind us with a 10 mile climb on gravel roads.

The wheels fell off when we thought the power line easement was going to be about 100 yards of steep, rocky descent. It ended up being about two miles of ratchet, downhill bouldering, and making our way through thick brush. I thought for sure Mr. Snake was going to shake my hand or take a taste of my kankle.

Finally out of the power line hike-a-bike we dumped out onto some nice smooth tarmac and pulled into a C store – with a thunderstorm brewing.

Should have listened to the locals’ directions to the next C store stop. Instead we follow our GPS into the most God awful, remote, wet, soppy single track we’ve ever ridden/hiked.

I’m sure the local MTB association would be ticked at us even being on the trail. We apologize.

Had to hike with loaded bikes about four miles with Uber steep climbs and descents. Believe me there were times I wanted to throw the Cutty over the edge and stomp off. It was hard work for this old gal pushing my loaded bike up steep rocky ascents and trying to control the descents and still it was 20 miles to our planned campsite and well past 7pm. There were a lot of grunts and groans, mosquito swatting and abrasions. #justcrap

Finally we abandoned the proper route and just “googled” our next stop which was Shulford’s gas station.

Apparently there was a campground less than a mile away (says google). Inside, the Shulford’s clerk said it’s not opened. Undaunted, we google it and talk to Portia who says she loves to host bikepackers so bring it on.

There was no potable water at Catawba River Campground but insomuch as bathing, Portia said river baths were the best so we snagged a couple of pizza slices for dinner at Shulfords and made a bee line for the campground about 8:30pm.

Once there we set up the tent, stripped down to unders and took a quick dip into the Catawba River and bathed off. We ate pizza and then climbed into the tent and used our headlamps to ensure tics hadn’t gotten too friendly with us throughout the day.

At that point we decided to rethink our route into Ashville on Thursday given the trail conditions on the Appalachian Gravel Growler Route.

Stay tuned for what we decided.

As challenging as the day was, we are so grateful for:

  • We were never lost.
  • Despite “dropping” the bikes descending the power line easement they remained mechanically sound – no damage to the derailleurs, etc.
  • We had plenty of water.
  • Multiple modes of navigation (handwritten cue sheets, Google, Ride with GPS)
    Praise God for the campsite and Portia!
  • Weather was decent – humid but no storms. And the sun even peeked out!
  • And we finally saw our shadows!

There are so many things that could have gone wrong but despite the tough day we were able to finish albeit eight miles short of our planned destination.

Also there are so many people that are stronger cyclists that wouldn’t have had an issue today. But remember, don’t compare yourself to others, just beat your yesterday and enjoy the journey.

And that, my friends, is exactly what we did.

Appalachian Gravel Growler, Morganton to Collettsville, 42 miles| Finally Off Road!

Riding Stats

Accommodations

Route Tracker

Lush forest, stellar views, very little wind and no traffic made for a near perfect day of riding off road on our first day.

This was pretty much a warm up day with just a little over 40 miles but dang… these two Hoosiers aren’t used to these climbs.

Good news is neither of us went over the handlebars, over the edge and we kept the rubber on the right side of the rocks.

Honestly the best part of the day was rolling up to Betsey’s (and yep that is how it’s spelled) Ole Country Market, our planned camping spot tonight and meeting 58 year old Bruce.

He was seated on the covered front porch in an electric wheel chair and gave us a hearty welcome. As owner he said he wanted us to make ourselves at home for the evening or else go home. His hospitality and enthusiasm were over the top.

He didn’t hang around long. From the middle of Pisgah National Forest he drives 45 minutes each way, each day in a modified van to work with a trainer to strengthen the left side of his body. He does squats, push ups, dead lifts and core work. This man is a stud!

So off Bruce went to the gym and we began to unload. Just about that time we heard thunder, felt rain and decided to rent the only cabin on the property, giving us shelter for the night. And that means Tom doesn’t have to haul a wet tent around all day tomorrow.

Soooo a shower, small kitchen to cook in, electricity and a comfy dry bed is ours tonight.

Giving thanks for the little things tonight and in awe of Bruce’s hospitality and mental and physical determination.

 

NoBo on the Natchez Trace, Meriwether Lewis to Garrison Creek, 46 Miles | That’s a Wrap!

Riding Stats

Accommodations

Route Tracker

Our northbound bike ride up the Natchez Trace wrapped up today! As we traveled north the number gnats diminished and the rolling hills increased – just the way we like it!

In all, I think we saw only two chuckholes on the Trace (and that’s when you know you’re not in Indiana anymore). Drivers were courteous, giving us plenty of room to ride.

The scenery doesn’t change much as in early June it’s just lush, green forests all along the way. It’s a solid route for reflection and training.

We were surprised we didn’t see more wildlife. It was mostly turkeys and box turtles with a lot of dead snakes, armadillos and froggies. 🤣 Dang who knew Mississippi had so many snakes?

Every place we stopped it’s the people, both the locals and fellow travelers that enrich the journey.

This ride was a training ride for North Carolina coming up in a little over a week. The Appalachian Gravel Growler is half the distance each day but over twice the elevation (sometimes four times the elevation) and it’s mostly off road. So stay tuned to see how that goes.

What a perfect way to spend the week before our 12th wedding anniversary.