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

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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!

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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)

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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!

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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!

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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.

 

NoBo on the Natchez Trace, Tishomingo to Meriwether Lewis, 94 Miles | A Three-State Day in the Rain

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Oh such a great day but such a wet one! In addition to crossing both the Alabama and Tennessee state lines we rode most of the day on hills and in the rain. Gratefully it was a warm rain without a lot of head wind.

Not many pics today but for sure there were lots of smiles during the miles.

NoBo on the Natchez Trace, Witch Dance to Tishomingo, 77 Miles | Blessed and Lucky Indeed

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From Tom:

Ok it is my turn again 😁

I was doing a lot of thinking of prayers over the past few days. We are back out on the road and the 15 mile prayers have begun again. I was thinking of what we were praying for last summer during our ride. So many of those prayers were answered and a few are still waiting to be answered in “Gods time”.😁.

Maybe it’s luck; maybe it’s the answer to a prayer or maybe a little of both but here’s what happened the last couple days:

  • Rolling into the “primitive campsite” last night and wondering how we are going to charge up our electronics (Garmin, phone, lights, etc). We pull on the maintenance door at the restrooms and it is unlocked with electrical outlets inside.
  • Twenty miles to go today with major thunderstorms all around us, and God held an umbrella over our head and hardly a raindrop hit us.
  • Checking into our campsite at the state park tonight and we are starving. Deb asked if there might be a close place to eat. Jeanine says “a pizza place just opened up two weeks ago and they serve pizza and beer”.

We got off early today again at 6:30am. We were looking forward to our first cup of coffee and sausage biscuit sandwich at mile 18 ahead.

We roll off the Trace and .1 mile up the road find a gas station that had been closed for quite awhile.

Onward another 5 miles to plan “b”. A brand new Chevron with so many choices to put on a homemade biscuit: sausage, fried ham, fried bologna, fried chicken, fried smoked sausage. Did I say “Fried”?

Tasty, tasty, washed down with a cup of coffee. We look forward to your comments guessing which “fried” we went with. (Teresa Black, you already know Deb’s choice 😁)

On we went with a quick stop at the Natchez Trace Headquarters to fill up our water bottles and see our new friends Bob and Chad who were also at the stop. With 35 miles to go and a threat of thunderstorms heading our way we started booking it to the state park.

  • For twenty miles all we saw around us were dark clouds, lightening, and winds (tailwinds 😁👍). As I said before God was watching out for us as we rolled into the State Park Campground with only a couple of drops to cool us off. After a jaunt off for pizza and a Bud, we are back at our campground, with tent up, showered up and ready to call it a good night.

Our next two posts should be wet ones with the forecast ahead of us. Stay tuned.