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: Clinton to Kosciusko, 76 Miles | Into the Mystic

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Just a regular day of cycling – hot, relatively little elevation and just plain steady.

We didn’t feel as perky as we did yesterday but we made it to our destination in Kosciusko and we were still smiling at the end of the day. 😊

Right now we are camping on the back deck of the Kosciusko visitor center and it over looks the Trace. There are lightning bugs, (two ceiling fans yay), flushers and outlets. An Italian restaurant and gas station are located nearby. Everything a bike traveller could want.

It seemed extra hot today with the temps in the mid 90’s and I’m sure the heat index higher.

Loved the cycleway that bypassed Jackson, the huge reservoir we cycled next to for many miles and the Cypress Swamp. We finally met some northbounders today too!

The GNAT meter registered LOW today (praise God for that)! And the only critter we saw was a box turtle.

We were glad to be done and looking forward to tomorrow’s ride to Witch Dance.

#acaNoTier North Woodstock, NH to Naples, ME, 76 Miles | Kancamagus Conquered!

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From Tom:

I am lying in my tent, holding my breath and typing since it is hot and I am sweating which just blends in nicely with the aroma of our thermarest and sleeping bags. Deb tried fanning us with the ACA map but it only circulates the stench further. #straywetdogstank

We got a great start with a big breakfast at our Inn since we knew we had our biggest climb up Kancamagus Gap first thing. We were surrounded with hikers who were in town for resupply at breakfast.

We headed out and started our climb up the mountain. About 5 miles up a cyclist on a light weight road bike came up beside me and says we are his heroes trying to do this climb with all that weight. He mentioned the last 5 miles are really steep especially the last mile. He left me with that wonderful news and took off up the mountain.

We kept climbing up and up stopping every so often to capture the wonderful views and take pics. Next thing we know there is the summit sign and we were at the top. #nottoobad.

We then enjoyed the wonderful descent down the other side for 10 miles. We stopped at the half way point and grabbed a lunch at Beas cafe. Deb enjoyed the triple decker chicken salad while I had the egg salad #maybethebestmealofthetrip

Deb notice a shortcut that might save us 10 miles once we enter Maine. Highway 302 would take us directly to our destination rather than going north through a couple more climbs. We stopped at the Maine state line visitor center and asked the guide about our idea of staying on 302. She didn’t seem to keen on our idea since shoulders are small or non existent and 302 is the busiest highway in Maine.

With that info we decided to follow our maps. 28 miles to go. We got about 14 miles in and knew we had two more short climbs. Deb and I were both out of water and were both looking for a place to stop as it was 90 degrees and the route was mostly exposed and without shade.

I got to the top of the first climb and out of the blue a man waved me down and told me just around the corner is a pipe coming out of the ground with ice cold spring fed clean water that everyone drinks around there #trailmagic.

After filling our bottles we were on our way to our destination of Four Seasons campground in Naples, ME. Tent set up, dinner eaten, shower taken, we are now all cuddled up praying for a slight breeze to cool us down so we can go to sleep #onlyfourdaysleft