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, 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 ๐Ÿ˜

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 โ€œGods timeโ€.๐Ÿ˜.

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 โ€œprimitive campsiteโ€ 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 โ€œa pizza place just opened up two weeks ago and they serve pizza and beerโ€.

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 โ€œbโ€. 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 โ€œFriedโ€?

Tasty, tasty, washed down with a cup of coffee. We look forward to your comments guessing which โ€œfriedโ€ we went with. (Teresa Black, you already know Deb’s choice ๐Ÿ˜)

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 ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ‘). 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.

 

NoBo on the Natchez, Kosciusko to Witch Dance, 76 Miles | Locals Trump Locale Today

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First order of the day was to walk our bikes down the steps from the rear decking of the Kosciusko Visitor Center. Thank you, Tom!!

Great day of riding today. We got an early 6:30 am start and had the pleasure of meeting Johnson Spencer, a 77 year old French Camp native at our first stop.

Johnson claims to be the only man in Mississippi with two last names. He and his two buddies were chatting it up and wanted to know a little about our bikes and share a lot about themselves. And that was perfectly fine with us.

Johnson has been working his whole life and started when he was just seven years guiding his dad’s mule helping to haul logs out of the woods. He shared a lot about his work at a local school and some of the kids he still remembers. Wish we could have stayed all day to talk to him.

Today brought us very little traffic, a little more cloud cover for a reprieve from the heat and per usual, an awesome road to ride on with just few rollers to keep it interesting. But sometimes the locals trump any locale ya visit.

Finally cracked open the Whisperlite stove to cook a meal. At the end of 67 days on the road last summer I could fire it up blindfolded. Tonight I actually had to watch what I was doing.

We have officially passed the half way point and tomorrow will take us to and through Tupelo.

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. ๐Ÿ˜Š

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.