|The start, at the South Carolina border|
Having missed the Grand Depart back in August due to my work schedule, Lisa and I finally decided to take the plunge last Thursday. The one and only time I had attempted this route was back in 2011. After 118 miles, I had to pull the plug on top of HogPen Gap due to intense foot pain. I was filled with trepidation as this would be my longest ride ever. Although my feet had been doing well, even allowing me to race a duathlon the weekend before, I was concerned about aggravating the nerves again and potentially causing a major setback. I promised myself to listen to my body.
Day 1: SC state line to Blue Ridge, 170 miles, start 6:45 am, finish 1:30 am, 18:45 ride time
- I didn't have to wait 15 minutes for Eddie O'Dea to show up.
- Riding with the fastest woman, who also has the third fastest time ever, is an honor.
- Watching the dawn break is one of my favorite riding times.
- With the drought, ALL the gravel came to the surface.
|Wilson Gap climb|
- Wonder how many dirty diapers I will see in the national forest?
- The Darnell Creek Trail was a blast, similar to Butter in Pisgah.
- Said the Rabun Post Office employee, "We are not supposed to give you any water." WTF!
- Patterson Gap gravel climb took two pedal strokes to gain one pedal stroke's worth of forward momentum since the gravel was so deep and loose.
- Made it to Tallulah River Campground on 3 bottles. Refilled here.
- The climb up Blue Ridge Gap was WAY more pleasant with overcast skies!
- The descent off Blue Ridge Gap was still filled with chunks of gnar.
|The potential for glazing over your brake pads was high!|
- Tray Mountain ... the never ending climb. Halfway up, we got passed by a 1990's blue 2WD tow truck. We never saw him again. How the heck did he get down off that mountain? is a question that remains today.
-So this is what the Hickory Nut Trail looks like. In 2011 there was so much undergrowth, I was bouncing off all the rocks and having to walk sections.
-Coming down the highway into Helen, two mountain bikers pulled onto the road about 50 yards ahead of us. Even after 11 hours on the bike, my first thought was, "Let's race them!" Can't take the competitor out of me, I guess.
-New pavement on HogPen was a delight. I breathed a deep sigh of relief when I passed by the parking area where I bailed back in 2011.
-I thought it cruel that after climbing up to Wolf Pen Gap, there was still more climbing to be had going up Duncan Ridge.
-The Duncan Ridge descent was the gravel version of Heartbreak Ridge.
-When I am tired, 50 degrees feels like 30 degrees.
-I was asleep before my head hit the pillow. A solid 4 hours.
|Campsite, first night. Thanks, Loretta!|
Day 2, Blue Ridge to Dalton, 110 miles, start 8 am, finish 9 pm, 13 hours ride time
-7 am came WAY too early. And this comes from someone who normally gets up at 5 am.
- My right IT band began to act up on the Stanley Gap trail.
|Sunrise on Stanley Gap|
-Stanley Creek gravel road descent down to Cherry Log was smoooooooth as pavement ... and blazing fast!
-The climb up Bushy Head Gap was straight up; must of had Costa Ricans putting this road in as there were no switchbacks.
- Riding through Cashes Valley, I began to smell the forest fire up on Rough Ridge, only 150 acres at that time. (now well over 3000).
|Refueling and texting our loved ones.|
- Watson Gap gravel climb was a powdery mess. But powder is easier than loose gravel.
|Watson Gap, poppin' with color!|
- South Fork Trail was in excellent condition. Nice to not have to ride through mud and horse poop puddles.
- Pinhoti 0 was a beautiful ride, but still a sum'bitch!
|P 0 creek crossing|
- 1/2 way up P 0, the smoke got thicker. Just a wee bit nervous as to what we were headed into.
- Heading up to Potato Patch, the Three Forks parking area was blocked off and numerous forest service vehicles were parked.
- Bear Creek was the first time I needed to purify water.
|The smoky Mountaintown Overlook|
- The work done on Pinhoti 1 and 2 was well done. Too bad I was too tired and had an extra 8 pounds on my bike or I coulda raged on those descents and big berms!
-Sunset came as we plummeted down Tatum Lead.
- New discovery: trails grow at night. The grassy single track leading to the Dennis Mill section of Pinhoti went ... on ... forever!
- Bats were dive bombing my lights as I descended the single track down to the Dennis Mill trailhead.
- Cracker Barrel never tasted so good at 10 pm, even though I believe my mashed potatoes sat under the heating lamp for the past 5 hours.
- The Super Eight in Dalton was a welcome sight. I flipped/flopped like a fish all night, as every muscle ached. 6 hours of restless and painful sleep.
Day 3, Dalton to Alabama border, 70 miles, start 7 am, finish 7 pm, 12 hours ride time.
- The climb up Dug Gap was brutal. I was praying for my taint to just go numb. Thank goodness I had the ability to stand and climb, which is what I did alot of today.
- Lisa was on fire today. I don't know where she got the energy. I was dying a slow death.
- It took me 5 1/2 hours to ride The Snake course (backwards)!
|So, this happened. The Pine Hill climb along The Snake.|
- Logging ... a necessary evil, decimated the section of The Snake between the beginning of Pine Hill climb and the crossing on Pocket Road.
- I was wanting a dropper post, not for the technical descents, but so I could get off/on the bike easier. After 300 miles, getting a leg over the saddle was no small task.
- Frito-Lay is making money selling air! I was able to get a 12 ounce bag of chips into a small Zip-Loc. The guys at the gas station were enthralled!
|No guilt in eating the whole bag!|
- Unfortunately I did not get to enjoy my Pepsi with the chips. All the rattling in the Mountain Feed Bag on my handle bar caused the seam at the bottom of the can to come undone. I had been feeling small drops of liquid the last 10 miles, but had no idea it was my Pepsi leaking. Very sads.
|Desperately needed those 150 calories|
-Second time I needed to purify water was at Dry Creek. Bear Creek definitely tasted better than Dry Creek.
|Chlorine dioxide. 30 minutes for most bugs, and 4 hours for Giardia and Crypto ... and no bad taste.|
- We had to ride around Strawberry Mountain. It was closed due to a fire. That allowed me a much needed Coke in Subligna. I hardly ever drink sodas, so this was a real treat. I never knew that a Coke could breathe life back into me. A much needed boost for Taylor's Ridge.
- Fifty seven hours into this journey and I still had some spunk to enjoy the single track on Taylor's Ridge. Well, at least the flats and descents.
- I was so happy to see the rail-trail. And that it was in excellent condition.
|Lisa says, "C'mon, only 12 miles left!|
- I swear I think Lisa had a motor in her down tube. The final 12 miles she kicked it into high gear and pulled me ALL THE WAY!
- So blessed to have her as my friend. I could not have done this without her. She is the Queen of Adventure! When I was not feeling good (which was a lot), she was there to guide me through the dark places. Her energy was good to feed off of.
|P'd and Gap'd out!|
60 hours, border to border.
Other than an angry IT band and a numb left pinky finger, I survived without any major issues. My 2012 Niner Jet 9 RDO was flawless. With two bottle cages, I was able to carry 3 bottles on my bike and keep the water weight off my back. This helped to lessen shoulder and back pain, but did not help much with the taint pain. I had a 1 x drive train with a 28T chain ring. More than once I was wishing for an Eagle drive train. My bike, with loaded bags and water bottles, weighed in at 33 pounds. My CamelBak weighed 5 pounds.