Today I arrive at REI two hours before the regular opening time to get on a bus traveling to Black Mountain, North Carolina for the start of Cycle North Carolina. With some help, DH and I removed the pedals from my bike and turned the handle bars. With so many people and bikes making the trip, this allowed more bikes to fit on the trucks transporting them.
Each of the over 1,100 riders is allowed to bring two, 40 pound bags in which we need to fit: a sleeping bag, sleeping pad or air mattress, tent (if camping outside), bike clothing and gear for seven days of riding, street clothes for seven to eight evenings of relaxing, toiletries, etc. Yikes! I did not weigh my bags but I think that they are "slightly" heavier.
At REI, I checked in my bike, loaded my bags one of the two buses and hung around until 9:00 when were were to pull out. When other people stated to get on the bus, I went to the bus with my bag and got on. Not many people were on the bus but all the seats were taken. Hm. "OK," I thought, "I'll try the second bus." I did and find a seat but most of those were saved as well.
The trip to Black Mountain, just east of Asheville, was uneventful until the very end. Both bus drivers missed the turn off to the YMCA facility that we were staying at. Our bus driver turned around with an impressive 3-point turn that did not even go into the other lane. He got us up the mountain to the check in area. When we got off the bus, the second bus was not there. I heard from someone that it had gone off the road when turning around in a neighborhood. I heard from several riders on that bus that it took out a retaining wall and got stuck a a precarious angle. The passengers -- and my bags! -- eventually made it though.
After that, we checked in, hung around, had dinner and went to a kick-off meeting.
I am staying at the YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly in a dorm. Some people are camping and others are staying in hotels.
Tomorrow, I plan to ride with Tim, Jon and Doug. The route has us going across the Eastern Continental Divide and then up Stone Mountain Gap on our way to Morganton, NC. The route is about 62 miles and we were told the steepest climb of the entire trip is 5 miles into the ride. I hope that I can keep up with the group. I left my "flantlanders" cassette on the rear wheel (12/23) and I'm a bit concerned.