Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Cycle North Carolina - Day 4

CNC Day 4
Thomasville to Sanford
18.1 mph average speed
35.5 mph maximum speed
5:21:24 ride time
96.77 miles
about 3,742 feet of climbing

Today we had an option of doing a 75 mile route or a century route. I opted for the long route and rode with Chris and Doug.

Both routes went through Randleman where we had a rest stop at the Richard Petty Museum.

The long route was through Seagrove which is an area that I really like. I did a ride called Rolling in Randolph a few years ago so I knew what I was in for. As it turns out, we had more climbing going from Thomasville to Sanford than we did on the Blue Ridge Parkway day. Of course, the first day was a lot fewer miles so it was more climbing per foot.

A lot of riders commented that maybe it should be called Tour de Smell. We passed a lot of chicken houses and saw several "Pigs 4 Sale" signs.

Doug and Chris had not been to Seagrove before. The century rest stop was at the North Carolina Pottery Center where they have examples from many of the area potters. I made both of them go inside. I particularly wanted to show Chris the Fat Beagle section. Chris' daughter has a beagle and he does good work. I also pointed out some of the Kings Pottery -- especially their trademark red glaze.

Doug and I did the century in White Lake last year and practically no one did that route. I think that it was because the route was 75 miles to White Lake, where we were spending the night, and then an additional 25 mile loop beyond that. This year you had to pull off for the century loop at mile 36 and rejoin the regular route later on. A lot more people seemed to do the century route this year.

We had PB&J at the Pottery Center. We had our next rest stop after rejoining the shorter route. More PB&J! Heck, that makes up for yesterday.

The camping situation in Sanford was not desirable. Tim kept on saying that we were sleeping in the pig stalls. We were actually in the old exhibit hall at the Lion's Club Fairground but it wasn't a good situation. While there was plenty of space, a lot of people woke up with swollen eyes. There must have been something in the air.

Thankfully, we were able to get away from the campsite that evening. One of our Team CBC captains lives in Sanford and invited us for dinner and to spend a few hours at his place.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Cycle North Carolina - Day 3

CNC Day 3
Statesville to Thomasville
19.1 mph average speed
35.6 mph maximum speed
3:15:30 ride time
62.21 miles
about 2320 feet of climbing

Today's route to Thomasville was really nice. Tim was loving it and Tim and Jon raced each other, dusting me. The unfortunate thing is that while Tim and Jon raced on ahead, Doug, Chris and I got split up and ended up riding solo.

The course had several hills but was much more rolling with about 2320 feet of climbing. We did run into a construction project that held us up and nearly 100 cyclists ended up waiting at the intersection. Since we all trickle out of the campsite at various times and then get further strung out as the day progresses, it's unusual for that many cyclists to be at any one spot that far into the ride -- even at a rest stop.

Cyclists line up at construction zone at NC801 and US64 (top), Chris at construction zone (middle), Doug at construction zone (bottom)

The one bad thing that happened on the ride is that I broke my perfect record. All last year and until day 3 of this year, I did not miss a single CNC rest stop. Three or four miles after the construction zone, there was a rest stop. Tim and Jon raced ahead out of site. I could see Doug and Chris. Neither of them stopped. It was a PB&J stop too! There is only one PB&J stop per day! Oh no! So much for my perfect record.

When we arrived in Thomasville we felt truly welcome. The Baptist Home for Children hosted us and they did a great job. They had good vendors at the finish -- pizza, burgers, nachos, sandwiches, etc. The indoor camping was great and much more appropriate than the cobble together camping in Statesville.

Every overnight stop has some sort of entertainment. Thomasville had High Point University do some entertainment for us. We saw a solo artist, whose name I did not catch and then she played with her friend Caleb Lovely, who was quite good. Finally, the Genesis Gospel Choir sang for us.

Bobby Labonte rode from Statesville to Thomasville with the CNC riders and he did a little presentation in Thomasville.

The mayor of Thomasville had a proclamation and invited CNC to come back. Ragan from CNC said that he hoped to return every three years.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Cycle North Carolina - Day 2

CNC Day 2
Lenoir to Statesville
17.5 mph average speed
36.8 mph maximum speed
3:13:43 ride time
56.52 miles
about 3000 feet of climbing

We started the day with a climb out of the parking lot and it just kept coming for the first ten miles. By the time we got to the first rest stop, though, the grade started to improve so it was closer to rolling.

Our gang of five stayed together well. The scenery was not as dramatic as yesterday but we got some nice views of the Piedmont at times. We almost had a crisis at the PB&J stop because the port-a-pots were delayed (driver got lost) -- thankfully the church hosting the rest stop let us inside. We saw the port-a-johns arrive as we were leaving.

On our way to Statesville, we passed Fort Dobbs, a French and Indian War site. I did not see a fort per se so did not stop. I understand that there is nothing standing and nothing has been excavated at the site.

After we arrived at our temporary home, we had two unpleasant surprises (1) indoor camping was sparse and (2) the shower trucks were not working. Apparently the church hosting us for the evening was expecting 1/2 to 1/3 the number of indoor campers that there are. We were able to get a spot in an alcove because we arrived before most of the other cyclists. After some scrambling, our host was able to house everyone -- sometimes in unexpected places!

Tim after securing an indoor camping spot and then finding out that showers were unavailable.

The story with the shower trucks is less clear. Apparently the shower truck company hooked up to a fire hydrant. This is common practice and typically there is a water meter on the fire hydrant. They hooked up as usual but the Statesville fire marshall came and threatened a $1000 fine so they unhooked. It seems that some phone calls were made and some money exchanged hands and after a delay of an hour or so, the shower trucks were up and running.

Once we were situated, Chris, Tim and I took a shuttle bus downtown. (Unfortunately, the church was not located within walking distance of downtown.) We visited the Museum of Mountain Bike Art and Technology, The Second Fret and a music store that I need to tell my dad about (they had high end banjos). After all of the turmoil at the campground, The Second Fret was awesome!

We did not feel particularly welcome in Statesville -- especially after they sent us off with a breakfast of still cold frozen Lender's bagels and instant oatmeal.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Cycle North Carolina - Day 1

CNC Day 1
Blowing Rock to Lenoir
17.3 mph average speed
40.2 mph maximum speed
3:25:37 ride time
59.33 miles
about 3500 feet of climbing

The rain cleared in the nick of time! When we went outside to get breakfast, we could see the stars so we knew that it was clear.

All of the riders were excited about the first day of riding. A few were nervous about all of the climbing. I think that the Blue Ridge Parkway intimidated some of them. I later heard that some people walked the hills.

Tim (in black) and Doug (in yellow) climbing the Blue Ridge Parkway. Note, that they did not stop for me when they saw me taking this picture!

We started off by climbing to the Blue Ridge Parkway entrance an then did a climb on the Parkway including the Linn Cove Viaduct. I stopped a few times to take some pictures and managed to get back to my riding group. We got off the Parkway and passed Grandfather Mountain making our way toward Lenoir. The route was nice and the views from the BRP with the fog below were gorgeous -- especially from the viaduct. Some of the descents were a bit nerve wracking because it looked slick from the rain the night before and there were wet leaves scattered in some places. I had no problems on the descent but I was nervous at first. Once I found that it looked slick but was not, I settle down.

Tim, Jon, Chris, Doug and I rode together.

Lenoir was a great host town. Kevin G., Chris and I went downtown to check things out. They had a Biergarten set up for us, several musicians played and some restaurants that are normally closed on Sundays stayed open. The music was really good and they had plenty of shuttle buses. I do wish that more of the shops were open for us.

Outdoor camping in Lenoir (top), Chris near the outdoor camping (bottom)

Several of us had the meal plan and ate together -- Kevin G., Doug, Chris and I had dinner together each night. The dinner in Lenoir was good -- lasagna and other pastas, salad, yellow squash and chocolate cake.

Tomorrow, we head to Statesville.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Cycle North Carolina - Day 0

We arrived at Cycling Spoken Here before 8:00 in the morning to load our bikes on a truck and get a bus to Blowing Rock. The buses were not there yet but I needed to get my pedals taken off and loosen the handle bars on my bike before loading it on the truck. Note to self, put the bike on last so that it comes off the bus first.

The day was overcast and I was very nervous about rain. A week of riding is fun. A week of riding in the rain, not so much.

Riders are limited to two bags per person. One bag was for my sleeping bag, sleeping pad, pillow, Crocs, etc. The other bag was for cycling clothes, street clothes and toiletries. I had a problem with what to do with my helmet -- normally I transport it on my head but for the bus ride I needed to put it somewhere. I finally shoehorned it in.

This year we checked in at the bike shop before getting on the bus. That really streamlined things once we got to Blowing Rock. That is handy since I felt the need to dash to a camping spot. It was raining when we arrived and I planned to indoor camp like I did last year. Since it was raining a lot of the tent campers wanted to indoor camp as well. We were tightly packed that night!

Doug, Chris, Kevin G. and I rode the bus. Emily drove Jon and Tim up to Blowing Rock and we met there. Tim, Chris, Kevin G. and I were all indoor camping and Tim saved a spot for us but he called me and said to hurry, he was not sure how long he could hold our spot on his own. Doug stayed in hotels during the trip and Jon and Emily tent camped with Bubba. Five of us planned to ride together throughout the week -- Doug, Chris, Tim, Jon and me. Four of us planned to camp together all week -- Chris, Tim, Kevin G. and me. Kevin G. rode with another group. Emily provided sherpa service for Jon and Tim, meeting us at each overnight stop with her Honda Element.

After we staked out an indoor camping area, we went to get out bikes. They were still on the truck so we helped unload them. This was a good. We were able to keep our bikes relatively dry and also help out.

As the day worn on it started to rain harder. We kept on looking at the radar and the hourly forecast, obsessing about the weather.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Sometimes You ARE the Show

Indoor Camping
In late September I kayaked with a group of experienced paddlers from the Harrisburg Pennsylvania area. We were all staying at Lee's house in Asheville. Earlier in the year Lee moved from Harrisburg to Asheville. When Lee lived in Harrisburg, he was in the same paddling club as the guys who came down from Pennsylvania. The group from Pennsylvania consisted of John, Mark, Neil, and Vern. Vern was the only open boater in the group.

Lee's wife was concerned about the accommodations for so many guests. Lee assured her that boaters aren't fussy. They are happy for a dry place to sleep, to be able to walk down the hall to a bathroom, and having a place to hang up gear is a bonus.

I had planned to camp, but Lee invited me to stay at his place. I didn't want to impose, but I figured making it easier to organize in the morning made it less of an imposition (and cell phone coverage in the mountains can be sketchy). I had my sleeping bag, pad, pillows, and I camped in the media room. Sunday morning I really appreciated the indoor camping since it started pouring at 1 am and didn't stop until 7 am. I was happy to not have to deal with a wet tent and to break camp in the rain. It rained off and on all day Sunday. This was the same weather system that caused flooding in Georgia and North Carolina.

Saturday - French Broad Section 9.
Saturday we were going to run section 9 of the French Broad river all the way to Hot Springs. I had run section 9 once before in my play boat, a Jackson All Star. That run was fine, but the level was lower and we got off earlier at Stackhouse.

We dropped off the gear at the putin at Barnard. While waiting for the shuttle to be set, we noticed that there was someone with a SEA kayak on the river! I told the sea kayaker that he should join our group. We could watch out for him and I wanted to see the show. He declined since he was already with a couple of whitewater boaters.

Sea kayaker on the French Broad

Lee posted that we were running the French Broad, so we did pick up a few more people: Richard, Bob, and Judith.

We were going to Hot Springs, which includes a couple of bigger rapids: kayaker's ledge and a class IV: Frank Bell's rapid.

While we stopped for a lunch break, Judith asked me where I was from. I said "Apex". She replied "Do you go to school near there?" I smiled and said "You are too nice. I am MUCH older than you think I am.".

Nothing very exciting happened up to Stackhouse other than seeing an outward bound canoe pinned to a rock (and they didn't want advice/help to unpin it). Apparently pinball rapid can be difficult (go right of the pinball rock), but the higher water level must have made it easier than normal. This was my first time through the rapid because we took the sneak route on my first trip. We had some less experienced boaters in the group at the time.

We came to Kayaker's ledge and got out to scout it. Do we go to the right or to the left? Richard decided to try the right line. Richard had been sketchy all day with his boat control. He made it, but barely. Only his large boat kept him from being flipped and he bobbled quite a bit.

Kayaker's Ledge on the French Broad

We then watched John take the left line, which is a simple boof over the tongue of water. I went through the left side just fine. Lee said, however, that at a slightly higher water level, my tiny low volume boat wouldn't have made it over cleanly.

Then we came up to Frank Bell's rapid, a solid class IV. One guide book breathlessly claims that it is a class V, which is bunk. We got out to scout the rapid, which required walking through a lot of underbrush and walking along the railroad tracks that parallel the river. We decided to go through single file through the rapid and determined the running order. I was to follow Mark.

Mark went through the first part of the rapid and went into an eddy. I followed Mark into the eddy. Then Richard came in and the eddy was full. More people were getting ready to join us, so someone had to leave. Mark didn't leave, so off I went. I should have waited and followed Mark!

I found out later that Lee, who has a much bigger C1 kayak, had trouble getting through the big hole in the rapid. I was doomed!

I went right into the big hole, and then I put on a show. I immediately went end over end. Next I was rotated side to side (window shaded), holding onto the paddle the whole time (don't let go, you need that). People upstream could see my paddle coming up each time I was rotated, and they were all thinking "It sure sucks to be you". These would be great rodeo moves if they were planned and controlled. I rolled myself up, but was facing upstream and that's when I realized I was in the hole. I surfed the hole a few seconds while I tried to figure out where to go, then I was flipped again. I rolled up again, then I was window shaded a few more times. I had enough of that! I bailed out and then had a LONG swim under water through the rest of the rapid. The water was murky from the rain, so I couldn't see anything and I couldn't figure out where the surface was. I finally popped up, sputtering water. Lee was there and I grabbed the back of his boat. Everyone asked if I was ok, I sponged out the water from my boat (no drain plug in the Jackson) and I got back in. This was my first swim in the French Broad.

After that experience, I'd rate it a SEVEN (as in crank it up to 11)!

The rest of the trip uneventful, even at "surprise rapid" near the take out. Many rivers have a last rapid before the take out that can be a "surprise", especially if you are tired.

On the way home we had to stop at a grocery store for coffee (no one in Lee's house drinks coffee!!) and flowers for Lee's wife. Lee's wife is from the Ukraine, and in the Ukraine all house guests are expected to bring flowers as a hostess gift. You also have to be careful about the type and number of flowers. For example, an even number of roses represents death. I went with some cut flowers, which had carnations and other flowers. Lee assured me that it was a safe option.

Sunday - Upper Green
Sunday morning we had a hard time figuring out where to go. Lee wouldn't be joining us since his knees were bothering him. The Ocoee was running since it's dam released, but it's a three hour drive from Lee's house (I think more like 2 - 2 1/2). That would also make me have a 6 hour drive back home. The Chattooga was running, but it was getting to a scary high level and was rising. I had only been on the Chattooga once at a low level, so I couldn't be a guide. We settled on going to the upper Green, which was close to Lee's house and Lee would help set shuttle. Lee claimed it was a class I/II with some class III drops. I would go home after that and the other guys could run something else in the afternoon.

Sunday I brought my bigger kayak, the Liquid Logic Lil Joe. It has more volume, making it more stable. I didn't want to put on another big show.

It rained all day, but that was fine. Rain is only a problem when you are loading gear and want to get into dry clothes.

On the Green, I went into a silly hole with the wrong boat angle, and got flipped. I was upside down in shallow water and was banged up on the rocky bottom. I couldn't get in a good roll setup position and it looked like more rapids were coming up, so I bailed. I was able to get on top of my boat and still had my paddle. I pushed the boat towards the shore, but got it hung up on a tree. Mark put a line on the boat and helped me turn it over, put over his boat, and move it up and down to get the water out. This is why you put air bags in the boat, to keep the water out. Mark asked if I had air bags. If I said no, I think he would have unclipped me and let me deal with the water myself.

Two swims in one weekend, a new record for me. My last swim was back in April.

We came to the first big drop and got out to scout it. I liked a line on the right side. There was a line on the left, but it looked more difficult and the consequences for screwing up looked worse. John tried the left line. He hit a rock (which dented his boat), he was flipped, and had to roll back up. We all decided to go RIGHT. I ran it perfectly and Vern was able to get a video of my run (posted at the bottom of this blog entry). I was happy that I was able to properly read the water and figure out a good line to take.

The second big drop came later, but we almost didn't stop in time. John got out and worked his way through the brush so that he could get a good look. He said that there was a nice line down the center. However, when I went, I was too far to the right of the correct line. I was flipped in the middle of the rapid, but rolled back up and was on my way. I told everyone that I wanted to prove that I had a combat roll.

While on the river we saw several beautiful waterfalls that emptied into the Green. The Green itself is gorgeous. It's a narrow river with lots of trees and no development along it since much of it is in game lands. On my way from the putin after the run, I saw a line of wild turkeys going across the road. They stopped in front of my car to shake the rain off.

We crossed under the I-26 bridge which is way, way, WAY above the river and started looking for the take out. We were to look for a tree with plastic ribbons tied to it on river left. You don't want to go too far, or you end up in the Green Narrows. The Green narrows has class IV - V rapids and two rapids rated at V+. After a couple of false stops, we found the takeout. Then we discovered that it's a 6/10 of a mile carry up an eroded trail, then becomes a logging road, to the vehicles. LEE! We trudged up the hill and Lee was waiting for us. What, no refreshments in the shuttle?!

I changed into dry clothes, got my car, loaded up gear, and headed back home. I was home in time for dinner.

Click here for more pictures.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Bike MS 2009

This year I participated in my fifth Bike MS event and my second one in New Bern -- along with about 2,250 other cyclists on September 12-13.

I rode with my friends on Team CBC again. The team is great! We ride together throughout the year and have a number good organizers who do a great job of keeping us on track. I'm sure it's a lot like herding kittens! Several team members arrived at Union Point Park early and set up tents for team members so that we all had our sleeping tents circle around the a large team tent. Not only is the team a group of good riders, we are good fund raisers too! Team CBC has raised over $80,000.

On Friday night after setting up camp, Carolina Brewing Company hosted a team party at a local Bed and Breakfast. This was a great way to socialize with the team and a nice way to kick off the weekend.

This year, I rode the double century again. On Saturday after the team photo (this is where the kitten herding came in!) we found others who were riding our distance at out pace and heading to the start area. Bike MS offers four routes each day -- 30, 50, 75 and 100. The two longer routes start at 8:00 and the two shorter routes start an hour later.

The weather was great -- low 80s with very little wind. On Saturday I had a personal best for the 100, averaging 20.5 miles per hour. Sunday was an equally nice day.