Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Mountain Biking in Dupont State Forest - Single Track, Waterfalls, and Enders, oh my!

Kevin with mountain bike in Dupont State Forest, North CarolinaScore!

In late October I was invited to join a group that was going to mountain bike in Dupont State Forest, which is near Brevard North Carolina. We never did see any of the famous Brevard white squirrels. Dupont has incredible single track trails, water falls, and slick rock trails. To top it off, the fall colors would be near peak.

The original plan was to go Friday through Sunday. However, rain was in the forecast for Friday, so the trip was shifted out a day. Most of us had tent sites together at a the Black Forest Campground, which is just outside the park. Brian and his family (which consisted of his wife Jillian and 2 1/2 year old twins Iris and Trevor), stayed in a trailer that you can rent at the campground. The trailer was a much better option for the kids. The entire group consisted of Brian and his family, James and Lynna, Sandi and Amy, Chuck and myself.

I was riding up with Chuck, whom I have also kayaked with numerous times. While on our way up to the mountains, we got to see a Winnebago that was on fire. The entire front was engulfed in flames and no firetrucks had arrived on the scene yet.

I asked Chuck about a restaurant called Asiana Grand and where they are located in Asheville. It's a a favorite kayaker stop since it's a huge Chinese buffet that includes sushi at dinner. If you go before 3, you get the lunch rate and can eat sushi when it comes out at 3. Chuck thought we could stop there on the way home Monday, assuming we burned enough calories riding. Later that night James mentioned that HE would like to stop at Asiana Grand on Monday.

When we got near Asheville, it started to pour down rain. When we got onto I-26, traffic was slowed to a crawl due to accidents being cleared from the road. The rain was coming down about 1" per hour, much more than was forecast.

We stopped in Brevard for dinner at restaurant called the Square Root. The restaurant's interior is incredible. The bar is a plank from a tree, sanded and finished, bark and all. The floor consisted of 4" x 4" posts that had slices cut off to form tiles. They also had good beer on draft (local brew called Pisgah Pale Ale, which you apparently can't get in bottles) and great food. I had a fancy version of a cheese steak sandwich (London Broil was used) and freshly made sweet potato chips. The rain continued to pour down, so I was very thankful for the rain jacket I recently purchased.

Cabin at Black Forest CampgroundWe drove up the mountain roads through thick fog and rain to the campground. We decided that setting up tents in the downpour and then camping in the rain was just silly. We asked if they had any cabins left. "Why, yes we do. We offered one that was available all three nights to members of your party, but they declined and took one that was only available tonight. They planned to tent camp the other two nights." SCORE for us!

The rain continued throughout the night, then quickly stopped. Only a small amount of rain was forecast, but four INCHES fell. In the morning, some of the people in tents said they had to bail out quite a bit of water from the bottom of their tent.

Going Head Over Heels - Not a Slick Move

Saturday morning at 6 am we were awakened by the sound of kids yelling and screaming in the campground. It wasn't even light yet, so they were also waving flashlights around as well. This went on for hours. Even the cabin's walls couldn't totally block out the din.

The campground offers a pancake breakfast Saturdays and Sundays, which costs $6 for adults. You got all the pancakes you wanted, sausage, coffee, juice, fruit, etc.

The lady making the pancakes would always give out pancakes in stacks of three. Chuck and I only wanted two each. "Oh, no, you can't do that. Otherwise that would waste pancakes". Ok...three it is. We love carbs after all.

A little later Sandi and Amy came to our table, and they each had TWO pancakes?! HUH?

We figured out the plan for the day and headed out. Brian would do things with his family in the morning and would join us for cycling after lunch.

Our first trip was an out and back ride to Hooker Falls. With all of the rain the night before, the river was at a really high level. We all wished we had brought our kayaks, and we passed two guys on the trail carrying kayaks.

Hooker Falls, Dupont State Forest, NCAfter viewing Hooker Falls, we went on towards Triple Falls. Cyclists and horses have to take a different trail here than hikers and his particular trail was not well maintained. It was eroded and had lots of horse hockey. Over the weekend we saw a large number of horses. Everyone was polite and yielded on the trail, but too bad there can't be a pooper scooper rule for horses (or at least move it off the trail). It's not fun to ride through all of that, especially for the people behind you when you can't avoid hitting it.

Triple Falls was amazing sight, especially since it had so much water from all of the rain. Chuck told me that people have run parts of the falls in a kayak, which I think is insane.
We then headed to the covered bridge that is above Triple Falls. From the bridge you can see how swiftly the water is flowing just before it goes over the falls. You can hear the falls, but you can't see them from the bridge.

We then went on more trails and continued to climb. We did a nice downhill ride back to the parking lot where we would have lunch and Brian would join us.

After lunch we rode more trails, which included more climbing. But the payback was wonderful. We came down a trail that was an amazing long downhill where you can go really fast. At the end, everyone was all smiles. "Whoo hoo! THAT'S why we do all that climbing".

We ended up back at the vehicles. The women all went back to camp while the guys went to a different parking lot to access the slick rock trails.

Now we were on very wet trails and had to ride through a lot of large puddles and through a lot of mud (with some horse hockey thrown in). Then we reached the slick rock section of the trail, which initially goes right up the mountain. You have to keep going because if you stop, you'll likely have to push your bike. I didn't know what to expect, so I ended up pushing in a few spots. In the slick rock sections, the trails are marked with stacks of stones called cairns.
We all admired the view from the top and started heading down the mountain. My brakes were wet and weren't gripping very well. I was following Brian and kept pumping my brakes to slow down. Brian slowed and perhaps had stopped. I slammed on the brakes, which locked up. I went flying over the handle bars yelling "Oh ***K". Thud, I hit the rock and landed on my left hip (which now sports a huge nasty bruise). Brian stopped to see if I needed help. I unclipped myself from the bike, sat on the rock for a minute, saw nothing was broken, got up, and pushed my bike down the rest of the steep rocky parts of the trail.

Meanwhile, a guy on a SINGLE SPEED bike was going up this trail, his dog running along side. Right behind him a woman was carrying her bike up the mountain.

We got to the parking lot, loaded up the gear, and headed back to camp.

At camp, Chuck and I hosed off our muddy bikes. Chuck, Amy, Sandi, and I were the Saturday cooking team, so we had to start prepping for dinner. Janyne had prepared ahead of time Carolina Chicken: boneless, skinless chicken in a marinade consisting of vinegar, yellow mustard, spices. etc. All I had to do is throw the chicken on the grill for 8-10 minutes per side (I can handle that). She also baked banana nut bread and butterscotch blondies. I planned to bring two pounds of chicken, but decided to bring three. It's a good thing I did since it was a huge hit: all but one piece was consumed and everyone wanted the recipe. Chuck provided corn on the cob and Sandi and Amy contributed mashed potatoes.

Click!
Sunday morning started out quite chilly, but quiet. At 8:30 am it was 39 degrees. Chuck and I were again happy to have the cabin even though we didn't bother with the "heater" the campground provided for the cabin. The heater is essentially an electric toaster with a fan. It has three settings: off, low, high, but NO thermostat. I could see that if we turned it on, we'd roast. The sleeping bags were sufficient.

Carrying bikes across stream in Dupont State Forest NCSunday's ride started with a couple of miles of fairly constant climbing. We then came to a stream that you can normally ride across. However, all the rain rose the water level too high so we had to carry our bikes across.

For some reason I fell down in the sucking mud several different times. I also had some trouble on some of the steep climbs, especially if they were really muddy, rocky, or rooty. James said that he should get one of those clickers you use to count with to count my slips, and it would "need double digits". So every time I slipped, he would shout "CLICK". I would even shout click myself if I toppled, which got repeated up the line along with laughs.

Bridal Veil FallsAfter a great downhill ride, we came to Bridal Veil Falls. At lower levels you can walk up the waterfall and go behind some of the water. We all took a break and admired the water.


video

Going downhill meant we had to go back up to reach the parking lot where Brian was waiting to join us.

With Brian added to the group, we went a different way back to Bridal Veil Falls. At this point, the women in the group decided to head back to the cars and to camp. We would ride a bit more. Turns out I was out of gas. The ride back was mostly uphill and it was quite steep in spots. My heart rate went crazy on each of the steep climbs and I was sucking wind, so I pushed my bike in a few spots. I need to work on sprints that spike my heart rate, especially after riding for quite a few miles.

After making it back to the parking lot, we loaded up the bikes and headed to camp.

It wasn't our night to cook, so Chuck and I could relax after hosing off the bikes. That night we had great chili, hot dogs, and berry cobbler for dinner.

Slick Rock Redux
Monday we packed up camp and planned to do a short ride before hitting the road. Chuck and I were happy to not have to take down tents, especially if they were wet.

The plan was to do the slick rock again (oh, goody), BUT take an easier route down the mountain (yea!).

The ride up was actually a lot muddier and sloppier than it was on Saturday since a lot of cyclists had been out over the weekend.

When we hit the slick rock section, I was going along fine in my granny gear until I slipped my chain. However, since I knew what to expect this time, I rode most all of the trail to the top. I only pushed my bike in a couple of places.

We all admired the view from the top, then headed on down. The route down was a lot nicer than the one we took on Saturday. I had NO clicks on Monday, thank you.

We loaded up the gear and headed home.

Chuck and I decided NOT to stop at Asiana Grand. It just wasn't worth the calories. Instead I learned about a great Mexican place (another kayaker hangout) in Morganton. It's El Paso, exit 105 on I-40.

It was a great weekend and I was happy to be invited along. I was told that I was always welcome to join their trips since I "provided excellent food AND entertainment".
Amy, Sandi. Kevin, Lynna, James at Bridal Veil Falls
Click here for more photos from the trip.

Friday, October 23, 2009

State Fair

Yesterday a group of us went to the State Fair at lunch time. We work just down the street from the fairgrounds.



We had a nice time walking around the concessions area. Nathan and Ray got steak sandwiches from the North Carolina Cattlemen's Association while I went to the booth next to it and got roasted corn on the cob. Then we went to another concessions stand and Jason and Scott got steak sandwiches while Joe got an Italian sausage (apparently, not from the good sausage place). On our way to get NCSU ice cream, we paused to get salt water taffy -- Joe and Jason each got some to bring home -- and we passed a deep fried everything place. I guess that kind of explains the name of the official State Fair blog -- Deep Fried! Joe and Ray got chocolate chip mint ice cream and I noted that the corn on the cob near the rabbit barn looked better than the corn that I had purchased earlier.




From there we started to head towards the free hush puppies, but took a detour to the cider place near the flue cured tobacco barn. Then it turned out that no one wanted cider. Joe debated getting some kettle corn to bring home (Jason had purchased some earlier) and by the bluegrass stage. Then we went to the grist mill and got our free hush puppies and wandered through the Village of Yesteryear. Then it was on to the Amish fudge so that Joe could get some to bring home. The final items on the shopping list were nuts and maple cotton candy.

Joe wanted nuts from a stand on midway near the Kerr Scott building so we headed up that way, stopping along the way for Jason to get a float. We threatened to put Jason on the Vertigo ride after he had his float! The nuts looked good and we passed the ostrich burger place to get there. We debated getting Click it or Ticket clickers for Joe's daughters and went into the Kerr Scott building in an attempt to located them but had no luck. There I overheard a mother telling her daughter, "Oh honey, you won't like that. It's souse." We sampled the honey cotton candy and decided that the maple cotton candy was probably better so we passed on that.






From there we cut through the Green NC display, saw the chick-cans and went to the Commercial building where Joe and I each had a Mount Olive pickle and got maple cotton candy to bring home. On the way out of the building, I got a sample of chocolate covered peanuts and shared them with the group.




We went through the Education building next door and saw the chocolate dipped bacon that we have heard so much about. We decided to get an order to share among for of us. At first, it tasted kind of good but not particularly special -- like chocolate covered salted nuts. Then it just started to taste fatty. The finish was bad -- like gritty bacon grease. Joe said that he wanted something to get the taste out of his mouth. Jason pointed out that the place that sold the chocolate covered bacon also sold sodas. Joe refused to give them more money. It was time for us to leave the fair anyway so we went to the gas station across the street and got a soda and walked back to the office.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Cycle North Carolina 2009 Wrap Up

Memories

  • Riding with Chris and Doug. Sometimes we were five but a lot of the time the three of us stuck together
  • Meeting Don, who I hope to ride with again sometime next year
  • The continuing soap opera in the indoor camping area
  • The best overnight stops: Lenoir, Dunn and Kenansville
  • The worst overnight stops: Sanford and Statesville -- (bad bad indoor camping both nights and a horrible breakfast in Statesville
  • The wonderful views from the Blue Ridge Parkway
  • Second Fret in Statesville
  • The neat rest stop in Warsaw and the stop in Seagrove
Overall results for the week
24:11:58 ride time, 18.5 average speed, 447.70 miles


Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Mayor of Indoor Camping

Don, who rode to Surf City with us on Saturday, is another indoor camper. He's from Charlotte and we ran into each other a lot this year. I finally got his name in Sanford and it turns out he is friends with Crash Eddy from Oh Melo Velo. I really knew that Don was one of us, though, when we talked about about The Mayor while we were in Dunn.


The Mayor

There is rider that we nicknamed The Mayor last year. We called him that because he thought he was The Mayor of Indoor Camping. Apparently he has been participating in Cycle North Carolina for years. He would come in and try to boss us and, on top of everything, he snored.

We suspected that he was sagged in a lot last year and sure enough, we saw him get off the SAG wagon in Lenoir this year. Don made some comment about the various personalities of indoor campers and I said something about The Mayor. Don asked who I was referring to and I described him. Don said, "Oh, Big John!"

Apparently, The Mayor complained about how tired he was when he got to Sanford. When the coast was clear, Don then wandered over to The Mayor's bike and toggled through his bike computer -- 23 miles. Of the 75 miles on the short route, he had completed 23 miles that day! We later confirmed with our insider at CNC that he sagged in every day!

That's how I knew that Don was one of us.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Cycle North Carolina - Day 7

CNC Day 7
Kenansville to Surf City
21.9 mph average speed
28.1 mph maximum speed
2:25:21 ride time
53.02 miles
about 675 feet of climbing


The five us us before our final day of CNC 2009

The day was fun and fast and flat. The Gang of Five -- Tim, Jon, Doug, Chris and me -- rode together. We made a micro stop at the first rest area, saw that it was really busy and decided to go on to the next stop for a final PB&J and we picked up a sixth rider, Don. Tim and Jon wanted to do most of the pulling and keep the speed up. We all rode to the next stop.



The final rest stop: Chris, me, Jon and Tim

As we approached Surf City, the pace picked up to 26 mph or so and we started to string out. We all met again at the park where the ride ended. What a week!



Friday, October 2, 2009

Cycle North Carolina - Day 6

CNC Day 6
Dunn to Kenansville
18.9 mph average speed
27.9 mph maximum speed
3:14:08 ride time
61.20 miles
about 1400 feet of climbing

The route from Dunn to Kenansville went through Spivey's Corner, Clinton and Warsaw. Spivey's Corner is a tiny little town with a population of under 500 people. The town is famous for hosting the National Hollerin' Contest. It kind of makes you wonder what the Cycle NC organizers were trying to tell us -- corn hole on Thursday and the home of a hollerin' contest on Friday!

We joked around a bit that the people who developed the route went looking for hills in Sampson county. It was pretty darn flat out there but then suddenly we'd come to a hill. Were they looking for hills?

The town of Warsaw hosted a rest stop for us and they really did it up. There were tons of signs along the side of the road leading up to the town -- Party Ahead, Cookies and Lemonade and so on. When we got to historic downtown Warsaw, we were greeted by bouquets of balloons. The rest stop was located at the Duplin County Veteran's Memorial Museum and they really did have homemade cookies and lemonade on the front porch for us. What a welcome!




We reached Duplin County Events Center, our home for the evening, about 12 miles later. The events center is located near the county extension office and I was able to touch base with a few coworkers. There is not much else within walking distance. Our host towns of Kenansville, Warsaw, Rose Hill and Wallace provided transportation to area restaurants and Duplin Winery.

Normally the host towns provide shuttle buses starting at about 3:00 in the afternoon. Chris, Kevin G. and I wanted to go for coffee a bit earlier than that. We found out where to go and went to the local information booth to ask about a shuttle to Kenansville. We said that we wanted to go to Kenansville and they said, you are in Kenansville. We explained where we wanted to go. Apparently downtown was not on the shuttle bus route but one of the county tourism employees offered to take us. All three of us got a vanilla latte from A Change of Venue Cafe. The latte was surprisingly good (not Second Fret good but good). We hung around the cafe for nearly an hour and then we called for a shuttle back.

The same person came to pick us up. Apparently he has a place in Bryson City. I said how much I enjoyed Bryson City and asked him how he came to have a house there. He replied that the grandkids are there and said, "We had quite a summer. " He went on to tell us that his son was a stay-at-home dad and that his daughter-in-law had always provided the income. She had been working as a jailer in Jackson county and she ran off with a prisoner that she helped escape. They were both caught after a letter that the prisoner had sent to his friend in California was returned to the jail due to a bad address. That letter had apparently spelled out exactly what was going to happen. If this sounds like something from America's Most Wanted, that's because it was on the show -- twice! Yikes!

It turns out the caterer for the evening meal was A Change of Venue Cafe. After dinner service started about 30 minutes late, we found out that this was their first catering job. While most of the 1100+ cyclists go out to restaurants, about 250 people have the evening meal plan. Let me tell you, it is not a good idea to be late serving 250 hungry cyclists! As the week goes on we get hungrier and hungrier. By the sixth night, look out! The line was so long and so late and moved so slowly that I actually called Pizza Corner while I was in line (they do not deliver). Once we finally got the food, it was good. The oatmeal cookies were amazing and I have asked for the recipe.

The Duplin County Events Center was a nice place to stay. The only problem was that the eating area and the sleeping area were adjacent with no barrier between them. That meant that when they started to set up for breakfast, it woke up a lot of people. I think that some people were wound up on Saturday morning anyway since it was the last day.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Cycle North Carolina - Day 5

CNC Day 4
Sanford to Dunn
18.1 mph average speed
35.1 mph maximum speed
3:16:09 ride time
59.20 miles
about 1480 feet of climbing

Dunn was a pleasant surprise! The indoor camping was great and the site is really well prepared. It's like the Hilton after last night! They have vendors on site including pizza and ice cream and downtown was within walking distance.

They also had games set up -- paint ball and corn hole. A lot of cyclists commented on the name corn hole (I did not realize that there is an American Cornhole Association with official rules!) Tim and Chris played a game of pool in downtown Dunn and I played a few rounds of corn hole at the camp ground. The paint ball sounded fun but wasn't really popular. I don't think that most of us felt like running!




Like the other overnight sites, they had music downtown for us in the evening.




The route went from Sanford to Raven Rock State Park and then through Erwin. From there we went to a Civil War site -- Averasboro. The road to that site was not NC DOT's finest moment. Especially since earlier in the day I hit a major pot hole and my front wheel came out of true.