My latest adventure down the west coast is now over. Posts are listed by date on the right. In a departure from previous years, I am not asking for donations. Instead, I will be making a sizable donation on behalf of my father-in-law, father, and all the wonderful people who have supported me over the years.

My rides will continue to make a difference in the lives of families fighting lung disease and to increase awareness about the importance of lung health. Follow along … Together; we are improving life, one breath at a time.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Blue Ridge Parkway: Day 7 and 8

Better late then never ... here are the highlights from our final two days.  A big thanks to Karen and Aila for their support, patience, help, and great pictures.  Thanks to Jeff and Joe for a great week.  You guys pushed me, laughed with with me, waited for me, took pictures of me, and made the week memorable.  I am looking forward to rooming together for Ride the West in September.

A Great Week on a Historic Road
 Day 7 - Friday, May 11th 

Although we were staying at the Pisgah Inn at MP 408.6, we planned to ride to MP 431.4.  This gave us 55 miles for the day and enabled us to finish by noon on Saturday ... Jeff said "we must finish by noon on Saturday to get an early start on our drive back to Maryland".  More on that in tomorrow's post.  Even with only 55 miles, we still had a lot of climbing to do.  The last 40 miles were basically up hill and I ended the day with over 8,000 feet.

The Start of Another Mountainous Day

Count the Blue Ridges
The weather was perfect ... a little cool at the start and for the only real descent, then warming nicely as the day went on.  Early on we stopped at the Southern Highland Folk Art Center. The center had lots of nice high end crafts.  As the climbing started, we could see for miles and the sites continued to impress. There were lots of tunnels too ... our bike lights are the only light in there, and one car got a little too close for comfort causing me to stop more abruptly then I would have liked.  The climb to Mount Pisgah revealed our home for the night.  The inn is built right into the side of the mountain and has stunning views from each room as well as the dining room.  Mount Pisgah was part of the 100,000-acre estate bought in the late 1800s by George W. Vanderbilt (owner of the Biltmore estate).

"I Can See for Miles and Miles ..."

Emerging From One of the Tunnels

Jeff Wanted Even More Climbing After Pisgah
We pushed on from there and headed past Looking Glass Rock, Graveyard Fields, and the Devil’s Courthouse.  Looking Glass Rock is very popular with rock climbers and reflects light brilliantly when water and ice are on the rock’s granite face.  The ride ended at the Richland Balsam Overlook which is the highest point on the Parkway at 6,053 feet.

Some "ABB Inappropriate" Celebrating After One of the Big Climbs

Looking Glass Rock

The Sign Says It All

Karen and Aila drove us back to the Inn, where we had a nice celebratory wine and picture party followed by a great dinner overlooking the mountains.  Jeff outdid himself during dessert and enjoyed not one, but almost three different offerings.

Final Dinner at Pisgah Inn
Part Way Through Silk Pie, Pecan Pie, and Ice Cream
The last two days were mighty tough with almost 18,000 feet of climbing.  Click Here to See My Route and Data for the Day -- 05/11/12 Blue Ridge Parkway MP 377 - 431.  I am confident that this trip and my training at home will prepare me well for Ride the West this September.  We will climb 75,000 feet over the 1,400 mile trip.  Can't wait for that.

Day 8 - Saturday, May 12th 

The end of a great week.  After a hearty breakfast at the Pisgah Inn we drove back to MP 431.4 to start the day.  Only 38 miles, but another 3,500 feet of climbing and that was was all poured into two climbs. It was pretty foggy and overcast as we started down the first monstrous descent ... basically 12 miles downhill.

Foggy Start to Our Last Day
What goes down, must go up ... that was followed by an 8 mile, 2500 foot climb.  Jeff and Joe had some spare time at the top of that while I trudged my way upward.  No sooner had I peaked the summit, when Jeff said "Ready to Go" ... LOL, they got pretty chilly waiting 20 minutes for me.  By waiting for me on the big climbs, we were able to stay together all week ... thanks guys.

Waterfall Provided a Nice Chance to Rest On the Big Climb
Another descent, another climb ("only" 900 feet ... seemed like a bump), and then the final 10 mile descent.  Cruising through the fog and tunnels.  Before we knew it, the Parkway end arrived in Cherokee. We arrived just before 12 ... just like Jeff asked.  A few final pictures, a clothes change, goodbyes, and we were in the car for the long ride home to Maryland.  Jeff and Aila spent the night at Idlewhile and we had a nice breakfast on Sunday morning before they headed home to Connecticut.

The Last Mile Marker ...

We Did It
Loaded and Ready To Go

Cherokee, NC

The Ride Home - Geldings and AAN Riders, It Seemed Like Old Times
 Click Here to See My Route and Data for the Day -- 05/12/12 Blue Ridge Parkway MP 431 - 469

It was a great week with great friends.  All told, I rode over 400 miles and climbed almost 43,000 feet.  Joe was the iron man of the trip, only missing the road closure miles. So many pictures, so many memories, so many laughs.  A big thanks to our crew, Aila and Karen.  You always had a smile on your face and were close by when we needed you.  Your SAG after my wheel went will be a story often told.  Thanks again to my riding mates, Jeff and Joe.  Like our previous trips ... it would have only been a bike ride without you ... your friendship helped defined the trip and create lasting memories.

Thanks Karen and Aila ... You Rock
Thanks Jeff and Joe ... Another Memorable Ride
Joe put together a great list of thoughts for other cyclists considering the Parkway.  Check it out and all his pictures at Joe Cycles America: BRP - Final Day. I would add #14 - Make sure to ride with two of the best friends you can find and #15 - If at all possible, use the phenomenal SAG support of your friend's wives.  One last thanks to my wife and family for their support.  I was away for our anniversary and did not get home until Mother's Day ... thanks TC ... I really appreciate you letting me follow my passion.  I love you.

Thanks TC ... One of My Favorite Pictures

Good Night Moon ... Good Night Parkway ... Good Night Jeff ... Good Night Aila ... Good Night Joe ... Good Night Karen ... Good Night Climbs ... Good Night Memories ... Good Night Wife ... Good Night Family.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Blue Ridge Parkway: Day 6

Happy Anniversary to my true companion.  Fifteen amazing years.  Sorry I was away.  I celebrated with an epic bike ride that included the highest peak east of the Mississippi. Clicking the pictures will enlarge them.

Day 6 - Thursday, May 10th

As planned, we extended our planned ride today to shorten our last day and get back to Maryland without having to stay over at a hotel.  With the bonus climb up Mount Mitchell, Jeff and Joe rode 94 miles and climbed over 10,000 feet!  My totals were a bits less, but I joined them up the big climb to Mount Mitchell and ended the day with 86 miles and over 9,600 feet of my own.

Joe is Always the Most Pumped in the Morning
Leaving Boone at the Moses Cone Mansion and Craft Center we all had a big thumbs up for what lay ahead.  A short descent led to a 1,000 foot climb to start day, then we had a long and chilly 13 mile descent that made me glad to have my leg warmers, new base layer, and a vest.  The weather turned a bit warmer and remained wonderfully clear.  The views were amazing.  Every turn saw more ridges and spectacular scenery.

So Many Great Pictures to Choose From ... A Great One of Jeff

Most Waterfalls Required a Hike On Foot ... Not This One

Approaching The Linn Cove Viaduct

Joe on the Viaduct ... Climbing Grandfather Mountain

The climbing really got serious as we set our sights on reaching 5,000, then 6,000 feet.  I started the day planning to skip the Mount Mitchell climb and also SAG up the road for the big 2,500 that led to it.  I was feeling very good and while Jeff and Joe always pushed up the hills faster than me, I kept their wait times at the summits pretty reasonable. I changed my tune and decided to attack Mitchell with the boys.  About 45 miles in, I heard a noise from my rear wheel.  At first I thought I had broken a spoke, but it quickly became obvious that my rear rim had failed.  Well, like any great Tour de France support team, Aila and Karen were literally right behind me when the wheel went.  I quickly put my bike on the rack and a short two mile car ride later met up with Joe and Jeff  at a nice overlook/visitor center.  We had a spare set of wheels for just such an occurrence.  Within a few minutes, I was back on my way with Jeff's old wheel from his Fezzari.

Pictures Do Not Show the Beauty of This Place

Greatest (and Fastest) SAG Team Ever
Our Team Mechanic (Jeff) Makes a Quick Wheel Change
The views got better and better as we climbed higher.  To enable us to start the Mount Mitchell climb together, I skipped (via SAG) 6 miles and about 1,000 feet.  The road to Mitchell was perfect.  The first few miles were mighty steep and I was not sure I would make it all the way.  I even took a picture of my bike at the 3 mile mark (ranger station) to prove I was there. But, I really wanted to see 6,000 feet in elevation so I pushed on.  And the grades got easier.  I pushed it all the way and met Joe and Jeff on top.  A short hike on foot led to the observation tower for more breath taking views.

The Turn to Mount Mitchell ... Smooth as Silk

I Was There Part 1

I Was There Part 2 ... 6,684 Feet High
The descent was five miles of sweetness.  I drafted a line of motorcycles as one point.  We had few more hills to climb before a massive 13 mile descent that saw me hit 51.7 mph.  Joe joked that at one point he was pedaling as fast as could to catch me, and I was coasting and drinking from my bottle.  A great way to end a great day.  Click Here to See My Route and Data -- 05/10/12 Blue Ridge Parkway MP 293 - 377 Plus Mt. Mitchell.

Yet Another Great Overlook Team Shot

Joe Descends Craggy Gardens (Note Tunnel in Background)
We stayed in North Asheville and had dinner at a nice local bistro (Bellagio Bistro) that was having a fundraiser and event for breast cancer.  Good food, good friends ... a great way to end an epic day.  Happy Anniversary TC ... thanks for letting be do what I love.  Miss you ... see you for Mother's Day.  More climbing tomorrow as we ascend Mount Pisgah.

Save The Ta Ta's
 Good Night Moon ... Good Night Mount Mitchell ... Good Night SAG Girls ... Good Night Jeff ... Good Night Joe ... Good Night TC

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Blue Ridge Parkway: Days 3 - 5

On to days 3 through 5 ... you can enlarge the pictures by clicking on them.

Day 3 - Monday, May 7th

The Woodberry Inn was a good find by Karen and Aila ... good food, good accommodations, and a stones throw from the Parkway.  It also meant we had the option of backtracking to yesterday's end point.  That equated to 12 miles and about 1,400 feet of climbing.  With over 30,000 feet of climbing ahead of me and my legs already a bit tired, I figured 1,4000 less would be just fine.  Joe and Jeff made quick work of that stretch and we headed out together toward Mabry Mill.

Mill Reflection on Pond is Cool ... Note Jeff's New Roark Behind Me
Mabry Mill was built by Edwin Boston Mabry in 1903 and included a blacksmith, wheelwright shop, sawmill, and operated as gristmill.  Today it is a great picture spot and chance to see how life was in Appalachia over 100 years ago.  They have a great restaurant known for its buckwheat pancakes ... will have to pencil that in for the next time.

Jeff Leads Us Out ... Very Light Traffic

Great Shot of Me and Joe Making  a Turn

The weather was a bit brisk, but dry ... mostly overcast and quite foggy as we rolled up and down.  Unlike the first two days, we had no real big climbs.  This enabled us to stay together pretty much the whole day.  We still climbed almost 3,500 feet in 44 miles.  A pretty short and a lot easier of day by our standards. The last three days of our trip will test us big time as we climb to over 6,000 feet peaks.  Hope it stays dry.

That's Me Emerging From the Fog ... Joe Snapped Some Great Shots of Me This Trip

200 Down ...
Today's ride was shorter because the Parkway was closed from MP 218 - MP 248 for reconstruction of the historic rock masonry walls in that section.  Just before the road closure, we entered North Carolina.

A Chance for an Early Celebration

Joe and I on the Final Hill Before the Road Closure

On to Sparta

We stayed in Sparta, NC about 12 miles from the closure.  Joe and Karen spent the evening with Joe's mom in Fries, VA near the New River Trail.  

Click Here to See My Route and Data (a little off due to battery issue) -- 05/07/12 Blue Ridge Parkway - MP 174 - 218

Day 4 - Tuesday, May 8th

I contemplated posting just one picture today ...

This Says It All

Rain, rain, and more rain ... and it was chili too.  As you can see from the photo, Joe was not fazed.  Jeff was less than happy.  I was somewhere in the middle, but leaning toward Jeff's way of thinking.  Our plan was to ride from either MP 236 or MP 248 to Boone/Blowing Rock at MP 294.  The road closure did not let us backtrack (thankfully), so we set out for for another short 46 mile day.  The hills were a bit more up and down then yesterday, but still nothing like our first two days.  That said, the 46 mile route had over 5,600 feet of climbing.  Only Joe would do it all.

Unloading For a Very Soggy and Cold Day

One of the Few Pictures of Jeff (Yellow) and Me (Green)
We stopped at the Northwest Trading Post at MP 259 and met up with Karen and Aila.  After getting back on the bike, I was really cold for several miles.  The weather just stunk and to top it off my already failing Garmin computer stopped tracking the elevation and grades accurately due to all the rain.  This made climbing somewhat of a guessing game as I could not see things on my computer or up the road due to the poor visibility. Another 14 miles later, Jeff and I had enough and called it a day.  Iron Man Joe pushed on and made it to Blowing Rock.  It actually stopped raining for him the last 10 miles or so.

Joe Pushes On Alone
Jeff, Aila, and I drove to Boone for a hot shower and lunch at neat local diner (Troy's).  The sun was actually shining, but would turn rainy again later.  Karen followed Joe to the end and joined us a few hours later.  We had a memorable dinner at Coyote Kitchen and a second milkshake at Troy's (been a long time since I did that, but Joe had to have one too).

Great Southwestern "Bowl" for Dinner

With the rain, I only rode 25 miles, but still climbed almost 3,300 feet.  Click Here to See My Route and Data (had to use import Jeff's data ... speed information is off) -- 05/08/12 Blue Ridge Parkway MP 248 - 273.  That brings me to almost 225 miles and over 21,000 feet of climbing so far.

Tomorrow is a rest day in Boone, NC and Blowing Rock, NC.  Time to sleep in and rest those legs for the last three days.  Joe is also blogging at ... check it out for more pictures.

Day 5 - Wednesday, May 9th

We slept in until 8:30 then had a quiet breakfast at the hotel.  During breakfast, we conducted our version of "route wrap" and planned out the next three days.  We had originally targeted around 60 miles a day, but in attempt to shorten our last day and get back to Maryland without having to stay over at a hotel, we have lengthened day 6 to be a killer ... now planning for 83 miles and over 9,000 feet of climbing.  Joe and Jeff are also planning a bonus 5 mile 1,400 foot climb (killer grades) of Mount Mitchell that will give them over 10,000 feet for the day.  I hope it stays dry and warm.  I have told Aila and Karen to stay close as I have a feeling I may skip one of the massive climbs. 

We are also scheduled to meet up with Jeff and Sondra Lazer and Pam Estrada from ABB.  They are on their way to lead the Great Mississippi Ride ... 25 Days from New Orleans, LA to Minneapolis, MN from May 14th to June 8th.

After a relaxing morning, we headed to Blowing Rock for lunch and a nice stroll through town.  Blowing Rock is a quaint little spot with lots of inns, shopping, and dining.  It was cold and drizzly, but we were able to window shop and hit a few of the stores and park. My Karen would have liked the gardening stores and local garden art. Perhaps a weekend trip to one of the local inns/spas is in order for the future.

Appropriately Located Outside the Library

This Would Look Good in Our Garden

Could This Be My Karen in About 20 Years?
Given the weather, we did not stop at the actual "Blowing Rock".  It is a huge cliff 4,000 feet above sea level, overhanging Johns River Gorge 3,000 feet below. The phenomenon is so called because the rocky walls of the gorge form a flume through which the northwest wind sweeps with such force that it returns light objects cast over the void.

Blowing Rock
Legend has it that a Chickasaw maiden, daydreaming on the craggy cliff, spied a Cherokee brave in the wilderness below and playfully shot an arrow in his direction. The flirtation worked because soon he courted her with songs of his land and they became lovers.  One day a strange reddening of the sky brought the brave and the maiden to The Blowing Rock. To him it was a sign of trouble commanding his return to his tribe in the plains. With the maiden’s entreaties not to leave her, the brave, torn by conflict of duty and heart, leaped from The Rock into the wilderness far below. The grief-stricken maiden prayed daily to the Great Spirit until one evening with a reddening sky, a gust of wind blew her lover back onto The Rock and into her arms. From that day a perpetual wind has blown up onto The Rock from the valley below.

We ate lunch at a proper English pub (Six Pence Pub) that had a nice selection of beers.  I was so chili, we stopped at a local sporting goods store where I bought a new Under Armour base layer.  Dinner in Boone tonight then off to bed early ... lots of work (and some fun too) lay in store tomorrow.

Jeff and Joe Raise a Glass

Karen and Aila Sample the Lighter Options
Good Night Moon ... Good Night Rain (Go Away) ... Good Night Climbs ... Good Night Family ... Good Night Friends ...