Sunday, April 3, 2011
Lesson learned: Take a Break!
I'm still not sure what got into us. Maybe it was the fact that we didn't have any events to keep us in a town for longer than a day, but we pushed ourselves to the limit these past few weeks. When talking to people about bicycle touring, they warned about getting 'mile hungry' so we made our schedule with 50 mile days in mind. But these past few weeks we have just been feeling so good, and soon enough, a 70 mile day was becoming routine.
Like we had been warned, we burnt ourselves out. Everything was about being on the bike, getting up early, taking short breaks, and getting to camp as the sun set. We pushed and pushed and forgot to enjoy ourselves by writing and taking photos. I was getting to the point of being annoyed by people coming to talk to us because it was interfering with our riding time. Needless to say, we were taking the fun out of the tour and instead, we were stressing.
Bicycle City, SC was within our reach and we became obsessed with getting there. To give you a little background, Bicycle City is a concept that was developed in the 80's and is now approaching a reality. It is exactly what it sounds like, and will be a city that totally revolves around bike riding. As I understand, there will be a parking lot on the outskirts of the city for those who still own cars to get around outside of the city, but once you park your car there, you're biking the rest of the way. The first bicycle city will be in South Carolina, and will be called Velo Village. Back in October, we found out about the city, and contacted a man named Joe about stopping by on our way through. He was more than happy to have us come by, and offered us a place in the only cabin they had built there so far. Finally, after an 87 mile day to Bicycle City, SC, we could take a day of rest.
So there are huge plans for bicycle city, but currently, the city is one log cabin on a lake. And in order for us to get to that cabin, we had to push our bikes in the dark(this part was out fault), through a mile of dirt and gravel road. I sure hope they make the road into bicycle city a little more bicycle friendly!
But what a haven it was when we got to the cabin. We unlocked the door and there in the main room, was a model of what Bicycle City will be. It was a conceptual model, but you really got a sense of what they were going to do! Unfortunately, Joe was in Cincinnati and we didn't get to pick his brain about what Bicycle City will be, but we were so happy to have a cabin in the middle of the woods all to ourselves for two nights and a day. We bought steaks and hamburgers for our dinners, and played house while we were there.
I think our bodies knew we were on break because the next day we had to pry ourselves off of the couches to get outside for twenty minutes. For the rest of the day, we got as much rest as possible and we just lazied around, catching up on some work, reading, and playing Gin Rummy, something we haven't had time for in almost a month. Just in case you were wondering, Adam won again. I think that makes it 5 to 1 so far on this trip. I should just give up.
We sadly left Bicycle City the next morning and headed towards Charlotte where my cousin, Theresa, and her husband, Freddie, were expecting us. We decided these 75 mile days have been just nuts, and after 55 miles, we stopped at a campground. Our bodies were still so tired, that even the 55 miles that day felt like torture. While riding around looking for a site, we met Walt and Laine, who invited us to set our tent up next to theirs to save the $16 fee. They even had us into their RV for dinner since the couple who was supposed to have dinner with them couldn't make it. Chicken & Dumplings was a new experience for us and I loved both of my bowl fills!
One more day to Charlotte and, again, we felt drained. We just couldn't get our bodies back into the groove. The road conditions didn't help and we were thinking how much we wanted to get off this interstate-like road when we saw these.
The white bikes signify when a cyclist gets killed on the road and reminds people to hopefully drive and ride safely. After we saw this, we took a nice hour-long lunch at this little gas station restaurant and met some characters! Larry made us feel right at home, told us to order the Friday Special, and even got up and did a little skit. Maybe one of the oddest things we've seen on this trip.
A few more miles, a state line dance, and we made it to Charlotte, and we couldn't have felt more at home! Theresa and Freddie had a sign outside their front door welcoming us, we met Bruno, their sweet puppy dog, and we ate a great Thai food dinner that night. Not a bad way to start the weekend!
When we first mentioned to people that we were going to do this trip, Theresa wrote immediately to me saying she wanted to set something up in Charlotte when we come through and we jumped on the offer! Out of all of the places we plotted on our map, Charlotte was the one definite! And a few months later, here we were! Theresa, with the help of Lifestyle Family Fitness in Matthews, NC, set up a spinning event at their club. They had three sessions of spin class, and people came to spin with us and dropped a donation in the jar. After spinning for two hours, Adam, Theresa, Freddie, and I hobbled out of the club with enough donations for a bike and then some! We were pumped, tired, and hungry. A burrito at Chipotle was exactly the pick-me-up we needed.
It seemed like our only motivator that weekend to get up and do anything else was food. We met friends from home, Laura & Greg, and some of their friends out for dinner that night, then didn't go out again until the meet & greet at Ri Ra's Irish Pub where we raised enough money for another bike, plus we had a surprise visitor! My dad, on his way to Nashville for the week, came down a day early to see us! What a great way to end our Charlotte visit!
When we sadly took off from Charlotte, I thought the lazy weekend would have given me tons of energy, but it just made me lazier and by the end of the 50 miles riding, followed by the two mile hike to the back country camping spot, I was done. We saw the sign that said no bikes allowed on the trail, but weighed that against the sign that said $160 fine for camping in non-designated spots, and chose to walk the bikes the two miles in. I barely had the energy to eat dinner and my candy bar before I passed out in the tent.
On our way out the next morning, we rode down the service road and right into a Park Ranger. He got out of his truck, not too happy about the bikes, but we gave him our pity story of how we've been biking since San Diego and we didn't choose to camp in a non-designated spot closer to the trail-head. I don't know how impressed he was, but he let us off without a ticket! This is him yelling at me to get my bike off the trail (I can't believe he agreed to take this photo!!)
We got back into the swing of things the following two days, joked about the town names of Rutherfordton and Hendersonville (wondered when we were going to pass Winchestertonfieldville) and enjoyed the scenery changes as the terrain became more and more hilly.
Chris, a former employee of World Bicycle Relief, greeted us in Hendersonville and set up a bike shop presentation at Sycamore Cycles. While we gave our talk, the audience enjoyed pizza and beer donated by West First, and our bikes enjoyed a tune-up and installation of new Armadillo tires. Chris graciously offered us a place to stay that night, and we were off the next day after meeting his wife, Kim, and two year-old daughter, Kate. Chris gave us thorough directions out of town and we were off, but Hendersonville wasn't done with us yet.
Adam and I had stopped by a newspaper on our way into Hendersonville. They had already heard of us because both Chris and Megan, our PR intern, had emailed them about our coming. The stop proved to be worthwhile because on our way out of Hendersonville, George from Park Ridge Health, stopped us and told us he had read about us in the newspaper that morning. Our first visit of the trip to the hospital, but it was all good! George and his co-worker, Jodi, introduced us to Beth Davey who worked for Park Ridge Health Foundation and right there, they gave us a $100 donation to our charities. Later on down the street, a couple pulled over and gave us another $20 donation. It's amazing the power of a newspaper!
Though the donations gave us some sunshine in the morning, the rest of the day remained cold and wet. We made it the 45 miles to Marshall, a cool little town northwest of Asheville, soaked and ready to get warm. Little did we realize, the cafe we walked into would host Thursday night bluegrass headed by Bobby Hicks. I guess I have to admit here that I had to look up who Bobby Hicks was, but he is a legendary bluegrass fiddler. We got to talking with him and he played his fiddle for us and even let me try it out!
Unfortunately, we couldn't stay for the bluegrass because we had made plans with a couple we met in the bike shop who invited us to dinner and to spend the night at their place. So we left the cafe with a hint of the bluegrass music playing as we rode five more miles uphill to Carson and Lindsay's beautiful home.
Carson and Lindsay were a great couple. Carson had recently opened up Pace Cycles, the bicycle shop in town and Lindsay is a teacher in Asheville. They introduced us to Kombucha,(looked like a science experiment in a jar) made us a great dinner, and played E.T. for a little blast from the past. We felt right at ease in their comfy home. Their wood stove kept us warm and dried our clothes, and their dog, Sylvie, even curled up on the couch next to us for a little bit during the movie.
The next morning, the sun started to peak out as we descended their driveway and headed into what we've been hearing would be some of the hardest climbs of our trip. I was nervous and let that get the best of me. Before we really started the day, I needed some time with Adam to talk things through and get myself pumped. While eating our second breakfast at Momma's Country Kitchen, we talked through the nerves with the help of a mom and her teenage son and we were ready to conquer the mountains. We rode steadily up, and up, and up. We got hot when pushing hard, and froze when the mountains dipped before climbing back up. The four mile decent once we hit Tennessee and came out of the mountains was the coldest roller coaster we've been on, and our smiles froze to our faces. What fun!
The 50 mile day ended as we rode with the sun still high into Davey Crockett Birthplace State Park. We could have pushed another 12 miles to stay in a home, but we learned our lesson of riding too much and settled in for the night.
We should have biked further. At midnight exactly, I woke up from a long rumble of thunder and quickly checked my iPhone for the weather report. Looking back, I guess this was an odd thing to do since I already knew there was a thunderstorm coming outside. But the radar confirmed a T-storm with hail was coming towards us and I saw a tiny little red patch on the radar headed for us! Adam and I pondered whether or not it was safe to stay in the tent when the lightning started, and boy was it was close. We froze, not knowing what to do. Should we stay in the tent which was surrounded by trees, or make a run through an open field for the bathroom to wait out the storm? As we pondered, a lightning strike crashed within what felt like 50 feet from our tent. Our hearts jumped, our hair stood up, and yet we still didn't know what to do. After debating for another few minutes, we got out of the tent and ran for the bathrooms where we waited out the rest of the storm. Scariest hour of our lives.
When we came out from the bathrooms 30 minutes later, the sky was clear and the stars were shining bright. If it weren't for our hearts pounding out of our chests and our wet feet, I may have thought it was all a dream. Probably not the best nights sleep we've gotten in a while, and the next morning, instead of hanging at the campsite, we packed up quick and left to enjoy breakfast inside.
We found Johnny's Market & Deli at the gas station and walked in hoping they had more than donuts and coffee. They sure did! It was a Bacon, Egg, and Cheese morning! Along with the food, they had customers coming in and out non-stop. That's what happens when you're the only store around. We first noticed Frank, wearing his Korea Veteran hat and once we started up conversation with him, there was no stopping the influx of customers from asking us about our trip. We had come here to get a little work done on the computers after we spent our time at the campsite fixing flats instead of writing and editing pictures. But it seemed like the locals wouldn't let us do much work and kept us pretty much engaged in conversation the whole time. After his coffee, one man gave us $6 to help pay for our breakfast and then when we went to pay, the restaurant wouldn't let us. It sure helped set everything right after the night we had.
We left the restaurant with full bellies, to enjoy rolling hills all day long. It's tough work, but so nice to see lush, green farms around ever corner, and the special treat at the top of a hill when, beyond the farms, you could see the layers of the Appalachian Mountains in the distance, each layer fading more and more until we could barely see the tallest snow-capped mountains.
To end the week, my dad came out to meet us on his way back home from his mini-music- tour in Nashville. After a week of resting, good conversation, and good people, Mind, Body, and Soul are ready for the climbing this week.