Carolina on My Bike 1/3

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All built up and ready to ride!

Many of you may already know that I am an impulsive person. I tend to jump into situations without forethought and I sometimes pay the price for that. It’s a spontaneous and often fun way to conduct one’s life, but it is also fraught with uncertainty.

My latest silly idea is currently playing out in North Carolina. On a whim, I purchased an all-inclusive weekend of riding with about 20 fellow riders on the Fall 2019 Seth’s Bike Hacks Group Mountain Bike Trip. People signed up from all over the country from New York State to Los Angeles. We are leading into Saturday, our second day of riding, and I’m up at 5:30am swimming in nervous anticipation.

I flew out of San Jose on Wednesday night. The United flight was delayed, and I almost missed my connection at Chicago O’Hare due to weather. I made it, and so did my bike, but it was close. Over 12 hours of travel, almost all of them sleepless. Barrett at Red Wolf Bike Tours picked me up from the airport in Asheville and we got to chat all the way to the cabin where I am currently staying. We stopped at Sora Sushi for lunch (it was great!)

Pints at The Hub – That’s Barrett in the background.

Barrett, a transplant from Alabama, is here in Brevard with his Wife running the tours and pulling pints at The Hub; the local bike shop and tavern. They are two of the kindest and most down-to-earth folks I have ever met, and I have enjoyed spending time with them. Barret takes his job very seriously, but manages to remain laid back and looks like he loves where he is.

He dropped me off at the cabin and, after building my bike and taking a short nap, I strolled down the hill to The Hub. This place is a sight to behold. It is a bike shop/ gear and outdoor outfitters/ bike rental/ pub. Although I am thoroughly impressed with their performance in all of those categories, I think I love the last one the most. I strolled in and Barrett greeted me at the bar where I enjoyed several pints of fantastic local brews while conversing with the locals.

It is easy to strike a conversation with the inhabitants of this fair town. All that I have met are friendly and outgoing and are happy to offer their knowledge and advice about their community. They take great pride in their town, and justifiably so. Brevard is a beautiful gem nestled between Dupont State Forest (10,000 acres and over 85 miles of trails) and Pisgah National Forest (LARGE, like VERY LARGE, over 500,000 acres with hundreds of miles of trails). The scenery is beautiful and the topology is challenging. These mountains may not be as tall as the rockies or the Sierra Nevada, but they pack a punch.

Still plenty of leaves to show off the Fall color.

A powerful storm front was just leaving town as I arrived. The winds were substantial and the area received over eight inches of rain over the last few days. The ground was wet and the branches were blowing. This killed some of the fall color, but a lot remained and looks fantastic on these now-sunny days.

Our first day of riding was a quickie. We spent a few hours on the slopes of Dupont State Forest. This place is different from anything I have ridden before, and it is wonderful. The climbs are not too steep, but there are occasional challenges which take the form of short, steep sections, rocky bumps, and roots. Downhills are just a bit technical, but fun and flowy.

The tour guides divided us into three groups based on personal skill levels and endurance. I decided to play it safe and ride with the middle group. I don’t know much about the level-3 group, but I do know that the level 1 group covered more miles and about 200 more feet of elevation than us.

We climbed through the forests and chatted all the way up the mountain. It was a fun ride with lots to talk about. I learned that almost everyone on the trip has been out to ride California trails, while I have not headed east until now. My loss.

This guy is a machine!

Seth, who had been riding with the level 3 group from the start,  joined us about halfway through the trip and finished the day with us. He is a jovial and fun rider, and his skill becomes quickly apparent on both the climbs and the descents. I have a hard time climbing fast, so he pulled away from me without much effort.

When we went down, I found it difficult to hold his wheel. Not only are these trails more technical than I am used to, but I am completely unfamiliar with their twists and turns, even rolling completely off the trail at one point and re-joining it about 50 feet later.

Between Seth and our guides, I personally gained a lot of confidence in the terrain mostly because I was able to watch them descend and use the earth to their advantage, Following their lines helped me navigate the thick carpet of newly-fallen leaves and even gave me the courage to catch some air! The rolling terrain often just lifts you off the ground and it is easy to control your landing on the generous run-outs.

Yeah, this happened.

After regrouping at the vehicles and enjoying some post-ride sugar, we loaded up the bikes and headed back into town. I opted to grab a lobster roll at the food truck outside of The Hub and head in for a pint. Several others from the ride did the same and we had a great time discussing technique and getting to know each other. I discovered that I’m not the only one who is simultaneously excited and nervous about tomorrow’s longer ride through Pisgah Forest. It will be challenging, but I think I will be a better rider when it is done.

A shower’s ability to rejuvenate should never be underestimated.

Buffet Central

The final event of the day was the traditional taco night and camp fire. Everyone welcomed the generous portions and was able to fill up on tasty snacks, sweets, and beer. They even provided the makings for s’mores! What a great end to a great day!

We got to meet Drama (Seth’s pup) along with a large contingent of other puppers who are members of the families of the event planners and their guides. They lit up the evening and chased each other all over the party. Drama even jumped up and got away with a bit of my nachos – right off my plate!

My new best friends!

The ride today exposed me to new experiences and people. I loved riding in a new place, but I more enjoyed meeting so many interesting and diverse riders whom I learned a lot from and feel fortunate to have spent this time with.

Tomorrow is going to be a very long and challenging day on the mountain. I’ll try to update after the ride, but I’m not going to promise anything. Stay tuned, and get out on the bike!

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