Category Archives: Blog

Ride Mitchell For Me

mitchell summit

I’ve said many times on this blog that the Assault in Mount Mitchell is my favorite ride. Even though I’ve only ridden it three times, it is the one that I planned to ride every year for the rest of my life. There’s just something about the excitement and anticipation of the event, the fact that you travel from downtown Spartanburg to the highest point east of the Mississippi. It is the ultimate fitness goal, whether you are not competing against others or with yourself. Just achieving the summit is a major accomplishment, but setting a time goal, training throughout the winter and into the spring, and then beating that goal is something to continually strive for.

There will be no Mitchell for me this year. If I were on the bike with even a basic fitness level, I could possibly ramp up my training and get in adequate shape to complete the ride. That is what I did last year. Even though it is a disappointment to not ride, I know many other close friends who are giving it a shot. I hope to be able to attend as a spectator or volunteer and cheer them on.

In the last several years that I have been following the event, it has been a quick sellout. Last year was a little slower, and this year there are still several spots remaining. Since I cannot ride, I’m going to ask that I live through the experiences of my readers, many of whom I know will attempt Mitchell this year.

I’ll ask that people send a paragraph descripting their experience and I’ll post as many as I can after the ride. Please send me an email, or comment on here or Facebook if you’d like to be part of that.

There is a button to the right that will take you directly to the registration page.

Please know that this is NOT an advertisement for Mitchell. I still and never will accept advertising on this website. This is just my way of supporting my favorite ride.

Please register and see why I love it so much.

The Mitchell summit looked a lot different than the base.

My Wife’s On Jeopardy, Baby

jeopardy

Warning: This post has absolutely nothing to do with cycling, but it is far more exciting than any of my physical triumphs.

As I mentioned recently, since this blog is so hyper-focused on cycling, I find little time to share much about myself, the proprietor. This seems like a good opportunity.

My wife has taped on the Jeopardy game show. I am not legally allowed to say how she performed, but I can say that it ranks as one of the most exciting (and nerve-wracking) experiences of my life.

Allow me to backtrack a little. I’ve mentioned recently that I’m a snob film buff, with some collegiate work in film studies (technically a cognate due to scheduling issues).

I met my wife at a film festival. Our first “date” was at a weird movie where a disturbed individual sticks a live chicken head in his mouth for pleasure. Yeah, weird, and we didn’t really know that going in. Our second date was about an elderly painter who finds a healthy, young subject in Daniel Craig (pre-James Bond days). Let’s just say that her paintings were of rather graphic acts that she performed on him.

The two movies are The Mudge Boy and The Mother if you’re interested in weirdness.

She now teaches English at a local college. She’s a smart cookie, with a German and French undergrad and a Linguistics masters degree. She also has a thing about borders. When I take my cycling trips, she likes to know where any border crossings are. When I rode Clingman’s Dome, she thought it was the coolest thing that the road straddles the line and crosses over between NC and TN several times, even if does not have state signs. She’s also into currency collection, collecting foreign and hyperinflation notes.

She’s an interesting, unique, lady, and I’m glad I married her.

We’ve been fans of Jeopardy for years, and she always does pretty well. The more you watch, the better you do, and she can now pretty much wipe the floor with me and probably most people I know. One day she got the wild hair to take the online test. She passed and later auditioned, and much later, we found that she made the cut for the show.

As I’ve documented all too well on this blog, I had surgery scheduled for 1/31. We got the news about the Jeopardy acceptance shortly before that, and I had to travel during my recovery period. It wasn’t easy, but I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

As for what happened, the ten pages of legalese has sufficiently scared me into saying anything. I can say that her show will air on June 16th. She may or may not have done well, and I may or may not have begged her to buy me a new bike. Either way, we’ve decided to have a viewing party and, regardless of the outcome, will have plenty of fun stories to tell.

I do love her, and crutches or not, I was glad to support her for this exhilarating and stressful ordeal.

handicapped tag

One odd coincidence already is that her air date is the same day that my temporary handicapped sticker expires. We have joked that even though she is going to be on national television, that I’ve somehow made this about me. Hopefully I will be up and around, walking and riding, and able bodied to help her celebrate (or not) her moment in the sun.

Hopefully this had a happy ending. We’ll be able to tell you in a few months.


On Happiness

GoodRideLogo

Not long ago, Michael from The Good Ride approached me and asked me to write something about camaraderie and charity rides. I agreed, and at first wasn’t sure what to write. Once I got my muse, the words just poured out of me. I was surprised by what I said, but in a good way. This may be the best thing I’ve ever written, and based on early reaction, it seems to have clicked with people. I think most people who participate in charity rides, from either the organization or riding perspective, should identify.

I recommend you click over and give it a read.

One of my conclusions from the article was that, because of all my charitable efforts, I’m happier now than I was a few years ago. Not much else has changed. I have the same job, earn roughly the same amount of money, and have the same wife. Even though this was not a surprise, it’s not something one asks oneself. I don’t take daily, weekly or yearly inventory of my happiness.

That brings me to Anita Mac, who was not happy. In fact, she was so unhappy that she committed suicide.

Anita Mac

Anita Mac

I came to find Anita when she found me. She ran the blog Travel Destination Bucket List. The topic was strictly a travel blog, not exactly like this blog, but she cycled at some of her destinations. She was more of a touring cyclist and didn’t blog about it often, but I came to enjoy her blog. I subscribed and armchair traveled through her.

Aside from a comment or two on her blog or mine, I never got to know Anita personally. All I knew about her was what I read and the pictures she showed. She was always smiling, usually beaming with happiness. I found myself often envying her. From the exterior, she seemed to have what everyone wants.

I’m not privy to everything that led to her fateful decision, but from reading her last couple of blog postings and some things elsewhere, it sounds like it was a relationship problem. She loved to travel, but did not have a companion to travel with. That made her travel miserable, and when you take away her passion, there’s not a lot left.

When I learned the news, I was shocked. Even though I didn’t know her, this was the last thing I expected from her. I would be shocked at anyone’s suicide, but especially her because of that outward appearance that she kept.

That made me think of myself. A lot of people read about my adventures on this blog, but they know me about as well as I knew Anita Mac — not well at all. From the words I write, they probably think I am a happy, enthusiastic person, which I am, but everyone is human.

I’m not going to deny that cycling is such a passion for me that it resembles an addiction. The same was the case with Anita’s travel. When you take away the addiction, there has to be something to fill that hole to keep us going, otherwise we will fall.

Without knowing Anita’s particulars, it is clear that she didn’t have anything to support her once she lost the ability to travel. I’m sure the relationship troubles didn’t make it any easier.

Over these last 18-months, I’ve had no choice other than to hang up the bicycle cleats and spend some time on the couch. I’ll admit that the first time I was off the bike, winter of 2012 and spring of 2013, was not the best of times. I would go so far as saying I was depressed and angry. There were other contributors, but at times I did not handle my sequestration well. I was nowhere near as low as Anita Mac, and never was close to contemplating such a drastic action as suicide, but I would not have called myself happy.

The moment I got back on the bike, I felt instantly better — even better than I had before. Probably because things had been so dour, I felt like I was on top of the world. My completing the Assault on Mount Mitchell last year ranks as one of the best feelings in my life. There were plenty more of them. Even though I had a few setbacks, I was able to enjoy an active season and tell many stories.

When the injury returned, I remembered my plight from earlier this year. I knew that I needed something to fill that void, and I found it. I continued to help others, albeit from afar, and I made plans to contribute to the rides that I enjoy, although this time as a volunteer and not a rider. I also found plenty of other activities to sidetrack me. Believe it or not, I’ve actually enjoyed this extra time. I spent some time with my wife, took a nice trip, and caught up on a lot of old movies I had missed.

Unlike the last layoff, I have remained happy. This time I should have had an even tougher time because the pain was worse, and I had to deal with surgery. This time I’ve kept a positive attitude and that has made the difference.

Sure, I’ve had bad days, which usually coincided with extreme pain or the inability to do something. Last Friday was one of the worst days I had because of some stomach and pain medicine disagreement issues. Everyone has bad days. The difference between a happy person and an unhappy person is that they can get past the bad days and not let them linger. It seems like Anita was not capable of this, and regrettably, she did not find that travel partner that she needed. The ending was a tragedy.

So, my message to you, whether you are a cycler, blogger, or other type of adventurer, is not to get caught up in an addiction to such a degree that you lose touch with what makes life great – relationships, love, charity. Everyone can find happiness, just some people have to look harder than others.

R.I.P. Anita Mac.


Snowpocalypse, 2014

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Forgive me, but I need to start this post out with a rant.

I went to High School in Atlanta and still have many friends and family who live there. Yesterday they received somewhere around 1-2 inches of snow and ice. Even though there was a forecast for snow, they had not taken precautions. When the snow came, it hit harder and earlier than expected. Thousands of people tried to commute home, only to face endless gridlock traffic. There are hundreds of horror stories, many of which can be found at this Facebook page.

This is ridiculous and unforgiveable. A lot of people make fun of the southeast for closing schools and government buildings when there is merely the threat of snow. This is why. Southeastern cities are simply unprepared for such conditions. The city of Atlanta should be ashamed for how it has handled this crisis.

My Mother was at a luncheon in Atlanta. She left in the midst of the storm at around 12:30pm, about the same time that this above photo was taken (credit James Tobias).

We had texted back and forth. She was telling me how bad it was. Knowing that the system was headed eastward, she warned me to stay off the roads. Even though the forecast showed the snow wouldn’t get to Columbia for an hour or two, I decided not to take chances and went home. I watched the radar as it moved along, and was surprised to see that it split up as it reached the midlands. We had a few instances of sleet in the afternoon, but the big snow would come much later.

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My mother got stuck in the Atlanta traffic for hours and hours. We spoke in the evening, and she had only traveled a few hundred feet in an hour. At 10pm, she was about 3-4 miles away from home. I fell asleep, only to wake up a few hours later to see her text at 2am. She made it to a BP station about a mile from her house, which was as far as she could go. She spent the night there, got about an hour or two of sleep before trying again. She made it to a Starbucks that was literally up the hill from her road, but again, that was as far as she could get. As I’m writing, that’s where she still is, stuck in her car in 14 degree temperatures.

As difficult as it was for my mother, it was far worse for others. Some are still stuck in their cars without food or bathroom facilities. I’m not sure how to put this delicately, but, people have been creative on how to handle their … digestive system.

My mother is going to be okay, even if not entirely comfortable. She’ll probably get a lift home from an all-terrain vehicle at some point. Worst case is that she has to wait a few hours for the sun to come out and melt the ice and snow. She has been able to eat and drink.

Edit: she finally found a Good Samaritan to give her a ride home around 9am. Phew!

Back to me. Remember that I have surgery scheduled for Friday? My concern is that the appointment could be in jeopardy.

We got about three inches here overnight, with a base layer of ice, maybe a quarter of an inch or so. I can tell by looking outside that there will be no driving to work or anywhere else. Temperatures will barely exceed freezing today, so that ice is most likely not going to melt much, if at all. Tomorrow promises to be a little warmer, not much. Some news anchors have speculated that the snow will not be melted completely until Friday afternoon.

That’s my worry. If road conditions have not improved in the next 24 hours, my surgery could be canceled or at least postponed. I’m crossing my fingers. If it is postponed, then it’ll have to wait at least a few weeks. We have some plans in mid-February that we cannot get out of. It would have been a struggle in my 3rd week of recovery, but manageable. It would be impossible in my 2nd week of recovery. The worst case scenario is that my surgery takes place in late February.

So for now, I’m just going to enjoy the day, maybe two, and hope for the best.

For all my friends and readers in the southeast, I implore you to stay indoors, be careful and not take any chances. There may not be a lot of snow on the ground, but from what I can tell, driving is dangerous.


2014: Beach or Bust?

Riders in the Ocean

As I’ve mentioned numerous times before, I’m the type of guy that needs a carrot dangling in front of me on order to stay motivated towards a goal. The past several years, these have been some huge carrots. This year, with surgery right around the corner (officially scheduled for 1/31), I am going to set my sights lower. I need a tough enough challenge to get myself going, while it needs to be something pleasant, something that I would enjoy doing.

The beach would make for an awfully tasty carrot. I’ve decided that this year, my goal is to complete a two-day ride from North Carolina to the Beach.

Jeff Viscount of WeeklyRides.com, sometimes also called the Mayor of Biketown, has been an avid supporter of the MS Ride: Breakaway to the Beach for many years now. He was responsible for much of the planning, route research, and a ton of fundraising.

This year Bike MS decided to go in a different direction. Rather than have riders start in one location and ride to the destination, they are going to have all rides start and finish in Sunset Beach, NC. While that might be a lot of fun if I lived closer, it doesn’t have the same allure as the Beach Ride that I participated in a few years ago.

For 2014, Jeff has put together an alternate event that keeps the spirit of the prior Breakaway ride, but it is a new adventure called Beach or Bust. It will take place on September 20th-21st. Registration will open in just a few days, and will be capped at 150 riders. I expect it to sell out rather quickly. You can follow either at the Beach or Bust website or Facebook for updates.

While this is NOT a National MS Society sanctioned ride, all of the proceeds will go towards the charity.

A double century at this stage is ambitious, but pales compared to what I’ve aspired in the last couple years. Given my physical struggles, I need to set my sights lower, keep the tiger in check, and make sure that I can ride with moderation until I’m sure these injuries are behind me. The fact that this event is going to held over two days and will be mostly flat is a major bonus. Assuming I can get back on the bike by late spring or early summer, I should be able to gradually increase my fitness toward a double century.

Who knows? My muscle memory could help get my fitness back well before then. This could either be a walk in the park or one of the toughest things I’ve ever done. It all depends on how my body responds over the next few months. If for whatever reason I cannot go, then I’ll gladly volunteer to help Jeff with his inaugural event. I’m just thrilled that he’s taken the initiative to put this together, and I’ll gladly support him in some capacity.


2013: Adversity and Adventure

Miami

It has been quite a year. We capped it in style, off the bike and on the beach, spending a few days in Miami and roaming around the warm Florida sun wherever our fancy took us. This trip was for rest and respite, not for riding, yet given all the tumult that I’ve dealt with in 2013, I’ve still accomplished quite a bit.

Believe it or not, I spent more time in 2013 off the bike than on. My layoff early in the year was for three months, and it has now been four months since I last touched wheel to pavement. Between these rest periods, I spent my time wisely, making sure to get the most out of my mileage and still accomplish some of my goals. The numbers were not as impressive as last year. I squeaked out just over 2,000 miles, but I made them count.

Since this year has been so different than previous years, I’m going to wrap it up differently. Rather than ranking my favorite rides and climbs, I’m just going to fondly remember my favorite moments on or off the bike.

Top ten lists are cliché, so this one is going to 11.

11. Swamp Rabbit Trail

A relaxing solo ride on this popular Greenville trail may seem mundane to many of my upstate readers, but I had a great time riding easily around the city, getting my riding legs back.

10. New Bike

This one is bittersweet because my injuries prevented me from getting too familiar with the new bike. It’s still a great feeling to add to the stable, and it’s still here, awaiting the adventures to come.

9. Jackson Brevet

I had a great time at this extremely well organized century with my good friend Jack. If I were making a ride list, this would probably make the top just because of the passion that Robert brought to the event. Of all new to me rides in 2013, this is the one I would recommend to others.

8. Tour de Cure

A blistery and overcast day it might have been, but it was also the first century of the year. Having good company who waited on my weakened fitness made it all the better. As it turned out, this would be a stepping stone for bigger and better things.

7. Tour d’Apple

This turned out to be my last century of the year, and the last mountain(s) that I would climb. We were confused all day with the turns, but it was a nice riding day with Laurie, a new friend.

6. Las Vegas

The goal was to get some riding into this trip, but insanely hot temperatures above 115 and some rental bike issues changed those plans. Instead we did stuff that you should do in Vegas, like eat lots of food, drink beer, and walk endlessly. The only thing we didn’t do was gamble. It turned out to be some good quality time with my wife and family.

5. Lounging in Florida

This was my type of White Christmas.

This was my type of White Christmas.

There was no blog post about this one because, well, I just didn’t feel like it. We headed to South Beach to recuperate and that’s what we did. This was for relaxation, not for work, and that included the blog and other distractions. I came back refreshed and ready for the New Year.

4. Blue Ridge Breakaway

This is one of my favorite rides, and I was glad to return, but the way it happened this year turned out to be a funny story. Spooked by the weather, I hadn’t planned to go. A cold woke me up in the middle of the night and, on a whim, I made the trip anyway, riding 100 miles in what turned out to be dry weather.

3. Brevard Weekend

The second of Neil’s annual trips was a blast, even if I wasn’t altogether ready for heavy riding. I still managed to get in a few hills, including a repeat of the Assault on the Carolinas route. This limited spinning prepared me for the next entry.

2. Assault on Mount Mitchell

After such a long layoff, it was a marvel and a thrill to even finish this event. It may have been more than an hour slower than last year, and I had to clench my teeth some to tough it out through some pain, but I succeeded. Of all three Mitchell successes, this was the most rewarding.

1. Blue Ridge Parkway

Who would have thunk that my favorite event of the year would be me watching other people ride across (arguably) the most scenic byway in the USA? At times I enjoyed the quiet and solitude, and at others I enjoyed supporting and enjoying the experience through others. One day I’ll be back under my own power. Hopefully next year.

Have a Happy New Year everybody! Thanks for sharing this year with me.


Skyuka Descent

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Thanks to Jack for capturing and letting me post the descent down Skyuka / White Oak Mountain. This is a good conclusion to the Hincapie Gran Fondo, and a worthwhile teaser for an upcoming couple posts about descents.

Some would argue that the climb up Skyuka Mountain is among the toughest in Western Carolina. Of all that I’ve experienced, it is certainly up there. It is long and steep, with pitches in the upper teens. It’s also a rewarding climb, as you get a clear view of the flatlands below — one of the best mountain views in the immediate area.

The descent is not fun, at least in my opinion. There is a lot of scenery and even a waterfall, not that you’d have time to appreciate it. The road goes fast, banks around corners, and requires me to ride the breaks a lot of the way down. On my first trip down, when I wasn’t as experienced, I almost lost control going around one of the corners. I think it’s the one with the Mavic van in Jack’s video. I freaked out a little bit when the corner snuck up on me. I didn’t think I’d be able to slow down in time, so I unclipped and tried to get a foot down (not smart, I know.). After the bike wheels stopped, I even skidded a few feet. It was one of the scariest descents I’ve tried, and on subsequent rides, I’ve been very careful going down.

Jack felt the opposite. He loved the descent, and somehow managed a top sleep of 38 mph, far faster than my top speed of around 32. For that reason, I really appreciate the video. He attacks the mountain with confidence and handles the corners a lot better than I would.

Thanks again, Jack!


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