Saturday, July 25, 2009

Curious Critters

One thing we learned about bike touring on this last trip is not to walk off with an open pannier, even if just for a few minutes, and especially not if curious critters are about.

This photo snapped by Joe Lilly of Weaverville.
Another bike tourist we crossed paths with on Loft Mountain.
Also, keep a close eye on roadside mules. They lure you in with that innocent look then nibble away when your back is turned.

"Say Buffy, that looks like the Brooks saddle you ate last week".

Friday, July 24, 2009

And we're back

As it is, we completed all of the Skyline Drive and 200 miles of the BRP. We learned a lot about ourselves, each other and bike touring. This was a tour of extremes. One night we were stealth camping a stones throw from the Parkway and bathing in a bathroom sink, the next we were enjoying dinner theater at a mountain top lodge. One day we were basking in sunshine, the next we were in fog so thick we could not see more than a few yards. We toiled for hours gaining thousands of feet of altitude only to lose it in mere minutes on fast descents.

The trip was great despite the rain and fog, which had us hemmed in at Tuggle’s Gap for two days and sitting by the side of the road for some time atop a few of the higher peaks. We reluctantly decided to cut the trip short at Fancy Gap, rent a U-Haul in Mount Airy and truck ourselves back home. We had thoughts of pushing on in the thick fog and frequent heavy downpours and getting a bit farther south, but we realized we would be missing the very thing we came for, the views. We also had a sick puppy waiting for us at the vet. The kennel called to tell us our beloved 15 year old basset hound Indio had emergency surgery. She is doing fine now.

Fancy Gap is only a four hour drive from home so it will make for a good starting point for a second tour to complete the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Special thanks to Paige for the ride north and the offer to “come rescue” us if anything went awry. Luckily, all went well (okay, not the weather, but all else) and we can hardly wait to accrue more vacation time to finish the Parkway. We feel very fortunate to live next to such a beautiful scenic byway that lends itself so well to touring by bicycle.

Here’s a link to the album:

Jack and Raquel

Friday, July 10, 2009

And we're off (almost)

A friend is driving us up to Front Royal, Va. starting at the crack of dawn tomorrow. We'll motel it Saturday night and head back Sunday. We are planning about 12 days, somewhere between 40 to 60 miles a day. Just a leisure meander through the Blue Ridge Mountains back to Bryson City, NC.


Monday, July 6, 2009

Minimalist kit for 2 weeks of touring

Raquel is the ‘planning’ type. I’m more the ‘procrastinate till the last minute’ type. But I can say, I have put a lot of thought into what I will be taking on the Blue Ridge Parkway/Skyline Drive tour.

I’ve been into ultra-light backpacking for many years so I’m looking at this trip the same way I would a backpacking trip. I really don’t want to slog a bunch of gear up and down the mountains either on my back or on my bike. Luckily, the same gear works well for both backpacking and biking.

Here is my ‘minimalist’ kit for two weeks of touring in the mountains.

-Big Agnes Seedhouse 2 tent (this one can be set-up using the fly only, but Raquel will not consider it. So we’re taking the whole tent.)
-Big Agnes sleeping pad
-Coolmax sleep sheet
-Inflatable pillow (yes I could do without this, but I refuse to live like an animal)
-Umbrella (I’m not sure if an umbrella is an unusual bike-touring item. I can’t recall seeing anyone carrying one. But I never backpack without one, so I’m taking mine. It’s great to have an umbrella to cook, eat, pitch the tent, whatever in the rain and this one weighs almost nothing and is fiberglass, not metal.)
-Titanium pot/mug/bowl and a home-made stove/wind-screen/pot-stand
-Lexan spoon, knife, fork
-Poncho/tarp to cover the bike at night
-Rain jacket, booties, helmet cover
-First aid kit
-Nalgene bottle, water purification tabs and bandanna (for filtering out the big chunks)
-Head lamp
-Hygiene stuff
-Bike tools, pump, tubes
-Clothes in a compression sack
-Small bottle of woolite

I hope I'm not forgetting anything, Jack

Car/Bike Camping in Cades Cove

Cades Cove sits in a valley located on the Tennessee side of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. It is on the opposite side of the park from our hometown, Bryson City, NC . The best way to explore Cades Cove is by bicycle. Deer and flocks of turkey are everywhere and occasionally a bear or two can be seen. The wildlife is accustomed to the almost never ending stream of cars that creep around the 11 mile loop, but are most active when the loop is closed to automobile traffic.

Saturday mornings before 10:00 am the park service closes the loop to all but bicycle and foot traffic. Prowling through the historic churches, houses and barns make Cades Cove a good mix of on and off the bike activities. The single lane road is in poor condition so fat tires are preferable but this is a great ride for kids and beginners. The biggest hazards are from (guess what) kids and beginners, but this makes for a good opportunity to practice patience. Cades Cove has a nice primitive camp ground, a camp store, bicycle rental, horse back riding, hiking trails, hay rides and lots of activities for kids.