Friday, May 28, 2010


Some final thoughts on our recent sojourn around West Virginia and Virginia seem to be in order. The trip that started out headed to California was significantly shortened. What would have been about a 4600 mile trip in 16 days ended up being 960 miles over 11 days. A few final observations and I’ll move on…

  • I was over packed regarding electronics. In my repertoire of electronic tools, I packed my Olympus Camedia C-8080 digital camera, my Sony camcorder, our Canon PowerShot camera, 2 tripods, chargers for each tool, a 1200 watt power inverter, a Garmin Nuvi 260 GPS unit, my new SPOT II, a Garmin Oregon 400T handheld GPS navigator, two cell phones, and one Dell laptop. The Olympus camera, Sony camcorder, tripods, and 1200 watt power inverter never saw the light of day. All images were taken with the Canon PowerShot and I was very pleased with its performance. The battery did not require a single charging. The SPOT II exceeded my expectations. It sent every “We’re o.k.” message that I attempted and it provides me with an ongoing map of our trip. One set of AA batteries powered the SPOT for the full trip. “Milli”, our Nuvi 260, performed wonderfully as she has previously. She was “spot on” (pardon the pun) in getting us to and from our intended locations. My most pleasant surprise was getting used to the Garmin Oregon 400T. I have had it for a little over a year and never had the opportunity to get accustomed to it. I made an effort this time and kept it on my side as we hiked in the various parks. While I always knew where we were on our hikes, it was comforting to see how accurate the Oregon unit was. I recall that, at one point, the Navigator told me I really didn’t need to tell her we were approaching another climb. The color screen is harder to see in the daylight than my former Magellan black and white screen but I was able to adapt. Even under heavy tree cover, the Oregon maintained its satellite connections. The laptop was essential to keeping up my blog posting but also, along with my Blackberry Storm II, meant I was more aware of work issues than I would have desired. I would see an email that piqued my curiosity and I just couldn’t let it go… (My ongoing weakness!) The cell phones… well, more on that later.
  • Wet, rainy weather can be fun… for awhile! Our first 3 days of travel were literally spent inside the camper or inside a local public library. Overall it worked well as we enjoyed simply reading and relaxing. There was no TV coverage, no radio, and no cell phone coverage in that particular campsite. I appreciated that I could have a conversation with the Navigator and not have it interrupted by a ringing cell phone – something that happens way to frequently at home and happened once we were back in coverage areas on this trip. The wet weather also led to my biggest disappointment of the trip. We didn’t get to ride the Greenbrier Trail. I really wanted to have that experience but it wasn’t to be this go round. Perhaps this will plan the seed for a return trip later.
  • We were overwhelmingly greeted in friendly and courteous ways by the people of the local communities we visited: The people of the Middle Appalachian mountains were exceedingly polite and pleasant to us throughout. I’ll always remember asking for a suggestion of a good local grocery store in Lewisberg, West Virginia. EVERYONE in line chimed in with a suggestion! The various Park staff members, business owners, public library staff, and just good folk all made our trip a very pleasant endeavor. (Note: we had one less than gregarious meeting that I’ve written about and that person wasn’t rude – just distracted or having a bad day.)
  • Big brothers can be a problem: I made mention somewhere along the line of young families with pre-school age children beginning to fill the park in anticipation of the Memorial Day Weekend. Our last night in Hungry Mother State Park was enlivened by a toddler, who would simply not quit crying and go to sleep. If a parent was with him, he was quiet but once they tried to sit by their campfire, he would start screaming again.  Being that he was in a canvas pop-up beside us there wasn’t much to muffle his wailing as we sat by the campfire. The following morning, his mother informed us that they had just found out that the toddler’s older brother would wait until the parent left the camper and would then make scary faces and guttural sounds at his younger brother. This, of course, scared the toddler and he responded with his cries for his mother. She also informed us that “big brother” was in a bit of trouble…
  • Living up to the title of this blog, which includes a reference to cycling adventures beyond the Great Smokies: Due to the dreary weather, I didn’t get to do as much riding as I desired. The aforementioned Greenbrier Trail was missed and the rainy weather at Douthat kept me from adding many miles to my log. I did enjoy getting out of the campground at Hungry Mother and could have added quite a few miles more had we stayed longer. It was good to see the bike lanes and “share the road” signs in Marion, Virginia.
  • The BEST FEATURE of this trip was sharing it with the Navigator: We are lucky in that we are very compatible with similar interests. Our days and nights went quite smoothly throughout. We didn’t have competing interests in either desires for activities or duties to keep things running. At the end of the day, I’m always glad to go to bed with “my best friend!”

On to other items:

Tour of Discovery: Ride for the Republic: We’re down to 18 days until the kick off on this important tour being undertaken by our good friend Jim Artis and Florida teacher Rafael Giraldo. This tour will depart from Bar Harbor, Maine at the crack of dawn on June 14th and make its way along the 13 original colonies that formed America. 2670 miles later, it will end in Key West, Florida. If you haven’t been following the trip preparation, check it out at Cycling Experiences.  You can also see detailed information at Tour of Discovery: Ride for the Republic.

2010 Ride the Divide is approaching quickly. The race, which runs along the spine of the Rockies from Canada to Mexico, will begin in Banff, AB on June 10th. Our friend, Kent “the Mountain Turtle” Peterson, will be partaking of this adventure again. MountainTurtle Kent will again be running the race on a single speed bike. You can join Kent on his “roll out” if you are in the Issaquah,Washington area on June 3rd when he begins his 7 day ride to the starting location. To get more details on this incredible journey, check out Tour Divide. Kent is one of 12 veterans signed up for this year’s race. A total of 46 racers are currently signed up to start. This 2745 mile single stage, self-supported race will likely not have 46 finishers.

The use of electronic technologies plays important roles in both of these races. SPOT will be present in both adventures enabling us, the viewing public, to share virtually in the trip. Jim Artis has put together quite the travelling power shop to manage his various charging needs. He has multiple posts on the evolution of the Power Box.

Our best to both of these intrepid adventurers!

Finally, my home community will be sponsoring the first annual Blue Ridge Breakaway on August 21st. This ride will have century, metric century, 40 miles and 24 mile routes. Cyclists interested in climbing will be particularly pleased with the opportunities to climb Soco Mountain, Water Rock Knob, the highest point on the Blue Ridge Parkway and then descend back to the starting point. Registration is now open!


Until later,

- Zeke

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