Planning is well underway for the 2016 edition of the Blue Ridge Breakaway. In fact, planning started the day after the 2015 edition. This is my second go-round as Ride Director and I'm currently enjoying the planning process and greatly looking forward to the actual event.
I'm excited that we are adding King and Queen of the Mountain this year. The Waynesville Rotary Club is the sponsor of the KOM and Ken Wilson Ford of Canton is the sponsor for QOM. We will be recognizing best times for Masters category (40+ years old) in both KOM and QOM and best times for those under 40 years of age also in both categories. The measured segment will be somewhere along the Lake Logan Road climb to the Blue Ridge Parkway. We are still working out the final details of the starting location. The KOM/QOM will be open to those riders on the Hawk and Trout routes. I anticipate that the segment will be around 8 to 10 miles in length.
Members of the Haywood County Amateur Radio Club have been hard at work locating spots for our communications needs. One of our goals and significant challenges is to have real time results of the KOM/QOM communicated back to the Finish line at Lake Junaluska. Cellular service in this section of the event is non-existent and most GPS trackers lose their signal in multiple locations on the climb. We are working to relay HAM radio signals containing data packets via repeaters and digipeaters back to the command center. While some folks may see this as frivolous, an important outgrowth of this type of exercise is to improve through practice our communications network in case of natural disaster or necessary rescue efforts for lost and/or injured hikers. We learn a lot from these efforts that have benefits long after the event itself.
This year's jersey is almost ready for unveiling. The base design is finished and I believe participants will be pleased when they see it. Bar none ( a hint there!) this jersey departs from what we've done in the past. Check out the Blue Ridge Breakaway website to see images of the jersey once it is revealed.
I continue to be puzzled/amazed/concerned at the folks who each year disregard our reminders to pack a rain jacket for the Parkway. Again last year we had a storm cell run across a section of the Parkway soaking the riders. Believe me when I say you get cold quickly at 5500+ feet elevation in low 60 degree weather in pouring down rain. You cannot ride fast enough to keep your body heat up in those conditions. We had more than a couple of folks that resembled Smurfs last year as they turned blue. Hypothermia is a real danger!
Our emergency preparedness paid off in being able to get those riders into safer conditions quickly. At our command center at Lake Junaluska, we were in constant contact with the National Weather Service personnel as they tracked the weather cell for us. The first radio alert of rain from our HAM operators on the Parkway was within two minutes of our having been advised by NWS staff it was starting to rain. We were able to dispatch vehicles to the Parkway rapidly to assist wet riders. We also had the opportunity to watch the weather conditions on a big screen TV donated by Best Buy and, at the same time, see our motosag riders real time positions on yet another big screen map thanks to GPS transmitters we attach to the motorcycles. Technology places a bigger role in this event than most people realize.
Early registration is now open for the Breakaway. Please visit the website Blue Ridge Breakaway and come join us in beautiful Haywood County and the Blue Ridge Parkway for the weekend of August 19th, 20th, and 21st! We have wonderful accomodations and great restaurants for you to enjoy! Oh yeah, we'll have those famous Haywood County tomato sandwiches for you again!