Tuesday, September 28, 2010


The last several days of rainy cool weather have not been particularly inspiring to be out and about in the elements on 2 wheels of any kind. A cool front with lots of moisture moved in Saturday afternoon and stayed with us until mid-morning today (Monday). The Navigator and I actually closed up the house for the first time since late May due to the cool damp weather. At last count, we had received 1.94” of rain out of this storm. It was much needed so it is hard to complain about it.

This is in contrast to the temps being “enjoyed” by Bro Dave and his compatriots out on the West Coast. I understand it was supposed to cool down from 111 degrees on Saturday to 109 degrees on Sunday. Bro Dave reports getting LOTS of built up “honey-do” chores taken care of INSIDE the house on Saturday. Ted at BikinginLA reported similar temps and “enjoyed” the pleasures of power failure.

Tonight’s plans will prevent a late evening ride as we’ll be meeting for the 20th Annual Haywood County Motorcycle Parade and Toy Ride, the principal fund raiser for children’s Christmas needs in our home county. Tomorrow is promising though and I look forward to getting in a good commute home! This weekend holds the hope for camping along the Blue Ridge Parkway and some riding at higher elevations.

Meanwhile, on the eastern end of North Carolina…

Our friend Jim Artis of Cycling Experiences is prepping for coverage of not one but two record breaking attempts for century rides this weekend. Maria Parker is back in White Oak, NC to break her own record set last year. Jim’s coverage of that event was quite comprehensive and well received. Also, attempting to break a record this weekend will be Mike Zagorski. Jim will be covering both events with live coverage throughout. Be sure to check in and catch the action.

Back in the Great Smoky Mountains…

We’ve all had our moments of frustration, irritation, and perhaps even escalated to anger with our equipment. As yet, I’ve not reached that point with my Fuji CCR3 but the VeloHobo is reporting on one fellow, who apparently had just a little too much… in more ways than one!  While checking out this story, scroll down and catch the great images of the Linn Cove Viaduct on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Blowing Rock, NC.

Fatty does it again…

Eldon “Fatty” Nelson is at it again. Yep, raising funds for a the fight against cancer. If you aren’t familiar with the Fat Cyclist, get on over to the site and check out Fatty’s latest fund raiser. You might just find yourself winning a fantastic bike or other great prizes!

Well, I’m outta here for now! I hope you have some great fall weather in your area! Now get out and RIDE!

Until later,

- Zeke

Friday, September 24, 2010


Whew! This has been one LOOOONG unpleasant work week. Seems like the computer gods were out to throw every widget and gadget around into a looping cycle of self-destruction. Pair that up with Wednesday evening’s serious weather storm that knocked out power longer than our 3 hour server batteries could stand and it was a recipe for computer chaos. The first 25 phone calls letting us know that email wasn’t working was tedious. The next 25 were irritating. Oh well, things are back up and running just in time for the weekend!

Our Tuesday night BicycleHaywoodNC advocacy meeting was quite productive. We came away with the impression that we have a great opportunity to qualify for a $40,000.00 grant to get a bike plan for our home county developed. The catch is we have to raise a 20% match of funds sooooo, if anyone out there is feeling particularly philanthropic and wants to send $8,000.00 dollars our way, we’ll make darn sure it goes to getting the larger grant! Heck, if anyone out there wants to send a $1.00 bill to us, we’ll take that as well. We’d only need 8,000 people to chip in! (anyone serious enough to really make a donation, should email me for further information at gr8smokieszeke (at) gmail.com. You know to replace the (at) with @ so as to fool those sneaky bots!)

On a serious note, I have contacted League of American Bicyclist and REI about possible funding toward the $8k. Unfortunately, LAB sends their best wishes but have no money. REI has a grants program but it doesn’t sound as if we would qualify. Still, there is hope as we’ve received some initial positive responses from one of our local municipalities and have developed some other leads as well.

Thursday night’s first ride of our finalblock of 6 sponsored rides was small in numbers but high in pleasure. We had only 4 riders (2 regulars, 2 new participants) but, we had a nice ride around town and county throwing in some mild to moderate climbs. One of our riders, who has been with us throughout the summer and is returning to cycling after some time away, did very, very well as she held her own on the climbs. She came to us from the flatlands of Florida and has never done any climbing. It was good to see her workouts paying off as she climbed the hills on the ride. We (BicycleHaywoodNC) have committed to providing guided rides through the month of October or until there is insufficient after-work sunlight for rides. This will be 3 blocks of 6 rides each that we’ve supported this summer. By all accounts, the rides have been well received by participants and by the automotive public, which has been extremely accommodating and courteous.

Sad to report… 

Our friend Jim Artis at Cycling Experiences has reported on the death of Jure Robic, multiple time winner of RAAM. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Jure’s family…

In other news…

The VeloHobo continues to evaluate his equipment used for his recent ride along the Blue Ridge Parkway. If you are into ultralight touring, you’ll find numerous hints, tips, and evaluations of equipment to get you leaner and meaner, well, maybe just leaner – when you tour. Want to see a neat way to track your ride/event from above? Check out recent postings on the A.R. Drone at Cycling Experiences. Our own recent Blue Ridge Breakaway continues to garner positive responses from participants. Ken Howle, one of our BicycleHaywoodNC members and a major coordinator for the recent BRB, informed us that rooms are already being booked in Haywood County for NEXT year’s Blue Ridge Breakaway to be held on August 20, 2011. Meanwhile, Fatty ponders the meaning of a $75.00 bike in preparation for the weekend…BikinginLA preps local riders for Friday’s Critical Mass ride and hopes for appropriate behavior by the massive crowd, i.e., it is NOT acceptable for massive numbers of cyclists to ride through the isles of local stores. Are you simply in the mood for some incredible photography of bicycles? You’ll not find any better than that offered up at Eco-Velo.

The Navigator and I are on our way to learn to “throw our own pizza crust” Big J. has been perfecting his style this summer and baking (?) pizzas on his Big Green Egg. Tonight, he shares his knowledge… (Cold libation required…)

Have a great weekend as the Harvest Moon wanes…

- Zeke

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


The Navigator and I returned safely home to our Western North Carolina mountains on Sunday. We had a great time in the S.C. Low Country enjoying our “fun in the sun”, good friends, good riding, and good eating! We didn’t go through any temperature shock on this trip upon our return home. We left Hilton Head Island under sunny clear skies with pleasing temperatures in the mid-80’s only to return to our house under sunny, clear skies and pleasing temperatures in, yes, the mid-80’s. We aren’t yet seeing the changing of the leaf colors that herald the arrival of fall although we know that isn’t far behind.

The last ride…

The Wood-man and I took our last HHI ride on Saturday getting in another 20 miler around the island. This time we headed out in the opposite direction of our previous ride and found ourselves with more open space and longer lengths of uninterrupted pedaling.

We found a very nice run across the island along Marshland. Everywhere we went was on an integrated bike path. The paths along Marshland included wooden bridges over the marsh and were approximately 8’ wide in most places. We had clear sailing almost the entire length of Marshland. From Marshland, we explored out a spur to Spanish Wells and then back along Matthews to the William Hilton Parkway, which took us back to our abode at Palmetto Dunes Plantation.

We did enjoy our food while on the island. In the order of best meals, I would rank our experiences as follows: (best to worst)

  • San Miguel – Shelter Cove Marina – quickly seated, very good food, cold libations, best service of the bunch, reasonable prices, unfortunately a crying kid two tables down:
  • Home grilled burgers from the Fresh Market – Wood-man’s specialty – fixed at the condo and we enjoyed eating on an ironing board on the deck, great atmosphere, NO crying kids, live entertainment (Elvis, the gator), best prices!
  • Santa Fe Cafe: Very good food at reasonable rate as at San Miguel’s, excellent ambience, service was good. Didn’t call in time for reservations to sit on the outside cantina. It fills up quick even mid-week.
  • Alexander's at Palmetto Dunes: Easy walk from our rental unit, seated quickly even at the same table we had last year, food received mixed reviews from our group, service was acceptable but not personable (perhaps we were 4 too many tourists after a long season…), price was high for quality received.

So, there you have it… Zeke’s unsolicited, not-in-demand brief review of Hilton Head Island eateries.

Back home and riding again…

I was pleased to get to commute home on Monday after a long day of “dig your way out of having been gone for a few days” work duties. I tried very hard to really be away from work this past week, which meant the emails had piled up to the tune of about 100 a day. Top that off with the usual Monday morning network blues and it was a recipe for a no-fun Monday. Before the whining gets to you, I’ll say that the great weather was continuing in the mountains and I was privileged to enjoy it on a 23 mile spin home. I felt sluggish and heavy to get started but warmed up to the task within about 5 miles. When I finally came along the Pigeon River on Hyder Mountain Road, my spirits were lifted and the heaviness in my legs was gone.

If ribbons were the theme for my last ride along these roads, then “droppings” might have been the watchword for this ride. The road seemed to be littered with various types of droppings – chestnuts, acorns, horses. I was presented with the opportunity to dart around and over each of them. I briefly contemplated whether a chestnut hull could cause a flat. I was glad to find out it did not.

As I was traversing NC 110 from Canton to Bethel, I could tell that the sun was setting a little further in the southwest than it was a couple of weeks ago. My final couple of miles home were in the shade of the mountain as the sun had already dropped below the crest of Ratcliffe Mountain. I punched on my front Planet Bike 1/2 watt Blaze light for a little additional safety.

Bro Dave finds a gem…

According to the September 20th post on BikinginLA, my west coast based brother has been scouting out possibilities for a cycle powered washing machine. Link over to BikinginLA and check it out. You’ll find the link near the bottom of today’s posting. It was kind of nice seeing the reference to Bro Dave out there on the west coast!

As for me, I”m killing off the last few minutes before heading into our BicycleHaywoodNC meeting this evening. I’m hopeful we are on the cusp of getting some monies for a bike plan for Haywood County. We should be a step closer by 8:00 p.m. tonight!

Until later,


Saturday, September 18, 2010


The downside of the cycling tan is now much more clear in my mind. Being a child of the baby oil/iodine generation, I used to slather myself in this concoction along with my fellow lifeguards as we watched over the minions of young children deposited on our concrete beach every day throughout the summers of my late adolescence. Hour after hour, we baked our skin going for that perfect tan while making sure everyone’s little darling safely returned home at the close of the day.

Tanning continued to be an avocation for me. Telling myself that I felt better, i.e., healthier when I was deeply tanned only served to mobilize my intent to hide that virgin white skin that had reappeared over the long cold months of my collegiate career in Boone, NC. Somewhere along the line, the baby oil/iodine mixture was replaced with actual sunscreen and sun block.

The advent of the tanning bed furthered my “preparations for the beach” as the Navigator and I would spend our 15 minutes working up to 30 minutes in the bed in advance of our late spring trips to Folly Beach. Of course, that was so we could spend more time in the sun relaxing and sunning!

Very similar to my thought processes when I was a smoker, I didn’t REALLY believe that getting sun was bad for me. Forget that my maternal grandfather died as a result of melanoma. Disregard the medical evidence that was piling up about the effects of UV on skin. So, I continued into my 40’s seeking out that perfect tan each season.

In my early 50’s, I began to notice that I wasn’t really tanning anymore. It was more like playing connect the white dots. I began to question my lifelong pursuit of the perfect tan and quit going to tanning beds and began making sure I was covered in proper sunscreen when mowing, riding, or sitting at ballgames enjoying my niece's time as a collegiate level softball player.

This year in particular has been my first real cyclist’s tan. I’m sure you’re familiar with it. The area between the tops of my socks to just above my knees is a nice golden, protected brown. My arms to the shirt sleeve level have that burnished look as well as does my bald head, ears, neck, and face. All the result of having made certain to apply proper sun block to those exposed areas of skin while riding. Other portions of skin, notably abdomen, back, and upper legs remained pretty sun free this season.

Yesterday, I found the downside of the cycling tan… The Wood-man and I had ridden on Thursday while here on Hilton Head Island, SC and I wanted to spend some time with the Navigator yesterday on the beach. I duly covered ALL of my skin parts in freshly purchased sunscreen and spent the day in and out of the shade of the umbrella with her and Sherry Shazam on the beautifully white sands of this Atlantic Ocean bordered island.

Uncrowded beach late in the day(High tide moves in on a gorgeous day at Hilton Head Island!) 

After returning to our rental unit and disrobing for a shower, I found the folly of my ways. Previously untanned skin was now quite red. I was two and three toned. An artist specializing in color gradients would have been proud of their work had they painted my skin. I don’t want to say I was too red but,as I walked by her table, what I hope was a near sighted older woman at the local restaurant tried to order me for supper along with drawn butter.  The joyous flush of sunburned skin apparently emanated through my light weight shirt!

So, today, it will be back to riding and protecting all of my skin again. The red parts that linger will be appropriately covered and the already tanned areas will get their due layer of protection. (Note: to protect the eyes of the innocent, no images of this experience will be posted.)

This year’s HHI experience…

Mornings have been placid and peaceful as we’ve enjoyed coffee on the dock and watched the birds feeding in the lagoon. Each morning, we’ve been treated to Elvis’s morning swim and each evening, in the glow of low level lighting along the walkways, we’ve watched him feed. Elvis, as we’ve named him, is an approximate 4’ alligator that cruises the lagoon.

Morning coffee on the dock!(The Navigator and Sherry Shazam enjoying the morning brew!) 

Quiet morning on the lagoon...(Mornings start peacefully at Ocean Cove.) 

The Wood-Man and I did a light cruise of 20 miles around the island on Thursday. The bike paths on HHI will pretty much get you anywhere you need to go and are excellent for transportational needs and for cruising/light exercise but not at all appropriate for speed and a hearty workout. If I lived here, I could easily see not using a car at all. I’ve yet to see a recumbent bike or even a trike. The paths are well used by both pedestrians and cyclists. The “stop and go” nature of the bike paths as they cross business access got tedious quickly. Each intersection has its own little stop sign on one side of the island and yield signs on another side. The yield signs are seemingly more appropriate. There appears to be a booming bike rental business on the island as well. Today (Saturday), we plan to explore for more barren areas of the island where we can perhaps exceed 15 mph safely.

Charles Fraser and Gator(Statue of Charles Fraser and local gator) 

We stopped by one of the island’s local bike shops (Roadfish Bike Shop) and enjoyed a nice conversation with the staff. I made sure to invite them to the 2011 Blue Ridge Breakaway back home. Some of the staff were prepping for the S.C.State bike races that are being held this weekend in Greenville, SC. The Pro Road Championships are also being held there today and tomorrow. We’ll hope that local cyclist George Hincapie can defend his national title.

The Navigator and Sherry Shazam have already packed up and headed to the beach. The Wood-Man and I are headed to breakfast before mounting our two wheeled steeds for a day of island exploring. I hope I don’t fall off mine due to all that sunscreen!

Until later,

- Zeke

Thursday, September 16, 2010


After what felt like days and days of getting ready for a short mini-vacation, the Navigator and I have arrived on Hilton Head Island for a few days of R&R as the summer season winds down. We’ve returned in the company of the Wood-Man and Sherri Shazam – the Navigator’s sister. We made a similar trip last year and enjoyed the infrastructure for cycling activities. From what I’ve seen so far, the cycling activities have certainly not diminished. I’ve already spotted 3 separate bike shops and lots of folks out cycling on the separated bike paths. Of interest, are all the stops signs warning cyclists and pedestrians alike that cars have the right of way. It makes for a lot of stop and go riding.

Before we arrived here…

Back home, the first tendrils of fall’s outreach were making themselves known. The skies have been incredibly clear and the overnight temps reaching into the upper 40’s making for some fine sleeping weather. Day time temperatures are still reaching the low 80’s and my evening commute home was outstanding.

This past Monday evening, I left the locale of my new office, which is within a stones throw of my old office,  and headed home via NC 209 as is my usual. However, this time, I extended the ride down NC 209 crossing over I-40 and turned back onto Big Branch in order to climb the backside of Hyder Mountain.

Big Branch looking toward Chambers Mtn (Big Branch looking toward Chambers Mountain)

As the ride home progressed, Chambers Mountain was always to my left and prominent in the landscape. Chambers is easily identifiable because it has become the home of seemingly every known radio tower in Haywood County. Its towers often gleam silver in both the rising and setting suns. On this particular ride, I was surprised that I had nearly ridden all the way around the base of the mountain having been on its western, southern, and eastern sides.

At the top of Hyder Mountain, sits Fincher’s Chapel. Its steeple prominent on top of the highest point of this climb. It is especially noticeable from the Clyde side approach as that is the steepest approach to the gap and the church sits right beside the gap.

View of the Balsams(View of the Balsams along the Blue Ridge Parkway from Fincher Chapel) 

This image taken from the gap doesn’t do justice of the 12% gradient approach to the gap. The descent to the base of Hyder Mountain is fast with a couple of sharp curves requiring close attention. The penalty for enjoying the scenery too much on the way down is a trip through barbed wire and perhaps “sleeping with the goats” instead of the better known “sleeping with the fishies” from crime novels.

“The ribbons of my ride”…

From this point, I was back on my usual trip home that I’ve written about many times. However, on this particular day, in addition to being cognizant of the prominence of Chambers Mountain, I also found myself contemplating “ribbons.” No, not the pink, yellow, red, green, multi-colored ribbons used to signify various charitable causes but, rather, the metaphorical ribbons that accompanied me as I made my way home.

I’m speaking of two “ribbons” in specific: Interstate 40 and the Pigeon River. Both are ribbons of sort and would appear as such from views from outer space. Both wind their ways through Haywood County and both have had tremendous impact on the commerce and qualities of life of the citizens bordering their “flow” through our community. Unquestionably, both have provided financial rewards by providing long term income to generations of Haywood County citizens. Of course, both have their detractors as well. The Pigeon, once almost a “dead” river due to paper mill discharges, has been blamed for high cancer rates downstream in neighboring Tennessee.

But, I digress… On this day at this time, I found myself focusing on how each ribbon accompanies me on significant portions of my commute home. I-40 is a constant presence by way of noise generated by passing vehicles as I first cross over it at the intersection with US 209, run alongside it as I make my way to Clyde, run under it on the leg to Canton, and then finally cross over it again as I approach Canton. The Pigeon River actually accompanies me for almost all of the ride on this route.

I first pick up the Pigeon as its path leads it around Hyder Mountain but this is a short crossing only just past the intersection of I-40 and NC 209. I leave the river until after the climb of Hyder and pick it up again at the base of Hyder. The river, at this point, well below the paper mill in Canton, is always the color of tea, which is the result of the tannins used in the production of paper and is enhanced by the permanently stain rock below the water. On occasion, a stench still assaults the nose as I pedal toward Clyde and Canton. I often refer to the stench as “smelling the money” to somehow minimize the noxious affect of paper production.

A short section of my route takes me away from the river briefly but I’m soon reunited with it in Canton at the paper mill. As I circumnavigate the mill, I come back alongside the Pigeon above the mill. The water is clear and fresh at this point before it gives itself up to the rinsing of wood pulp as paper is made. The final 5 to 8 miles of my commute is fully alongside the ribbon known as the Pigeon River. I’ve been blessed to see see it throughout all the seasons, before and after flood stages, and at times of local drought. As I approach the end of this night’s ride, I find myself grateful for the “ribbons” in my life…

“If I can walk it, I can climb it” revisited…

In my recent post, I posited the thought that “if I could walk it, I could climb it” as being important in my evolution as a cyclist. In that post, I indicated I had only tested this hypothesis on a maximum of a 12% grade. Well, I decided I had better continue to test my theory for accuracy.

To do so, I’ve now concluded my last couple of rides by riding from the base of our road up the mountain to the house. In the past, I’ve relied on the Navigator to pick me up and save me or, more accurately, my legs the trouble of climbing our road. This is not a good road by anyone’s estimation. A former wagon track, the road services  3 homes and the fortunately UNDEVELOPED mountain above us. We do what we can to keep it passable by our vehicles. Keeping it in road bike shape has not been anyone’s idea of good way to spend money.

The road is unequal parts of old pavement, river rock, gravel, leaves, dirt, and more than one or two holes. As it turns out it is also a grade of 15%. I can now report that despite a spinning rear wheel costing me momentum, “if I can walk it, I can climb it” remains true. Fortunately, the 15% grade is only .2 of a mile to our drive. So, staying with the theme of “ribbons in my life”, this particular “ribbon of broken road” has helped me continue to evolve and build my climbing muscles. When I crest the drive to our home, that deck sure does look inviting!

Back to the Low Country…

This brings me to the end of today’s epistle as the Wood-Man just called it. We’re heading out to get some protein before we ride!

Zeke dockside in the Low Country(The Navigator catches Zeke writing dock side on Hilton Head) 

Hey, it’s a dirty job but somebody’s got to do it!

More later from the Low Country!


Tuesday, September 7, 2010


Some things have been on my mind lately. My recent metric century ride of a couple of week’s ago and this past Saturday’s 45 mile jaunt have provided some time and opportunity to consider the ways of the world and my place in it. This is, of course, a very broad subject and one I’ll narrow down quite considerably in order to make the retelling of the cogitation more efficient.

The "Thinker" - Auguste Rodin(The Thinker – Auguste Rodin) 

When one cogitates whilst spinning merrily along upon a racing saddle, certain things eventually come to the forefront of topics to be considered. I’ve discovered that after 35 or so miles, those things seem as if they want to take center stage and dominate your cogitation. Today, I need not dwell upon that particular topic other than to now begin to cogitate upon how much more central those topics might become on a century ride. I’ll have to make a list so I can check it twice when I set additional goals for this riding season. This one can go under the heading “To chamois cream or not to chamois cream?”

No, I was cogitating more on some of my knowledge acquisition over the past couple of years as it relates to riding. In my home dialect of the Southern Appalachians, I might say that I’d be reviewing my “new larning”. Briefly, here’s what I think I’ve “larned”…

1) The first year back to cycling I was more comfortable spinning along on mostly flat ground. I dreaded hills much less mountains. After all, they hurt! I created significant psychological barriers to climbing and would dread the very thought of going so slow that I’d start falling over and be unable to unclip and certainly would then fall into traffic or over the edge of the mountain. As my speed dropped on the climbs, the dread grew in direct proportion to loss of speed. In my 3rd year, I find myself seeking out things to climb. I feel comfortable on the mountains and couldn’t tell you when I last experienced a fear of falling over that paralyzed me and sent me running back down the mountain.

The first big moment in reducing this irrational fear came when I finally topped Rush Fork, which was my nemesis last year. Once I topped the mountain and realized it was in me to ride it, those fears were significantly diminished on future climbs. A great lesson I learned was from the Wood-man, who taught me to let the mountain come to me. Now, when I feel myself getting those butterflies in my stomach, I settle down and do exactly that – I let the mountain come to me.

2) When times got really tough and I was ready to give up, I would go to my “Lance spot”, which is a comfortable position I found on the bike that was unconsciously inspired by an image I saw of Lance Armstrong climbing in the 2009 Tour de France. Somehow, that image and a certain position I found on the bike with me out of the saddle and pumping hard coalesced in my brain and now gives me power when I need it. I haven’t needed it as much this year as last year. I think I’ve learned to accept a more relaxed manner in which to climb. I’m sure that I’ve also developed some climbing muscles that I didn’t have in my first 2 years of riding again.

3) A great, great lesson that I’ve learned comes from Kent “Mountain Turtle” Peterson and his slogan of “hasten slowly!”. Accepting that I have to go at my own pace and give up competing with the 25 year old riders in speed, has increased my ability to stay on the bike and to be more relaxed. If I’m achieving my own goal, whatever that might be, I don’t need to be overly concerned with what others are doing or not doing. So, thanks to the Mountain Turtle, I’m becoming better at hastening slowly. I still have to work on this one though because I am a competitive person. Truth be told, I let myself get away from the satisfaction of having met my recent goal of completing a metric century and got caught up in my order of finish resulting in less overall satisfaction. I temporarily lost sight of that fact that it was a ride and not a race.

4) If you can walk it – you can climb it! This has become my newest mantra and reduces my need to go to the “Lance spot” and I find it quite compatible with “hastening slowly”. This also complements the Wood-man’s lesson of letting the mountain come to me. No longer feeling the mental anguish of fear of falling over, I find that I can almost literally walk it up the mountain. I figure that my legs have to be doing somewhat similar actions on the bike as when I’m walking so that leads to “if you can walk it, you can climb it!” Granted, I haven’t tried this yet on anything above 12% grade but, so far, it works for me. I’ve cogitated upon the comments of the couple alongside the road Saturday as I was nearing the peak of the Blue Ridge Parkway. In my mind, I was concentrating solely on what was in front of me, spinning the crank one loop at a time seeing only what was in front of me, while these folks were viewing the effort in its fullest context of having climbed the whole mountain and were even kind enough to provide some positive comments as we made our way to the top. I recalled, in my cogitation, the times that I, as a motorcyclist, would ride by a bicyclist climbing the Blue Ridge Parkway or other road, and think “whew, those guys/gals are nuts!” Now, I embrace my “nuttiness” as I am one of “them”.

So, I find myself amused/happy/fulfilled somewhat that in my 3rd year of cycling at the ripe old age of 57 years, 8 months, and 1 day I’m finding joy in climbing things, i.e., mountains and such. How long will this last? Probably until I fall over somewhere along the line…

Until later,

- Zeke

Monday, September 6, 2010



Part 1, A Perfect Day….

The first leg of our Saturday adventure was completed after having climbed from 2,678’ elevation at Bethel Grocery Store in  Bethel, NC to the intersection of NC 215 and the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP) at 5,337’ elevation for a net gain of 2,659’ over 18 miles…


What goes up, must go down!

Ken’s inexplicable flat was fixed and there was a break in the motorcycle and auto traffic along the BRP, so we headed north riding from approximately mile marker 422. A short climb in elevation resulted in protests from my legs as apparently some part of my brain had sent the erroneous message to my legs that there would be no more climbing. Little did they know…

We were strung out in a pace line as the traffic moved around us steadily and frequently. The ratio of motorcycles to 4 wheeled cages (motorcycle parlance for enclosed vehicles) perhaps increased to 8 to 1. Numerous groups of riders were out on this great day. In fact, as the Navigator and I would discover later, the entire region appeared to be hosting a motorcycle rally over the Labor Day weekend.

Our merry band of self-powered cyclists continued the climb toward Devil’s Courthouse. The parking lot was overflowing as folks were making the hike to the 5462’ top. Our one and only tunnel on this leg of the trip came just yards after passing the hiking trail to the Courthouse. Going into the tunnel was an interesting experience as it was very easy to get disoriented trying to follow along the lines of the dark tunnel. One vehicle lit our way briefly until they decided it was important to pass us in the tunnel. This particular tunnel is relatively short with a very minor left handed curve in it so we were quickly able to literally see the “light at the end of the tunnel.”

The climb crested while in the tunnel and we were on a very nice downhill run as we exited back into the sunshine. The road made for a an excellent descent and let my tired legs recovery somewhat. After passing mile marker 420, we came upon the most congested area of the day at Graveyard Fields. The Fields were the site of a major wildfire during my father’s childhood. 

We couldn’t get into the overlook due to the overabundance of vehicles. I didn’t really care to get into it anyway because we were still enjoying a great descent! We did make it to the next overlook and found some room to pull in and take a break plus get a picture or two.

The group looking north from the BRP(l-r, Ken, Wolfpen Andy, Jon, Climbing Jen, Zeke) 

While stopped at this overlook, we met a firefighter/cyclist from Rock Hill, SC, who was driving along the BRP with his spouse. (He graciously took the picture above.) We talked cycling with him for a few minutes and then spotted a lone cyclist making his way uphill going north to south. The fellow turned out to be an acquaintance of Ken’s.

Soon enough, our conversations had ended and we resumed our downhill descent past views of Looking Glass Rock (4493’ elevation). The excellent run downhill ended shortly and we were faced with another long ascent along the BRP. The sun was quite warm and I had a good sweat going as we geared down and made our way to yet another high point along the spine of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Another short break was in order at a crowded overlook as our group reunited again for the final few miles of our day’s ride along the BRP. This particular overlook presented views back toward Mt. Pisgah and the Pisgah Inn. A church group and a large family populated this overlook during the time we were regrouping and catching our breath.

A short break along the BRP!(Ken, Jenn, and Jon with Mt. Pisgah in the background) 

A very short descent from this overlook and a mild climb brought us to Wagon Road Gap (elevation 4535’) where our run along the BRP ended for this ride. We stopped briefly to put on windbreakers and to prepare for the 4 mile steep descent along poorly paved, narrow US 276.

Ken led the way carving out nice lines through the “S” curves as we negotiated the rough road surface at speeds that neared 30 mph at times. More than once, I struggled to remember to avoid braking while in the curves and to scrub off speed before getting into the curve. This was not a time time for sight seeing as a small error here could easily land you down the embankment or buried on the grill of an on-coming vehicle. Once into the rhythm, this was a fun descent that ended too abruptly for me.

The road opens up at the entrance to Looking Glass Falls hiking area. We came back together as a group and had a nice pace line going by the Blue Ridge Motorcycle Campground and the Cruso Community Center. The East Fork of the Pigeon was now our companion as we headed “home” to Bethel. A brief stop at a convenience store at Harley Creek was our final stop along the ride.

The remainder of the ride was spent sharing the pull as our pace line passed by Springfield Golf Course and numerous fields of tomatoes and peppers ready for the gloaming. In relatively short order, the East Fork of the Pigeon bore off to the north and we were soon again crossing the West Fork just above its confluence with the East Fork. Some 45 miles had been covered between the 18 mile climb up to the BRP, the roughly 9 mile transit of Parkway, and the 17 mile descent from Wagon Road Gap.

Tired and happy, we returned to the Bethel Middle School athletic field and our vehicles as the hundreds of parents and players were just getting underway with a day’s slate of football!

Was it a perfect day? Other than my slow start of the morning, I can’t think of a thing I would change. The weather certainly couldn’t have been better, the fellowship of the riders was outstanding, and another major goal for this season has now been checked off. Perfect day? I’d say it was darn near perfection…

Until later,

- Zeke

Sunday, September 5, 2010


What a day! Saturday, September 4, 2010, may be as close to a perfect day as it gets here in the mountains of Western North Carolina. A touch of fall was evident in cool morning temperatures that made it hard to get out of a warm bed to go riding. Nevertheless, upon rising and getting that first cup of coffee in hand, I could tell that it was going to be a gorgeous day. The skies were already crystal clear with a brilliant blue sky and a full sun bathing the landscape.

Our plan was to ride the Cold Mountain Loop as it is known to local cyclists. This is a 45 mile run from Bethel, NC up to the Blue Ridge Parkway, north on the BRP, and a descent back to Bethel along US 276. The ride up to the BRP has been one of my goals for this riding season.

As we gathered at Bethel Elementary School, preparations were already underway for the day’s slate of midget/mite football games. Volunteers were striping the field and getting the sidelines ready.

Group prepping for ride

Climbing Jen at the start

(Trucks arrive with bikes!)

(“Climbing Jen” before the day’s climb)

Our group for the day consisted of 5 riders. I was the least experienced of the group. As we departed the school and headed toward the BRP, we were at our lowest elevation of the day. The climb to the Parkway begins immediately although the grade is slight for several “warm up” miles as you ride along the West Fork of the Pigeon. Traffic was mild as we headed south.

For the second time in 4 weeks, I found myself struggling to maintain the initial pace of the group. My fast twitch muscles must have been longing for more caffeine. Wolfpen Andy and I had been 4th and 5th wheel in the group and a gap had opened up between me (4th) and Climbing Jen (3rd) in the line of cyclists. I knew that I wasn’t going to make it to the top if I continued to try to keep pace. Wolfpen Andy reminded me that it wasn’t a race and that we’d go at our own speed. Thankfully, I settled in and let the heaviness left in my legs from Thursday ease out of my muscles on its own sweet time.

In short order, we were at the first climb of the day, which is a moderate climb beginning near the base of the Lake Logan dam. The climb is in two stages with a false flat giving the unfamiliar cyclist the wrong impression that the climb is over. Interestingly, the climb seemed to help my legs finally get warmed up and I felt much looser from that point. We came back together as a group at the bridge across the upper end of the lake. Another few miles riding mostly at river grade brought us to the Sunburst Campground along the West Fork. This is the beginning of the serious climb to the top. It is a little over 8 miles to the BRP from this point.

We agreed to go at our own pace and reconvene at the top of the mountain. I settled into my saddle for the ride. As we made our way toward the top, the group did indeed separate. With the number of curves in the road, I found myself seemingly riding solo because I couldn’t see the other riders. I had shed my wind breaker at the Sunburst Campground and had worked up a good sweat as I climbed along the road enjoying the views of the woods. Traffic was somewhat heavier than usual, which was to be expected on a Labor Day Weekend. Wolfpen Andy and I would agree later that motorcyclists outnumbered 4 wheeled vehicles by at least 5 to 1 and maybe more. It is pretty easy to share the road with motorcyclists as there was plenty of room for them to get by without pushing me to the edge of the road.

At the 1 hour and 20 minute mark of our ride, I arrived at the first bridge where the West Fork crosses under NC 215. I was joined there by Wolfpen Andy and we took a short break to refuel and enjoy the scenery.

View from the waterfall...(Deep in shadows, we could see the sunlit distant mountain)

The grade of NC 215, which had not been bad to this point, takes a significant jump to the next bridge above. The next section of climb also has hairpin curves and a long straight section that could be demoralizing. The curves at least give you the false hope that it will get back to a lower grade just around the bend! We struck out on the next section and I noted that the sounds of birds had become more frequently replaced by the sounds of approaching diesel engines and motorcycles.

I kept up my mantra “if you can walk it, you can climb it!” on this next section and soon found myself eyeing the road sign that I know indicates the second bridge is really just around the next bend – this time! Whereas I had been riding mostly in the shadows of the mountain and overhanging trees, I came out into full warming sun as I stopped on the bridge to grab a couple of images.

View of the West Fork(Looking down at the West Fork from Bridge #2)

Wolfpen Andy arrives on bridge(Wolfpen Andy joins me at Bridge #2)

We were approximately 3 miles from the BRP at this point. After consuming a Shot Block and some more G2, we resumed our trek to the top. From this point, the road really opens up and abundant sunshine became our constant companion. To our left were some wonderful vistas of Balsam trees and other conifers still surviving the effects of acid rain that has so devastated the conifer forests of the Southern Appalachians.

NC 215 after crossing Bridge #2

(NC 215 from bridge #2)

One of the straight stretches to be climbed.

(A straight climb to be made!)

Rock face along NC 215

(One of the rock faces along NC 215)

The many, many people out enjoying this area became abundantly clear as every roadside pull off was populated to the point of overcrowding with parked cars. Sounds of people off on the trails could be easily discerned. As I passed one such parking spot, I was greeted by a couple who said, “We sure do admire you folks climbing this road today!” I tried to reply with, “why thank you, it has been a joyous occasion highlighted by wondrous feelings of being included in this incredible environment.” In retrospect, what I think they probably heard was an out of breath “Thank you!” Soon after the encounter, I saw this very welcome sight!

Welcome to the Blue Ridge Parkway!(YES!)

One more short but very steep climb brought me to the top and a reunion with my fellow cyclists and their congratulatory greetings for having met one of my season’s goals.

Zeke at the top!(18 miles of climbing behind him, Zeke achieves a seasonal goal!)

Having reached the top, it was refueling time while Ken fixed an inexplicable flat that occurred while sitting alongside the road. The banana that I carried from home tasted mighty sweet and the Gatorade G2 was even more taste quenching than usual. One more goal could now be checked off. That’s two seasonal goals in two weeks.

But, wait – What goes up, must go down…

(Part 2 of the Cold Mountain Loop to be posted on Labor Day! Please check back!)

Until later,

- Zeke

(Of note: For clarities sake, please know that I do not receive reimbursement from Clif’s Shot Blocks or Gatorade mentioned in my writings. I simply use and like these products.)

Friday, September 3, 2010


Well, it has been awhile. I won’t mark it in calendar time, clock time, or even dog time. I’ll mark it in “computer hell” time! That should be much more accurate in terms of my downtime. Let’s see where to start… In “computer hell”, NEXT DAY ON-SITE SERVICE doesn’t really mean next day on-site service. It really means “well, o.k. that’s next business day but that really means on whichever business day the tech support gets around to putting in the order. In calendar days, this particular time equivalent was 3 days to first contact. Let’s see, what’s next: so this used to work but now doesn’t and now two hours later, nothing has changed, so I (tech support) can pretty much go out on a limb and say, “This isn’t working. I’m going to kick it up to the next tier of tech support.” Too make a looooong story short, 2 hard drive wipes, 2 full reinstallations of all programs, a new motherboard, and a new WAAN card, and I’m back to having an almost fully functional computer again. Don’t let ANYONE tell you that upgrading from Vista to Windows 7 isn’t one big ball of fun!

At least the riding has continued…

On Tuesday evening, I enjoyed a solo commute home by way of Poison Cove and Stamey Cove. I wanted to revisit my recent ride over Stamey Cove and I wanted to avoid end of day work traffic. So, it was an easy decision to get out of town via Sunnyside, site of my recent flat, and take Raccoon Road and Ratcliffe Cove Road through Poison Cove Gap. The ascent to Poison Cove gap is moderate and about 2 miles in length. It is typically warm to hot at the end of the day as this part of the road is open to the western sky. Once passing through the gap, you are presented with some picturesque views to the east.

Poision Cove looking east(Imagine it without the power line poles!) 

A long descent with serpentine curves leads to a long straightaway that lets you just ease on out before intersecting with Stamey Cove Road. A Clif Bar Shot Block was in order before turning my attention to the first climb that precedes the long climb of Stamey Cove. There was more traffic than I expected as folks were heading home from work but everyone was courteous and passed me with sufficient space. I came to the hairpin turn where a participant in the recent Blue Ridge Breakaway crashed out and suffered significant injuries including brain trauma. I stopped to peruse the site again and try to imagine what must have happened to him.

Stamey Cove Hairpin

(One view of crash site)

Stamey Cove Hairpin View2








(Slightly different take on same curve)

You can’t see the curve that precedes this one in these images. I imagine that the cyclist had made the long downhill descent from the gap, swept through the left hand turn just preceding this hairpin, got into the hairpin “too hot” and grabbed a bunch of front brake throwing himself over the handlebars and resulting in a “face plant”. We know that his injuries included broken pelvis, broken ribs, collapsed lung, broken nose, and broken eye socket – all on his left side while his bike had some minimal scuffing on the right side. The bike, I understand, was essentially unharmed. By all reports, this was an experienced cyclist. Only he knows what happened. I hope he recovers sufficiently to let us know. Of course, in serious trauma like this, memories of the event are often lost. (Note: the cyclist was brought out of his coma this week and taken off the ventilator. His family was in hopes of getting him transferred this weekend to a Charlotte, NC hospital closer to his home in Belmont, NC.)

After resuming my ride and topping the crest of Stamey Cove, I followed the route of the Blue Ridge Breakaway to Lake Logan. I discovered that taking the Stamey Cove route had significantly shortened my ride home and I wasn’t ready to stop. My effort at getting to Lake Logan was rewarded with some most excellent views of the lake and surrounding area. I arrived just as the sun was beginning to drop behind the mountain leaving part of the lake in shadow.

Lake Logan at Sunset(A touch of fall in the air and crystal clear skies made for a nice presentation!) 

It was hard to even start back on the bike but I knew I had to head on home to meet the Navigator after she completed her water aerobics class. I had an enjoyable ride back to Bethel Grocery as I tried to push myself by keeping my pace above 22 mph. I passed one cyclist and saw another off on a side road on my way home.

Thursday’s group ride…

We planned to move our BicycleHaywoodNC sponsored “new and newly returning” riders group ride to Canton, NC this Thursday. In order to add some mileage, I left my office and made my way to the Canton Recreation area by 5:20 p.m. Canton was preparing for their annual Labor Day Celebration with rides and vendors setting up in the fields of the recreation area. Additionally, Pisgah High JV’s had a home football game so the area was full of people. I had a very enjoyable conversation with a grandmother while waiting on the rest of my group and waiting on her granddaughter to get tired swinging. My group arrived – her granddaughter never did get tired!

We had a nice group of 6 riders which included one new member to our group. He is an experienced rider and fit in nicely with the group. We made our way up NC 110 riding “in the gutter” and staying single file. On the way up NC 110, we passed some ornamental grasses that had their plumes in full bloom. The late afternoon sun was touching their tops and turning them into this beautiful bronze and gold finery. I wish I could have stopped for a picture but couldn’t.

At the intersection of US 276 and Love Joy Road, we jumped over US 276 and made our way over a moderate climb before dropping back along the eastern edge of the valley. As on Tuesday, we were greeted with some great views of the valley as the sun began to slip behind the mountain.

After coming to the end of Love Joy, we turned back north on Lake Logan Road and took a moment to grab a group photo at the Riverside Baptist Church. We enjoyed the saying on the church’s sign…

Riverside Baptist Church sign(The Thursday group takes a break…) 

While at the church, the Navigator reached me via cell phone and inquired how much longer I would be on the ride. She needed to stop work and connect with me before going up the mountain to the house. I assessed the situation and calmly reported 30 minutes or so. We made plans to meet back at Bethel Grocery.

The group saddled back up and we headed back to Canton via Lake Logan Road and NC 215 going down what is often referred to as the “front side” of the river. We made our way safely to the park and said our good-byes. Kathy (left in image above) and I struck out and headed back up NC 110 as we both live in that direction. Just before we arrived at Max Thompson Road where Kathy was to leave me and head to her home, I saw the Navigator coming toward us on NC 110. Seems my estimate of 30 minutes or so was a little off… It had been an hour and 10 minutes since we had spoken on the phone. When you hear the old saying “time flies when you’re having fun”, know that is truth!

Tomorrow (Saturday, 09/04) brings the opportunity for a small group ride of the Cold Mountain Loop as it is known to local cyclists. We’ll be starting at the Bethel Middle School and climbing 20 miles to the Blue Ridge Parkway where we will turn north and ride to the intersection of US 276 and the BRP. We’ll return to the BMS and will have covered about 44.5 miles. I’ve not ridden this loop before and riding from Bethel to the BRP is one of my goals for this riding season. Who knows, maybe by tomorrow, I’ll have checked off another goal for 2010. I bet you’ll read about it here…

Until later,