Tuesday, September 20, 2016

In The Warm, Wet Embrace of Julia

Well, I can check off my bucket list “ride a bicycle in the early stages of a Tropical Storm” as my friend and fellow cyclist Woody and I had the distinct pleasure of being about 4 miles away from our abode on Hilton Head Island last week when Tropical Storm Julia first began making an appearance on shore. While I was hunkered down in the driving rain and spinning as fast I could maintain, I thought of the recent participants in the Blue Ridge Breakaway caught in the heavy rains at near 6000’ elevation. I was very thankful that it wasn’t 51 degrees as they had endured.

The week was our annual sojourn to the island when I find it hard to make excuses not to get out and ride. Excepting TS Julia, the weather was great and our daily routine of breakfast, ride, nap, eat, sleep, and repeat was great.
The number of people riding bicycles on HHI is truly amazing. You see all types of riders: local folk commuting to work, experienced cyclists riding for fitness and training, but mostly you see tourists on rental bikes, many of whom probably haven’t been on a bike in a while. Separated bike paths allow for riding pretty much anywhere on the island, except of course gated locales such as Sea Pines.

For about three hours on Wednesday, the brunt of TS Julia swept across the island with sustained winds in the 40 to 45 mph range with accompanying heavy rains. I enjoyed just watching the storm and the horizontal rains. I was particularly impressed by an egret type bird that stayed glued to a pine limb just outside my window. The bird clung to the tree as it swayed back and forth and as rain pelted it from all directions for the entire event.
(Sunset at the Old Oyster Factory on Marshburn)
Changes in North Carolina's Vulnerable Users law… As a reminder to motorists and cyclists alike, effective October 1st, motorists may legally pass slower moving cyclists and moped riders on a double yellow line when it is safe to do so. HB 959 passed by the legislature now allows legal passing in “no passing zones” if all safety requirements are met. The bill clarifies that cyclists have use of the full lane of travel and increases the minimum passing distance from 2’ to 4’. Most notably, it officially sanctions crossing the yellow line when safe to do so to avoid traffic stacking up behind cyclists. Of course, courtesy by both cyclists and motorists remains a necessary ingredient to safely Share the Road. For more information on the new law, visit BikeWalkNC’s website.

The fall riding season is upon us and some great opportunities exist for both motorists and cyclists to enjoy the changing colors of the landscape. To paraphrase what they used to say on Hill Street Blues, “Let’s ALL be careful out there!”

Friday, August 5, 2016

It's About Time! NC Addresses Bike Related Laws

(Photo: Courtesy BikeWalkNC)

It’s about time. Timing is everything. The time has come. Time to myself. Time to get there. It’s all about time. There’s never enough time! I just need more time. The time is coming! How often do we concentrate on time in our daily lives?
Time is a constant. Well, until it isn’t. Time on a bicycle can have as many iterations and applications as in any other part of our life. It can be “I don’t’ have enough time to ride”, which is one of my personal excuses. “Timing is everything” really applies when you are being passed too closely for comfort and safety. “It was the time of my life” referring to those good old carefree days when we, in our youth, commanded the roads of Waynesville between the outdoor pool and the Little League Field in Hazelwood. Ron Leatherwood refers to that time in our lives as being the first bike commuters. Momma didn’t throw us into the minivan and drive us to the ball park. We slung our gloves on the handlebars and rode to the game.

Of course that was then in time and now we’re here in time when parents feel less safe allowing their children out and about on bicycles. Which is too bad because the result is an epidemic of overweight, out of shape children. Last week from my office window, I saw some visitors in a family “bike train” climbing Walnut Street. Dad was pulling the youngest child, three more children were in line on their own bikes, and Mom was bringing up the rear watching over all. It was time for a family of cycling tourists to be enjoying Waynesville.

Speaking of It’s About Time… Come October 1st, motorists may legally pass slower moving cyclists and moped riders on a double yellow line when it is safe to do so. HB 959 just passed by the legislature now allows legal passing in “no passing zones” if all safety requirements are met AND it requires a four foot passing buffer or complete entry by the passing vehicle into the opposite lane. That means that motorists no longer need to poke along behind a group of cyclists just because there is a double yellow line on the road. Of course, other safety factors must be taken into consideration such as it is safe to pass, there is no oncoming traffic or obstacles that would create a safety hazard. The bill also establishes other safety issues for cyclists including adding them to the “vulnerable users” definition already enjoyed by motorcyclists. For more information on the new law, visit BikeWalkNC’s website.
The Time is coming… We’re only 14 days away from the 7th annual Blue Ridge Breakaway. Registrations are looking good for the event, a great jersey (thanks to Brian Birthright) has been designed, and our volunteers are getting ready! Please note that jerseys should be pre-ordered at the time of the registration as it is unlikely any will be available for sale the day of the event. Early registrants are grabbing them up quickly!

Jersey Back
Jersey Front

We are excited to offer a King and Queen of the Mountain segment this year.

The segment finishes with the steepest grade of the climb as you enter the Parkway. The length of the timed segment is approximately 10.18 miles (Map My Ride source) and climbs from an elevation of 3052’ to 5358’ for an elevation gain of 2573’. Riders eligible for the KOM and QOM recognition must start the timed segment no later than High Noon (12:00 p.m.) Additionally, any rider “jumping” the course by not adhering to the approved route will not be eligible for the royal titles.

The King of the Mountain is sponsored by the Waynesville Rotary Club and the Queen of the Mountain is sponsored by Ms. Deb Wilson and Ken Wilson Ford.
For more information, visit www.bicyclehaywoodnc.org .

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Planning For The Blue Ridge Breakaway!

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!