The Appalachians insult your quads with their steepness. They test your concentration with the narrow, winding roads. The scenery, like rivers, cliffs, rocks, trees, and other things are right on top of you. Climbing 4500 ft in the Western Mountains is not nearly as taxing, with wider roads and more gradual climbs. When I climbed 4400 ft into the Guadeloupe mountains early in my ride, I did it over 102 miles, with one major climb. I did 4500 in 54 miles today. That's in half the distance, meaning twice the intensity. This is for sure... The spine of the Appalachians is now in the rear view mirror, and there will be more descent than ascent, for the rest of the trip.
I used all of the cold weather gear that I've been dragging around the country, waiting for a day like today. It would have been okay if I never had to use it, but it was needed today. It was 44 when I rolled out the door in Erwin, and three hours later, as I gained elevation, it bottomed out at 39. Fortunately, most of the cold wind was at my back. And most fortunately, the rain, frozen rain, and snow, never materialized. I keep my luck alive, as far as not getting wet, even when there was a 60% chance all day, like today.
As far as the trip, TN 107 took me out of Erwin, and was shoulderless and narrow, as it was yesterday, from Greenville. As I rose above 2000 ft, the rhododendron started to control the forest floor. I was always following a stream, either uphill or down. It is beautiful here. I turned onto TN 173, and it took me along another stream, but at one point, as I changed watersheds, I had a quad screaming hill that took me over 2600 ft, and my quads almost to failure. Then it was down the other side, where the wind chill froze my sweat as I flew down the hill, to meet US 19.( Yep, the very same 19 that passes through Washington County in PA.) US 19 proceeded to have two huge, back to back climbs, but at least there was a shoulder most of the time, to protect me from the traffic. Sometimes the shoulder would disappear because of rock formations or cliffs made the road narrow. I got a little breathing room from the climbing as I went through the flat out town of Roan Mountain. After departure from US19, TN roads took me along beautiful streams, including the Elk River, through areas of dense forests, and high end mountain cabins, including the town of Elk River and then, after another quad burner into Banner Elk, a high elevation tourist and college town. Then another descent, before the climb of climbs, over Sugar Mountain, a ski resort town that took me to 4200 ft. There was snow on the tops of some mountains, even as the sun finally decided to come out. As I left town, I crossed the Eastern Continental Divide, and proceeded to drop 1000 ft in four very quick miles. I'm really glad I didn't have to climb that! As I descended, the cold headwind was swirling and blowing me and my parachute bags all over the road. I hit 37 mph, and it was as white knuckle as any descent I've ever had. Of course, another good ascent got me into Boone, and man, was I glad to get there. The legs were toast, and I was cold and hungry. I didn't stop to eat like I usually do, because I wanted to beat any rain that might kick up. I showered, and as I went outside to walk to a grill, the rain had arrived, the wind was howling, and it was nasty cold. I made it to a grocery store, where I bought a rotisserie chicken, a bag of popcorn, and a beer, and retreated to the warmth of my room. I watched the weather, and it's going to be just as nasty tomorrow.
|Rhododendron was everywhere above 2000 ft|
|A typical hollow that I traveled....a stream, some old cars, and an Appalachian style homestead|
|This National forest was all around me, with trails and picnic sites|
|I crossed the Appalachian Trail and talked to some end to end hikers that have already walked over 400 miles, from Stone Mountain, Georgia|
|Look closely, and you can see the snow on the tallest mountain in the background...in May!!!|
|My seventh and final state on the trip|
|There were some fancy shacks in Elk River|
|The Elk River|
|A collection of real old trucks. Appalachian lawn art!|
|A high ski, tourist, college town|
|Main Street, Banner Elk|
|My highest elevation|
|Grandfather Mountain was the one with the snow|