Asheville, NC

We hitched a ride with Frank Obusek. He had not met us, and we had not met him, before the end of his first cyclocross race. Still riding the endorphin wave of a top 10 finish, he became yet another person going out of their way to help us during this trip. Fortunately he had a roof rack with room to hold both of his race bikes because it took nearly every last square inch of space cram the split-in-half Break-Aways and his race wheels into the back of his car. With our backpacks in our laps, we drove, first to dinner, and then second to our host house in Asheville. We said goodbye to Frank and hello to Andra, Jeremy, and dinner number two. Black eyed peas, sautéed greens, and cornbread.

We had decided in Boone that we were satisfied with the tour, and that it was time to head back. Matt’s knee was still giving him problems, not to the point of injury, but it was running to risk of becoming tendinitis if we kept pushing it. Plus, the further south we head, the more spread out the facilities become and the further apart our way stations lie. The tour past this point just isn’t doable with out a support vehicle, a fully loaded touring bike with camping gear, or a drastic change to our route or schedule (adding at least a week to our time table). Better to get back to Austin healthy, happy, and early than hurt, haggard, and out of time. This is our last host and our last stop. The ride up to the race was a nice one to end it on. Super challenging and with a party atmosphere finish. An afternoon in the sun watching people clear hurdles and run up hills.

6:30am roll out followed by an hour and fifteen in 37 degree wind gets us to the airport. A quiet route with a mid ride sunrise. A Jeep Patriot rather than the compact we had reserved. The size of a mid-sized with less than a compact’s interior space. The bikes actually had to be put in on their side, one on top of the other to get them to fit.

A Will Black run in at Sunny Point Cafe, the day after his P12 win at the NCCX 3 (Hawksnest) race. In addition to getting to chat with a Texas transplant, we enjoyed another amazing breakfast before getting on the road. This time on the road was in a rental car rather than the road bike.

Endless rows of waves like the surf approaching the beach. A forest of trees revenged by beetle infestations and acid rain. New growth trying to outpace the two assailants. Bleached trunks jut skyward reminding of the growth that used to exist. Growth that used to requires ascension to the top of the viewing post to see the landscape that is no longer so throughly obscured.

A Korean motorcycle gang stroll up the sweeping ramp. Surveying the point of interest, Clingmans Dome. Over 6,600 feet in elevation and a 360 degree view. On the way back down I take their group photo for them. Like us, today is the last day of their tour. Strangely, one is from Boston, and two are from NY. Riding a similar path, we exchange stories of our individual adventurous. We are returning home south, and they are getting ready to head back to the north east.

Through the Indian Reservation and the last bits of the Great Smokey Mountains National Park. Past Blue Ridge Lake and the Ocoee Whitewater Center. Host to the 1996 Olympics canoe, kayak and slalom events. It is offseason, and the run is a field of boulders rather than rapids. The dam is not open, and the result is a small stream rather than a rushing river.