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.



NCCX 3 – Hawksnest

Today’s ride is from Boone, NC, up through Seven Devils, to watch a cyclocross race at Hawksnest. A defunct ski resort. Andrew didn’t have room in his car for two people with bikes and all of his race stuff, but really, we wanted to tackle this climb and would have done so even if he had the room.



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11 miles to the base in a headwind on rollers and then about 3 miles up. One short downhill, no false flats, a little under 3 miles of pavement, and nearly 1200 feet of elevation change. An average grade of 8.1% resulting in a very hard Category 3 climb bordering on Category 2. At the top, ready to be done, we arrive at the day’s cyclocross race, 4200 feet above sea level. NCCX #3 @ Hawksnest aka Spooky Cross. A course of off camber sandy slopes, a pump track, a this year dry, last year muddy, run up. Challenging technical turns. A dynamic race paired with good music and free food.


Will Black and the leaders running away from the field and over the pump track.


The follow group trying to keep the time gap from growing.

Boone, NC

Fog that lingers through breakfast but quickly burns off as the day gets underway. It becomes clear and crisp. A reprieve from the dampness of the days before. Infinite visibility and a perfect temperature, but more importantly, dry, no chance of rain. Beautiful.

The three main climbs come and go. Difficult, but nothing close to the one to reach Peaks of Otter back in the beginning of our parkway experience. Open and closed woods. Gaps exposing closely cropped verdant fields with munching shaggy faced cows.

A second breakfast at Bluffs Lodge in Doughton Park. Eggs over medium, grits, sausage patties, and of course, coffee.

Slippery rock walls blasted to make way for the ribbon road. Ferns and moss cling to the shelves as water drips from the saturated soil above.

A straightforward day ending in Boone, NC. Our second rest station. A couple days rest a day or two behind schedule. This will be a chance to refuel our bodies and do some needed maintenance on our bikes. A through cleaning and re-lubrication is in order.

Roaring Gap, NC

We start with rain. Which grows into pouring rain. Which then becomes driving rain.

This is one of the low rain times of the year, from what I read, but we sure seem to be getting wet a lot recently for a dry season. Today is warm, maybe 70, and we are not being harried by the wind. So, that is an improvement weather wise. Soaked to the skin, but not uncomfortably cold.

The plan is a little unclear today. Dugsur, 221 to Hillsville, then 52 south through Fancy Gap to the parkway. We want make it to Boone, but I don’t see that happening. Over 100 miles is a bit much in these hills and driving rain just drags out the day. Yep, not going to happen in a soggy chamois. We are just going to ride until it feels like it is time to call it quits.

The rain comes in waves. A heavier storm is bearing tornado warnings, but, for the time being, the ridge seems to be safe. We are at the Sparta turn off which would require us to drop down off of the ridge into the valley, 14 miles. That seems to be a waste of 14 miles today and then another 14 miles just to get back on the parkway tomorrow. We take a risk and continue south over a couple of moderate climbs but nothing serious.

The Blue Ridge Parkway has limited options when it comes to places to stay and places to eat. 45 miles into a continuously rainy day and we reach the turn off to 21, the road to Roaring Gap. It is this or another 30 miles to the next possibility. No matter what we do today, it will have to be a two day run to Boone. Tomorrow is supposed to be dryer and clearer. Today seems like a good one to end early. Our first motel of the trip. Breaking another goal to stay on couches the whole way home. No matter. This is as good a place as any to dry off and for our kits to dry out. It is off season and in the middle of the week which results in us having the run of the place; an entire motel empty save for two wayward cyclists.

What we didn’t realize was that we were parallel with Sparta on 21. The first turn off was just a diagonal. It is 14 miles off of the parkway on 21, so the first exit, had we taken it, would have been bad riding on busy roads for many miles. Roaring Gap is only 4 miles east of our route, so it was still a good play. We didn’t end up going as far as we though we had, but at least we hadn’t gone that way. Ending early, and only 45-50 miles in, means that the three big climbs of this stretch still lay in wait.

A shower based laundry room. Soap up your kit, and then stomp on it like you are making wine. The gear doesn’t look particularly grimy, but the brown flowing from it with each step tells a different story. Lather, rinse, repeat until the water runs somewhat clear. Ring out as much liquid as possible so that the lamp shade drying rack above the wall mounted room heater has a chance at getting the remaining dampness out of it by morning.