It was obvious that I wasn’t yet in any physical shape to undertake this ride, but I think I made up for it mentally. The year is already slipping by and I needed to get out and get away, both to test myself and just experience some adventure. Fortunately my schedule, and everyone else’s schedules, worked out. The only holdout was some illness in the house over the week, so I was thinking I might cancel if things didn’t improve, but fortunately by Saturday afternoon everyone was feeling better.For the first trip of the year I pulled out the gear two days before and started going through stuff. I made a trip to Walmart to pick up a dehydrated meal which meant using the Esbit and lightweight kit, decided I didn’t need to put the tent in a compression sack, and opted to take my winter bag.
The only thing I forgot was a beer. There was some discussion on Lovely Bicycle about how Guinness has magical powers after a long ride, so I wanted to try it. Friday night we were out to dinner, and I ordered a six pack to go. ( You should have seen the fam’s reaction since I don’t think I’ve had a beer in five years.) Anyway, there was no Stout, only something called “Black.” I tried one at home and it was OK, but then with the anticipation on Saturday with packing and heading out…I forgot.
Oh! During the week I scored a pair of slightly used Schwalbe Little Big Bens on Gearswap that arrived on Friday. Coming out of the box I was pleased with their appearance, and they passed the first big test when they went on the rims without needing levers. The compound is much softer than the Paselas, giving them a grippier feel on pavement. The heavier sidewalls didn’t feel any different than the Paselas, except now I won’t need to worry about them delaminating. Ride-wise I’m pretty happy, but I want to test them at different pressures. For this trip I had them around 45 psi, which gave them a real “floaty” feel, but it may have been too low. As for size, they’re advertised at 40, said to be around 36, but they are definitely a little larger than the Paselas, which are supposed to be an accurate 37.The ride went well, making sure to pace myself and take an occasional break. I was still huffing and puffing, and my legs were weak at times, but there were moments where I could find the energy to grind up a hill and not fall over once I hit the crest. Traffic was also reasonable for a Saturday afternoon, until I hit Route 34 in Mount Holly. There are just a lot of cars that travel that road.
Once on Pine Grove Road, the air cools noticably, but the steady climb also begins. Fortunately the scenery is motivating. Before long the AT intersection comes up, and I start looking for hikers.By the time I hit the store at Pine Grove Furnace, I was really tired. I sat outside and debated whether there was anything left in the tank for that last climb up the mountain. I ate some ice cream, listened in on some hikers, and eventually filled all of the water bottles. It was a go, but with the option to bail onto a trail that goes off into the woods at the first turn.The first leg of the climb happens to be the steepest – I had forgotten that. When I made the turn and the road leveled off just a tad, my legs rejoiced. The LHT was in its lowest gear combination, and I just spun and tried to keep things moving, but not burn myself out. At one point I walked about 100 yards and the change gave me some needed energy.Ultimately, the climb seemed shorter than I remembered, and my legs felt better at the top than at the bottom. Still tired and sore, but able to soldier on.
I was surprised/disappointed when I entered the meadow. It was almost crowded. First was a group of horse trailers and campers that had actually “circled the wagons” and were loud: dogs barking, people yelling, a generator cranking away. Next was a group of “ATVers.” I was expecting the worst.
I got as far away as I could, finding a spot next to a small camp that looked like a mountain biker. It took about 20 minutes before camp was set up and the Esbit was boiling water. I was tired and hungry. The family next door was still trying to figure out how to assemble their tent.
After dinner, I sat and read for a bit while the neighbor kids built a massive bonfire and roasted dogs and marshmellows. They seemed like good kids. I turned in around 9:30 and quickly fell into a deep sleep.
I woke up around 2:00 to the sound of the oldest son and the father talking around the campfire. I’m OK with that, except that there were pans banging or something that just seemed really inconsiderate. After 20 minutes of this, I yelled that they should go to bed. Not wanting to anger the cranky old guy on the bicycle any more, things got quiet.
At 3:00 I took a bio break. They sky was clear, it was quiet, and every star was extra bright. I stood in awe, and my trip was a success.
The next morning was pretty standard stuff: air out the bag, make coffee and oatmeal, break camp. The bathhouse at the larger lake is a good spot to wash up in the morning. An older gent on an unloaded tourer stopped as I was finishing up and we talked briefly about S24O’s. I love it when you see the wheels turning…”I could do something like that.”
During the night, without cell service, my phone ran down, so once again these neat little batteries come to the rescue. It was good because someone was trying to get ahold of me via texting.
For the most part, going home is all downhill. The air was cool, the roads were clear, and I was happy to be a part of it all. I stopped in Boiling Springs, first thinking a quick snack at a quicky mart, but then I saw all of the roadies pulling into the coffee shop across the street. OK, I’ll just get some coffee and a pastry.
Once I got in, I talked myself into a full breakfast, but it still looked small compared to the multi-platter extravaganzy I saw one of the hikers putting away.
With the LHT parked on the sidewalk, there were quite a few curious folk, eyeing up the world traveller who eventually ‘fessed up that he was just out for the night. I did meet a couple who might have caught the touring bug just looking at my bike, and he told me of a 1944 German military bicycle that he has sitting at home.
I ate too much and sat too long. The rest of the ride was meandering and behind schedule.
The Yellow Breeches was packed with rafters, and I came across this guy and had to stop. The bike is a Schwinn Apple Krate from the 1970’s. 5 speed derailler, stick shifter, 16″ front wheel with a springer fork, and a banana seat; all inspired by the Harleys of the era. He said he just likes to bring it out now and then to ride around and show it off.
The final push for home brought me to the garage just after lunch. After a shower, a nap, and putting away gear; my legs are tired, my butt is tender but not sore, and I got it out of my system. At least for a week.
Misc miles: 4.4
Distance: 75.3 miles 2014: 228.4