Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Home Stretch

A 5:00 AM wake up may never have been greated with more excitement than the Friday that held our final 105 miles. We had a hearty breakfast of leftover chocolate cake and granola, loaded our bikes and camelpacks down with water, and set out. Since Mr. Howorth and Mr. Gillespie drove up to the cabin together, Mr. Gillespie was able to drive home our sixth team member, the rugged Sienna. This allowed the five cyclist to ride together for the first time the whole trip! We were out by 6:04 and as soon as our legs were loose, we formed a tight draft line. The Natchez Trace was really smooth and traffic was light, and we started covering ground for large stretches at 21-22 mph. We really flew through the first 25 miles when we stopped at a trailhead for a brief rest and second breakfast. By this time, Mr. Howorth had covered our headstart and he began to play leapfrog with our line, taking action shots of our final push homewards (to be posted soon!).

By mid morning we had covered 50 miles and hit Tupelo. We were in need of a break, but were not sure of where we were stopping. The iPhones were being a bit coy about food locations, so we took a gamble getting off the Trace and trying to find some sustenance within a mile or so. As luck would have it, we found a Shipley's Donuts just off the Trace. We wondered in and were pretty shocked that all activity in the establishment stopped and everyone just started laughing at us. We had witnessed a veritable spectrum of reactions in our trip - eager supporters who wouldn't stop asking questions to mean old men on Harleys who screamed things no so fitting for this blog - but no one had ever just straight laughed. Welcome to Tupelo. Anyhow, we had some donuts and tuned in via radio to listen to the start of the U.S. Slovenia game. We only stopped for about 15-20 minutes but when we stepped outside it had gotten HOT. With just over 50 miles to go, we all realized it was going to be a tough last day. But then George the weatherman/wizard promised overcast skies.

We were just knocking out our last few miles on the Trace when Mr. Gillespie caught up with us in the Sienna. He guided us to our exit and provided several riders with ice for the water that was warming rapidly in the late morning sun. Once we took a good long look at the map, we were ready to pound out a quick 15 miles to Pontotoc. Once there, we cruised into a gas station to cool off. We listened to the last bit of the U.S. World Cup game, amazed that the team had come back. The clerks were impressed enough that we were cycling to Oxford, and when we told them that we had made the trek from Jersey they were incredibly supportive of our finishing up. Cooled off, we stepped outside and immediately warmed up. We scurried across town, down highway 9 for five miles, and made the turn that we had all been waiting for - 334. "Oxford is down this street!" Conway quipped. Fatigue had set in heavily by this point, and our tight draft line morphed into a jumble of riders just putting one foot in front of the other. We got a big boost crossing into Lafayette county and stopping to alert friends and family of our impending arrival. Then, George's promised overcast magically rolled in, protecting us down the last roads. As we neared 100 miles for the day, Conway began to recognize the roads and we realized that we were on home turf. Quickly, we hit Fudgetown Road and crossed highway 7 to South Lamar. We were really just running on adrenaline at this point. We soon came upon flashing lights - the team moms had organized a police escort for the home stretch! More importantly, close friends Tim Burkhead and Peyton Weems were tailing the police car blasting Journey and K'Naan's "Waving Flag." The last mile was a blur, with horns honking and people yelling. We neared the square and saw a crowd of people on the courthouse lawn welcoming us! After the obligatory victory lap around the courthouse and giving our thanks to the police (it was the nicest police had ever been to several of us), we pulled up in front of dearest family and friends - one of the greatest feelings in the world.

A huge thanks to those that came out for our finish and those that supported us along the way. Summary thoughts to come from the team, so stay tuned. TDS is decidedly NOT oscar mike. - PJD

The Last Laps

After the rain subsided and we finished watching Brazil dismantle North Korea along with their ever so patriotic fan base, George and I (Peter) set out to finish off the 85 mile day to Tim's Ford Park. The thunderstorm had subsided, but the rain was still quite heavy. This made the descent rather tricky, but we braved the long downhill. We were rewarded a few thousand feet later with a rainbow, clearing skies, and - best of all - flat land!! The flats had George and I cruising for the last 20 miles, which we knocked off in a little over an hour. Ahead, Ty, Conway, and Capel set up camp at Tim's Ford. Once we were all there and settled, we jumped into Tim's Ford to cool off. That night, George challenged mother nature again, and came out dry, again. We began to think that rather than insult the weather, he had some odd control over so. So we promptly began to blame George for the increasing heat we faced in the rest of the trip.

The next morning (Wednesday), we got up extremely early to avoid said heat. We jovially packed the van and wondered how obnoxious our crack of dawn rise was to our fellow campers. Short of 7:15, Ty, Conway, Capel and I set out on our bikes with George driving support after his long day. The heat was rough even in the morning, but we pumped out a quick morning 30 before having breakfast in Petersburg at a country store called Tina's. Everyone there was really kind and took an interest in our trip. However, we made a pretty critical error in allowing ourselves to be hypnotized for an extra hour by "The Price is Right" (sans that awful Bob Barker) along with the rest of the population of tiny Petersburg. In the heat of the day, the foursome struggled another 30 miles due west to meet George at a gas station 30 miles north of our destination, Davy Crockett State Park. We all went inside to cool off in the AC while Ty hit on the attendant to score us some complementary ice and water (in actuality, gas stations along the way were awesome about letting us fill up the six gallon jugs that we went through all day. Ty just had a thing for the high schooler on duty at the Phillips 66 that day). After the break, Capel and I finished the ride, meeting the team at Davy Crockett Park. Capel and I iced our legs in a nice little brook by the campsite while George waxed poetic about Crockett and Texas. Since it was our last night camping out proper, it was only fitting that Capel and Conway managed a "no match" fire and we all cooked exorbitant amounts of raman and meat ravioli. Too full, we all slept soundly before another early morning wake up (it should be noted that despite ominous afternoon clouds, George told the team not to waste time setting up tarps because it wasn't going to rain.. he sold Capel on the idea. Sure enough, they both woke up dry).

Early early on Thursday, we gobbled a quick breakfast and hit the road to find the Natchez Trace and our ticket home. We were getting up earlier and out faster since we could leave directly from campsites and didn't have to account for five people riding in the van. The morning ride was a slow warmup, but we had still covered nearly 20 miles by 9 when we hit the Trace. We used backroads to get to the Trace, which led to two interesting events. Firstly, Ty and Capel ate it on separate occasions in the loose gravel of the country roads while trying to get clipped in. Thankfully, no one was hurt and we were all able to conquer the second event by getting off our bikes and climbing up through the woods to get onto the trace from a gravel side road. Once we were on the Trace and dusted off, we formed a proper draft line and really got moving. We were pulling 21 mph easy for 1.5 hours. We did take a small break to leave the Trace and refill our water in Collinwood. There we met several good old boys who let us know which hills to look out for on the Trace. When we told them what we were up to they quipped, "That's longer than we like to be in a carfur." This, of course, begs the question as to what exactly a carfur is. Sorry. Anyway, after burning through another stretch of the Trace we had squashed 50 miles by 11 when we met Conway with the van where the Trace crosses ALABAMA state highway 20. We loaded up and scooted into Florence where we had some margarita's and mexican food to watch Mexico beat an imploding French side 2-0. We got directions from a cropduster to head back towards the Trace and Ty, Conway, and I set out to finish the day. It was hot, we didn't pack enough water, and the 20 miles we thought we were riding turned out to be 30. They always say the penultimate lap is the toughest, and it sure enough held true. What kept us moving was the ever-closer Mississippi state line. When we finally rounded the corner and saw the beautiful sight, cries of ki ki ki kiiiiii immediately illuminated the early evening. After a brief photo-shoot, we three amigos then gritted out the final 7 miles to Tishomingo State Park (which is quite well-maintained and beautiful, made us proud to be back to Mississippi even after all the stunning parks we'd visited). Awaiting us was quite the treat. George's dad, Dr. Schaff brought cold lemonade and warm ribs to nourish we weary travelers at a cabin rented by Mr. Tom Howorth and Mr. Guy Gillespie. These two arrived shortly after we did with cold beer, barely beating a massive thunderstorm that lasted well into the night (shortly after one of the initial claps of thunder, George predicted rain for the evening and declared his intention to sleep on the front porch).

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Rainy Day- Sewanee

We disembarked Monday morning about ten miles outside of Robbinsville, NC. After battling a steep 2-mile climb, we began an awesome descent down a pretty curvy road. Capel and I both hit new land speed records, 50mph and 46.5mph, respectively. Conway and Peter joined in at the bottom and we got our first taste of really being back in the South- hot, humid, and flat. We recovered in Robbinsville before we began our 10-mile ascent on the Cherohala(halahalahala) Skyway through Nantahala National Forest. The heat and humidity provided an extra challenge for the four climbers this day, but we were rewarded with a few rainshowers close to the summit. The best reward following our 3000 foot climb came in the form of a 20-mile downhill that ended on a valley road on the banks of the Tellico River in Tennessee. Conway drove the paddy wagon for this portion and staked out an awesome end point on the banks of the Tellico. Peter immediately found a footpath down to the edge and led the way into its current. For lodging and dinner Monday night the Magee family was kind/brave enough to invite the five of us into their home on Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga. Showers and an amazing lasagna dinner that Mrs. Magee prepared for us really helped us recover from the punishing heat we experienced earlier that day.
This morning we woke up to hot sausage biscuits for the first of several breakfasts we had today. After driving out of the congested traffic areas, Peter George and Capel began their ride on a shaded country road that followed the banks of the Tennessee River. Conway and I led the expeditionary party into Jasper, TN and luckily found a coin laundromat. The climb this afternoon proved to be much more challenging than was originally anticipated. Capel, Peter, and George battled up slopes averaging 12% grade over nearly 5 miles, the steepest climb over that distance that any of us have encountered. The crew reunited on the Sewanee campus and took shelter from an afternoon thunder storm in a local joint called "Shenanigans". We were able to watch the first 60 minutes of the Brazil v North Korea World Cup match until the weather disrupted the satellite feed.
The weather is clearing up now and we are about to hit the road for our campsite 20 miles away. Until next time....


Monday, June 14, 2010


Campsite at Rocky Knob

On the Blue Ridge

At The Hub, a bikeshop in Pisgah Forest fully equipped with a bar

Just short of the highest peak on the Blue Ridge (got trigger happy with the camera)

Finishing out the Blue Ridge

Hey everyone, so after the Biltmore we went on an adventure to look for the cheapest but also non-sketchy hotel possible. After looking for a good 40 minutes we decided to just stay at a dirt cheap motel owned by a lovely married couple. The room was so dirt cheap, that it actually had a closet door that opened up to dirt and rocks. It would have been a perfect place for Al Capone when he had to "take care of someone." The hotel even had the signature creepy animal roaming around the grounds. There was a white cat that meowed hauntingly throughout the night and it scared everyone.
Despite all of this we all had a good night sleep, especially Peter. Peter was feeling well enough to become the day's Iron Man. After a quick breakfast, Conway, Capel, and Peter set off for on the first leg. They met me (George) and Ty at this awesome bike/bar shop 25 miles down the road. The shop was awesome in many ways, mainly because it included a bar that served beers on Sunday. But it was also clutch because Peter was having chain problems on his bike and they were able to fix it quickly. This great bike shop was called The Hub and it was joined with Backcountry Outdoors. We highly recommend stopping in if you're in the Pisgah Forest area.
After enjoying a few beers at the shop, Peter, Conway, and Ty set up to take on a 4500 ascent into the mountains. Meanwhile, Capel and I found a sweet spot to set up our hammocks and take a cat nap. A quick hour and a half later, the biking crew met us at the top of mountain for food and drinks. At this point, Peter had biked around 40 miles and he had 60 to go. For dramatic purposes; we weren't sure if he was going to make it but we all believed in him.
The third leg of the trip was biked by Peter, Ty, and me. At this point we were back on Blue Ridge Parkway and enjoying the beautiful mountains and scenery. The road was a bit more packed since it was Sunday but traffic was never a problem. At the final break before the campsite, we enjoyed a great overlook and took a few group pictures to remember the moment.
For final leg of yesterday's trip it was Peter and I. We had an amazing downhill that lasted for about ten minutes and included a cool tunnel. Ty was playing the role of cameraman and took some good pictures. There was one very difficult climb on the final leg but it did not stop Peter. He was able to overcome it and complete all of yesterday's journey. The final total was 99.7 miles. Yep, 99.7 miles. Peter then biked a little more to make it an even 100 miles.
After a long day of biking it was great to settle in at the Yogi in the Smokeys. The Yogi is referring to the lovable cartoon bear that we all enjoyed in years past. It was more of a trailer park than a campsite but everyone was really friendly and the bathroom facilities were comforting. It's strange that people come here to get away from it all, but they also want the amenities of an arcade room, pool, movie night, basketball courts, and a huge statue of Yogi Bear.
We did make the most of the campsite though. Capel made a great fire and Ty cooked a great dinner of shells and cheese and mini ravioli. We all slept well last night until this annoying, questionably blind, rooster started cockadoodle dooing at 3 in the morning. Its cockadoodles were loud and obnoxious. Despite the rooster's best attempt at getting us to wake up sleepy, he failed and we are ready for another great adventure!

J Schaff

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Another Quick Post - Asheville

This will be another quick one, this time from Asheville. We are scrambling to get out of our Asheville hotel and begin what may be the hardest day of the trip - 92 miles with two category 1 climbs at a 6000 ft peak.

A quick post will not do justice to the incredible hospitality we have received over the past two days, or the beauty of Friday's ride. On Friday, Ty, Conway, and George rode about 50 miles through very hilly terrain to reach the Munford Cabin from our Racoon Holler campground. Their slogging was rewarded, however, with fantastic views from the famous Blue Ridge Parkway viaduct. Meanwhile, Capel and I got supplies and did some planning for the coming few days. We all met at the Munford cabin in the early afternoon, greeted by my Princeton buddies Mary Reid Munford and Eben Novy-Williams. Despite a hearty challenge from Mr. Munford in his emailed directions, none of the riders were able to bike up the driveway (the going claim is that if it were paved instead of loose gravel, TDS would be 5 for 5.. as it stands we went 0 for 2 with 2 falls from J.. We were actually fortunate to get the rugged Sienna up the hill, Mr. Dabney showed some impressive driving skills to dominate the hill). The rest of the day spent hanging out at the cabin was a blast. TDS cooked the hosts dinner, which was followed by spirited games of "Apples to Apples" against the beautiful backdrop of the cabin's porch view. After a great breakfast (thank you Mary Reid and Eben!), TDS headed to Asheville to catch the USA World Cup opener at a great microbrewery called the Lexington Avenue Brewery, "The L.A.B.". Later, we caught up with Mr. Chuck Pickering who treated us to a wonderful evening at the Biltmore. We had a fantastic meal at the Cedric Taven Estates' newly developed retail center by the Inn, and were greatly entertained by Mr. Pickering's stories and information about the Biltmore's new projects.

TDS has been incredibly lucky and is very grateful for the hospitality it has received from many friends and family along the way. We thank you sincerely, and hope you know that more thanks is coming once we get our feet set in Oxford.

Signing off, as TDS is Oscar Mike - PJD

Friday, June 11, 2010

Quick Update

Peter and I are in Boone right now at a coffee shop called BeansTalk.
This is a pretty lazy post because we don't have much time before we go to a grocery store and meet up with the other guys on the Blue Ridge Parkway. We're staying at our friend's cabin right off the parkway at mile 311. Mary Reid Munford is the name of our host tonight and she went to school with Peter and has been a lifelong friend of mine. We're pretty excited to have the opportunity to stay with friends and then have our second off day in Asheville tomorrow.
Yesterday was a great day as far as I can tell. I was "Iron Man" for the day with 103.97 miles total and 101 on the parkway. First century ride of the trip and my first century ride ever, so I was pretty excited about that. We camped out at Raccoon Holler Campground and it was good, even though it was essentially a retirement compound in the woods. Ty cooked 6 pounds of beef and mixed in "Manwich Sauce" and George tossed in a block of cheddar cheese to make a gooey mix of man feast. We weren't man enough to finish it though and everyone was pretty tired and ready for bed shortly after cleaning the campsite.
The night before we stayed at Rocky Knob Campsite on the parkway. It was super cool. We had the place all to ourselves and got there after only 40 miles so we had most of the afternoon to make the campsite as comfortable as possible. Conway and I built the fire and played a round of disc golf while Peter took a nap and Ty and George went to look for phone service/pick up some food. When the George and Ty got back we pretty much just ate and fell asleep. Nothing too exciting. Oh, but Peter wanted me to add that a F-16 flew right over them on the first leg of the ride that day. So, yeah, that happened. Ok, I'll post tomorrow and it will be a lot better, but for now, this will have to do. TDS is Oscar Mike!