Day 17: A new state, a new challenge

Trip Start May 13, 2014
1
17
53
Trip End Jul 21, 2014


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Flag of United States  , Tennessee
Thursday, May 29, 2014

The 71-mile, 8,000' elevation gain of today's ride made for the most challenging day yet. And quite possibly one of my most challenging days on the bike ever.
After multiple missed turns and rerouting, we finally made it to the Blue Ridge Parkway, a gateway into the Smokey Mountains, apparently the oldest mountain range in the US.
From the parkway, we climbed. And climbed some more. And then just kept climbing. I was in good company though-Jordan, Ben, and Taylor kept the pace consistent and we made it to the first summit pretty quickly. After many pictures and enjoying the beauty of the mountains below us, we headed down a glorious descent before a second climb and a quick lunch stop before heading back out with Taylor, Jordan, Sam, and Ben.
As we hit our 3rd and longest climb of the day, I soon regretted the sunflower butter/banana sandwich I had wolfed down just minutes before. As we hit around mile 5 of the 13 mile climb, I was ready to vomit.
However, after a few quick water breaks, I felt back into the groove.
We took one last stop off the bikes as the rain began. The rain came as a reprieve though after all the humidity that the earlier sections of the climb had seen.
We rolled up to what looked like another beautiful overlook, and I decided that I could not climb another foot unless I knew exactly how much further it was I had to go up this mountain. I asked a fellow how close we were to the top, and when he said we may be about "half way there," I about lost it. It was going to take me a lot get myself mentally back in check.
Luckily, the fellow was giving false advertisement. Scott, a NC2SD'13 alum, who had been supporting us throughout the day came up to the group of us,asking if we wanted him to take a picture in front of the Tennessee/North Carolina state line. Which meant, we were AT THE TOP!!!
I was so incredibly elated, I wanted to cry. It felt so good to have made it, and with such an awesome group to ride with.
We took a picture in front of the state line sign (which I found to be slightly disappointing) and headed out for our 15 mile descent into Gatlinburg. YES!
It was only then that the mellow rain storm of before decided to come back in full force, more of a monsoon than a downpour in my California-native opinion.
I could barely see as we descended a car-heavy single lane highway, the rain was so ferocious. I squeezed my brakes almost the whole way down, thinking I could wash out at any time. There was one point where it became too mentally draining to descend and we all stopped and huddled under a bridge together, trying to keep each other warm and refocused on the road ahead.
Gatlinsburg came up soon enough-almost a mirage of a town amongst so much nature and wilderness. It was like a miniature Las Vegas, a touristy haven.
After Anthony and Alex got Magic Mushrooms pizza to donate dinner to us (best pizza EVER!), we had a chance to explore the town before curfew at 11.
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Comments

Barb dickey on

Wow! What a day to remember. This trip is really making a strong person you can brag about. Love reading your blogs. Keep strong, gal

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