Cycling in the USA and Canada Part 1: In which I am assaulted by Mt Mitchell

So a couple of weeks ago I flew Stateside to work my way up to Montreal. I figured I'd watch some bike races. Before I was finished I'd racked up over 20,000 miles of travelling, one assault by Mt Mitchell, one encounter with a bear, multiple assaults by mountain bikes, two pro bike races, one hilarious (in hindsight) encounter with a border crossing, a bunch of high quality beers and about 8 different fast-food firsts. Here's the first part of the story.

Due to the distance I was going to be travelling I decided that I'd try to take advantage of being on the other side of the world and catch up with some of the fine folks from here at PdC.The first step in the plan was to catch up with Sui Juris and Megabeth in DC.

Alright here are a few fun facts for the would be traveller:

  1. Distance from Sydney to LA = approximately 7500miles. Flight time averages 14 hours and change (in this case 14 and a half).
  2. Distance from LA to Washington DC = approximately 2300miles. Flight time averages 6 hours
  3. Layover in LA between flights = 5 hours

So in short, I arrived in DC after travelling for over 25 hours, more than 20 of which involved being jammed in a plane. Those of you who are regulars around here will know that Sui has spent considerable time and effort in carefully building his reputation here, so I'm not going to ruin it by telling you who friendly, generous, hospitable and kind he is. Instead I'm going to tell you that even though I'd never met Megabeth before I was warmly greeted at the door in a questionable condition (20 hours of flying makes even me slightly paranoid about how I must look) with a great big hug and a medicinal beer.

Seriously, Sui and Megabeth are super good folks. Just wonderful hosts and great people to hang out with. Especially if you like good conversation, cycling and beer. Originally my plan for the DC leg of my trip had been to catch a couple of the museums I missed last time around and spend some facetime with the President explaining the finer points of [comment redacted due to the no politics rule]. Shortly before I left home this plan changed as the opportunity to spend the Labor Day weekend cycling, mountain biking and drinking in North Carolina with ant1, Mr Rogers, Sui, Megabeth and a host of others presented itself.

This meant that I got about 6 hours sleep before we hit the road for the 9 hours of driving to an undisclosed location in the Appalachians (warning: it contains bears).

This is the point in the story where I should note for you that ant1 is every bit as cool in real life as you imagine him to be. Actually, he's probably even cooler than that. Among other things he's living my dream in that he owns a pickup that he puts bikes and stuff in, then he goes to places and camps and rides his bikes. But the main reason I'm telling you that he's awesome is that my enjoyment of this particular weekend owes a lot to the generosity of ant1 and Sui.

Items that were generously lent to me in order to facilitate this weekend include:

  • Road bike (with unique front derailleur setup)
  • Mountain bike (rigid)
  • Tent
  • Sleeping mat and bag
  • Various other paraphernalia

On Saturday we began our ride up Mt Mitchell. In previous communication I'd been told by Sui not to Google the profile, just understand that it's 25 miles of UP.

I should've fucking googled the profile.

It turns out that Mt Mitchell is the tallest peak East of the Mississippi. 6000+ feet of climbing with one small rolling section and the rest of it just UP. I acknowledged from the start that I'm not a good climber. My self-description went like this "I'm a shitty climber but I'm stubborn". Turns out that was an understatement.

I'm a really, really, really shitty climber and I'm stubborn enough to get up the first and worst part of the climb but after just over 9 miles of punishment I started to cramp up and was running low on water so I exercised the better part of valour (discretion) and headed back downhill. I'd like to be able to blame the bike and the fact that we'd had to set the front derailleur in such a way that I couldn't shift it without risking it snagging the front cog and sending me flying. But honestly, who's going to believe that I failed in my climb attempt because I couldn't use the big ring?

As HWMNBN once said, it's not about the bike.

ant1 and Sui both variously dropped back to check on me and offer encouragement throughout the climb. Their support was welcome and very kind. Sui was especially patient and I really was glad that he made it to the summit after having to nurse me so far. Fortunately they will have completed enough climbing to help the PdC strava ranking.

The descent was a lot of fun, but also had moments of excitement. After all V-Brakes do work, but you have to be a little more careful in judging your braking distance. It was when I started smelling smoke after the first three turns that my mind started throwing up every story I've ever heard about overheated rims and exploding tyres. It was as I raced through a hairpin and looked out over a 500 foot drop that I decided I might want to stop and let the rims cool down a bit.

Anyway, I got down quickly, had a great time riding back past the trout farms and RV parks before getting to the car and taking on the important responsibility of heading into town for more ice and beer.

Damn it was a good day. I'll tell you more about the moonshine in part 2.

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