“It would be naive to think that the problems plaguing mankind today can be solved with means and methods which were applied or seemed to work in the past.” – Mikhail Gorbachev
“Dreams are illustrations from the book your soul is writing about you.” – Marsha Norman
“Nothing contributes so much to tranquillize the mind as a steady purpose – a point on which the soul may fix its intellectual eye.” – Mary Shelley
“Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.” – Winston Churchill
Note: The thoughts and activities discussed in this post occurred on Tuesday, January 24, 2012.
Today’s cycling trip was intended to be an extension of the inaugural trip, picking up in Sylva, NC where I ended the first trip and cycling to the little college town of Cullowhee, NC. After checking out the route with a topographic map, then by car, I decided that having only one recent trip under my belt I’d be better off reversing the originally intended start and destination points, therefore I began the trip at Cullowhee’s Catamount Travel Center and rode to the Wal-Mart Super Center in Sylva.
This particular Travel Center seems to cater mostly to students from the nearby university, visiting parents, and the occasional tourist since it’s the first facility of its type I’ve seen that operates a convenience store/gas station combination with “normal” hours, and a restaurant that’s only open for breakfast and lunch. The restaurant portion is a franchise of Huddle House, which makes this locations hours especially strange. In my travels I’ve eaten at a lot of Huddle House restaurants. All but one were open 24 hours, and the one that wasn’t was open until 10pm, then re-opened at 6:00 am. I didn’t even know a Huddle House franchise could choose not to provide services during supper hours. I assumed they would at least be required to provide their customers the opportunity to have breakfast, lunch, and supper at the “appropriate” time(s). In fact, the Huddle House corporate website says predominately on their home page, “Any Meal. Any Time”. Enough said.
Across from the Travel Center is Western Carolina University. The university was founded as a four-year institution in 1929, however it had been various types of schools since 1888. The campus is pretty nice looking in itself, so when set against the backdrop of the surrounding mountains its beautiful. There appears to be an abundance of student housing. Several dormitories can be seen near the entrance, and there are a number of off-campus apartment buildings near by. Close to the administration building, which is at the campus’ main entrance, is a new Fine and Performing Arts Center whose opening was hosted by Jay Leno. According to a brochure the Center offers a wide range of performances and main-line guest appearances.
Heading North on NC-107 the four-lane divided highway climbs gradually for about 2/3rds of a mile, at which point it flattens out briefly before beginning a long downhill grade, then repeats this pattern a couple of times. NC-107 is somewhat of a unique road. To the East/South it continues to the NC/SC state line where it becomes SC-107. Most roads, other than Interstate Highways, change route designations, i.e. numbers, when they cross a state line. Anyway, this portion of the route is very scenic, crossing over the Tuckasegee River and offering several long-distance views of both mountains and valleys. Also, both sides of the highway have designated bike lanes for over 3/4’s of the route traveled today. With the exception of WCU, the Travel Center, and a handful of houses the North-bound portion of the highway remains primarily rural in nature until one near the Sylva city limit.
At one time there was an ice cream shop called “Jack The Dipper” on the East side of the road approximately half-way between Cullowhee and Sylva, but that business has moved into Sylva’s city limits and off the”main drag”. The building currently sits vacant with signs of some recent renovation to its exterior.
Just inside the Sylva city limit, on the West side of the roadway, is Smoky Mountain High School. I don’t know which came first, the adjacent cemetery or the school (I’m guessing the cemetery), but it feels a bit strange to see a large school situated next to a cemetery. There’s nothing wrong with it, but I would assume having a school and a cemetery next to each other isn’t a normal occurrence.
Looking past the school one can see an unfortunate sign of the times. A large, unfinished, hotel sits atop a hill looking lonesome and forgotten. The building has been dried-in, sort-of, and some interior work completed. Construction stopped when the company declared bankruptcy, leaving a large tarp-covered hole in the roof. An employee of a nearby business told me another company purchased the property and did a little work on the inside before they too went bankrupt. How sad. 😦
Across from the cemetery and high school is a Burger King, a couple of banks, a grocery store, and a Lowe’s store. A little further along there’s a family run store named Bryson Farm Supply which has been around for over 40 years. In today’s economy it’s nice to see a small business like this continue to operate. From this point on a wide variety of businesses, and even a few houses, line the highway all the way through town.
I’m going to begin something new starting with this post… dining recommendations (or bad food/service) for those readers who probably cycle much further than I currently do and would like to know about a good place to eat along their journey. I may also go back to previous posts that talk about specific areas and modify them to reflect these recommendations, however that decision is still up in the air. There are two recommendations this time. The first is a Chinese food restaurant named Jade Dragon. They’ve been in business for at least 5 years. They started out as the China Dragon restaurant near Western Carolina University on Old NC-107, then recently moved to their current location on NC-107 (also known as East Main Street). The second is the “El Patron” Mexican restaurant in the Wal-Mart plaza. This restaurant is fairly new as a Mexican restaurant, however they have a long favorable history in this location as Japanese-Chinese Restaurant. Both restaurants mentioned have excellent food and great service. Oh, in case you’re wondering… I will be calling it as I see it, and will not be seeking/accepting any type of compensation for my recommendations, just a simple, straight-forward description of places visited.
The total distance traveled this trip was 4.3 miles, an improvement over the first ride that was 3.9 miles. It’s not a lot longer, but having been out of cycling for so long, and starting “fresh” in the mountains, it’s not bad. Including a few stops to rest briefly or take pictures the ride only took 50 minutes to complete. The temperature started out at 49 degrees Farenheit and ended up at 52 degrees. The sky was a deep blue with only a few white clouds. The sunshine felt really good in the areas protected from the wind, however a strong breeze made other portions of the ride somewhat chilly.
I’ll have to admit this ride was difficult for me, and not as enjoyable as the first ride. There were more, and longer, uphill climbs than I realized traveling the route by car. I didn’t rush, even though the total time to distance ratio was better than my first ride, but I had to push myself to keep going. A couple of times I felt like walking the bike, but if I did that then I would not have ridden the entire route, so i just took a brief rest and continued. Don’t get the wrong idea. I enjoyed the ride, just not as much as the first ride. I’m going to have to try harder to cycle more so I become better accustomed to riding and climbing hills. Taking a ride only once or twice a month will never get me in the shape I need to be in for the long-distance ride I hope to take this Fall.
Note: This post has also been set up as a “page” for permanent reference.
As you may have noticed from some previous posts my primary occupation is providing support and shuttle/transportation services to hikers and backpackers on the Appalachian Trail, Bartram, Benton MacKaye, and Mountains To Sea trails. After several recent requests from hikers to also shuttle them for cycling trips I have decided to “officially” extend my services to cyclists as well.
I have been in the shuttling/support business since 2001 and currently serve TN, NC, SC, VA, WV, GA, and FL from Daytona Beach and Ocala north, however I am willing to provide services anywhere within a 450 mile radius of Gatlinburg, TN or Cherokee, NC. My services have been listed with the ATC (Appalachian Trail Conservancy) for 8 years, online with White Blaze.net for over 5 years, as well as in print in the Appalachian Pages, Benton MacKaye Thru Hikers Guide, and the A.T. Guide.
Since the hiker shuttles currently provide a substantial portion of my livelihood I will be contributing 25% (the profit margin) of my cyclist shuttle income, plus all tips/gratuities received from them, to the fund earmarked to accomplish the goals as set forth in this blog’s “Purpose” page.
Please email OldSchoolCycling@hotmail.com for more information regarding shuttles or the fund.
“In school, I could hear the leaves rustle and go on a journey.” – Clint Eastwood
Note: The thoughts and activities discussed in this post occurred in April, 2011.
The weather here in the mountains has finally warmed up, and dried out, enough for me to spend the time necessary to dig my old bike out of the storage building. It’s an 18 or more years old Huffy Snakeriver 18-speed mountain bike. If the dust it’s accumulated means anything I may be in for more than I can chew with it. It served me well many years back. Hopefully it can do so again now.
Since the time period referred to in my last post, Rediscovery, I spent a fair amount of what little free time I’ve had reading articles online about cycling, trying to learn about changes that have been made in the sport, what’s new for repairs and maintenance, things like that. I’ve also visited the bicycle sections of some major retailers to see what they have available compared to what I found online. Some of the items there were pretty much the same “old hat” I grew up with, some were things I have never associated with bicycles like LED or Halogen headlamps with batteries that last several days or weeks instead of only a few hours, clear and red strobe lights for the tail light, Kevlar in tires, self-sealing inner tubes, micro computers that tell you not only the bike’s speed, but what the average speed is, the time and date, your altitude, how long you’ve been traveling since your last stop (or the beginning of your trip), etc. Jeez, you’d think some of this stuff was made for the Special Forces bicycle brigade! lol
I’ve also been talking with other hikers who are cyclists when they’re not out hiking somewhere, getting their input, listening to their stories, and wishing I had regained my interest in cycling a long time ago. Each story I hear takes my mind back to a time when I could have been this person talking, telling others about last week’s or last month’s two-wheeled adventures. If you’ve never spent much time on a bicycle it’s hard to understand the freedom it brings, especially in these hard economic times when fuel is ridiculously high, and the feeling you get with the gentle breeze on your skin while cruising along listening to the sounds of nature all around you, something you seldom experience in a car. I know it will be quite a while as booked up as I am now, but I’m having a difficult time waiting to get back into cycling. As excited as I am about it I guess even if I could hit the road tomorrow it’d be too long a wait. 😉
Note: The thoughts and activities discussed in this post occurred in mid February, 2011.
The weather today was gorgeous for this time of Winter. It was fairly warm with bright sunshine and only a few fluffy white clouds floating around a deep blue sky. Today was a shuttle day. A couple of hope-to-be thru hikers on the Appalachian Trail needed a shuttle from the Atlanta airport to Springer Mountain, the Southern terminus of “The” trail a few miles outside of Dahlonega, GA. The ride typically takes about 3 hours so we had plenty of time to talk and discuss a variety of subjects. When we finally got out of the heavy Atlanta metro traffic, and onto the half-way deserted two-lane roads, our talk turned to the weather and the natural beauty which surrounded us. We were in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains now. The winding road rose and fell as the miles clicked on with each curve unfolding a vibrant new scene before us.
A few miles from our destination we came upon a group of cyclists peddling hard up the mountain road. As I cautiously passed the cyclists, my hikers began discussing biking trips they had taken in preceeding years. I listened as they described the grandeur of places they visited, the friendliness of people encountered, and the thrill of completing different types of road courses. My mind flashed back to the days I rode my bike often, days I took the time to enjoy some of the simpler things, days I not only biked through small towns and observed the old historic buildings, but stopped at a small family owned cafe or diner for a snack and to talk with people gathered there. Whatever happened to those days? I have always thought of myself as being basically the same now as I was last year, 5 years ago, even 15 years ago. Something was different now. Somehow I had changed without realizing it, becoming much like the person I told myself back then I would never become, rushed and too busy for the things that matter most. I missed those old times. Is it true you can never go back? Possibly, but you can always try to recreate them again if you have the gumption.
After I dropped the hikers off for the start of their 2,100 plus miles of adventure and discovery I headed home, my mind filled with memories of past excursions on my bike, some of them long, others short, but all were fun and exciting in their own unique way. My hikers may be on a path of discovery but I had discovered something also. Feelings were surfacing I hadn’t experienced in years, and it felt good, really good. I wanted those experiences back. I had to have those experiences back. I would get those experiences back, along with the excitement, exploration, and adventure that had been put on the back burner oh so long ago. My mind’s made up. I’m going to pursue this thing everyone now calls cycling. I have a bike somewhere in my mini-warehouse that needs to be dug out of all the mess, cleaned up, then ridden. There are websites to visit, stores to browse, and miles of roads just waiting to be explored. Yep, a good dose of rediscovery is just what I need. 😀
The basis for this blog is cycling, more specifically “old school” or “shoestring budget” style cycling, with a purpose. If you are like I am; out of practice, out of shape, stuck with an old bicycle, yet still have a deep burning desire to get out there and cycle around, great! You’re the type of person I primarily wish to talk with. Of course if you’re an “old hat” when it comes to cycling, and are in olympic athlete condition, I also welcome your readership. In fact I would greatly appreciate your advice, tips, and other comments. If you fit into my original summation but your spirit is willing and you are without a bike all is not lost. There are several organizations out there who will either give you a used bike, or you can purchase one for pennies on the dollar. For example, Goodwill, various hospital thrift stores (which is where I obtained my trunk mounted bicycle carrier for only $5 USD), and Habitat For Humanity’s Restore locations get good bikes in occasionally. If they don’t have one available sometimes they will know someone who has one they would be willing to donate to you, or put you on a list to be notified when one is received. Even a few bike shops get trade-ins or know a customer who has a used bike they would like to see go to a good home. Ask around. You may be surprised who would be glad to help you out.
The crux of the matter is this; you do Not need to have a brand new bike to enjoy cycling, or to be a part of helping someone else achieve some added joy in their free time while acquiring a new level of freedom or accomplishmet. I know this is contrary to popular belief, but It Does Not Matter what type of bicycle and optional equipment you have as long as the desire to get outdoors and cycle is in your blood, and you are doing it safely! For some, cruising up and down a neighborhood street on a single-speed bike is fun, to others like me the possiblility of traveling to new places, and seeing new faces, is the draw. I’m looking forward to cycling some of the lesser traveled streets, roads, and by-ways in my home area, but I’m absolutely ecstatic about getting back to the ocean-side roadways, listening to the surf, and feeling the ocean breeze on my skin while cruising along at a leisurely, enjoyable pace. Of course, a lot of places I will be riding aren’t actually new to me, but the sights certainly will be at 5, 10, or 15 miles per hour on my bike instead of 30 or 60 mph in a car. It’s amazing what architectural details and natural beauty a person can see when they’re not speeding by at a break-neck speed. Occasionally I will hike along a roadway which I have driven often. There are always things I see that elicit the reaction of, “Wow! I never saw that there before!” or “I didn’t realize this area was so pretty”. The same holds true with cycling. For me, that’s a tremendous draw and a part of the adventure.
In case you’re wondering, I will be using a stock 18-speed Huffy mountain bike that’s at least 18 years old at the time of this post. It will be outfitted with military surplus Alice packs I already own attached to the rear instead of the more modern Panniers for carrying the items I will need for my journey, and discount store water bottles/mounts attached to the seat and down tubes. I haven’t decided yet whether to attach a tire pumpI already own to the forward portion of the top tube or store it in one of the packs. It had been near the seat, but was not as handy to access while on the move as it may seem . Yep, my bike will have more drag, be heavier, and nowhere near as pleasing to the eye as many of the other bikes I’ll meet on the road, but it will be uniquely mine. I seriously doubt you’ll see another one like it on the road, OR in the junk yard. lol Most of the more experienced touring or racing cyclists can’t honestly claim uniqueness for their bikes. Sure, their bike may be the newest, lightest, fastest, and most aerodynamic model available but aside from its color and possibly a different type of pedal, grip, or other such item than it came with, the bike itself will be just like a thousand other bikes out there unless it’s custom-built to their specifications. I don’t care about all that. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking the newer bikes, or those that ride them. If that’s what you have or want, great! It’s just not my personal style or preference. When I schedule rides, every one of all ages, sex, race, bike style, etc. are always welcome. To use an old cliché… the more the merrier. Ok, I’ll admit that sometimes I daydream about getting a new bike that’s hassle free, shiny, and comes with a warranty, but then I realize it’s just the new bike smell getting to me. 😉 After all, what’s better than a bike that’s paid for, a classic, and uniquely you??? 😀