Monday, January 19, 2009

sick, stranded in the black mountains

... sorry for the IMMENSE delay, dear readers...

So we were up on the parkway, I was ill, we had just slept illegally in a picnic area, and shortly thereafter waking, were alerted to the possibility of help or trouble when a park ranger truck tooled into the area... Quickly deciding that we needed help more than we were concerned with getting in trouble, we (dianne) approached the guy, who was out collecting trash, and got very little trouble or help from him indeed! He told us about the proper campground down the way, and warned us that if the ranger (apparently this was but a minion of a more powerful head ranger) caught us at the picnic site, we'd be fined... Ok. Thanks for next to nothing. Kurt and Dianne set out for the campground (oh yeah, there is a store there... The one helpful thing learned from baby ranger!) whip I set about deconstructing our set up and trying to look like I hadn't just slept there in the event a real ranger did swing by... He didn't.

After a bit, the team returned with the news that the camp store was really close, and had food... Excellent! They had also asked the staff about the reality of getting across the closed section of the parkway on bike... Someone seemed to think that it was actually legal for cyclists to cross, and everyone was pretty sure that some had done it regardless of legality... Good news, sort of.

We ate, got some supplies, and headed out... I wasn't sure I felt totally up to it, but was gonna give it a shot...

Just out of the campground, the fog was thicker than the graveyard in a cheap 80's horror flick...

I think we got a few miles or so when I realized that I was just way too sick to make it to ashville, or indeed anywhere really! We decided to split up, kurt would hightail it to ashville, where hopefully there'd be a show ready for him, and dianne and I would just get to the camp on top of mt Mitchell, which wasn't too far ahead, and was as far as one could travel legally in the parkway... If kurt got caught and turned away, we'd meet him there.. Otherwise, the plan was to catch up as well as we could once I was better.

Off went kurt, and after a somewhat lengthy nap, off we went too.

The ride to the campgroung was slow and grueling, I couldn't tell for myself if it was all that steep or I was just too weak, dianne assured me that it was me, as it wasn't nearly as bad as rt80 the day before!

We eventually arrive at the Mt Mitchell state park and campground a bit before dusk, a little disappointed to find the restaurant to be closed, but exceedingly pleased with the campground - only 9 sites, piled one on top of the next up a particuarly vertical section of the mountain so that everyone had a balcony seat view, of you will.

Using the book dianne had just finished as kindling, and borrowing a small axe from a neighboring site, we eventually got a decent fire going, on which we grilled some pears we had picked earlier in the week ... Delish!

The next morning, we went to investigate the restaurant, had breakfast and found out that they'd allow us to buy food items from them at grocery store prices which was excellent news.

We wandered along a path after breakfast, picking wild raspberries that grew in great abundance up there until I grew tired (still a bit ill) and had to rest in some shade before continuing on to our campsite. At some point my cellphone found itself a signal (hadn't had one since early friday) and got a message from Kurt which appeared to still be fresh - he said he was at a community bikeshop in Ashville fixing his spoke... I called back and he was still there! He had gotten into Ashville on Friday night just fine, but came to find that no show had been set up after all, which suited him just fine and he went out and enjoyed a giant drumcircle in the town square before heading out of town to camp... and would get started towards Greenville that night... oh, and he was down to his last $30! uh oh!

The sunset that night was extraordinary! we grilled veggie burgers and more pears and I accidentally melted my sandals.

Sunday morning finally found me feeling better (able to keep down food, that is!) and after one more breakfast at the restaurant, took off to catch up with Kurt, who was supposed to be getting to Greenville, SC that night.

Down the mountain, and back on the parkway, a moment of tension as we crossed the barrier to the closed part of the parkway was dissipated as a family on recumbents came down the hill towards us - if a full family can ride on this road, so could we!

The ride along the closed section was lovely and refreshingly car free! we finally got to see the broken down section of road - lots of pavement breaking down, but plenty of room for a couple bicycles, and then we crossed the barrier on the other side and were home free!!

As I recall, we got into Ashville around 3pm... headed for the downtown to try to first find a coffee shop with free wi-fi, and secondly use that wi-fi to figure out our options for catching up with kurt and the schedule (the next place we had to be was in Athens on the 16th - about 170 miles in 2 days... possibly possible) and then how to get home on what little money we had left! We found a nice cafe and quickly discovered that my old friend Ian worked there! Ian hooked us up with oatcakes for later, bagels and smoothies for there, and we had a very pleasant visit!

We figured that we could possibly make it to athens by showtime on tuesday if we just buckled down and rode, though trains and rental cars were researched as options too... the main problem, besides getting to the last 2 shows in Athens and Atlanta, was then getting back - Dianne was the only one with any significant amount of money left, and I had told her that the trip would pay for itself! There's a number of reasons we fell short of our budget in the end, which I'll get into as an afterword, perhaps, ok?

We thanked Ian, headed out, and got almost to the S. Carolina border when our route suddenly turned into highway and we were forced to take a backroad around... but missed a turn and ended up man miles to the east of where we were meant to be... we only realized this as we rode into a little town called Saluda just north of the border... I think we got there around 10pm, and though we were off course, decided to stay in or somewhere near this town as it was just too cute, with a bunch of little cafes and diners for us to go to in the morning, thusly alleviating the usual morning search for just such a place(s)!
...unfortunately we had an incredibly hard time finding anywhere to set up camp, riding in every direction for a couple miles finding only houses and steep hills... we finally decided to just dig into the town and try to find a weird little nook somewhere near the main street... sure enough, just up one of the (incredibly steep) side streets, was a church with some promising looking grounds... lots of little sections blocked off by bushes... which at 2:30am we finally found an appropriately well hiddden section and tucked in for the night.

We woke up well after our 7am alarm clock went off, and headed into town for a greasy spoon breakfast consisting of every breakfast food there is, and it all came to under 10 dollars! Weirdly, the silverware was presented in little plastic bags... like as a sanitary measure? How strange...

Heading on our way again, we enjoyed a 4 mile twisty turvy downhill that brought us right into another adorable little town... all told, there were 3 successive little towns that we went through, stopping in each one to look at the adorable little thrift stores (I was looking for something to replace my sandals and a new t-shirt, as my main one was thoroughly disintegrated) even though we knew we were in a hurry!

ok, going to bed, but more tomorrow....

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