You can’t have much more fun than a camping trip by bicycle.
(I’m posting a few of my favorite pictures in this entry, but some additional photos/descriptions can be found in my Flickr set, here.)
Mark and I packed up the Xtracycle “twins” on Friday and headed out toward Cherokee National Forest, the Hiwassee River, and Gee Creek campground for a weekend of fun and adventure by bicycle. It was a lovely ride over – although extremely “warm”. Temperatures in the mid-90’s, and I couldn’t guess at the humidity.
We had only one mapping snafu. We had mapped a back-roads route so that we could avoid traveling on one of the more major roads – a road that is often used by logging trucks heading for the paper pulp mill in Calhoun. It was a good plan until the very end. Near the small community of Delano, TN, we could not locate one of the unnamed roads that would take us through the Amish community. We backtracked twice, looking for the connector, and finally gave up. It still remains a mystery as to whether the map was correct, or if the road really exists(?).
We arrived at Gee Creek campground in the early afternoon and had our choice of campsites. We unloaded the bikes, set up camp, and spent the remainder of the hot afternoon relaxing in the shade, trying to stay cool. Early in the evening we set out again to have dinner at a resort we had read about, Black Bear Cove. It was nice to enjoy a leisurely dinner in the air-conditioned lodge.
On Saturday morning, we set out early for the Amish community and market that was a nearby. We had been to the Amish market several times before – by car. They have just-picked-that-morning produce directly from their fields outside the market building. They also have some wonderful baked goods – from sorghum sugar cookies, to whole wheat bread, to killer sticky buns. We decided to have the sticky buns for our breakfast! 🙂
We rode through the community on some of the small gravel roads that meander around, in part trying to see where we had missed our mystery connecting road the day before. It was pastoral, picturesque and lovely – similar to some of the other Amish areas we have visited in Lancaster, PA, and Holmes County, OH. There is no electricity, no motorized vehicles or equipment. Tidy farms, tidy fields, windmills, horses and buggies. It can sometimes make you stop and question the benefits(?) of modern progress…
As the afternoon heat escalated, we decided to head for the Hiwassee River. We rented a kayak and had a nice, cooling trip down the river, snacking on a sweet watermelon we had picked up at the Amish market.
Saturday evening proved to be … well … let’s just say an interesting and colorful local experience. There is a small local winery in the area, and they were hosting an evening concert in their “pavillion”. The Goose Creek Symphony (YouTube). I’m not sure what I was expecting, never having heard of the group. The winery staff described them as “putting on a really excellent show, not exactly country, not exactly bluegrass …”. I kind of envisioned a neat bluegrass-y/mountain music kind of event, maybe a glass of the vinyard’s wine. Uuhhh …. not exactly.
Let me just say, the “Symphony” was actually pretty talented – for that type of music (not really my cup of tea, thanks). Maybe you’ve heard the song that begins, “Oh Lord won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz …”? Yeah. Ok. Well, that’s Goose Creek. The Symphony may have had talent, the crowd on the other hand, was, well, quite a different story. I’ll just leave it at that. Mark had joked about visiting a place up the road called the Hillbilly Bar. Well, this may have been a winery, but the description could have fit just as well.
Sunday morning we packed up for the return home. We had really packed fairly lightly, but it was still impressive to see how much gear we were easily able to stow on the bikes – with still plenty of room to spare – and not any messing with panniers, trailers, etc. I love the versatility of the Xtracycle slings. The gear/cargo size and shape doesn’t matter – there are no constraints to deal with when using the slings (unlike panniers).
As much as I loved nearly all of the miles we put in, there was one stretch of county road that we covered that was paved with large, loose gravel/rock. It wasn’t the nice finely crushed and packed gravel of the Amish roads – it was just nasty chunky stuff. Without a major detour – or spending a few miles on the logging truck road – we had to use this road. It wasn’t more than a couple of miles, but without knobby mtn. bike tires, there was a lot of wasted energy pedaling uphill, and a lot of teeth-rattling, sketchy sliding action on the downhill. I didn’t love it. Yuck.
Arrived home in time to relax a bit in the afternoon (it was Father’s Day, after all). It was really a fun adventure. We logged some lovely and scenic miles and explored some back roads I would like to return to some day. The Xtracycles, as always, proved to be amazing vehicles – easy to haul our gear, easy to ride. The perfect machine.
So – get your bike out and grab your tent and sleeping bag. Have an adventure on two wheels. It doesn’t get much better!
They may not get me to Oz, but …
Decided to try out some new cycling shoes for around town on the Xtracycle. These have intrigued me for a while now: the Keen Commuter – a hybrid sandal/cycling shoe featuring a full-length SPD-compatible plate, along with AEGIS Microbe Shield™ technology (free of environmentally harmful substances) to prevent odor-causing bacteria/fungi in the footbed. Seemed like a great combination for summer riding.
I also prefer riding with cleated shoes, but road cleats just weren’t practical for running errands, popping into the store, etc. The recessed SPD configuration makes these beautifully walk-able for off-bike. They are cool and very comfortable, and, well … dorky in that outdoorsy kind of way.
Pedal choice was a toss-up. I knew I wanted a dual-use pedal: platform on one side, clipless (cleat-compatible) on the other side. Debated between a Shimano and the Wellgo, but finally decided on the Wellgo. The Wellgo has a wider (BMX?) profile, and the platform has 8 substantial screw studs. So if I need to pedal in a pair of sneakers or other shoes, I can still get a pretty solid grip on things.
Specs on the Wellgo: magnesium body (weight-saver), sealed bearing, Shimano SH-51 cleat compatible. All for a very reasonable price – around $60.
So far, I’m well pleased with the combination. Haven’t put many miles in yet, and a real test will be coming up in about a week when Mark and I plan to head toward the mountains for a weekend bike camping trip. But so far …
The Pro’s: cool, comfortable, walk-able and versatile commuting shoe – with or without socks. Wide and solid pedal platform, decent profile for street use, great versatility (clipless/platform). Studs/pins on platform side allow for great traction for riding in non-cycle shoes.
The Con’s: Open design of shoes tends to lose some desired stiffness, although not as much as I expected. However, I did find it necessary to loosen the clipless tension on the pedal – felt like I would twist right out of the shoe when releasing if the tension was cranked down.
Will continue to evaluate over the course of summer and more miles. But for now, I give the combination two thumbs up! Not as cute as a pair of Ruby Slippers, but what can you do?
I have ridden past the remains of this old house more times than I can count. There is nothing left among the weeds and charred rubble except for this fireplace and chimney. I’ve always wanted to prop my bike up on the mantle for a picture. Today, I finally did.
As a consequence of my silly ideas, I apparently ran over a thorn on the little walk up through the brush. Ended up with a flat rear tire. I’m so brilliant sometimes…
The Lone Fireplace sits at the corner of Bigsby Creek and Rabbit Valley Roads – two of the nicest cycling roads virtually out my back door. Bigsby Creek Road, especially, has some of the most lovely scenery I have come across anywhere – from winding roadside fences, to old barns, to Holstein pastures, to duck ponds, to the bison farm (SW corner of Bigsby Creek and White Oak Valley Roads). It’s not to difficult for me to fool myself into feeling like I’m riding in Vermont sometimes…
The route is fairly short and easy. It’s kind of a “bread-and-butter” ride for us. It’s short enough (and low-traffic enough) that we can go out for a quick evening spin after dinner. And it’s enough of a distance to feel like we’ve actually gone for a ride. It’s relatively flat to rolling, with some nice scenery, smooth pavement, and very little car traffic. There’s a charming small country Baptist church at the corner of White Oak Valley and Rollins Ridge Roads – their front steps make a nice little stopping point if you need a quick break.
An alternate shorter variation is to cut across Old Freewill Road (between White Oak and Rabbit Valley Roads). There’s a nice little hill to climb in the middle of this shortcut, but also some lovely farm scenery.
No more traipsing through brush for me – maybe I’ll just have to put the Xtracycle on our own mantle?!