|Title||Distance||Climbing||Moving Time||Elapsed Time|
|Day 1 – AL to GA
Mt Cheaha (2407′)
|184.6 mi||14,365 ft||11:37:05 (15.9 mph)||13:13:58 (14.0 mph)|
|Day 2 – GA to NC
Brasstown Bald (4783′)
|185.5 mi||18,392 ft||13:57:51 (13.3 mph)||17:36:48 (10.5 mph)|
|Day 3 – NC to TN to NC
Clingman’s Dome (6644′)
|124.6 mi||13,619 ft||10:27:10 (11.9 mph)||11:56:45 (10.4 mph)|
|Day 4 – NC to SC to GA
Sassafras Mtn (3570′)
|329.5 mi||13,593 ft||21:13:49 (15.5 mph)||30:59:00 (10.6 mph)|
|TOTALS||824.2 mi||59,963 ft||2 days, 9 hours (14.4 mph)||4 days, 5 hours (8.15 mph)|
This past Sunday, I completed a nearly 825 mile ride with 60,000 feet of climbing from my home in Hoover, Alabama to our family beach vacation destination of Tybee Island, Georgia. These two locations aren’t 825 miles apart, but I wanted to try to ride to the highest points of Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and South Carolina along the way. I had some mechanical issues at the beginning of the ride as an old crank bolt snapped off as I was climbing out of the neighborhood. Craig Tamburello came over early the next morning to fix it by replacing the bolt that had snapped, and I was on my way again by 8:45AM. I stayed in hotels or airbnbs on the first three nights with a good 6 hours of sleep each night and then briefly in Augusta (5 hours stopped, 3 hours sleep) in the middle of the last “day” of riding. Day 4 includes this hotel stop in the elapsed time, but the other days do not. The TOTALS row includes all of the hotel stops in the elapsed time column. This is well behind my RAAM pace, but I was also self supported carrying a heavy backpack on the hottest days of the year across the south. Also, I really wanted to enjoy the adventure of this ride so I took it easy and also turned around numerous times to get pics of interesting things after I passed them.
My original challenge was to make it to the other side of Georgia without going through Georgia! I was going to climb the highest point in Alabama (Mount Cheaha) and then head due north within Alabama crossing over into Tennessee and spending the night north of Chattanooga. The next day I would head through Tennessee dipping down briefly to climb the highest point in Georgia — Brasstown Bald before spending the night in Cherokee, North Carolina. The next day I would climb the highest points in Tennessee (Clingman’s Dome) and North Carolina (Mount Mitchell) on what would have probably been a 10,000 meter day of climbing. On the final day, I would cross the entire state of South Carolina in one day starting out by climbing to its highest point (Sassafras Mountain) on the border of North Carolina.
While the nearly 8 hour delay wasn’t insurmountable, the fact that I would be starting and riding entirely in the heat of the day on the HOTTEST day of the year for Alabama, I knew that my original plan was unrealistic. So while I was waiting for Craig to fix my bike, I made some major route changes that would still include all 5 state high points and chop out about 100 miles of riding. This plan started out fine, but it was really hot. I used heat sleeves on my arms and legs and stopped frequently to get ice and dump water all over me. This worked well, but by the end of the first day I was starting to see the onset of heat exhaustion. So as I was struggling on over into Georgia, I was already unsure of completing the modified route.
To stay on schedule, I would need to have a very short stop at the hotel in Cartersville, Georgia and start riding again in the early morning. By the time I made it to the hotel, I knew that a 3 hour sleep was unrealistic, so I decided to sleep in a bit to recover and rehydrate from the previous day’s riding. I knew that this would push me into the heat of the day on the second day, but I also knew that I would be getting up into the mountains where there would likely be thunderstorms. This turned out to be the perfect decision because by the time it started to get really hot in Dahlonega, Georgia the thunderstorms rolled in and blocked out the heat from the sun. I climbed all of Neel’s Gap in an absolute downpour. Other than the frequent lightning, it felt really great and had stopped raining by the top where I refueled at the Appalachian Trail store (home of the shoe tree).
There were many more storms in the area, and it was really cool to see them from the top of Brasstown Bald, which I was able to ride all the way to the top because the thunderstorms had closed the park and everybody had left! And I mean everybody. I had the entire top of the mountain and parking lot to myself and was treated to some amazing sunset thunderstorm views. I still had a long way to ride and got caught by an even bigger thunderstorm outside of Franklin, North Carolina. Fortunately, I was near a church with a big outdoor carport area. I was able to hang out under the carport, recharge devices in an outdoor electrical socket, call the family and say goodnight to them before soldiering on to Cherokee, North Carolina arriving at 1:30AM.
Again with doubt about completing the route, I thought about skipping Clingman’s Dome and Mount Mitchell and heading straight to Rosman where I already had an AirBnB reserved. After seeing that it was only 75 miles, I decided to do a 50 mile out/back up to the top of Clingman’s Dome from the hotel where I could leave most of the extra stuff from my backpack (electronics, clothes, etc…) and take only the essential tools. This made a huge difference as I really enjoyed the climb up Clingman’s and didn’t struggle at all with pain in my neck. Unfortunately, though, I had to get all my stuff and throw it in my backpack again and do another 4000 ft HC climb up to the top of Waterrock Knob and then another big HC climb up to the highest point on the Blue Ridge Parkway in order to get to Rosman – all of this with my heavy backpack. By this point out of sheer necessity, I had figured out a better way of distributing the weight in my backpack that helped ease some of the neck pain. Even so, I knew that riding the extra 100+ miles roundtrip up to Mount Mitchell was out of the question, so I opted to have a more leisurely ride into Rosman and get there before dark to rest before tackling the entire state of South Carolina the next day.
On the final day, I had originally intended to ride all the way through the night and meet my family in Savannah early Sunday morning. But our family plans changed so it made more sense for me to stop in Augusta briefly and get some rest before riding the rest of the way down to Tybee Island. Still, it was a very short stop … checking in at 10:30pm and leaving the hotel by 3AM the next morning. No laundry facilities at the hotel, so I had to wash my clothes in the sink and dry my shorts with a hair dryer before heading out. I am glad I got an early start because it was ridiculously hot again by 9AM. I struggled through the heat though and made it to the beach by early afternoon before anyone else from my family had made it there!
1000 photos from my trip are posted on my pickuta.com website! I’m still working on it to make it easier to sift through all the photos, but in the meantime here are the links for each day of the trip: