Day 17, May 16 – Marion to Mt. Mitchell
Started my day off with delicious banana bread muffins made by Grandma. Rounded up my stuff and said our goodbyes. It’s been a fun stay! It was a fairly easy pedal to the start of my climb to the parkway. By noon I finished the initial climb… it did not seem quite as bad as I thought it would be. I guess the practice ride helped.
I rode another five miles or so (mostly more climbing) to the exit for Mt. Mitchell and decided to give it a go. After about an hour of fairly steep climbing I made it to the summit. Wild views on the way up but foggy at the top. It got really chilly up there… by the time I rode to the campground near the summit I was getting pretty cold. After the tent was up I layered up and after sitting in my sleeping bag for a bit I decided to ride to the mountain restaurant for some soup and coffee to warm up.
On my way back to the campground I could see some weather blowing in. Back in my tent the winds picked up and the sleet came down. Glad I had a fairly warm sleeping bag.
Elevation climbed: ~7000 ft
Acts of kindness: 4 – Grandma sent me with cookies, dehydrated apples, and a hearty breakfast; Met Bob Hurt from Dakota, MN who was out photographing the mountain from a sweet tripod setup coming out his van’s sunroof. He snapped a few photos of me and took my email so he could send them to me; Met some cyclists from TN who offered me a place to stay when they learned I was headed there. Unfortunately they weren’t along my route; The park ranger gave me a discount… He said it was for the bad weather. I think he felt bad I was up there on a bike.
Day 18, May 17 – Mt. Mitchell to Asheville
Brrrrrr! It was chilly this morning. I got up around 7:00 AM to take a look around at the frost. No need to be riding on slick roads and through cold air so I went back to bed for a couple hours. I woke with the sun shining and the frost mostly cleared. After layering up, packing up camp and having my morning joe I was soon racing down Mt. Mitchell. It took about 5 minutes to get from the ranger station to the entrance… At least an hour climb the night before.
The ride to Asheville started uphill for about 5 miles followed by 15 miles of downhill glory. 25-35 miles/hr seemed to be the cruising speed. Sure beats climbing! I had to make several stops to shed and reapply layers between short climbs and downhill sections. By the time I got off the parkway temperatures were much more comfortable. It was a quick ride from the parkway exit to my hostel in west Asheville. The hostel is very laid back. I’ve got a camping spot in the back yard.
Rode partially into the downtown area but didn’t go too far for lack of light. Checked out 2 breweries that were along my ride. This town is loaded with them! Might have to stay an extra day. Met a fellow cross country cycle tourist tonight and had fun chatting about her trip. Sounds like her trip was nothing short of amazing and she shared the same excitement for my trip. She did most of the Trans Am route last year, Virginia to San Francisco.
Acts of kindness: 2 – Free beer from Dan at Wedge Brewing Company who I met earlier in the day up near the top of Craggy Mountain
Day 19, May 18 – Mt. Mitchell to Asheville
Woke up to rain and I left my laundry on the clothes line – Doh! Must be a sign I need to stay the day and let them dry. Visited a coffee shop and bakery down the street and had a cinnamon roll as big as my head. Going to start my day with a healthy helping of sugar and caffeine I guess. I worked on looking into the GPS tracks for the Northern Tier route. I was selected to do some digital map trials for the Adventure Cycling Association. After messing around with that a bit I rode around downtown and checked out the area.
Back at the hostel I made friends with a couple from UK and a trio from Australia. Had a fun evening with them.
Miles: Just a few around town
Total Mileage: ~860
Day 20, May 19 – Back on the Parkway
Just heading out to get back on the parkway towards Bryson City. Looks like I’ll be doing some more climbing. My current route shows about 150 miles to Tennessee! Maybe I’ll be there in 2 days of tough riding.