Bamping Weekend to Hot Springs & Black Mountain

Okay. My first real blog post!

This past weekend I made a spontaneous decision to go on a little bamping trip to Hot Springs and Asheville, NC. (For those of you who don’t know, bicycles + camping = bamping). It all came about last Thursday when I was having brunch with some friends who bought weekend tickets to attend LEAF (Lake Eden Arts Festival). Aaand after consuming many biscuits I agreed to purchase my own day pass for Sunday because that’s when the final act, Taj Mahal, was scheduled to play.

So here I am, with a ticket for one day at leaf. Might as well make a weekend mini-vacation out of it, right?

Friday night comes around and I’m loading up my panniers, packing food, and trying to get to bed at a reasonable hour. 12:30am, still packing… 1:00am, finally in bed. I’m kind of a procrastinator, even when it comes to getting ready to do fun and exciting things. 7am comes way too soon and it doesn’t help that Velo (my super rad cat) is being an adorable sleepy head. I finally get my shit together and roll down the hill at 8:30.

Knoxville to Kodak was a really pleasant ride. Not a whole lot of traffic on a Saturday morning. I passed a lot of yard sales and a few other cyclists down Koadak road. I stopped in at that one service station in Kodak with those really good biscuits… mmmm second breakfast! Between Kodak and Dandridge there was a ton of traffic, but that’s to be expected. There were a lot of nice looking trucks headed to their vacation homes along Douglas Lake. I couldn’t help noticing that people who drove Jeeps around were a bit douchy-er than the ones in the nice trucks, but much less so than the people in the beater trucks in Cocke county. Actually, the traffic didn’t really let up until I got out of Newport.

The ride from Newport to Hot Springs was fabulous! One of the bridges between the two towns is closed for construction for the next year or so, but it turns out there is a really handy detour that follows the river. And because the bridge is out and the detour was labeled “local traffic only”, there were not many cars at all! Even when the bridge is repaired, I think I will still prefer the detour route.

At the top of the first climb into hot springs – you know, the one on the state line – there is a biker bar call “State Line Bar”. I stopped in to see how much further I had to go until I reached Hot Springs. The biker folks hanging out were amazed that I had ridden from Knoxville all in one day. Well, they were so much fun and such good company I ended up hanging out with Bird and Debbi and 20 or so of their biker friends for the next 45 minutes. They were all buying me beers and Cheetos and hamburgers and kept insisting that I stay all-night and party with them. One side of me was wishing that I brought my rose-embroidered leather crop-top biker chick vest so I could party properly with the HOGs, but the other side was really looking forward to that hot tub. The hot tub won. And it was great.

After the hot tub, I went back to the campsite and started cooking dinner. Oooh it smelled so good! I made a tomato sauce with butter and veggies and salt. Then put the pasta on to boil… and ran out of propane. Lets just say dinner was quite al dente. Of all the things that I’ve been making mental notes of during this bamping trip, the carry-more-propane one sticks out most on my head. Shoot. This girl gotta eat.

When I woke up in the morning I felt pretty rough. I think I slept very wrong on my neck. Another mental note: carry ibuprofen. The climb out of Hot Springs was pretty difficult, especially if you’re starting out with no warm-up and in the cold rain. But by the time I reached the top of the hill, I was feeling pretty warm; by the time I finished the decent I was warm and felt like I had a cold shower. It was kind of revitalizing. When I reached Marshall, NC I was in a pretty good rhythm. By luck or instinct, whatever you want to call it, I decided to take the business route through Marshall. It turns out it was a super cool, little three block town. Since it was Sunday morning, there wasn’t much going on, but they had a nice bike shop on main street and what looked like a few good restaurants. I decided to stay on the road that followed the French Broad River for a good 20 miles. There was hardly any traffic, absolutely beautiful in the misty rain, and tons of cycling road symbols (my favorite was the fork on the road). It turns out this road, State Road 251, took me straight into North Asheville. (I found out later that it is usually full of dump truck traffic…)

I found myself in this kind of ritzy neighborhood along a little lake. I figured if I take the main road through tha hood I should pop out somewhere along HWY 25/Merrimon Ave. Sure enough! Before I knew it, I was upon GreenLife Grocery and Downtown Asheville. I pulled into GreenLife for some beer and snacks and ended up hitching a ride into Black Mountain with this guy named Dane. He was concerned about the all the idiots who don’t know how to drive in the rain and felt bad that I still had another 14 miles on some shitty roads. We chatted for a bit and it turns out he’s toured from Alaska to San Francisco, cross-country, east and west, here and there, all over the damn place. He turned out to be a really helpful person, not only because he offered a ride in shitty weather, but because I was able to ask him about a lot of the do’s and don’ts of touring. He also offered his home to Shelagh and me when we pass through Asheville next month.

I finally got to Black Mountain, thanks to Dane, with plenty of time to hear some great music, eat some hippy festival food, drink Ranger on tap, and rendezvous with Shelagh and Micah. We got to hear Taj Mahal play an awesome set (on his 70th birthday! Old man is still kicking ass) and were lucky enough to run into a vendor giving away free fried chicken. Yum! On the way out of town we got pizza and beer, loaded into the truck, and half way home I passed out from exhaustion.

What a fun weekend! It was pretty fabulous in the sense that I was able to experience some of the good and the bad that I’ll likely encounter on tour. Most of the people that I met were very friendly and willing to bend over backwards to give me any type of assistance, granted this could just be because I was in/near Asheville, NC, but I think most people will be just as kind. I did have to deal with some pretty awful drivers, but over all they were no better than half the drivers in Knoxville.

Some things to keep in mind:

  1. Carry more propane
  2. Get clear lens cycling glasses for rainy days – stingin’ rain hurts the eyes.
  3. Carry a whistle – Dane highly recommended this along with pepper spray.
  4. It’s okay to be friendly, just not overly friendly to the point when a dirty old biker man wants to keep buying you beer all afternoon.
  5. Fenders are good.
  6. Perhaps a solar charger might be handy…

Well, there were more things on my little list, I just can’t remember them right now. Don’t worry. They’ll come to me!

Until I have more to blog about, take care and ride bikes more often!

Cheers,

Lauren

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