Saturday, March 28, 2009

SB '09

So Andy and decided that spring break would be a great opportunity to do some touring and work out some of the kinks ahead of time before we kick it into high gear this summer. I also realized that once I got to the beach, all bets on physical exertion were off. That being said, Andy and I headed out discarding all advice from Jeremy (aka rainman) shaking his rain sticks, and against our better judgment about 1:30 on Friday.

Our goal for the first day was to get to the Tsali/Fontana area. We headed out via the normal South Knoxville route to Walland. From there, we climbed up and over Foothills Parkway to HWY 129. It turned out that riding the "tail of the dragon" on a overcast Friday afternoon was probably one of the best times to do it and we were blessed to see literally no traffic. On a side note, tail of the dragon does not seem to have that much elevation change when driving it, but riding it while still getting used to riding a loaded bike was a challenge. Once over HWY 129, we rode HWY 28 to Fontana Villiage. All told, Friday ended up being a pretty challenging 75 miles.

We managed to get through Friday without seeing any precipitation at all, but knew it was coming that night. With that in mind, we decided to stop a little early, hoping to have a dry night, and rode up to one of the back cabins at Fontana Villiage. We used a tarp and to close in the front of one of the covered porches and had a perfectly dry night. Definitely a good decision to be able to start dry on Saturday.

Saturday we woke up to rain, and with without any sign of it breaking, got packed up and headed out. We stayed on HWY 28 for a pretty hilly yet uneventful while until we rolled into Franklin, NC. In Franklin, we grabbed some lunch and I had to fix a flat due to a cheapo rimstrip in my rear wheel. Luckly, right as I flatted, we rolled up on Smokey Mountain Bikes where they let me use a stand and floor pump out of the rain. It really made me appreciate the small things. Anyway, we headed out from there continuing on HWY 28, making the 9 mile climb up to Highlands, NC. From there, we hauled downhill through the tip of Georgia and into South Carolina, finishing the day in Clemson, SC. Looking back, Saturday was by far the hardest day, totalling about 115 miles and the most difficult terrain of the trip. Saturday night, we were able to stay with one of my friends from BMW in Clemson. It was really nice to get a comfortable place to sleep and dry some clothes.

Saturday was more of the same...rainy, cold but flatter. We left Clemson and arrived at my grandparents house just outside of Columbia, SC about 120 miles later.

We knew Sunday was going to be a long day, but when we mapped it out Saturday night, it ended up being about 155 miles to Isle of Palms, SC. We headed out early and rode at a pretty good pace all day. When we got to Monks Corner, we realized that we were running out of daylight. We really dropped the hammer and rode like crazy, racing the sun for the next hour or so. We ended up getting to the connector onto the island a little after 8PM and decided that it wasn't worth trying to ride the very busy bridge in the dark. In this case, getting a ride for the last 4 miles was probably the wisest decision. Fortunately for us, the friends we were meeting down there came out and gave us a lift onto the island. Monday was a very long day in the rain and ended with a little more frustration than I had expected. Looking back, I was still pretty satisfied with our 150 mile day in the pouring rain.

Any doubt I had about the big things turned out to not be a big issue. My panniers kept everything dry, they were big enough, bike was comfortable (relatively), fit was good, and legs felt good all the way through. We really just have a few fine tuning things to take care of, and I think we'll be set. After riding in terrible conditions and covering some serious mileage, I'm gaining confidence and anticipation for our trip this summer.

Things learned from this experience: riding in the rain sucks, there is not a flat spot between here and Clemson, SC., a pump that goes over 70 psi would be nice, subway bags are awesome as over-socks, and road on maps do not neccessarily have to exist in real life.

Until our next regretable experience...