The bane of my existence and yours too I’m guessing, is rumble strips. Rumble strips are those evil divots carved at great expense into road shoulders in an attempt to hinder sleepy or texty drivers from careening off into eternity. They are also great at flipping cyclists over handlebars, jarring dental work loose and generally wreaking havoc on bicycles and bicyclers.
So here’s an opportunity to participate in a study to develop safer strips to rumble over. In March volunteer riders, my wife and I included, will spend a few hours riding over an assortment of rumble strips and giving feedback to the researchers. A shuttle will ferry us for our downhill runs. This sounds like a great way for cyclists to add their voice to the development and application of rumble strips.
The project is being conducted by the Institute for Transportation Research and Education at NC State University. It’s being held in Almond, NC on a beautiful stretch of highway 28. If you are anywhere near the area you should plan to come for a visit and participate in the study. There’s a lot of great hiking and biking opportunities in the area; so make a mini-vacation of it.
To learn more and to sign up, contact Sarah O’Brien at firstname.lastname@example.org . I hope to see you there!
Summer cycling in the Smokies is wonderful. Roadsides are filled with wildflowers and tasty treats. Most people you encounter are in a cheerful mood and are either on their way to or coming from, doing something fun. And with so many water sports available, most are in one of three states of being: Been wet, wet or about to be wet.
Today I did a gentle ride along a portion of the William Bartram Trail that runs alongside the Nantahala River. William Bartram was a renowned naturalist and explorer who passed through our area in the late 1700’s cataloging the flora. I attempted to hike (and boat and bike) the length of the trail several years ago, but was stopped mid-way when my hiking partner broke her ankle.
This short section of the Bartram connects with a more challenging ride up and over Winding Stairs Gap. But today was just about seeing if the knee and the bike were in agreement. They were. Here are a few pictures.
As this year comes to a close and another begins, it’s time to reflect. This has been a busy year, both in my private life and the one I share online. I’ve done some touring, but not as much as I’d like. Raquel and I explored the Chesapeake Bay area with one of our foster kids. Using a rented bungalow by the bay as base camp, we joined the largest organized ride in the area and did some exploring on our own as well. Later in the year I was joined by my good friend, Larry (‘The Tractor’) for a tour of the North Carolina portion of the Blue Ridge Parkway. If you ever have the opportunity, this is the most scenic ride on the east coast. It’s also the most challenging.
My wife and I have hosted some wonderful bike tourists as they passed our way. In order of their appearance at our home: Susan, Christopher, Charles, Rocco, Joe and Emmalee, Russ and Laura, Tomas and finally (unless someone shows up today) Zachary.
And this silly bike blogging project has taken on a life of its own. Readership has grown tremendously. December of last year The Velo Hobo had a little over three-hundred visitors for the month. That number has grown to well over two thousand a month with daily averages between 70 to 100 and the numbers just keep growing.
So what’s next?
I’ve received some very helpful feedback from readers. You’ve told me you’d like to see more ‘Featured Rider’ articles, more on bike camping and more detailed information on packing and carrying gear. You’ve also told me you’d like to see less on leather tooling (for the life of me I can’t understand why, but okay).
Plans are in the works for our annual tour of the Outer Banks of North Carolina. We hope to be joined by friends and I’m looking forward to writing a trip review. S240s and short tours on the Parkway are almost certain and if you would like to share ‘trip reports’ of your own, just send them in with a few pictures and I’ll post them.
You may have noticed a new tab at the top of the page and a banner ad in the side bar. Raquel and I will be offering ‘destination day tours’ this spring. These will be laid back activity based tours of our little corner of the Smokies; gem mining, wine tasting, hiking and more. No need to lug your bike across the country, rentals will be available through Bryson City Bicycles. Check back for more details.
Thanks to all Velo Hobo readers for making this a fun and interesting project.
This morning Diane, co-owner of Bryson City Bicycles, and I took on the steepest paved road in North Carolina. The ride is known by locals as ‘Yellow Creek’ and is one of the most difficult rides listed in Road Bike the Smokies; an excellent but out of print guidebook by Jim Parham. This is one of the most scenic rides in our area and features a view of Fontana Dam. This is the tallest dam east of the Rockies and at the time of its construction (early 1940s) it was the fourth tallest dam in the world (thank you wikipedia). You’ll also ride past Cheoah Lake and Dam, Deals Gap (the entrance to the infamous Tail of the Dragon), and some spectacular and remote countryside.
This ride is a bit over 38 miles and is easy to moderate in difficulty until you hit an insanely steep section of Yellow Creek road. I curse the North Carolina Department of Transportation for not tunneling through this killer of a mountain, but my hat is off to the road pavers who must have been clinging for dear life to the near vertical face of this cliff-like monster. I dismounted and started pushing when my front tire lifted off the ground. Then got back on and rode a short distance till my legs, cramped with exhaustion, refused to pedal another stroke. And so it went on and off the bike until I reached Diane, patiently waiting for me at the top. The ride off the backside is slightly steeper and brakes only hinted at slowing me down to a sub-fatal crash speed. Do not do this ride in wet weather. Parham does not recommend this ride for beginners, and I agree, but if you are in the area and looking for a beautiful and challenging ride, this is it.
Thanks for reading, Jack
As promised, here’s the first installment of a series of posts reviewing rides from the impossible to get guidebook Road Bike the Smokies by Jim Parham. On page 24, if you are following along in your copy (oh yeah, that’s right. It’s impossible to get. Sorry), you’ll find an easy 15 mile loop. The Valley River Loop is surrounded by an impressive stand of rugged mountains and features some of the flattest roads you will find in Western North Carolina. The few climbs you’ll encounter are short and are in the first few miles of the ride.
This ride starts and finishes at a nice rest area on the outskirts of the small town of Andrews. Heading out of town alongside the meandering Valley River, past large open pastures of cows, horses and sheep, this ride is very picturesque. Crossing over to the other side of the valley, the ride’s character changes to more commercial farm land, a mental health center (where I work, lucky me) and if you find small municipal airports interesting, a small municipal airport.
This is one of my after work rides and even as sunset is obscenely early these days, I can do this ride and still make it home for dinner at a reasonable hour. Parham rates this as an easy ride, doable by a beginner in 1.5 to 2 hours. Visitors to the Smokies who are coming from flatter parts may find this a more comfortable ride. You’ll get tremendous views of the mountains without having to suffer the trauma of actually riding in the mountains.
Thanks for reading, Jack
This out of print and highly treasured guide book by Jim Parham contains sixteen scenic rides in North Carolina’s Great Smoky Mountains. Easy rides in the mountains are scarce and this book offers a few of the best, including my favorite, the Burningtown Valley Loop. Of the difficult rides, Yellow Creek features the (rumored to be) steepest paved road in North Carolina. Visitors to the area would gain a true flavor for cycling in the Smokies by sampling a few of these rides.
So why am I reviewing a book only available through petty thievery? Over the next few months I’ll ride and review some of these rides. If anyone is in the area, or visiting the area, and would like to join me for one or more, just shoot me an email at email@example.com