June 27, 2015

In the Zone and Living Well

Next week I will return to the Great Divide bicycle route with my friend Shawn Sheppard and Andrew to bikepack 240 miles, or so, from SteamBoat Springs to Salida Colorado. This is my first trip back to the Great Divide Route since 2011, when I entered the Tour Divide race from Banff Canada to Antelope Wells, New Mexico.

We will drive two days to Steam Boat, then start riding along the route and meet my wife, daughters and niece in Salida 5 days later. Once reconnected with family, I will stay in Colorado a few more days and see more of the state, while Shawn and Andrew will travel back to Steamboat, get the truck and head back east.

My preparations have been minimal, but adequate, and my equipment is dialed in based on my 2011 TDR experience. We will take plenty of pictures and provide updates as technology allows.

April 07, 2014

Trans Eastern Trail: Ga loop. 4/4-5/14 – 2 days - 509 Miles along the northern part of the 1500 mile route.

Trans Eastern Trail: Ga loop.
4/4-5/14 – 2 days - 509 Miles along the Northern part of the 1500 mile route.

Figure 1: The Northern section of the Loop - 509 miles
Friday 4/4
I start at 6 am from Spartanburg SC and have an uneventful ride to start of the loop at Highway 76 near Westminster SC. I take and unplanned, minor detour to the Ga side of the Chattooga River. (Figure 2)

Figure 2: the Ga side of the Chattooga River
The GPS track could be better (my fault). I am making wrong turns and missing others. The Hale Ridge Road sector from Warwoman road to Dillard is improved since the last time I was here in November 2013. It is now a nice, even gravel surface. I take the (Big Bike Bypass) BBB around the first major wet crossing.
Figure 3

The gravel road at top of Unicoi Gap: Wilkes Creek/Chattahoochee road, into Helen, is open at the top but closed at the bottom. (Figure 3)

A DNR officer loading trout into the creek tells me the only way out was to turn around and ride out and take Highway 17/75 into Helen, I have no choice. Highway 17/75 is a nice road. There are several Ohio based cyclists training in our warm weather because it has been a rough winter up North.

Figure 4
I stop for gas and lunch at a BBQ joint in Helen. What a tourist trap! When a guy is sitting in a new Corvette, with the top down, listening to Peter Frampton's “Do You Feel Like I do” and cars are riding up and then leaving, it makes you wonder what he is “doing”.

Highway 348 Road out of Helen is nice pavement. (Figure 4)

I make a left onto Hatchett creek, with two wet crossings, before returning to Hwy 19. Then another left at Vogel State Park, up to Wolf Pen Gap. This area was part of the Tour de Georgia bicycle races and is familiar.

I make a right onto gravel at top of Wolf Pen Gap. This section is challenging with ruts and drops. I take  a wrong turn at bottom and end up back near Brasstown Bald, so I set GPS for Mulberry Gap and take busy, 4 lane highways through Blairsville and Blue Ridge into Ellijay and Mulberry Gap. I see Derek Kozlowski training for RAAM with his support crew. What an amazing guy and challenge he is preparing for. I arrive at Mulberry Gap at 4:30 PM. Weather was minor mist all day and I stayed dry, but Ellijay is wet.

Figure 5: Arrival at Mulberry Gap

I set up my humble camp and eat dinner at the barn with all the cyclists. Dogs are everywhere, I feel at home. Sleep okay, temp in low 40's. 
Figure 6: Camp at Mulberry Gap

Saturday 4/5

I wake up at 7 AM with the sun eat breakfast at the barn, and roll out at 8:45. It is shaping up to be a beautiful, clear, cool Spring day. Last night I loaded back-up GPS tracks and navigation was much better today. The route stays close to the Pinhoti trail, crossing it many times. Sections in Chattahoochee National Forest above Rome Ga are beautiful. Nice curves on good pavement in farm country with an occasional gravel road thrown in. The ridgelines remind me of the Swan River valley in Montana. (Figure 7)
Figure 7

Figure 8

I cross into Alabama and do not know it. There is no state line sign on the back roads. 80% of Alabama section seems to be unpaved. The sector in Talladega National Forest is 32 miles long with improved, loose gravel. It ends on the Cheaha Parkway – with nice views. (Figure 8) I only see two other dual sport motorcycles in Talladega National Forest. Where is everybody????

From the end of the Cheaha Parkway into Roanoke, it is a patchwork combination of short dirt and un-improved gravel roads through some poor areas. (Think: third world country) Some sections are MUDDY. Lots of unleashed dogs running around, yard birds, wild turkey, deer and an occasional loose cow or horse. This area reminds me of a combination of the Dukes of Hazard and Africa.
Figure 9

Figure 10
With dusk approaching, the nearest sizeable town is Roanoka Alabama.. After a fuel stop (#3) I found a decent room the Key West Inn for $65/ night. A Pizza Hut is next door.

I put in a solid 10 hour day, and feel great. Standing on the pegs in the gravel and the constant navigating keeps me from falling into the zombie like trance I experience sometimes on "boring" slab pavement. Rain is in the forecast tomorrow, so Alabama dirt roads will be slippery. My choices are: 1) continue on the route in mud, 2) take pavement on the next section to Florida, or 3) turn back and head for home, riding out of the wet weather and get back at a reasonable time.

Figure 11

Sunday 4/6/14

I wake to steady rain with a forecast for 100% heavy rain all day in the area I plan to ride.  I opt for #3 because: I am alone, did not pay and entry fee to do this and have nothing to prove other than to have a safe, enjoyable trip. Riding muddy, un-improved dirt and gravel roads on a 600lb Adventure Motorcycle is not a wise thing to do alone, or with anyone else. I will be back.

With a full tank of gas, I set to GPS to "Go Home" and head North, ending up on I-85 and ride through downtown Atlanta, in light Sunday traffic - what a contrast. 

June 19, 2013

Eastern Continental Divide Trip Report Parts 1 and 2

Part 1

Part 2

The Delorme map files, and GDB files suitable for downloading to a GPS are linked below.

The GDB files contain a route, waypoints and the GPX track and are dividing into 3 sections:

  • Section one is Highlands NC to Fancy Gap Va
  • Section two is Fancy Gap to Bartow WVa
  • Section three is Bartow to the finish at the triple point near Gold Pa.

The Microsoft Streets and Trips file is a turn by turn cue sheet with times between stops.

The PDF map files are exports from Delorme Street Atlas Plus that can be printed and a back up to the GPS.

File share on Google Drive - click link to access

June 03, 2013

Eastern Continental Divide trip update, more background information: During my experience in the 2011 Tour Divide, I thought a lot about its route and history and began to wonder about other routes. I know from years of traveling in the Southern Appalachians, that we have the Eastern Continental Divide as marked by the familiar green and white signs, but I did not know much more about where it started and ended and if there are defined routes. A quick Google search revealed much information and sections that have been mapped, but I could not find a complete route. So I started patching together a group of roads that traverse, as close as possible the ridge, or crest of the ECD from a Southern terminus at a triple divide point near Highlands NC and a Northern terminus in a field in NW Pennsylvania at another triple divide. Between these two ends lay 950 miles of, mostly paved, mountain roads. Another conclusion about my Tour Divide experience was that I can travel these distances much faster and with less extreme fatigue on a motorcycle. But first I had to learn to ride a motorcycle. Almost three years later I am ready to begin this next chapter.

May 11, 2013

Click this link to watch a preview video of the ride report:

The Eastern Continental Divide and the planned route. 
The ECD is identified with the red line. The blue line is the route. The tan color on the western side of the Divide is the watershed that flows into the Gulf of Mexico. Starting point is Highlands NC and finish is a field in Northwest Pennsylvania near the town of Gold.

The world map below shows the major watersheds in North America. The red line denotes the portion of the Eastern Continental route I will explore.