Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Southbound Route: Philadelphia to Jackson, MS

If I was going to be riding through the South, I planned to make the most of it.  There are a whole lot of State and National Parks and Forests between Philadelphia and Jackson, and I was going to ride through as many as I could.  I'd never been on the Blue Ridge Parkway, so that was going to be the route I took.  I'd never been to Asheville, NC, but I'd only heard good things about the area and its residents, so that was where my mid-ride break was going to be.  Any ride can be fun with just a little planning, said the guy who never rode a bicycle through the Bible Belt in the middle of Summer.

The view from Looking Glass Rock, just south of Asheville.  Obviously I had to go.
So with fun in mind, I sat down on my computer and tried to figure out the best possible route to get from Philly to Asheville.  Why didn't I plan the whole route to Jackson?  Because I was living in the moment and didn't want to be restricted by a set route!  Actually, no, that would've probably been smarter than to wait until I reached Asheville to find a computer and then plan the second half, but planning these routes can take a while and can feel overwhelming at times, so procrastination can win out fairly easily.  Anyway, after much map making (choosing potential routes, setting manageable distances, and finding descent campgrounds), this was the route I came up with:
Overall, I was pretty happy with that route.  Aside from the first stop in York, all of the campgrounds I was planning to stay at seemed legit.  Killiansburg Cave was on the C&O, and having already ridden the C&O in its entirety, I knew what I'd be in for.  Natural Chimneys looked like a great place to explore if I had some time in the morning.  Otter Creek and Rocky Knob were both Blue Ridge Parkway campgrounds.  Stone Mountain looked beautiful, if possibly crowded due to popularity.  The last stop, Curtis Creek, was located at the bottom of the Pisgah National Forest and was maintained by the National Parks Service.  I would be spending the whole time surrounded by beautiful scenery and staying at wooded campgrounds nestled in the mountains.  Sure, it would be challenging, covering over 706 miles with over 29,600 feet of elevation gain, but tours should be adventurous not leisurely.  Right?

Before moving on, let's take a closer look at those grand plans.  Some of those days should stick out as bad ideas.  First off, starting out with a century?  Terrible idea.  Work up to that sort of mileage, don't start there.  Second, 124 miles with almost 4,000 feet of elevation on the third day?  Was I crazy?  Next, the Otter Creek to Rocky Knob stretch was highly suspect, at close to 100 miles with over 6,000 feet of gain.  Finally, everyone who tours knows that days are longer than planned.  If I really thought 29,632 was my maximum for elevation gains, I was just stupid.  It wouldn't have been surprising if the number was closer to 35,000.  I hadn't toured in two years and I hadn't done any real training in the time in between, clearly I thought an awful lot of myself when I came up with those plans.  I'd say live and learn, but only half of that is correct.

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