The outline went something like this, starting October 19 and ending November 27, try to follow…
Step 1- Fly to
Step 2- Drive to
Step 3- Drive to
Step 4- Drive to
Step 5- Drive to
Step 6- Back to
Step 7- Drive to
Step 8- Drive back to
Step 9- Race in the
(this is where I’ve gotten to so far, I’m now flying to the opposite of western NC, that being Los Angeles…)
Step 10- Fly back from the west coast and drive, over the course of two days of screwing around in the woods or on the water, up to
Step 11- Race Cross Bikes once again, this time in
Step 12- Hang out in
Step 13- Drive to
Step 14- Over to
Step 15- Back down to Thule HQ in CT to return the van, meet some people and be on my last airplane ride of the year back to
There it is, the fifteen step plan to driving a bunch of miles and doing a bunch of random stuff, just like in the good ole’ days…
Step one went smoothly once I got done with my usual shellacking at the
A solid drive through a solid rainstorm listening to surprisingly unstimulating (for greater NYC) local radio found me at Mountain Creek Resort in
over. Good business plan. Giant had cleverly chosen this location for one of the Ride Maestro Demo Tour events. It having a lift and being in the hometown of Giant Street/Freeride star Jeff Lenosky made it a ringer. We did a presentation on our (awesome) Maestro suspension design to about 50 dealers in the morning, had lunch, then rode the hell out of some bikes under sunny skies all afternoon. Wallrides, jumps everywhere, drops, berms, scary rock gardens, slippery singletrack, etc. We had a real good time. People were fired up on the bikes. It was a success for sure. I’m glad I “volunteered” for this one…
That night I drove down to Philly, stayed with and old friend and slept a ton. We made a huge breakfast and set off for the Wissahickon Cyclocross race. Turns out a huge breakfast is just what you need to make it back through the entire field after rolling a tubular on the first lap… Yup, I was pretending the ‘Cross bike was the Reign X I had been riding irresponsibly the day before. Turns out you can’t back it in on a light racing setup like on a freeride bike… Whoops. Fortunately, I had a spare bike, and I like passing people anyway, it’s entertaining and way less pressure than actually riding at the front of the race trying to “win” or whatever… I made it up to 5th, then Barry Wicks waxed me on the last lap. 6th place, an envelope with cash in it and some of those valuable “UCI Points” to secure me a reasonable start position at the Gran Prix coming up in
My problem was that I was in Philly at sunset and wanted nothing more than to get on the green the next day, 600 miles south. I called the phone, which was still relaying last week’s message, in an awesome southern drawl.
“Tuxedo Hydro Station will be running one unit at 100% load from 7am to 11am Monday, October the fifteenth, Tuesday and Wednesday, Tuxedo will be shut down. Thursday the 18th through Sunday the 21st Tuxedo will be running one unit at 100% load from 7am to 11am”
What this meant to me is that if I didn’t bust down there through the night I wouldn’t get on the Green until Thursday. Unacceptable. I bore down, taking advantage of the Red Bull and racing combo that seems to give endless energy despite incredible fatigue… This boost took me well south of
Once again, I called the flow phone. Once again it was last week’s news. I figured I wouldn’t be able to sleep anyway so I might as well drive down to
A late lunch at Burgermeister with Lizzy and Billy was a hilariously entertaining segway to an afternoon ride with legendary local Sam Koerber in the
The next day the boys went kayaking on the Toxaway river while I rode sweet singletrack in
I fortunately made it back to
The next morning, after listening to it rain all night, I called Billy Jones to see about the prospect of kayaking. He mentioned the Raven’s Fork and I immediately jumped out of bed and proclaimed that I’d be ready to go in two minutes. Fortunately, the southern boating community operates on a slightly more casual schedule, I had plenty of time… We met at Greenlife, one of A-ville’s many organic healthfood stores, for breakfast and flow checking. Then it was time to gather the rest of the crew and head west into the Smokies. Eventually. We actually left town at the crack of noon, five strong. Drew Duval drove Old Blackie, Billy Jones called shotgun before we even decided who’s car to take, “The Professor” Toby McDermott, young ripper Adrian and myself squeezed into the back and the discussion of our perspective flow on the Raven’s Fork commenced. Maybe it was too low? What was our cutoff? Should we turn around? Stop and check the online flow again? Or just keep driving, which is what we did. We were rewarded with this:
Perfect flow. An impressively steep uphill drive in Blackie delivered us to a forty-five minute hike up an old railroad bed to the put-in. We drove up about fifteen hundred vertical feet, then walked in dead flat to a river that rose steadily through it’s canyon to meet us. We would drop all 1500ft in about two miles. That’s STEEP! Fortunately, the put in had a tiny pool to warm up in before dropping into the teacups right off the bat. Perfect.
The first big rapid of the day was Anaconda, the boys fired it up while Adrian and I exchanged concerned glances… We could run it if we HAD to, but chose the high right line instead, opting to save ourselves for downstream challenges.
Looking back up at Anaconda- Steep and tight…
Like the next rapid, Headless Horseman. A classic slot boof entry to a big slide under an even bigger undercut ledge. Very aesthetically pleasing.
Below there the rapids stacked up right on top of each other. It’s pretty amazing how steep and how runnable this river is. Even when you do have to portage, such as the entrance to Razorback at this level, it seems totally reasonable that you might not be able to run 100% of this creek, 90% is plenty…
We eventually made it down to Big Boy, the waterfall everyone would ask if we ran once we got back to town… Our answer would be no. 35 feet of curling perfection, except for the four foot wide green landing pool guarded by a pile of rocks on the right. Beautiful yet quite ugly…
A reasonable portage brought us down to Mike Tyson’s Punch Out, another huge complex slide that we simply scouted from above and fired up out of necessity and enthusiasm. Like all rapids on this river, the photo from above makes it look tiny, even with the tiny kayaker (Toby) in the frame…
A good handful of bonus classic rapids like Caveman eventually led us out of the gorge, basically intact and quite stoked to have gotten on the Rave’s in the middle of the worst drought the southeast has seen in a few years. We hung out with Emmanuel the elderly Cherokee Indian who is kind enough to let kayakers park as his place at the takeout. He was clearly excited to see his river running again and share that appreciation with the kayakers who were so excited to be there.
The next day we got greedy. Linville Gorge is the longest, deepest, most committing kayak run in the southeast. It was still raining up in the
The road to the put in is fifteen miles of washboard gravel. I drove it as fast as the van would take, heeding the advice of “five or fifty” that came from the peanut gallery in back. They quieted down once we got rolling… Linville requires a forty-five minute hike down into the gorge before you even see the river. We descended into the mist wondering what our flow was. Just as we got to the first overlook on the
Instead of driving to Cincinatti and being early to pick up Kelli, who was flying in to race in
Once again, I’ve been racing bikes all summer and taking photos of it sometimes. This weekend I didn’t take a single one. Sorry. We did have a good time though, staying at our mechanic Tom’s parents place eating good home cooking was a bonus on top of fun racing and nice weather. Kelli and I each won the “Most Aggressive Rider” award on one of the two days, basically the river who gets the crappiest start and makes the most of it. In my case it was doing wheelies up to fifth place, in hers it was cornering fast to tenth. Good times with the big check.
Monday we did some cyclocross mountain biking at some random park in
Another five hour drive had me back in
The next two days were “rest days” for green river paddlers, being Tuesday and Wednesday. I decided to rest by doing some huge rides in Pisgah, one with Sam and (badass) dad Bob Koerber. We rode fast up barely makeable climbs and even faster down classic Pisgah descents. Rocky, rooty, fast and covered in leaves. The next day I set off alone to explore the Fish Hatchery zone outside Brevard. Five hours later I’d ridden every trail in the drainage, including the infamous Furlow Gap. Good stuff.
Thursday and it was time for business. Racing kayaks down class V isn’t something to be taken lightly. I figured the best way to get ready was to go kayaking on the
I fell for a mean trick on race morning. I should have learned over the last two weeks in
Are you qualified?
There’s only one winner.
Don’t ask your time when you finish.
Don’t be late.
There would be a party at Woody’s house after the race.
He had official green race panties for all the swimmers.
Our next stop was the field for the traditional photo of everyone with their kayaks standing up in a row, in this case, it was three rows, as there were 130 racers. That’s a lot of “qualified” boaters…
Next stop was Frankenstein rapid, which the race started just above. It was warm and sunny at Frankenstein, perfect for watching people smooth it through, or not… We saw some creative, ingenious lines, some average lines, and some pretty questionable ones… Complex rapid right off the bat.
Toby shows us how it’s done in the new Liquidlogic “Hun-gee” race boat.
Before I knew it my start time had arrived. Since I’m kind of a sissy, and was quite respectful of Gorilla at this point, I decided to go for a brisk paddle down the green all by myself. It just happened that I would be timed. I smoothed some rapids, like “Go left and die.” It was good that I wasn’t distracted by the hundred or so people at Go Left when I came blasting out of Boof or Consequences… The green race is quite the party even at the river… (this is some other guy smoothin’ it…)
And I fumbled some, like Frankenstein, right off the bat. By the time I got to Gorilla I had things under control, even with the rabid crowd, and the rapid was smooth and direct, after which I breathed a sigh of relief before exiting the speed trap and charging down the final slides to the finish rock, upright, intact, and not very tired… Unless you count mental fatigue. That’s a lot of information to process… Kayaking at speed down big hard rapids is an interesting challenge. I have even more respect for those who do it well, like local boy Andrew Holcombe who won this year’s race in 4:26, 76 paddlers ahead of me at 5:37… I think it’s something I could get into someday though, similar approach to a Super Downhill event, smooth line selection complemented by fitness, the reward being speed at all costs. Hmmm.
The party at Woody’s was a thing to see. Southern boaters don’t mess about with the drinking… Or the being absolutely hilarious… I like it down here. And I’ll be back someday, hopefully with my A game…
Thanks for reading.