The ride that took a little over three years to complete is finally behind us. In late March of 2014, we set out with a couple friends to ride our bicycles up to Clingmans Dome in the Smoky Mtns from the Gatlinburg area. That day produced many memories etched in our minds for a long time to come. With little planning prior to the ride and a chance for bad weather to arrive in the mountains, it proved to be the perfect storm. I highly encourage you to search our history at Clingmans Dome and read the follow up to that ride.
When I tossed out the idea early this year that we return to finish what we set out to do as a group down there three years ago, it became more than an idea when we put it on the schedule and booked a cabin. Then it became a reality on April 4, 2017 as we once again set out on our bicycles to climb Clingmans from the Gatlinburg area. This trip, we were joined by friends Linn, Rusty, Gene, and Jim and we departed from the Sugarlands visitors center with my wife Maria driving SAG for us (just in case) and the climbing immediately began with twenty miles to the summit.
The weather forecast leading up to the ride was all over the place and we considered moving the ride day, but it turned out to be near perfect weather on the day we had chosen all along, so up the mountain we went. It was not long before Jim and Gene broke away from our group, as they were considerably faster and had a more challenging detour planned. The other 4 of us managed to stay together for the majority of the ride. We stopped briefly along the route to regroup and snack, then once more at the Newfound Gap overlook.
This is was my fifth time climbing this route and fourth time I would make it all the way to the top at Clingmans Dome, and without a doubt, it was my heaviest weight, but somewhere near the top with a mile or so to go, I thought to myself it just didn’t seem as hard as I remember it. Maybe it was because I didn’t push myself as hard as previous trips, maybe it was because we started closer to the mountain than I usually do, maybe it was the recent mountain biking I’ve been doing at Capitol View Park. Whatever the reason, I left the trip with the confidence that I will one day return to complete the “over and back” ride that Gene and Jim performed (they rode from Gatlinburg, TN to Cherokee, NC and back), however I plan to include the Clingmans summit on the way up & over.
It it was an awesome ride and it was an awesome feeling to finally get that group photo at the summit! The descent was a nice reward for the work our legs did on the way up. It’s fast and fun. The temps were cool and windy near the top, but as we descended the temperature ascended and we were blessed to complete this ride on such a beautiful day. Back when this ride was still just an idea, the Gatlinburg-Pigeon Forge area was very unfortunate to suffer through a tragic forest fire that destroyed many homes, businesses and some of the land. I honestly went there expecting to see some form of total devastation. Well I know there’s nothing easy about the things that were lost by the locals, especially the lives, but the area is living, breathing and thriving just as I remembered it. There were many areas with charred and burnt trees, but the forest is still there and as beautiful as ever.
There’s something special about the mountains, and I look forward to my next visit there and hope it will again include my bicycle! Another great RAM Cycling ride with great friends is in the books, and special kudos to Linn, for being the only friend that has joined us on every single group ride we’ve hosted…I’m impressed!
Three full months and 500+ miles into another year now, I feel as though I am at a rest stop at the intersection of improvement and plateau. Sitting in a mountain cabin I on a hillside in Sevier County, Tennessee, listening to the rain fall and faint sounds of thunder rolling across the forest, resting up from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and for the upcoming challenge of cycling up the mountain to Clingmans Dome point tomorrow, I’m in complete contemplation of where I go from here.
Just over a year ago, I was recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery, and the year prior to that, my fitness slowly faded to the point of mediocrity. The 2-3 years leading up to that climax was very fun, as I enjoyed being a strong cyclist, much more fit and much lighter than I am today. However, before that, I was also the picture of mediocrity when it came to cycling and fitness. Earlier today Tim and I joked about the ups and downs associated with our RAM Cycling “business” over the years, noting that all of the ups and downs were the elevations gains on our activities (LOL), but a harsh reality I face now, is where I go from here. If history repeats, I’m due for a fun ride, recovering my fitness and cycling strength as time moves forward, however there’s also the fear that I break the cycle of the pendulum swinging back and forth, and maintain the plateau of weakness that I’m on. Or even worse, the possibility that I could regress also exists.
I know which road I need to take. I set myself in motion towards the point of this crossroads several months ago, when we scheduled the Clingmas ride and I mentally committed to it, however in full disclosure, knowing I had completed the challenge of climbing it in the past, I have not prepared for it quite the way I needed to, given my lack of strength, stamina, and fitness. I officially found myself sitting at this crossroads last weekend, when I decided to join my good friends Schmidty, Leighton, and St. Onge on a century ride in south central Kentucky. In fact, it was a 106 mile ride, with some tough hills and a very challenging head wind over the last 40 miles or so. Especially challenging given my state of physical fitness and weight. During the course of the ride, I felt pretty strong through the first 50-60 miles but gradually weakened over the next 20 or so, then finally just couldn’t keep the pace for the last 20+ miles. I visited a trying place within myself, hence landing at this crossroads. I thought I would’ve been satisfied with finishing with 100 miles on the dot but at the 100 mile mark, we were still six miles from Schmidty’s home where we started, so I wasn’t stopping until I finished.
So here I am at the crossroads … one road leads to where I want (need) to be— weight loss, cycling and fitness Mecca, improved overall mental and physical health and happiness … another road leads to nowhere—its the same road I’ve been on for a year or so now, nothing gained, nothing lost … another road heads where I don’t (can’t) want to go— the path to fitness and happiness decline, further overweight and out of shape, to the point where the threat of parking the bike looms … and the only other road here is the one I just came from, the path that brought me to this crossroads.
Which road will I choose? @KPtheMasher
The date is officially set for our second attempt at a RAM Cycling ascent to the highest elevation in Tennessee: April 4, 2017. The crew is planning to head down on Monday April 3, ride on Tuesday April 4, and stay to visit the lovely Gatlinburg area for a day before heading home on Thursday.
Ride details are posted on our Strava club page. We will roll out fairly early on Tuesday morning from the east side of downtown Gatlinburg, allowing us a few miles to warm up before the climbing starts at the Sugarlands Visitors Center area. It is about a 20 mile ascent to the top. We plan to take a group pic at the top and head back down. I arramged for a SAG vehicle to follow us and carry any drinks/snacks/clothing that any cyclist joining us may want to have access to. Just bring it to the start point and we’ll carry it for you.
Let’s just hope the weather is more kind to us this time than it was on our first group attempt! Anyone interested in joining us, please contact Tim or me directly for any specific details. Hope to see you there!
Tomorrow never really ever gets here. Yesterday is gone forever. Live for the moment and the moment now is Two-thousand Seventeen!! Happy New Year from Renaissance And Masher!! Personally, I’m happy to see 2017, it’s the beginning of something more than just a new year and new month…it’s the beginning of another cycling year!
Yes it’s early, but here’s a preview of what’s on my mind for cycling in 2017. I’ve contemplated ideas in the past of having more RAM Rides and why not now? I truly have put serious thought into the idea of expanding on our annual success that we’ve found from our Oktoberfest ride in autumn. This year seems like the perfect time to host multiple rides and bring friends together at various times and locations for the pure enjoyment of a great sport: CYCLING!
The first RAM ride will be in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee as we will ride from the Gatlinburg area up to Clingmans Dome (the highest elevation in Tennessee) and back down to base camp. This ride is not officially scheduled yet but it will fall in late March or early April and we plan to do it on a weekday with an early start in order to avoid as much traffic as possible. Keep in mind this will be around the time of many folks spring breaks, so it can get busy. Also, don’t forget that the weather in the mountains can be a little unpredictable at this time of year. Once this ride date is locked in, it will absolutely be a go unless the roads close due to weather. Consider this our spring event.
The second RAM ride of 2017 will come in the summer months, but also does not have a locked in date at this moment. This ride will take place in June or July probably and will not conflict with any of the Kentucky Century Challenge rides. My vision for this ride is two-fold. First, it will be somewhat of a homecoming ride for me, because it will ride out of Georgetown, and though the exact route is not locked in either, I feel confident it will travel over one of my all time favorite routes that passes through Colville covered bridge. Expect it to be hot, a little hilly, and fun for all. The second idea in my vision for this ride will incoorperate some fundraising for a great cause. I have already registered to again participate in the Bike To Beat Cancer sponsored by Norton’s Healthcare in Louisville, KY and am excited to ride and raise money for cancer research and treatment! I want as many friends as possible to join us at this RAM summer ride in Georgetown and while we won’t officially charge a ride fee, I will ask anyone that rides to please make a donation on my behalf for the 2017 Bike To Beat Cancer!!
Of course our final RAM ride will be the annual Oktoberfest ride and no date is set yet, but you can expect it to come in late September or early October once again as Tim and I celebrate our Libra birthdays. The relocated venue will remain the same and we will again depart from the state Capitol building near my new residence in Frankfort, KY however the route will change from last year, but you can always expect to find a few hills, a few sprints and finish with some bourbon!
Be on the lookout for the firm dates on all of these rides in the near future and refer to our Strava club page, Facebook and Twitter pages for more details as well. Please feel free to interact with us on all of the previously mentioned social media pages or by simply replying with a comment here on the website anytime. As always, best wishes to all of our friends for a great year of cycling in 2017 and we look forward to riding with you soon!
For several years now, as I’ve slightly expanded my social cycling network, I have been hounded by friends to try mountain biking. Quite of few of my closest cycling friends ride both road and mountain bikes. For years now, I’ve been feeding them a response that I can continue to ride on the road because I have the proper cold weather clothing gear. I’ve also joked with them that most of their mountain bicycling stories either include what they broke on their bike…or their body, and no part of me finds that a good attraction to the new discipline of cycling.
I changed my view point somewhat this this past summer when we moved back to Frankfort, where I grew up most of my young life. Frankfort is home to Capitol View Park, one of the nicest trail systems for mountain bicycling in the state, so I’ve heard from many folks that ride trails. I thought to myself, now that I basically have Capitol View in my backyard, I should at least give it a try. So I managed to find a decent mountain bike on Craig’s List for around $300 and made it my “Bessie.” I showed Bessie some love by riding around town a few times and even got her a little dirty on the seldom ridden trails behind Buffalo Trace distillery, but most of time, she sat in the sunroom and watched me take Roadie out trip after trip, while she collected dust.
After a dismal cycling month in November, I noticed I could possibly break 3000 miles for 2016 if I could muster up another 250 or so by the end of the year. So I took advantage of the occasional mild weather weekends and kept Roadie rolling…until his last ride a couple weeks ago, when I had multiple chain drop issues, and breaking my front shifter lever and had to spin my last 12 or so miles home in the small ring. I’ve been warned by Brian at my local bike shop, Small Batch Cyclery, that Roadie needed some major work including new front rings, new cassette, bottom bracket bearings, etc. and now I can add the shifter to the list. Not ready to make this investment right before Christmas, I decided to forget about my annual mileage and give Roadie the rest of the year off. To break 3000 miles for the year doesn’t seem like much for me, but given the additional time I required for recovery after knee surgery, then the precious time I lost while going through the moving process, would really have been a significant comeback accomplishment. Nevertheless, I have often said, I don’t ride to accumulate miles, which is also why I never upload my trainer activities to my Strava, I ride for pure enjoyment and physical fitness gains.
So last week I reached out to Nathan to see if he was ready to introduce Bessie and me to CVP. Thankfully, he was. He invited a few others, but it ended up just being the two of us on a bitter chilly December day. He was very informative about the different sections and where to enter and exit each trail area. He explained, and I experienced it firsthand on the bike, the differences in “rooty, rocky, and flowy” trail riding. Capitol View has all three of them in some sections. Several times, I ask if we had already been over a section of trail (I kept thinking we were looping around and then reconnecting back over the same trail), but Nathan ensured me it was not the case. The trail just has numerous areas that look alike.
A month or so ago, I saw where my friends Adam and Muhammad had been doing some night riding at CVP and I asked Adam how he has the nerve to ride in a pitch dark forest? I understand now, because unlike road riding where you have to pay attention to the road in front of you and the road ahead of you, the traffic and everything going on around you…with mountain biking, you just pay attention to what’s right in front of you! Nathan says it’s like playing a video game. True! Similar to playing Atari Frogger game growing up, I felt like I was weaving in and out, dodging trees and deer! I fell (was basically launched once) off the bike twice as I was unable to keep it upright going through slick turns. The first time caught me off guard but I wasn’t going too fast as I laid it down on my right side. The second time was a little more forceful when I felt myself losing it and nearly saved it only to not! And I had mud all up my right side and back that trip. I knew no other riders were near me so I just laid there for a few moments and laughed at myself.
Mountain biking compared to road riding is more of a cardio workout for sure, and definitely requires a little more focus. Capitol View has some fun areas, I think it’s a great park for me to learn how to ride a mountain bike. It has some short but steep switchback hills, some fun sink holes, plenty of rolling trail, a decent amount of scenery change and I like how there’s multiple sections where you can enter and exit so you don’t have to be stuck riding the entire trail at any spot. Hopefully, by the end of the “dark” months (while clocks are rolled back), I’ll learn the entire CVP and maybe attract a few other friends to join me in my new expedition with Bessie on the trails.
I’m already excited and anxious for my next trip to Capitol View! …@KPtheMasher