An 808 way of life

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Summer into fall, a lovely time of year in the Smokies.


Tattoos by the numbers.

This is my 1,000th post on the PhotoMotoBlog.

More than 574,480 unique visitors have been to this site since its inception.

The weekly average the past four months has been in excess of 14,000 unique visitor per week.

My busiest day was February 17th, 2010 with 2,359 unique visitors.

Folks logging on my site originate from 37 different countries and the Hawaiian Islands.

Google is used to translate my site into 12 different languages.

I’ve logged more than 400 hours creating the site.

There are 2,535 images contained in this weblog.

Interestingly, it uses just a ½ MB of space.

The masthead has changed more than 100 times.

The posting rules have been broken once; that person didn’t break the rules again.

My blog site ‘encouraged’ management to create a ‘blog posting policy’ within my company.

This site has spun off into 22 other weblogs that I’ve created; the unique visitor totals for all sites is greater than 4,000,000.

I’ve been repeatedly asked to monetize several of my sites (no ads please).

The best part is that I really don’t care what anyone thinks about the content, the images nor the layout.

Somehow I’ve managed to connect with people whom I don’t know … for those folks …  mahalo nui loa!

Thank-you for logging onto my site.


Rainbow Falls: Reference photo for scale.

Please view the first post from January 13th, 2010 to see current images of Rainbow Falls – frozen in time. The image herein was taken many years ago and it will give you the scale of what I witnessed today. Enjoy.

Rainbow Falls Trail, Great Smoky Mountain National Park: January 13th, 2010.

My planning meeting ended early today and I elected to allocate three hours toward a “workout” outside. The sky was blue-blue and the temps hovered at 34 degrees. That combination was enticing because I’ve been trapped in my house for almost two weeks due to bitter cold weather. Taking time out of my day was important — and the reason — I wanted to make sure that I climbed up to Rainbow Falls Trail.

For the past 9 days the streams of the Great Smoky Mountains have been slowing and many creeks amassed large areas of frozen of ice. Knowing that Rainbow Falls freezes just every so often was enough of a push to take advantage of the opportunity. After all, it only comes once every few years.

At the base, the snow was 2″ or so but by the time I reached the Falls it was 10″ in many places and more than a foot in others. In route to the Falls (a 2.7 mile hike with a climbing elevation of 1500 vertical feet) I passed 18 people — and only 3 reached the falls. The others attempted to hike up to the falls but turned around for one reason or another. The 3 “amigos” who had seen the frozen mass encouraged me to keep moving … and I did. I reached the Falls in 1 hour, 5 minutes (in heavy clothes and a 15lb pack). Once there I bulldozed some snow off a rock and then climbed onto the ice itself. While it’s difficult to convey the size of the ice … let’s just say it was huge.

Click on a photo to view a large image – it will then come into view at 1000 pixels. Enjoy. I did.

Foothills Parkway, early winter 2008. BURRR! The mountains attest to the brisk temps.


After riding my bike 75 miles in truly cold weather, I am exhausted.

I rode from my house to the Dragon and back, and the temp (windchill) was around 34 degrees. Burr.

Actually I rode 37.5 miles from home and turned around … thank goodness. On the return trip, as I crossed  the Foothills Parkway, I looked east toward Gatlinburg and North Carolina … wow. Every mountain top was covered in snow. It was a beautiful sight, but the brisk temps made the trek a little “tougher.” I stopped on my return trip to snap the photo of the day. Enjoy.

October 14, 2008: Foothills Parkway, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Long shadows this afternoon created a dramatic scene along the Foothills Parkway. Temps were perfect, as were road conditions. This short stretch of the the Foothills Parkway is “sweet.” The Foothills are considered a national parkway which, if completed, will traverse the foothills of the northern Great Smoky Mountains in East Tennessee, located in the Southeastern United States. The 71-mile (114 km) parkway will ideally connect U.S. Route 129 along the Little Tennessee River in the west with Interstate 40 along the Pigeon River in the east, passing through parts of Blount County, Sevier County, and Cocke County. However, it’s been under construction since 1944. (Alaska’s built more bridges to nowhere and we can’t complete the Parkway?) Go figure.

Eventually large sections of the Parkway will cross a series of high ridges running roughly parallel to the Tennessee boundary of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and will offer unobstructed views of the Great Smokies to the south and the Tennessee Valley to the north. When this road is completed I intend of riding it end-to-end. For now, enjoy the photo. Make sure to click the photo for the 2000 pixel-width version. Ride on.

October 2nd, 2008: Visit to Newfound Gap, last of the riding season.

Newfound Gap (elevation 5048 ft./1539 m.) is a mountain pass located near the center of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park of the southern Appalachian Mountains in the United States of America. Situated along the border of Tennessee and North Carolina, the state line divides the gap, as does U.S. Highway 441 (also known as Newfound Gap Road), on its way over the mountains between Gatlinburg, Tennessee and Cherokee, North Carolina. The Appalachian Trail also traverses the gap, as do a small number of other hiking trails. From ‘Light 10′ in Gatlinburg, Tennessee to the Newfound Gap is just shy of 18 miles … uphill with 3,600’ of elevation gain (that’s the part I like).

I rode my bike up to Newfound Gap in order to capture the images herein. Yes, I could have taken my car, but the bike was in the car. The workout is “moderate” but I would not suggest attempting the ride unless you’re comfortable with lots of cars, crazy drivers who love to hog the road and of course going uphill for well over an hour. The temps were low-50’s at the top – and even brisker at Clingman’s Dome.

(I’ll savor that trip for another visit before the season closes it down.) Upon reaching the summit, a couple asked me if I rode up … “yes, it was a nice day to ride” (my answer) to which they replied, “all the way up?” LOL.


Looking toward Rich Mountain – Foothills Parkway – Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The view is spectacular.

The sky is the daily bread of the eyes.

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Foothills Parkway, Great Smoky Mountains National Park – Saturday, September 13th, 2008.

A large photo image taken along the Foothills Parkway. This shot gives you a view looking Northeast from the Parkway toward Maryville, Tennessee. Beautiful image reflective of a very hot, muggy and windy day. Click to enlarge.

Foothills Parkway – Time Trial: PR Set

Seconds do count – and usually those seconds add up at the end of a race year.

In 2007 my PR up the first 3 miles of the Parkway was 15:32 (from the National Park sign to the parking area where it levels off). Not bad – but not great.

About a month ago, I decided to try it again. After an 8 mile warm up I attempted a TT run up the 3 mile segment. My time – 14:40 – and for any rider that would be a nice improvement.

Today I decided to try it again … so after an 8 mile warm up, I got on it – but much harder and more consistent even when the pain was most intense. My time – 14:10 – another nice improvement. In fact, dropping a minute/22 in one year is great. It’s proof that hard work pays off – and even more proof that seconds count when you’re lowering TT times, especially hill climb TT’s.

Great PR – nicely done. Ride on.

Great Smoky Mountain National Park – the hidden rock lounge. Another view.

BGE and me in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park – secluded lounging rocks.

After all, it’s “labor” day – what better day to work than when it’s “Labor Day.” Clean the house, cut the grass, buy some groceries, fold a dozen baskets of laundry, scrub the driveway, dust, vacuum, and shower – then it’s time to relax. I like the idea of work first – then play. So we worked – then we journeyed to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park to find our “lounging rock” which is hidden along the road from Metcalf Bottoms. Food, drink (water) and napping – along with cold water and some sun made for a great day … laboring.

Rocket Run: August 16th, 2008 – Townsend, Tennessee. An Appalachian Bear Rescue fund raiser.

The beautiful weather and cool temperature made for a wonderful start to the 2008 Rocket Run: The Fastest 10K in Tennessee. In its first year as a 10K, The Rocket Run enjoyed a lot of smiling faces and the encouragement of many, many volunteers from Appalachian Bear Rescue of Townsend, Tennessee.

Jeff Day set the course record with a 32:43 and Allison Maurer was the overall women’s winner with a 43:16. All racers were timed by Total Race Solutions.

As Secretary for the Board of Directors, I enjoyed the process of assembling and helping organize the 10K event. Thanks to all those folks that contributed – both those on the Board and those who are “Black Bear-minded.”

Appalachian Bear Rescue is highly appreciative of everyone’s help.

The photo gallery herein recaps the fun at our event.

For 2009, it’ll be even faster.

Rock on.

July 4th: Celebration and eating – and the (crowded) National Park.

With just one day to go, my mind has been fully centered on what’s happening in France. The one place I care not visit, unless I’m going to watch the Tour (which, BTW, I will do someday). Onward. BGE and I traveled to the crowded National Park for some relaxation. We did relax but it was at the expense of Metcalf Bottoms.

I’ve seen the lots full there just a few times – but today it was overflowing. We took the shortcut into Metcalf via Wears Valley (a local entrance out of sight to Gatlinburg visitors) … and that road was crowded. Umm. I truly believe our peaceful side of the Smokies is garnering its share of local folks who aren’t vacationing this year. Enough of the area-talk.

The spot we found was private – secluded and in the middle of the stream. We had a HUGE lounging spot with just the river running around us. It was a natural sound machine kicking it up a few notices. After a light lunch we napped for two hours while baking a bit in the sun. It was a relaxing day – even with the challenges of local traffic.

One more day and the wait is over. Happy Birthday America – Viva Le Tour.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park: bike riding is better than expected.

I visited some of my clients in Gatlinburg today – which was very nice. Afterward, I drove back toward Townsend in hopes of riding from Metcalf Bottoms over to Wears Valley. Well, I did – and I enjoyed the ride a lot. When I returned I traveled back toward Gatlinburg along “River Road”  – to extend the ride and snag a little climbing.

Training on a different road – at a different time of the day – with nice weather makes for an enjoyable experience. Ample rest helped as well. Thursday was full of interesting ‘finds’ – like NO power when I came home. Oh well, I missed the bill somehow and the fine folks in the City elected to turn it off. Thank goodness for the BGE, and for her flexibility in letting me ‘just show up.’ Ahh. I got a warm shower, ate some tasty vittles and watched the ending of the “Bee Movie” with the kids. This was a solid ending to Thursday.

TomatoHead Omnium: Womens Road Race – Saturday, May 24th, 2008

More from Tremont: Twice to Mecca on a Sunday.

The Duchess and I visited Tremont early this morning. Enjoying the quiet roadways, parkway and Mecca itself. Very few cars were moving – and even fewer toward the National Park. The access road to Gatlinburg is closed for a few days and thus car traffic was minimal. I visited Tremont just after the rain finished and captured these shots. Click to enlarge. Enjoy.

Tremont in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park

Just a few shots of lush forest, cool running streams and the inner-sanctum I call Mecca. Tremont is a hidden jewel within the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. If you have the opportunity to visit – do so. Click on the photo to see a 1250 pixel width version. Enjoy.

The Foothills Parkway: Spring has Sprung. Finally.

This past Sunday I traveled to the Foothills Parkway and enjoyed the mountain air, the scenic views and some climbing. Getting there was a challenge due to the line of cars backed up from the “open house” on the north side of the Foothills Parkway. I’m not certain what was served at the open house, but I suspect it was either money or alcohol (due to the number of cars – ha). The attached photo is just a Pentax snapshot of spring – springing in Great Smoky Mountains. I enjoyed it – a lot.

Cherohala. It’s coming soon.

Please link over to the site for the Cherohala Skyway. You’ll notice ICE & SNOW in the header photograph. Snow – ice – as recent as last week. BURRR. Warm is coming when? The Cherohala Challenge is coming soon to 400 pair of legs just hankering to hurt. The attached photo is a reminder of what’s coming. Distance junkies are readying their bikes, bodies and water bottles. I’m doing my part to suffer now – so I can suffer later. 9%- yes, that’s close enough to 10.

Another sunset over Hawaii. This time it’s Lanai.

Lanai is the smallest of Hawaii’s inhabited islands, covering 140 square miles. It was once the home of a thriving pineapple plantation … but Lanai had to reinvent itself. The pineapples packed up and moved off-shore. Lanai is as an alluring resort destination offering world-class golf courses and award-winning accommodations. If you have the opportunity to visit or stay – Lanai is well worth it. I’ve been once – with 12 total days – and it was off the chain.

In ancient times, Lanai was thought to be overrun with evil spirits. A young man named Kaululaau, the son of a Maui chief, was exiled to Lanai to explore the island and deem it free of such spirits to make Lanai suitable for settling.

A major chapter in Lanai’s history was penned in 1922, when an enterprising businessman named James Dole purchased the island for $1.1 million. Dole started growing pineapple on his island, and soon canned pineapple and it became a smash hit on the mainland. In time, tiny Lanai developed into the world’s largest exporter of this succulent fruit. At one point, the island was producing 75 percent of the world’s pineapple. Then a few other countries elected to grow pineapples.

I prefer mango’s.

The sunset was beautiful today. Aloha.

Photos from Hawai’i – the Big Island.

Both of these destinations are unique. Happy Valley because of its seclusion and protection against the elements of the neighboring mountains, the beautiful Lake of the Sky and its proximity to Chilhowee Mountain. The sun was out today – giving the parallel road to the Foothills Parkway – a happy feel. None the less, it was cooler than expected – particularly because the warmer weather of the last few weeks warmed us up – or most of us anyway. I road four hours with a buddy of mine (Tim) and a few of his friends from Canada. It was mostly a climbing day. My legs are toast.


Thinking ahead today – to the Big Island of Hawai’i, I was mindful that I’ll see the Waipi’o Valley along on the back side of Hamakua Coast. It’s one mile wide at the coastline and virtually six miles deep. The beach is a beautiful black … the cliffs soar to 200o’ … and the road into the valley is steep. 25% – that’s twenty-five percent. Referred to as the Valley of Kings, due to the fact that many Hawaiian rulers once lived in the valley, it has historical and cultural importance to the Hawaiian people.

Today’s post has a great view of the Valley of Kings along with an Ohia (from Hawaii’s most abundant native tree), a Red Torch orchid and plenty of Aloha. More photos to follow ….

MG and Ames doing the Good Friday rest-thing.


The day off felt like a real day off. The kind you remember during the week when work is hectic, tempers are up and stress is expected.


I re-remembered that a day off — away from the house (!) — feels as if you’re on a mini-vacation. I’ll take more time off in the near future. The photos were fun to capture – and even more fun to view. Enjoy.


Water was flowing. And the Great Smoky Mountains were lovely on “good” Friday.


The Rebel XTi came just before we headed to Cades Cove in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Canon sent it with a full batter (whoa) and I started snapping shots when the lens hooked up. My experience with cameras is associated with point and shoot style cheap-o’s. I had a 35mm Canon some twenty years ago but that experience is long gone. Without much time – for the moment – here are a couple of shots which seem to say, “interesting.”  More later.


Three workouts today. Double Posts.

It’s going to be a long day. 11AM is a weight workout with a focus on legs. Then I pack my lunch and head out for the Foothills Parkway. I’ll eat while I ride (can you imagine the dedication!) and go climb for about four hours.

Now where the hell is that coming from? I mean, where will I get the shiznet to manage that kind of workout??? Who knows, but one thing is for sure: the Amgen Tour of California is wrapping up later today and those guys are doing a much harder, longer workout than me – after 6 days of racing – so I suggest no whining.

The Foothills Parkway, Townsend, Tennessee. Lots of climbing and no food.


The Foothills Parkway is a favorite of mine and many, many other local cyclists. And for many cyclists who live in our region. For those who enjoy the views of the mountains, this is a wonderful stretch of road. Sometimes I wish it were much longer. Certainly I’m thankful it’s so close to my home. 


When I moved year a few years ago, prior to getting back into riding, I had no idea that I would spend time on the Parkway riding the climbs and enjoying the views. I did so in college (a few times), but Townsend seemed so far away from UTK. Now, it’s 20 minutes.


On Saturday I spent a little over four hours on the Parkway.  More time on the bike than anticipated. While the intensity was high, so was the duration. I captured some fun images while riding – and a great mountain view on top. With lots of mountains, climbing and no store – best bring your own food (which I did). Peace. 

Climbing is beautiful – better than stairs – better when ready.


This weekend marks the first full week of Base 3.

My Saturday workout calls for a day of full-on climbing. A real workout.  I like steep climbs. The accomplishment of dragging me and my bike up a road that most people wouldn’t walk is kewl.  The feeling stems from a combination of many things – mostly from a willing spirit that suffers gladly. 

Staying focused when the searing pain is burning my lungs and legs is a challenge. I like it because the roads on steep climbs are usually void of heavy traffic – so suffering is worth the quietness and solitude. Ahh.

Relaxing while in pain is an interesting combination that borders on something sadistic. I suspect most cyclists who race are considered to be in that elk – as it requires mental tenacity to overcome the body’s overt white flag to surrender. Yet we keep going.

Tomorrow will be mostly climbing. 2.5 hours or more. Of the workouts during this week, I’ll enjoy this one the most.

Photos to follow.

T2: Tremont Twice Today.


Yes. I did it. In spite of a sustained howling wind of 25mph, I visited the Institute at Tremont in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park twice today. The total trek was 85 miles. Since I road the route by myself, “group ride math” would re-calculate the ride to 121 miles. As the BGE said, “that’s a long way in the car!” Right on.

Interestingly, the ride to Tremont was easier today because of the wind. Normally the slight-increase in road elevation makes you work a little. Today I was cruising at 28 on Highway 321 … moving fast enough that cars actually stayed in the other lane. The return leg toward home wasn’t so lovely. The same howling wind was in my face the entire time. Rather than enjoying the ‘slight down hill’ ride from Tremont to the house (except for a couple rollers), the wind made the trek HARD!

T-1: The arrival home was interesting on many levels. First, I was halfway home even though I was at home. Umm. Second, normally I take the needed fuel with me – and returning home allowed me to roll a little lighter. Prior to leaving for T1, I had made my lunch. So – I grabbed the sandwich, protein bar, two bottles, dry clothes and a fresh attitude.  I knew the wind was going to encourage bigger gears and mentally worked very hard to resist. But I couldn’t. I mean, when you can big-ring it traveling toward Tremont and scoot along at 28, 29 and even 30mph — without (!) a peloton paving the way — you had best enjoy it. 


T-2: The first leg of T2 (my arrival at Tremont) was exciting. What an accomplishment and what a thrill to capture another photo of my personal mecca. Funny, the moment I crossed the bridge as I turned around to return home I grimaced at the thought of the wind. And yes, it was still howling. I just did my best and actually took the bike path through Townsend rather than riding on the road. It was easier to stroll – versus struggle to crank out painful mph numbers.

When I returned home the second time, I was whooped. Stiff legs. Coughing. Shoulders dropped. Fuzzy. Aching. The flat tire I had earlier in the day (while at Tremont on the first leg) wasn’t even on my mind. All I could think about was a 30 minute hot shower and FOOD! I drank a Coke and my blood sugar came up quickly. This along with the food (double helping of chicken, green beans, asparagus, pretzels, sports drink and several hunks of chocolate) helped.

At some point I’m doing a T3. I’d like to take it slower, but I envision a threepeat before the race season is underway. Peace. 

We’ll stick with snow ….


Getting to Indian Gap makes for a great hike. It’s an enormous, rock-ribbed peak looming above Newfound Gap. Lots of technical routes, it seems, to the summit. But no trails can be found. I think there is a negotiable route connection between the ridge of Clingman’s Dome/Mount Collins which leads over to Mingus. Otherwise, I think it would qualify as one of the few horns in the Appalachians.

This Dutch Roth photo is wonderful – taken on Indian Gap (the side of Mingus) – depicting the snow in a year when it fell heavily. I’d love to enjoy a hike in this weather!

Warmer days ahead. For now: SNOW


What a beautiful photo – it’s a Dutch Roth photo to showcase the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It was taken at Abrams Falls in wintertime. While the trek is fairly easy (5-miles round-trip), plan on roughly three hours, depending on your pace. Since the departure point for this hike lies within Cades Cove, you will find little solitude unless you are hiking very early in the morning or in the “off” season before May or after the last pockets of Fall color have disappeared. However, even if the circumstances are not ideal, the hike to Abrams Falls is more than reward enough for the effort.

The name Abrams is a shortened reference to Abraham, the Cherokee chief of a village on the Little Tennessee near the mouth of what is now Abrams Creek. The hike allows you to climb to approximately 1,800 feet at one point, but when you arrive at the falls you are actually 300 feet lower than when you started.

The trail to Abrams Falls parallels Abrams Creek most of the way, except when Abrams Creek twists left from Arbutus Ridge to form a nearly one-mile loop resembling a “horseshoe,” a stretch of the creek that has always been populated with trout fishermen when we’ve passed. At mile 2.5 you will cross Wilson Branch and take the short side trail to the falls. Have the camera ready – it’s really nice and highly secluded. Enjoy.

It’s still winter so let’s pretend we have snow.


At an elevation of 5,048 feet, Newfound Gap is the lowest drivable pass through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Newfound Gap’s recognition as the lowest pass through the Great Smoky Mountains did not come until 1872. Arnold Henry Guyot, a Swiss geographer, measured many Southern Appalachian elevations. Mt. Guyot, the second highest peak in the Smokies, takes his name. He used a simple barometer to measure changes in air pressure to calculate mountain heights. In most cases he was within 2-3 percent of current values. His work revealed Newfound Gap as the lowest pass through the mountains, displacing nearby Indian Gap. A new road followed, and it became the forerunner of Newfound Gap Road.

Today’s photo is another from Dutch Roth – taken at Indian Gap. 

beautiful – even frozen


The Rainbow Falls Trail is fairly challenging if completed all the way to Mt LeConte. Allow an hour and a half to Rainbow Falls and four hours to Mt LeConte. Hikers will gain nearly 4,000 feet in elevation by the time they get to Mt. LeConte. The photo is another by Dutch Roth – and it’s spectacular. I doubt we’re going to see the Falls frozen any time soon. When was the last time we experienced zero degree days – five or six in a row? It will be a long time before Rainbow Falls is frozen again. 

Another day at mecca. by David Avery


The weather was brisk at 10AM today.

Yet, I saddled up — — all suited up and went for a bike ride. “There goes that nut” is certainly the commentary shared by several cars passing me along the way. To those fat, morbidly obese people I have a simple message: find a diet, stop smoking, eat healthy, don’t drink so damn much and get out and see the world. Funny how people discount their “symptoms” as “the way it is” — and firmly believe their “symptoms” have nothing to do with their lifestyle. I could go on here — but I’ll refrain.

Ok then. The very thing I enjoy most is seeing the world. Today I saw four hours and 80 miles of my local area called Blount County. Nicely done except for the dogs who obviously reflect their owners’ attitude toward people in general. Other than that it was cold. A National Park Ranger stopped and chatted some while I was in Tremont. She was very nice and talkative. This interaction made the ride even better. Why? When the poe-poe say something other than “put your hands on the wheel,” it’s a good thing.

The mecca of my world has a video today. Outta here.

The year-end. Happy-Happy


It was a great year on several levels. I’m thankful for so much – mostly because it was a year of good health and safety.

The year rang in with a big bang at the girlfriend’s house — with the kids — and we keep rocking from there. While I didn’t take a “formal” vacation during the year, I did take time out to travel to races and to South Carolina for a long weekend. I visited my dad – and mom – and was in Arkansas three times this year but didn’t see my family who live there.

I put 37,000 miles on my car, 12,349 miles on my bicycle(s), and flew several times for business with untold miles. What else? I should have counted the Sam Adams beers I consumed (ha!). The numbers are really funny – especially when you think about a full year. Numbers can take you just about anywhere. Nuf said.

I visited Tremont today and enjoyed my journey through Townsend into and out of the National Park. The photo and movie are just down from the Institute’s office. Happy New Year.

Mecca – nice visit

treemont-upon-exit.jpg I intended on visiting Mecca (aka The Institute at Tremont) twice today. The original plan was to travel to Tremont – home again – then back to Tremont – then home again. 84 miles in all. I arrived home after the first trip and elected to call it a day.

I suspect the week’s work pace took a lot out of me mentally and thus physically. I’ll ride the same route tomorrow if it’s not raining.  No worries – I miscalculated the mileage for the weeks of Base 1. I need to ride 200 miles in Base 1 – so a 40 or 50 mile Saturday and the same for Sunday are all that’s required. In Base 2 and 3 the mileage will increase.

Ahh, that felt better.

The photo for today was taken looking toward the bridge – but up in the air toward the mountains. Mecca felt great today.

Retro Cherohala


Back in June of this year, I participated in a “ride” that was timed. Meaning, it was an organized event (not a race) that was open to anyone with a bicycle and a helmet. Pay your $40 and you’re in. The ride is called the “Cherohala Challenge.” It’s not just a ride, it’s a race against the clock. Of course, I didn’t know that until after I completed the event. Umm.

So – there are some 300 plus people lined up with the intent of riding this “beast” and somehow enjoying some (ha!) portion of it. Let’s put the ride in perspective – it’s 117 miles, includes 9,800′ of climbing elevation, one climb is 9 miles at 9%, the Dragon is full of curves and motorcycles, and a lot of people who ride the event at the ‘front of the pack’ are riding over their heads. So you best come prepared.

The night before I was eating steak, drinking beer before dinner – wine with dinner – and just imagining the fun I’d have the next day (double ha!). Little did I know that many of the guys I race against in the Masters division would show up and use this “ride” as a training race during the transition month of June. Oh boy.

Ok – the first 40 miles are fine – we’re cruising at 28, 29 and 30 on the flats. And a group of 110 (or so) riders are together — meandering through the back roads of Monroe County wiggling over to the Dragon. Several of these “riders” are getting a little edgy — many of which have ‘tudes about the (!) slowness of the pace. Naturally the true bike Nazi’s in the group are annoyed with the ‘tudes and basically scoff at their jumpiness near the front. I’m particularly annoyed because nearing the first serious climbs my water bottle cage BREAKS and I lose the full bottle … not the near empty bottle. The language wasn’t pretty. SO — I’m basically begging riders to snag water and fill up the empty bottle while we’re cruising toward the first climbs. NOT GOOD. REPEAT. NOT GOOD. I was in a position to get dropped if I couldn’t replenish liquids along the way. Cause there was NO stopping with this group. Thankfully a kind rider gave me a full water bottle.

As we approach the first section of the Dragon, I anticipate a surge by the ‘tudes — and I was right. There was. However – their eagerness was dramatically overcome by the sheer might of the leaders’ pace … and within one mile of the start of the climb the field of 110 was cut down to a tight 12. I was in 7th position. This felt good. Except for the fact that my heart rate monitor read OVERLOAD and my legs were screaming WTF, WTF, WTF! We continued climbing and then enjoyed the first descent. Then climbed again – to descend again. On the second descent, we dropped two riders who weren’t willing to let go of their brakes. Now we were 10.

Nearing the Cherohala we began climbing – and climbing – and climbing. I had ridden the Cherohala twice before and anticipated the hard portion, but the climb leading us to the Cherohala was new. And it was hard. The pace was firm. The grit in everyone’s eyes said something interesting: we’re pushing hard and not stopping for shit. On the 9 mile, 9% climb I was dropped. The photo herein is when I was at my worst on the ride. A photographer called “Killboy” (who shoots the crazy bikers on the Dragon) was shooting us. Probably laughing his ass off – and shaking his head at the foolishness of the Challenge. Whatever. Six riders got away – and I was left behind with four other guys. We dropped one and then the three of us traveled the last 30-something miles together.

Close to the finish I dropped the two guys I was with and crossed the finish line in 7th position with a time of 6:02 (six hours, two minutes). Had I known that a sub-six was a “big deal” I could have done a sub-six. Ah, the pleasure of knowing it will be on the list for 2008. Triple Ha. Afterwards I ate three hamburgers, two bags of chips, drank two Cokes, ate three cookies, two bananas, a 32oz protein drink and went home. In route home I bought a super-sized Smoothie at Smoothie King. I ate again that evening and it was another huge meal. I calculated my calorie burn at 6,000 calories for the day. Is this crazy or what!

If you care to join the ride – be prepared. It’s nothing but climbing that’s in your face. And best of all, it’s got killer views all along the Cherohala Skyway. Peace out.

80.5 (miles) to the other side of the bridge.


Today’s route was modified on the fly – on the road that is. Rather than traverse the Foothills Parkway, which would have added significant climbing to an 80 mile ride, I elected to turn left on River Road (after a long trek from home toward Seymour and then over {very close} to Pigeon Forge. The distance, calculated on the road, was a suitable option to give me a minimum 80 mile ride. The best part – I traveled to my personal mecca – The Institute at Tremont. Mind you, I’d prefer pulvinar riding pants versus the bibs I wore. After 4 hours the booty is a little sore. (LOL).

Here is a link to the bridge at Tremont – in winter – with snow – and it’s obviously cold.

Todays’ photo is from the other side of the bridge – the side I rarely photograph because it’s usually dark on the south side. How nice to find some wonderful sunlight brightening up the water, rocks and trees. From Tremont it’s 21 miles to the back door – and that was just about an hour travel time. I think I’ll rest now.

Testing. David Avery photography.


Tomorrow we’re riding a slow-paced 80 miler. You can click the link herein to see the map. Ho-hum. A typical “PREP” period ride. Best to bring tunes, drinks and food. It’s a long 5 hours. Now for the rest.

Today’s photo is from Clingman’s Dome. And yes, it’s spectacular – very. No, it’s not near Tremont (my personal mecca) nor the Foothills Parkway. However, it does remind me of the Foothills Parkway. We need to vary it up occasionally. The photo is a very wide pan at 10018 pixels and a large 22mb file. There’s a lot of depth – even with the leaves gone and the ground clearly showing signs of sub-zero temps every night. What a beautiful part of the world.

80 miles PREP period