Today was about as hard as expected…. 73 miles, 6,600 feet of climbing kind of hard.
We left our home town early this morning and headed straight up Highway 181. Up to this point we were always riding through a familiar place. However this morning we said good bye to our families and our dogs, knowing it will be 2 months before we are back in this area again.
Hwy 181 turned out to be just what everyone had said it would be…brutal. Long, steep hills and roads that wind around the mountain. Approaching every turn you hope that you might see the top, but all you see is another incline wanting to take every bit of energy you have left away from you. Ten miles of climbing without any grace from the mountain. This was definitely a challenge.
After cresting the top of 181 with our legs burning, drenched with sweat, and hungry, we had a nice lunch in the town of Pineola before making our way up to Banner Elk. Once we got to Banner Elk we quickly realized why the tiny college of Lees-McRae has one of the best cycling teams in the nation. Very little flat land up here! We were either trudging up a huge hill or flying down a steep country road.
Once we left Banner Elk we flew downhill all the way to Vale Crusis. This might might have been my favorite section of road that I have ever ridden. It was a long 12 mile stretch with a few hairpin turns, but mostly little switch backs where I could lay my bike sideways going through the turn. It was fast and a little scary because of the narrow roads.
Once we reached the bottom of the hill, we took a break at The Mast General Store. They own 9 different stores, and if you live in the area you have probably heard of them. While there we met JD Dooley who gave us some great info about the area and the best way to get to our destination. Thanks again JD!
From there we rode straight to the Tennessee border and to our good friends Chris and Emily’s house where we were treated to our favorite meal…. Mac & Cheese mixed with hot dogs! It was just what we needed after such a long, hot day. Thanks again Chris, Emily, Waylon, Duck, Phil, and Biscuit.
It was a brutal day! The mountains took their toll on our bodies. Its good to be resting and recovering as tomorrow is another big day.