Asheville to Nashville
Things we love: cold rain pelting you in the face, diner breakfast, and first night celebrations going on a wee bit too long. The recon trip for AshToNash had all of that and more.
A while back we got in touch with a guy named Joe and learned that he was a former Pro Cyclist. “How convenient!” we thought to ourselves. “We just cooked up a new bike trip and we’re too afraid to try it,” we also thought to ourselves. So… we gave him a bottle of whiskey and sent him into the hills.
We thought it would be funny because to racers, adventure cycling is about as foreign as skydiving is to bears. Pro Cyclists are known for finding the fastest way from A to B. That, and Lycra.
But by Joe, he did it with the help of his pal Vicky. At the end of it all, he whipped up a nice little write up and we had to share it.
Now, we’re not big on giving you much direction. In fact, we don’t take direction well either. The last time somebody told us to “Turn Left Here” we took it as a personal attack and kicked him out of the Jeep. We wish him well. That said, if you want a taste of AshToNash, here it is in Joe’s own words…
I wanted to share this post for all new people and first timers. I was a bike racer in my former life, and I would have never even considered bike packing as an option or in any way fun. I was talked into doing Ragbrai a couple years ago as a first Bikecamping experience and then I did it again because it actually was fun, don’t tell my roadie friends, lol. These structured trips gave me the courage and support to try this different type of cycling event.
I was still very nervous about trying to plan a bike pack trip on my own, despite now having the bug and shopping for a touring bike (N+1 baby). I recently got an excuse to try my first trip with Lost.travel. They do these “plan your own adventure” trips. There is a kick-off party and reception party, but you get to decide the route and middle of the trip added bonus of a medal and prizes. At first, I didn’t get it, but then I quickly realized that this format was perfect to force me to just do it. I called a veteran friend. Vicky Lyles is always down with a pedal trip and she even got her mom to drive their sprinter camper as support for us. (OK, I admit we cheated a little with a sprinter van to camp in).
We left Asheville, NC and planned to arrive in Nashville, TN 4 days later, with a total 345 miles (mistake number one…lol). We had planned an 80 to 90 mile a day route.
The first day was great, but at 86 miles and 6,000+ feet of climbing it was an ambitious goal. I also should have learned the importance of a schedule; my friends have been trying to convince me for years. We left much later than planned due to some hearty participation in the kick-off celebration and procrastinated packing. We finally made camp just before dusk at Friendship Falls Campground. They were great hosts a warm shower was well earned. I greatly enjoyed sleeping next to the river and listening to the falls was very relaxing.
The next day rain was in the forecast, but a small enough s percentage that we thought if we time it right and follow the “rules”, we’ll be good. Yet again we learned no matter how hard you follow every cycling superstition regarding rain, you can’t guarantee you’ll be dry. By Gatlinburg mile 25 of 80 we were soaked and cold. Thus, we cut this day short at 63 miles.
Those experienced in bikepacking know exactly what happened next. The minute we got camp set up and dry, here comes the sun, go figure!!?!?!?!! So, at this point what do you do? We decided to just stay put and recover and enjoy the warmth, because we all know if we started riding the rain would come back, right? The only issue is the ride to make up the distance would be 111 miles.
Again, the key is that any schedule is important. Sleeping in because it rained all night is a bad way to start. Plus, your plan needs to account for unplanned weather like a misery inducing 20-mph head wind that comes out of nowhere at mile 30. The shear panic of average speed plus time needed being significantly greater than the daylight available meant riding well into the dark. We were losing 20-minute blocks of time like the pebbled asphalt passing under our slow-moving wheels.
Lesson number 2: Lights are not just a blinky tail-light or a camping flashlight, (I can’t see like I used to), but ya best have a headlight that can work to ride by if you are schedule challenged. Needless to say, pulling into your campsite at 9pm when it was supposed to be 6 was very cold and dark with a bonus of drizzle equals not fun. Also, note that just because you changed time zones doesn’t mean you are going to get another hour of daylight.
I have no idea what I was thinking, like it would magically get brighter at the time zone sign. Saddest part is some of the best scenery of the trip thought the valley was missed due to dark and dangerous. That night camping was at Horseshoe Bend campground. They have glamping cabins, a cool harbor, and a stage. I bet they have great concerts!!
Having finally learned my schedule lesson, on this trip, WE (by we, I mean me) finally woke up early enough to finish the planned ride of 80 miles. We had a little gravel in the morning to get the 6 miles from the campground to the main road, funny how I didn’t notice the road; I just thought I heard banjos the night before. The gravel was worth it as the reward was beautiful farm county and the best breakfast of the trip at a gas station restaurant of all places.
The Landing was the kind of place where everyone knows everyone, their kids, and their dog and it is all fried. I enjoyed the 2 eggs and meat platter for $3.99. YES $3.99 there was also a small cafeteria-style buffet that seemed to be the local go to. After the great meal, the last day was a beautiful roll through small hills into Nashville and we even took time to ride around downtown. We also made a detour to see Belle Meade Plantation. What a fun day!!! We ended up with 360 miles and 5 days of fun.
If you need and excuse to just do you first trip check out Ash to Nash this June. It has given me the confidence to plan a trip from scratch to destination anywhere. Thank you Lost.travel!!
– Sir Joe of Pedal Productions
AshToNash: Even a Pro can Do it.