Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Tammie's Taste of Carolina

Taste of Carolina 1200K
October 10, 2013
Northern Piedmont-Coastal Loop
- by Tammie Nakamura

Taste of Carolina was a grand tour of the southeastern plains and coastal lowlands of Southern Appalachia.   The leftovers from a tropical front stalled in Virginia creating moist, overcast and blustery riding conditions throughout the ride but also helped with friendly temperatures in the 60s and 70s.

Tony Goodnight and Martin Shipp at rider check in and bike check.
That's Vincent Muoneke from Seattle on the right- TOC will be his SIXTH 1000k and longer ride for 2013!   Might he be the rumored rider who plans to break the randonnĂ©e record of 8 this year?

47 riders and one pink rubber duckie prepare to launch on a 749 mile ride hither and yon.
Refreshments at the control in Belvidere (Store constructed in 1883).
  The stalled front in Virginia generated 10-15 NE mph headwinds from Lumberton to the Coast.  I considered what it might be like to do the equivalent of a 365 mile climb and the yellow-bellied chicken in me kept me company in the rain by kicking up a ruckus.  The warmth of the control in Belvidere invited everybody to linger with a variety of home made treats (Store constructed in 1883, mile 279).

The foodie in me delighted in the tradition of locally crafted meats in NC.  I wondered how I could pack away 20 lbs of this man’s lovely hand-stuffed breakfast sausages to feed the CHC riders next year. 
 Tony, Martin and Bob expertly handled logistical glitches on the course on the fly.  Construction issues blocked rider progress across the bridge from Point Harbor to the Outer Barrier Island en route to Nags Head.  Here Tony rounds up vehicles to convoy batches of riders across the 3 mile bridge.  I’m quite certain the event made the evening news. 
 A TOC rider takes a personal moment to climb to the Wright Brothers National monument at Kill Devil Hills, the location of the first successful air flight.   It made me smile to learn that Wilbur and Orville Wright began as bicycle mechanics.    It made me smile even more to know I didn’t have to do that climb.
Nags Head Control - Greg Courtney photo
View from the Nags Head control - Greg Courtney photo
Another Nags Head view - Greg Courtney photo

Ever present fields of cotton, Soybeans, peanuts and tobacco
Day 1 Somewhere near Franklin
Leaving the Washington control across the Pamlico bay river near Lake Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge
Nerd alert: Wow- Carolina Flatwoods, cypress-gum swamps and Bottomland hardwoods…A fragment of the ecosystems with highest endemic biota and biological diversity and in the southeast and dating back to the Pleistocene
I’m an Ecology nerd and couldn’t help but relish the large river flood plan forests and the Carolinian flatwoods and bottomland hardwood forests. I’m never one to pass up a nature moment and the memorable moment on this ride was partaking in the March of the Possoms. 
Riding in the dark and in rainy conditions, I encountered dozens and dozens of possoms tiptoeing along the edge of the road, picking off frogs. Many happily accepted a bit of peanut butter sandwich, friendly as squirrels.   Martin mentioned that most Carolinians live a lifetime and never see a live Possom- seems I had a special Taste of Carolina. 
The downside of riding through a humid coastal flood plain?  The sundry biting, sucking, chewing and stinging buggie thingies will strip the meat from your bones if you stop for a nature break and somehow curiously find their way into your nooks and crannies even if you don’t stop.
Tony Goodnight is a master organizer. In addition to running and coordinating all things for the TOC 1200K, he simultaneously ran separate 1000K, 600K, 400K, 300K and 200K rides. His head didn’t explode even once. In an astonishing demonstration of stamina, wit and outright craziness, he designs new routes for every ride each year.
He promises the new 1200K route from Charlottesville to Georgia and back next year will be a rib tickler!  
A bit tattered at the edges at the finish.  Ever helpful, Tony is yanking on my pony tail to keep my head from dropping off my shoulders- I had my first encounter with Shermers neck on this ride.
The riders would like to thank the volunteers who helped make the ride possible.
  • Mary and Tom Florian – Thanks for leading us out, helping us in Atlantic Beach and managing the folks riding the series!
  • Martin Shipp – A million thanks to Martin and Bob for canvassing the course to make sure the riders were safe and well cared for.  Martin: thanks for your kind humor when the queen of darkness was getting grumpy
  • Bob Bingham – Thanks for the bungee cord!
  • Ian Hands – Best mutton chops I've ever seen!  Thanks for your PBP stories!
  • Joel Lawrence –Thanks for sharing your gorgeous home at Nags Head and cooking sandwiches and espresso for us!
  • Jerry Phelps – Thanks for your encouragement in Franklin
  • Marcia Swan – Many Thanks!
  • Mike Foster – Was it you who showed up with pizza in the middle of the night?  Thanks!
My apologies to anybody that I forgot or if I've bungled details above -  Thanks!
Above all: a heart felt thankyou to Tony Goodnight for designing, organizing and implementing such a fabulous event. 


I asked Tony to point me to an example of the kind of landscape that might be on next year’s TOC.  He suggested that I ride the Blue Ridge Parkway and check out Mount Mitchel.  It was truly the icing on the cake for the whole North Carolina experience!  Riding from Little Switzerland (Blue Ridge mile marker mi 334) south to Crabtree Falls (340) and Craggy Gardens (364) on punchy  but short (6-8%) grades got my attention.  Day 2 NC128 for a wobbly ascent to Mount Mitchell State Park. 
Locals call the ride THE ASSAULT ON MOUNT MITCHELL. HA!!  The mountain kicked my can and my post 1200K rubbery legs in the first two miles with 8-10 percent grades.  From the parkway to summit is 4.7 miles with a peak elevation to about 6700ft  (which is purported the tallest peak east of the Mississippi).  I was sad to leave NC-would like to COPY-PASTE the gorgeous landscape right into Colorado.  Must add the return to Mount Mitchell to my bucket list.
The Blue Ridge extends from southern Pennsylvania to northern Georgia. It is one of the most floristically diverse ecoregions, and includes Appalachian oak forests, northern hardwoods, Southeastern spruce-fir forests. Area near Little Switzerland dominated by oak-hickory-pine forest. Gorgeous stuff!

 - Tammie

Editor's Postscript: First off, a big congratulations to Tammie and the other ToC finishers!

Tammie at Finish - Biker Bob Bingham photo
 Tammie plans to add some tales and commentary to her photos, including perhaps the story of the bungee cord.

Martin consults with Tammie, replete with bungee cord - Biker Bob Bingham photo

Tony has varied his Taste of Carolina route each year he's held the event.  Last year, when Paul Foley and I rode it (you can have a look at Paul's report and mine), the first half was in the mountains and foothills.  Next year, with the Blue Ridge on tap, ought to be a treat!