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Mountain Range


Jason Vance (3)


Charleston, SC to Tennessee is a long drive and I procrastinate. So, naturally I would tackle the Triple Crown on consecutive days right on the deadline. Bike set-up: Canfield EPO; 30x10-46 gearing; Schwalbe 2.1 ThunderBurts; Rockgeist Honey Pot and Oveja Negra top-tube bags. I carried 3 bottles on each of the routes, fueled on Infinit.

Dirty 130 - Wednesday, June 30 - About 8am, I'm getting up from underneath my truck while John is showing me a blurry picture he took of me from the night before, explaining that this might be my "Final Destination" scenario. Let's back up...

...4am- alarm. Snooze. 4:20- wake; eat; do the crossword; prep 3 bottles of Infinit; pack Infinit powder in any available space on the bike. 5:30- depart Fireside towards Etowah to grab a bag of ice so that my celebratory chocolate milk is cold (this is serious business). I stop at the Shell station, add diesel to the truck and a bag of ice to the cooler. Turn the ignition over...nothing. No cranking. No solenoid click. Nothing. I troubleshoot for a bit, and I either don't have enough battery to engage the solenoid, or the solenoid/starter is dead. I call Kim. I call John. 6:30am- John calls back; he brings jumper cables. Still nothing: the starter is dead. Autozone is a half mile away and has a starter in stock, what luck! I roll under the truck, curse for 20 minutes and emerge with the dead starter. John is showing me this blurry picture he took of me from the night before; I tell him, "if I disappear after I replace this starter, then we'll know this ride isn't happening." John drives me to Autozone, we return and I roll back under the truck with the new starter and curse for another 20 minutes, emerge and the truck starts up. I'm still in the picture. 8:45am- head back to Fireside and clean up. 10am- I'm on the bike rolling up Greasy Creek Rd.

The morning is warming up, but there is precious cool air in the shade. The grind up Kimsey Mt Hwy is pleasant; the amount of elevation you gain in 12 miles feels effortless compared to any other climb in the area. The descent down Smith Mt is hinting that this might be a good day, but around mile 20, my left pedal hemorrhages its bearings, and the pedal body shifts about 1/4" on the spindle. It's still retained, but for how long? I'm thinking about John's damn picture and what other omens I've missed up to this point. I contemplate throwing in the towel at Webb Bros, but I'm curious how far up Star Mountain this pedal will take me.

Unlike Monday and Tuesday, the humidity stayed down through the afternoon. I felt cool in the shade and the long descents were refreshing and enjoyable. Even if I had fresh legs, the disabled pedal wouldn't let me mash out of the saddle, so I just dieseled along. The D130 is a long ride with long downhills on hero gravel that eat up the miles. Star Mt comes and goes; Ivy Trail passes by. Coker Welcome Center is still open when I arrive -pleasant surprise! Joe Brown and Shulers Creek downhill eat up more miles before the climb to Buck Bald. The mix of climbs and descents from Buck Bald, Bailey Rd, Fingerboard and Childer's Creek go quick; one last pitch on Powerhouse, then more gravity-assisted miles until you cross the Hiwassee.

The suspension bridge crossing the Hiwassee welcomes you to the last 27 miles of the route: 13 of them are screaming down the same Kimsey Mt Hwy to where you began; only 8 of them truly suck. If you missed your resupply at Reliance Fly and Tackle, you will find the best pipe-spring in the world at mile 108. That joy, however, is short-lived as I begin the 8 miles of suck, and my pedal finally divorces itself from the spindle at mile 110. I remove the pedal body from my shoe and jam it back on the spindle. I reengage the pedal without kicking it off into the woods and limp onward and eventually up to Kimsey Hwy. My manic descent down Kimsey was fueled by my delusion that I might break 14 hours, with limited battery in the dark (light on its low setting), and not being able to fully load my left foot while out of the saddle or in turns in fear of slipping the pedal off the spindle. I didn't break 14 hours and I didn't hit the Great Pyrenees at the bottom of the hill. Still, I PR'd by over an hour, the chocolate milk never tasted better, and John says my picture is still blurry.

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