July 12 , 2005 -- So we headed up to Tsali Thursday morning July 7 from Wilmington for long weekend of camping and riding. We had a caravan of three vehicles going. North Carolina is one long state. It took us about 7.5 hours to get across it. Along the way, near Hickory, we hit a line of thunderstorms and had to slow to a 35mph crawl with the hazard lights on for about a half hour it was raining so hard. My bike was getting a good soaking on the back. After we got through it, the sky started clearing. When we reached the Tsali campground, the remants of Tropical Depression Cindy had dumped a bunch of rain earlier but it was long gone.
Friday July 8th was a beautiful day. In fact, we had great weather all weekend. The trails were muddy in many spots but everything was rideable. You expect mud when you ride in the east coast.
Well Friday turned out to be kind of a bad day for me. We found this section of whoops and decided to climb up and give it a good run. After the third or fourth jump I tried to go around a mud puddle in the middle and took off on the left (the high side) of the jump. I really messed it up and ended up driving my bike and me straight into the ground hard. I broke my helmet in 7 places. My front wheel was taco'd. I landed on my shoulder and head. My head was fine thanks to my helmet but I really crunched my shoulders and collarbone area. It hurt pretty bad; I had to sit down for a while until things started to pop back into place. Daniel and Steve thought the ride was over for me, but I had other plans. I had them stand on the high spots of my taco'd wheel and pull up on the low sides. It worked. My wheel was rideable. That's another reason for having disk brakes - you can still use them with a bent wheel. Had I had rim brakes, my ride would have surely been over.
I was pissed at myself for allowing myself to get hurt on the first day of riding. I told myself earlier that I wouldn't do anything too crazy and there I was hitting the jumps.
Anyway, I got back on the bike, because we still had a long way to go and I was NOT walking. I just ignored the pain and rode pretty well even though I could barely pull up on the bike. I didn't think I was going to be able to ride the next day.
Even though I was in pain, the views of Lake Fontana were well worth it...
We had taken Blaine, 13, on his first mountain bike ride, doing a short loop. He did really well, and I think he's hooked now.
We found some wild blueberries along the trail and started eating them. They were small but tasty.
Altogether, we ended up riding the Left and Right loops, a shorter loop with Blaine, and hit the overlook loops which totaled around 30 miles.
Back at camp, I took a bunch of Ibuprofin, Hydrocodone, and drank beer to ease the pain.
That afternoon after our ride and my accident, Brad arrived from Greenville, SC. He went out for a spin on his singlespeed and took a bunch of photos. He's posted them here, and in his mtbr.com photo gallery.
Meanwhile we went to the bike shop in Nantahala to see if I could get my wheel trued and a new helmet. The guy tried his best and did a really good job given the condition of the wheel and didn't charge me anything. He said to be really careful riding it and put tape on the spokes he had to overtighten. I bought a nice Specialized helmet with lots of vents.
Later I that evening I discovered that the banana I had in my pack had exploded (probably when I crashed), and gooey banana juice got all over the inside of my pack. And it got inside my new Sony digital camera, which was inside a case. The juice made it's way into the LCD screen, and the screen became washed out and died later that evening. This camera is jinxed. This is the second time I've broken the screen in a matter of weeks. Meanwhile I have a Sony mini-DV video camera that's been going strong since 2000. I had actually given my camera to my mom after I broke it the first time, then borrowed it because I didn't get another one yet, then broke it again.
On Saturday July 9 we rode the Mouse Branch and Thompson loops. It was hotter than yesterday, and no breeze. Not only did I ride, but I also filmed with the head cam. I am crazy, but you only live once. Daniel also wore the video camera and filmed me which was cool because I rarely get filmed. Both these loops were a lot of fun. I especially liked the descent from the overlook. The trails weren't very crowded either. We went downhill fast but didn't run into anyone.
After the ride everyone wanted to see the video, so we sat in the new minivan with the DVD player and watched it. My wife brought us popcorn. How cool is that?
That evening we decided to do a night ride. Initially I said no due to my condition and the earlier ride, but since everybody was going I didn't want to miss out. The night ride was a lot of fun. Night riding is always a blast, but to be cruising on narrow singletrack on the side of a mountain with the trees whizzing by felt awesome. I totally forgot about my pain for a while.
After the night ride we ran into these two girls that wanted us to help them adjust the brakes on their bikes. They were kinda hanging around asking weird questions and then they wanted to borrow our lights. We said no way, they cost $400 which they didn't believe of course. We came to the conclusion that they weren't mountain bikers but mountain biker groupies. I never thought they existed until Big Bear, and yet here they were again.
And then there were the rednecks, a group that occupied the camping spot across the road, but it wouldn't have mattered where they were they were so loud and obnoxious. I don't think their vocabulary goes much beyond "godamn", "son of a bitch", or "jesus effen christ". They didn't have any respect for any of the other campers. Their wives/girlfriends/ho's didn't tell them to shutup either after everyone else had turned in and it was well past midnight. What they needed was a good ass-whoopin' but I was in no condition to hand out ass-whoopins nor was I gonna go to jail over a bunch of rednecks. I'm sure all the other campers would have joined in the beating though.
For Sunday July 10 the rotating bike/horse schedule put us back on the Right and Left loops. So we ventured out again and were planning on an easy ride but that never happens. You see some other riders and then the "Pain Train" is on. We kept catching up and passing this one guy after he would pass us whenever we stopped and waited for our group. We warned him we'd pass him on the downhill sections and I think he was getting a little pissed off about it.
Finally, here's an interesting East Coast/West Coast observation:
On the West Coast, people tend to have nicer, more expensive equipment, such as high-end full suspension bikes with disk brakes, newer forks/shocks, Santa Cruz bikes, etc. On the East Coast it's more hardtails with rim brakes and shorter-travel shocks, Cannondales, etc. -- older technology. Just an observation. It applies to cars as well, with Californians generally driving nicer more expensive cars.
Full video coming soon. In the meantime, check out these clips compiled from the digital camera and video camera. I have a lot of footage so I'll be adding more when I get around to it.
Unfinished video of Tsali. [28MB, 3.5min]
Music: All the Love in the World, Nine Inch Nails, With Teeth