The Assault on Mt. Mitchell

Michael from the Bicycle Inn, Bakersville, NC Januray 11, 2006

Assault on Mitchell 2007

I just like to record the events as I see them. The tone for what I like to get out of the "Assault on Mitchell" was set by other riders before I came on the Assault scene 27 years ago. I've been trying to ride as fast as Peter Springer for 27 years. We tried our best to get up to Mt. Mitchell as soon as possible. Now I'm 58 and almost past my prime.

I didn't care to ride the Assault after my first one. I did it. It hurt very much. I think I'll go to the beach or something. Decades later I still like to test myself. I test myself with other stuff but this has become my passion. I love being assaulted by Mitchell. I'm 58 but I want to play with younger kids. This drivel will ramble on for quite a while so you might bale out now.

The Assault started like all others in our “modern Mitchell era”. You get there early. The riders don’t get in as they arrive. A lot just go to the front of the start and get in front of you. Just seconds ago you were near the front. Now you’re a hundred back. Most of these first people are just obstacles (like me). They won’t stay up at the front. So, good riders, that have really done there “homework” and gotten there early, are behind moving potholes. Now you’re trying to catch the front group to sail out of Spartanburg while riders as strong or stronger are trying to pass you and other “moving potholes”.

I’ve been a moving pothole myself. We can all be moving potholes. Last year I was in shape but ibuprofen before the ride may have made me sick enough to toss up some spittle occasionally. I couldn’t stay with any group. I tried to hang onto any wheel I could. One macaroon led me over a dead cat. I didn’t feel well. A water bottle cage broke and I lost my bottle. I knew I was going to suffer from a lack of food closer to Mt. Mitchell. I had to climb back up the steep hill at 45 miles out to retrieve it. I had a flat later. I lost most of my air because of a bent valve with the new tire (tube enclosed in the tire). I rode with low air to a rest stop. When I crashed (slid down), because of film on the road, I just lay there for a few moments wondering what else was going to happen. I finished with torn clothes and wonder.

My first “Assault on Mitchell” was an epic. I didn’t have transportation to Spartanburg so I rode to Greenville the day before from Columbia and stayed with friends who drove over to Spartanburg for the ride the next day. So my legs were a little tight. I ran out of gas in Marion. I stopped at a gas station and bought some peaches. There was a hose outside and without asking I drank, filled my bottle, and sprayed myself down with the life saving wonder. The owner came out and said I was messing up his parking lot with water. Close to Haynes Eyebrow on 80 I rode down to the stream and got water out of it. I was sick for more than a week with flu symptoms. I counted 6 people in front of me. I may have finished about 13th. I’ve been told that on one of the Assaults Victor Seleno and I finished 3rd and 4th. I don't remember that. The records have been a bit fuzzy. I just know my best time was 5 hours and 38 minutes I also went back down and pushed Paulette up the last 8 miles on that day in 88.

My second Assault on Mount Mitchell was a month or 2 after being creamed by a guy who ran his red traffic light in Spartanburg. Three ribs were broken, one rib was broken twice, my spine was curved/bowed, and my right hip was pushed down from being hit on the right side. A rib on the left side of my chest was either broken or pulled away from the sternum. Having a bad case of honesty I didn't capitalize of the monetary end of this with a good lawyer (sorry-oxymoron). I just wanted to heal and ride the Assault a month or so later. Yeah. That was a good time. I've been learning about our court and insurance systems ever since. It's really hard to beat our justice system here in the good ole USA. It takes money. Of course now I have permanent injuries that are numbing my leg, foot, and sending pain to my foot and in between. Of course after getting about $15,000 dollars of which the doctors and lawyers got half I am not allowed to ever mention this again, or the insurance company that may or may not rhyme with a volcano in Italy. I can't even tell you that the insurance company said that they would not even talk to me without a lawyer. Believe me, I'll never mention it. The driver lied so much he believed his own lies and I'm sure could have passed a lie detector. Of course my only witnesses were a bunch of black men waiting on the corner for "job core" or something and were deemed disreputable. All of this crap is still alive and well today, just a little more subtle and quiet.

I’ve had a lot of rides that haven’t lived up to expectations. I was sick with the flu or something one year. It set in the day before the ride. On another Assault I broke and finished with a broken clavicle after spending time at the hospital and getting a new bike, helmet, and clothes. Dr. Wes Garbee came by my bike shop, Pro-Bikes in Asheville, and checked my shoulder out. A couple weeks ago Wes had a terrible crash. A lot of us wore extra number plates saying “Ride for Wes” on this "Assault". The day before the "Assault" some riders from Asheville rode to Mitchell from Asheville in honor of our fallen leader. Some were meeting each other in Marion to ride up “somewhat” together. That’s the impact this man has with people. He is superlative.

To make this story longer I’ll tell you about my being weirdly ill, a few years ago, with dizziness and a lot of pain from arthritis and a 2 discs in my back that send pain to my right hip area. Wes gave me something like ibuprofen and encouragement. He rode with me a while. I had to lie down 4 times in the last 30 miles. Believe me, I didn’t want to. Wes is a wonderful person and now he has 2 broken hips and other injuries. God speed.

Quite frankly I miss the days of yore when there was a Peter Springer, Vic Moose, Don Hartke, and others of that era along with the sanity that seemed to prevail.

I miss riding with a friend whose love for the bike inspired me to ride more and ride the Assault on Mitchell every year. We had to do it. It was our local event. We had to support it he would say. Kent Clary died after doing the Assault for 18 years. This morning I received my annual phone call from Kent’s mom who is now 87. Its 10 years since Kent died and she calls me before I can call her.
I really miss the smaller packs. Now a professional or even an amateur can show up with their “henchmen” as Merckx’s teammates were called. Their main goal is to set out at about 100 miles an hour off the starting line and kill everyone in their wake. The henchmen ride to Marion, get into a car, and go home or maybe drive to the top of Mt. Mitchell making it more crowded and making the rangers more irked at the “Assault on Mitchell” ride. Face it. The workers on the mountain have the same pay, every day including for the “Assault”, why should they care if thousands ride up there. They don’t. I’ve had both daughters working up there. “They”, as a rule haven't "embraced" the “Assault”. Please correct me when I’m wrong, but they have 2 sets of bathrooms that have been open for most days on Mt. Mitchell. Whenever there is an “Assault on Mt. Mitchell” there is one set open when there are a thousand and more people up there for the “Assault”. They don’t help out enough considering thousands are given to the Mt. Mitchell Park every year from the “Assault”. There have been times when it was held in May that you couldn’t buy a cup of coffee at the summit. Can the park services not see that having thousands of cyclists and family members on the Blue Ridge Parkway for one day is the best free advertisement they could have? I’ve seen commercials played in Florida for Floridians to visit the “Parkway” while riders for the "Assault" were limited to 800.

I miss John Bryan being in better health and I miss him calling me up and telling me he had a room reserved for “Boston-Montreal-Boston” or “Bike Across Missouri”. All I had to do was get in his truck and we’d spend some quality time on the road. I’m not sure I’d have done the “Assault on Mt. Mitchell” as many times as I have without John Bryan. I would have never ridden “Paris-Brest-Paris” if there were no John Bryan. I would not have ridden BMB or BAM.

John Bryan has no idea the impact he made on this lonely man decades ago when life had slammed me hard repeatedly. I can’t go into it because it’s making me tear up. I had to take a job in Spartanburg and Greenville at bike shops. I commuted by bicycle. I had to carry my work clothes. Going back to Spartanburg one day it was raining like crazy. John stopped his truck and my bike and I were on the way home. This was John Bryan. He had done PBP. He would ride to Mitchell and back to Spartanburg but hide beer in the streams ahead of the ride. He rode Paris-Brest-Paris possibly before anyone else in the Carolinas. I looked up to these local “kings of the road” as they tossed a few back behind the Bicycle Gallery. I wish Bill Carlisle were still here.

I miss Scott and Bryan Hoffman and the Bicycle Gallery and the homegrown funk and charm that made cyclists feel welcome to hang around. I’d rather be in a hole in the wall bike shop than the finest carpeted shop in the world.

I miss the old equipment when even a poor person might gather enough resources to buy a racing bike if he only did without a family, car, and any other luxuries like having a social life. On this year’s “Assault” I was complemented on my Serotta frame but my Cane Creek wheels didn’t draw anything but acknowledgement. A rider pointed out that his Bontrager wheels were the “stuff”. There is no question. I count pictures of finishes often. A couple years ago on the Assault I was beaten by ninety or so riders. Almost every one of them had carbon wheels from what I could tell. Of course I had borrowed a pair and I was in “hog heaven” too. But when will way too much be enough? These things cost a thousand and a lot more. Of course that's no real money. That's pocket change now, for somebody.

I miss affordable frames and components. I miss downtube shifters. Oh wait, I still use them. Never mind.

Back to the future:

Before this Assault I have been taking this nourishment called ambrotose. It has taken away 95 percent of my arthritis pain away or more I'm sure. This is a big deal. It has made me feel better in a lot of ways. My friend, who introduced this product to me told me of a bike rider that takes in some of this before a ride to ease back spasms. While back spasms are no joke, I am seeing far better attributes of this stuff than for back spasms which I've also had. After taking this, I honestly feel that everything I've done, in at least 30 years, I've done sick or somewhat impaired. I don’t sell it, so believe it or not, try it or not. I was concerned about my ability to feed myself on the bike. I was concerned about eating too much before the ride. I was well nourished and not hungry. I was concerned with being sick from eating. I was concerned about eating too much and having a full stomach to chase the pack starting out. I had a couple of small squares of cake and a fruit smoothie with antioxidants. My biggest mistake was using a honey and royal jelly premix. I should have mixed it myself. It gave me heartburn. I had a pain there and I had an awful burp.

Of course a lot of these unimportant glitches can be solved by taking my time. I can ride this ride any day of the year if the weather permitted. I've certainly ridden by and up to the summit of Mount Mitchell more than 99% of bicycle riders. I rode training rides around there for over a hundred and over 112 miles twice a week for six weeks. I rode it on Wednesday and Sunday. It rained every Wednesday. That was the first year it ever rained on the Assault. I told my buddy Dave Tomsky that I thought I needed to get over trying hard. Right before telling me "Semper Fi", he said, "Michael, don't ever give up trying hard".

My second mistake was not believing the forecast of 87 degrees. It started raining early that morning. I was awake for most of the night as usual. Thunder storms were predicted. It was too hot for armwarmers. When I finally took them off during the ride I put one in a pocket with the honey and one in the pocket with the ambrotose. I couldn’t even get to the ambrotose easily riding with people for safety. After I finally got the flask of ambrotose and had a sip, I lost it soon after on a downhill as I didn’t have it far enough down in my pocket. I couldn’t/wouldn’t climb back for it. I should have. Now I was fumbling around for grapes that were a bit harder to get to for the “Ride For Wes” plate. I tore a corner of the plate away from the safety pin on one attempt. I could only get a couple grapes at a time because of the zip lock baggy and confined pockets. I treasure my "Ride For Wes" # plate.

It's hard to eat and keep a blistering pace. It's harder when you try to ride safe and the constant surging is taxing you. The front comes to an obstacle such as an animal carcass and there is almost a stop. Then there is an attack while the rest of us negotiate the carcass. There was a huge animal stretched out lengthways on Coxes Road. A vehicle should sweep the road earlier in the day.

Last year there were thousands of rocks at least in a curve with a road to the left that had been given these rocks. A rider in front of me flatted. I flatted. I was told that when the pack went through, the multiple flats sounded like a firefight. I wish these could be swept and made some safer.

The Tour De France has a couple hundred racers. The professionals screw up all the time in the “Tour”. Some of the pros will do some really wild stuff. Try starting out with 1300 or 2000 riders which we’ve surely had with renegade riders at times. Now 1300 or 1500 riders are starting. Hundreds are trying to have their best Assault on Mt. Mitchell every year. They’re buying the equipment, special nourishments, and spending huge amounts of training time. The “Tour” will have a pack that will split on flat roads. Every racer in the “Tour” or any other race wants to make that “break”. Mitchell splits into groups you can’t even count.

I was content to stay where I was. Reality is something different. I tried to stay on the left side of my lane but as always the riders surging from behind cross the yellow line to get into the first 20 or so riders. There are cars from the opposite direction constantly pulling over to allow the yellow line violators to get by. If you leave any “safety” gap between you and the next rider, another rider will try to fill it. You know it happens. It happens while driving cars. You want to drive safely. You leave a gap. I guess other drivers sense a weakness and must show their driving/riding skills and lack there of.

I’m forced over constantly. There’s always somebody in front of me endangering my life. Just one screw-up by your neighbor can ruin the entire “Assault on Mitchell” ride for every participant on the “Assault” if you consider the loss of any life ruining the ride and I sure do. So this will not change if you want to hang with the “big boys” until the pack gets way up highway 80 to the “Parkway”. That can be 80 miles of “tension”. Danger, danger, danger as the Crocodile Man used to say.

Of course most riders want to get near the front but never on it. So you have this constant surge and slow down. There are lost water bottles, potholes, and dead animals that cause wrecks. Chains that fall off while shifting gears can take you down. You cannot conceive the problems that can pop up. By the way, Campy and Shimano chains happen to be the worst chains on the market. But I’m only basing this on how many people are stranded with chain in hand. Oh, sure, they may actually have a chain from heaven but these chains are put together with pins and there must be an incredible number of mechanics that cannot put them together. Do yourself a favor. Either learn to do it yourself or use a Sram chain with their master (repair link). No matter what chain you use, get a master link to carry with you as a spare. You or somebody riding with you is going to have a chain to come apart. I carry a set or 2.

I know the course and the terrain. I was able to work my way up after about 30 miles or more. There was a long stretch where I could pass a few people and pull the pack a while and get on down the road. There were about 6 guys on the front staggered behind each other but taking up the entire road in front of hundreds of riders. Two riders thought they needed to tell me that I was over the center line. I knew that. It was a long stretch of road. I could see that I wasn’t endangering anyone, and knew that for quite some time that these self-righteous, self appointed ride marshals were indeed causing more danger than most of the people behind them. There was a small string of riders that were blocking the road. At the same time I was being pushed out into the road behind them. Thank you very much but I’d rather be at the front spending my energy for a group of people that would maybe never do it for me than to have them kill me at the back. Pull through and get the heck off the front. Maybe somebody could tell me how these perfect riders got to the front, why they stayed, blocked the road, and then chastised me for trying to actually make a safer ride.

Excuse me for being blunt and seemingly harsh but there isn't much time to save this world for people. There isn't time. We may not need much of a Democratic Party but if we do it needs a backbone fast and there isn't a real need for the Republican party at all. Third or fourth party, yes. Somebody needs to say it, so there. If the best these two "parties" (it's a party for some) can come up with is a war every 20 years in which our poor young boys are slaughtered for resources and murky reasons at best, these parties need to be "done away with".

But these two educated morons wanted to have a discussion while a sharp curve was coming up. They did not make one safe move while I was next to them. I told one rider in no uncertain terms that he needed to leave me alone. There wasn't time to discuss current events. What I didn’t tell him was he needed to get off the front. When we reached Pea Ridge there were as many riders on the left of the center lane as were on the right. The road hog didn't make a peep. I'm saying that the entire road was full. The road hog was probably legally and politically correct with me though. Never mind that this mindset of "being correct" is very dangerous.

At 55 miles or at Bill's Hill I was with the pack. I spoke to Bob Scofield in front me and as we slowly rounded the first curve a rider was off the left side of the road with his chain broken. In a split second I knew I had a master link in my repair kit and I had a conscience. If I had been on the right side of the road I may not have even seen him. He was a young kid, obviously in great shape, and I hated to see him stranded there for possibly hours. I hopped off the bike pulled his chain back off through the derailleurs and sprockets. I could see that he had the bad parts of the links still stuck with the chain. We would have to drive or pry those pieces off to get the master link to work. I called out to every driver and rider that passed if they had a chain tool. A sea of autos following and there’s not a chain tool or a pair of pliers? Why don’t you get off the road and stay off the course? There were so many rider personal vehicles it would have been hard to count them. There was one from Spartanburg. Get off the course and stay off. All the while I instructed the kid to get me a rock. He must have thought I was bonkers. Somehow I had to get a pin pushed through from one side of the bad linkage. We could use the point of one of the Allen wrenches he carried to drive the pin out. I’ve already repaired a couple chains in this fashion.

A pickup driver came by and asked if he needed a ride to the top. It wasn’t far and there was a rest area there. He might find a chain tool there. We loaded the bike and while riding right behind the truck I was able to tell him to take the Allen wrench set and wedge a side of the bad link between the wrenches and bend it back and forth until it came apart then install the repair link. I don't know what worked for him. I knew that if I didn't give him the repair link, he may not have finished. When I had a flat last year, I couldn't put air into my tire because of a bent valve. I yelled at every car coming by that I could. Is there no vehicle for repairs? Where are they? Why don't rider personal vehicles stop and offer help? Are they afraid I might beat their spoiled brat of a rider up the mountain? Your SAG vehicles need to be away from the course. You impede, make things more dangerous, and give us more exhaust. If you're there why don't you be useful?

Now I’ve lost that wind sheltered pack and would have to spend more energy pulling weaker riders while trying to keep up with stronger riders. No big deal. You meet new people and see old friends. It was very soon that riders were commenting about how I was able to repair my chain and get back up the road. I explained quite a few times that it was the "kid’s" chain. It was only 5 to 10 miles, I’m guessing, that the “Kid” passed our little group with a couple more riders. He yelled out, “Thanks”. There are no regrets from me. It was good to see him riding.

I was running out of nourishment. Just before Tom Johnson’s Campground in Marion, a very nice gent, who recognized me, pulled great for a while and then pulled off the front to allow me to pull through. I couldn’t and apologized. He said, “Don’t worry about it Michael”. Smooth.

I rode up the watershed on highway 80 with 2 guys for a while. One was French and the other was Mexican. Before Marion the Frenchman asked how far it was to Marion. Originally I said, “About 6 miles”. After hearing his accent clearly I said 10 kilometers. He laughed. Earlier, a lady riding in front of me got a laugh when, as she was told that there was one lady rider in front of her, I asked the lady who gave the spotting info if there were any Vietnam Vets up front. There was humor all through the ride.

My new Mexican amigo and I would drop the Frenchman and above Haynes Eyebrow my amigo would drop me.

I was running on empty. I wasn’t taking in nourishment or water. I felt that fluids were becoming the real problem. Upon reaching the parkway I called out to a lady for a coke. She had diet. I’ll take anything. It was indeed the best diet coke I’ve ever had but there was no real fuel in it. I needed a real coke. I needed morphine, crack, or some jolt. I needed a quick fix. Sugar would go really far at this point.

Although everything was better than in recent months with me, my bulging disc was shooting pain through the right side and hip. There are other problems that I rode through. I can’t grip my left thumb around the bars for a long time. It’s a bit deformed and is uncomfortable if not painful if I do. My shoulders this year have been sending pain down the arms after long mileage. This was before Marion. I continually pressed fingers on the right side of my neck where it hurts. I did the same for my lower right side that the disc rules over. I have to focus on turning my knees over and avoid in mentally involving the entire leg as I seem to allow the left leg to work more than the right. These problems are dealt with by quickly applying pressure, moving, whatever, but if thought is consumed about pain you lose the thoughts of moving your legs around. My chronic arthritis was not a problem.

Josie Lee was at the Blue Ridge Parkway. I got a bottle from her. Chris Boone pulled up while I briefly took my jersey off and curled up on my back to relieve the pain. Chris gave me a big coke. I would only drink half or less before tossing it to a rest area person at the base of Mitchell. A lot of riders pretend they're in the "Tour" and just toss waterbottles and trash anywhere beside any road. That is littering.

I was slowly passed by riders continuously. Just before this rest stop at the entrance to the park I passed several people who had passed me. I was coming back alive. I told two riders that I could “smell the barn” now. I believe the mental preparedness that including watching Lance Armstrong Tour De France victories spurred me on. Often, when I couldn’t push the gear I was in, I shifted into a higher, harder, and faster gear and stood on the pedals. Sometimes I shifted up two gears. I entered the last five miles of the ride with a goal of catching 10 riders. I caught about 15 in that hard 3 miles. One rider passed at the bottom and I kept him in sight until the last curve. I absolutely went as hard as I could with one of the longest sprints I’ve ever had. I heard Tony Atkins and other yelling for me and as I crossed the finish line I put a finger to my lips and waved it to my friends in a “Richard Virengue” mountain finish style.

The helpers wanted my electronic timing device on my ankle. I absolutely could not breathe enough. I told them it was on my left leg. I couldn’t even tell them it was under my sock at the ankle. I was asked to pull my sock down. Not only was I incapable of pulling my sock down, I was unable to talk, walk or bend over below where I had my weight on my handle bars. I was breathing the heaviest and for the longest of my life. All the males in my family have to die of heart attacks. One uncle died at 32 years of age. Surely if I was to die of heart failure this would have been the most appropriate time.

Before leaving for the “Assault”, Josie Lee, my daughter, told me that she loved me and the usual blessing that she would easily give to anyone and especially her dad. I told her to now tell me to “go ride my ass off”. She told me that and more. You had to be there. She is so funny. I got the same encouragement after leaving her at highway 80.

In this life that is so hard and frustrating to so many, it (the Assault On Mitchell”), doesn't matter. I'm thinking of one parent who just lost a daughter and another cycling friend in Asheville who lost a daughter. I'm pretty sure that I'm going to think of those less fortunate than I, such as the active and inactive soldier, the ill or imprisoned or poor and I'm going to try to ride my ass off. I won't abandon any loved one, any friendship, or a friend's peril on the "Assault". I want to live in reasonable health and peace but Monday is also a "good day to die".

Sunday, June 10, 2007. Tomorrow is D-Day. D day we ride the Assault on Mt. Mitchell. I feel better than I have in many years. The time that I finish (or not) may not reflect the shape I feel that I'm in. I'm in less pain than I've been in decades. I feel strong. I'm 58. I have no delusions of grandeur. If I break the top 100 that will be quite a feat. Tomorrow is calling for rain. Rain should improve my placing. I don't like the cold and/or rain but I do well in it.

Somewhere, my back will shoot pains across to the hip. My neck will get a sharp pain on the right side. It may stay forever or it may dissipate after less intensity or pressure on the spot. My foot may feel like a stone at the bottom of my leg. I may finish last. It's one of the hardest tests you can give yourself. I'm very thankful I can start the "Assault". This is number 27. It's insignificant. It's a lot better than Vietnam and Iraq. God bless the soldiers who give it all.

As we descended off the “Mountain” and the “Parkway” we saw the seemingly endless stream of riders. The riders were still coming up highway 80 and some were miles from the “Parkway” on 80. Seeing the last fewwalking, I seriously and not seriously at the same time told the passengers, on the riders’ side of the bus, that they should tell those riders to turn around. I believe there was nothing but death or misery ahead. They would still be riding while I was having dinner back in Bakersville. Now that’s suffering. It actually hurts some of us to see them where they are. If you are not in good enough condition, this is your hell and it never ends.

As I sat around the summit of Mitchell watching the riders come up, John Bryan and I talked for quite a while. This may be his last year for handling the Assault. His cancer keeps coming back. He’s weak. He’s a bit frustrated at riders who year after year bring cars up to the top. He gets grief from the rangers. There are a lot of those who would not care if it were discontinued.

The” Assault on Mount Mitchell” is one of the best rides that have ever been. Safety issues must be reassessed. I know it's frustrating to the "Freewheelers". They've poured over it countless times. I can't think of any solutions. I feel like accidentally missing the starting time, as I have by accident (lost glove), but any deviation to the procedure of “Mitchell” could jeopardize it. A hundred or two of us started at 10:00 one year. For something like that in a big way would mean more personnel and tying up traffic even more.

People who know me know that I've ridden for more than 30 years. They know I can handle a bike better than most. The carelessness that goes on in packs is silly and dangerous. I lacked food at times because I was careful. On the other hand I was almost taken out by someone reaching in his pockets. I had to slow down and twitch to the right. The rider behind me thought that I was at fault.

There is no way that riders will stay on the right side. There are mean drivers who do not slow down or move over at all. I know for a fact that some will obey their "letter of the law" and kill someone to make their point. If you don't think so, you must have been in another pack.

Riders are now joining the Spartanburg Freewheelers for twenty bucks and then selling their “Assault” registration for hundreds of dollars on E-bay. Is there no shame in this era of America? There is nothing sacred. Only a thousand riders are permitted every year. In a year or so there will only be Spartanburg Freewheelers riding the Assault. Some of these “members” will no doubt reside in Laos if this isn’t brought to an end. You are not a legitimate member if you never meet with the club or ride with the club or if you live thousands of miles from the club with no other attachment than to have a desire to ride the Assault. I lived in Spartanburg. I had more people meeting at my apartment for rides than would meet at the YMCA for club rides. A former president of the club, Ann McNally gave me a T-shirt for leading rides from my apartment. I definitely have ties to the Freewheelers. I have wanted to rejoin after my membership elapsed years ago, but what’s the point? It will be a club of thousands of “fake members”. It’s hard to get me to join a real club much less a “fake club”.

If we care about the club and the “Assault on Mitchell” then we must take care of our national treasure that is John Bryan. If you refuse to do the right thing, the road to Mitchell is open for all of the warm days of the year. What is keeping you from riding the Assault the rest of the year. Kent Clary and I rode a version of the Assault as often as we could, sometimes until we got hypothermia. We rode the exact Assault on Mitchell course several times before the official ride and we rode it until bad weather in October. Take your car up on those days. Leave it home on the “Assault”.

I told every ranger I saw, thanks, just as I always do.

Yesterday, for the first time ever, a young ranger told me “thank you for riding up”.

My friend Tony Atkins told me about the thousands of calories that he had on the ride. He had 4 bottles of Cytomax to Marion. I had two bottles of water to the "Parkway". I had a handful of grapes. some honey/royal jelly that made things uncomfortable. I had a diet coke for the fluids right before seeing Josie. I was given a coke and a bottle of water there and drank about a third of each before dumping them for the last 5 miles. I don't know how many calories I had, but I'm amazed that I rode so well. As for the people that dropped me on 80 and the "Parkway", I may have been ahead of most them had I not stopped to help a rider. It was a great Assault as opposed to some other great Assaults that weren't so great. It was great because I feel better than I have for a lot of the Assaults.

On the "Parkway" I saw, every other mile or so it seemed, discarded Gel packets. Each would be almost exactly the same measurement from the edge of the road, as if carefully placed there. Each packet was facing the same way. I was surprised at the exact location of each discarded packet. Although I'm amazed at the exact placement of each packet, I'd like to add that the cyclist or cyclists that did this is/are (a) complete . You fill in the blank. It's okay to litter on the day of the Assault? It's okay to litter the Blue Ridge Parkway? And lastly, it's okay that you meant to do it? What if thousands of us did it? Before Marion I heard a rider say that he wasn't a litterbug, usually. The rider next to him said, "Well, at least it wasn't full". I didn't say anything. I get overwhelmed with so much stupidity. I'm sorry I didn't. I'm not running for mayor or any other office and certainly don't want some of these dolts coming to the Bicycle Inn and littering Mitchell and Yancey Counties. Excuse me? Mistakes are made. Things are dropped. Never intentionally. You can't be excused for littering on the day of a bike ride.

It was a great day. I checked the Birds Eye View website and I think I'm in the top 200. I was shooting for the top 100. I finished a minute or 2 under 7 hours. There can be 50 or 100 people to come in to the summit in a half hour or so. Different circumstances could show different results. I'm very satisfied. Nourishment on the bike continues to be my nemesis but I think I'm getting a handle on it. I'm only 58. I'm sure that I'll get it together in the next ten or twenty years. It's so weird to be improving after declining health for years. I did my best. I rode safely. I helped someone and made some friends. I rode my ass off.

Happy trails,