I think it was the legendary Indian chief, Pocahontas, who named the southern Appalachians the GREAT SMOKEY MOUNTAINS. In all their majesty and natural beauty, with awe inspiring whispy blue clouds surrounding seemingly endless green peaks, they truly are a sight to behold. However, little did Pocahontas know how true to their name they would eventually become.
I returned to outdoorsie Asheville yesterday after Tour of Utah and Tour of Somewhere-Far-Far-Away to a 4.5 hour ride. Towards the end of this outing, it felt as though I’d swallowed a shot of tequilla, tobasco, and thumb tacks. My throat was killing me! I had no idea what was going on until a longtime local informed me that this time of the year, the smog settles into Asheville. Frick! All the Ashevillian hippies are driving their Subarus with seven kayaks from one stream to the next and polluting the air I breath. How dare they!
Today was ride number one since yesterday’s kick to the throat, and I decided to ride the Blue Ridge Parkway towards Mount Mitchell for the primary reason of avoiding as much traffic – and smog – as possible. There’s an excellent section of non-stop climbing for about 15 miles to Mitchell, and I had just begun that when… I SAW A BEAR! I had the lightening quick reflexes and wherewithall to snap this miraculous picture before it tried to devour my head.
…okay okay, truth be told, I didn’t take either of those pictures. However, I did in fact see a bear, which was roughly this large and probably twice as cute:
Probably not terribly ferocious, but we all know that where there’s a bear cub there’s probably a mother bear. And as Smokey the Bear says, “Where there’s smoke there’s fire.” So I nearly soiled my shorts, turned around, and hightailed it out of there!
Which brought me to the toughest of predicaments. You see, I was in the midst of climbing intervals and besides this awesome ascent to Mount Mitchell, there actually aren’t many climbs that mimic the kind of terrain I need like this particular road. In fact, the only other one I could think of somewhat close by would require me to ride straight through the soupy-air-pollution-center called Asheville and onto another section of the parkway that contains far more cars… which is the exact thing I’m trying to avoid! Alas, I stopped, waited a little while, turned around, and made a ton of noise as I ascended (very quickly, mind you) past the sighting of the blood seeking bear, and up towards Mitchell!
…only to reach a barricaded section of road about 3 miles later. Thwarted yet again. So the moral of this story, my friends, is to always under all circumstances ride your bike with bear mace.