Cyclists take a long trip from Boone to Black Mountain
No day of the week is more maligned than Monday. For many people it represents an uphill climb over a busy week of work to the next weekend.
July 29 was a brutal Monday for Black Mountain residents Doug Hay and Griffin Dodd, but as they peddled 109 miles over 10,000 feet of elevation gain, there was nothing metaphorical about it.
The two friends mounted their bikes at 8 a.m. that morning in front of the Boone Saloon, near Appalachian State University where they attended prior to knowing each other. Their destination was a final cruise down Cherry Street to the front door of the Town Pump Tavern.
"This was Doug's idea," Dodd said of the ride. "He said 'we should do Boone Saloon to Town Pump' and I was like 'yes.'"
For the average person the idea might sound absurd, but Hay is a seasoned trail runner who has maintained a blog at rockcreekrunner.com while hosting the Trail Talk podcast. Dodd has attempted the ride twice before, on the same Blue Ridge Parkway route the pair took on their ride together.
"I've made it as far as Craggy Gardens," he said. "When I was in Boone over 10 years ago, my girlfriend, who is now my wife, was in Charlotte and we would meet in Black Mountain. One day I thought I'd try to ride from Boone to Black Mountain."
Dodd said he was not prepared for that first attempt.
"It ended in the dark up at Craggy Gardens with me on a gravel stretch of the Parkway where they were doing work," he said. "I see two headlights coming out of the dark with my now-wife coming to pick me up."
His second attempt was with two friends and ended in the same spot.
"We were more prepared for that attempt, but we were hampered at every turn by blown and sliced tires," he said. "It's really unfortunate because after Craggy Gardens it's mostly downhill to U.S. 70. So I had some unfinished business."
Although Hay is a seasoned runner, he's relatively new to biking. On Father's Day he was passing cyclists who were straining to get up an incline.
"I told Griffin we had to stop talking about doing this and go ahead and do it," he said.
They camped at Price Lake in Blowing Rock on Sunday and were dropped off in front of the Boone Saloon the next morning.
"We were at Appalachian State at the same time, but we didn't know each other," Hay said. "But we were both regulars at Boone Saloon, especially on Taco Tuesdays. I'm sure we walked right by each other dozens of times."
Getting out of Boone to the Parkway "was a climb," Dodd said.
"We rode to Price Lake and helped my wife break down camp," he said. "We knew Grandfather Mountain would be the first climb."
They were buoyed by their enthusiasm.
"I was pretty stoked and the energy was high," Dodd said. "I think that was our strongest climb."
As they made their way along the Linn Cove Viaduct, they felt exhilarated.
"They were doing construction along a stretch of the Parkway up there so we hit the viaduct at a time where there was no traffic," Hay said. "We had the whole road to ourselves and we were hooting and hollering and had nonstop smiles on our faces."
The immensity of the endeavor set in after that.
"It got real during the second phase of the trip," Hay said. "There was quite a bit of downhill, a little bit of an unexpected climb and at that point we'd been out for several hours, my back was starting to hurt a little. You start to realize this isn't just being out for a few hours, it's bigger than that."
The duo stopped for lunch between the 50- and 60-mile mark before getting back on the road.
"Grandfather Mountain and down was great," Dodd said. "But the climb up to where we ate lunch was rough."
Anticipating the second half of the ride proved daunting for Dodd.
"Doug helped me with that," he said. "I've watched him run 100 miles, and we've had conversations about how he's learned to ride the lows and highs and accept that the low doesn't stay the low the whole time."
They began pushing themselves.
"I was fascinated by different thoughts you have," Dodd said. "A motivator for me was thinking about the people who couldn't do what we were doing that day, and when I felt low I would think about all of the people who would give anything to experience what we were experiencing."
By the time they cleared Craggy Gardens and began their descent, the mile markers that seemed to be moving in slow motion on the way up began to fly by.
"We could see home from up there," Hay said. "We felt like we were heading home."
Dodd and Hay coasted down Cherry Street and arrived at their final destination 12 hours after their trip began.
"On our way into the Town Pump we took a picture and there were some people sitting outside," Dodd said. "We told them we rode here from Boone and they didn't know where it was. We said 'it's about 100 miles away,' and a man said 'you guys should have a beer.' It was perfect."
They agreed that the sense of accomplishment was "amazing."
"I'd love to do it again," Hay said.
"I would train a little bit more before doing it again," Dodd said. "But if someone told me they wanted to try it, I'd go along."