Just back from an amazing weekend in the mountains with my good friends Foy & Terry Beal, and Greg & Paige Howard.
Foy & Terry picked me up on Friday around 2pm. Off to get Paige & Greg, then off to Boone, NC, to the Beal family's mountain house. Foy's got a gigantic Ford diesel pickup, so the 5 of us all fit comfortably in it for the trip. Well, I know I did – I was up front, riding shotgun with Foy. Terry was kind enough to sit in the back with P&G. (Thanks, Terry!)
Friday night was spent eating, drinking, telling stories, and more than anything else, laughing. I swear, we laughed about so much stupid shit. Us, them, the others, politics, people, racing, religion, food, you name it – we laughed about it. A new phrase emerged at some point, that I just couldn't get out of my head – "Oily discharge with report." Think about that…
Early dinner at the house and off to bed, due to an early call time for departure in the morning. Unfortunately, I woke up about 2:45am and never could go back to sleep. Have to blame the beer, I guess.
We left the house Saturday morning just past 6:30am, bound for Damascus, VA. Today's event was to ride the Virginia Creeper Trail (google it), which is a beautiful 17-mile bicycle ride, mostly downhill. There seemed to be at least 5 or 6 bike shops in Damascus that offered the same sort of package that we got from the fine folks at the Blue Blaze Bike & Shuttle Service. You pay to be transported (in a 15-passenger van, with bikes on a trailer hitched to the rear) to the top of the trail some 17 miles away, where you get on the well-marked trail and ride back (mostly downhill) into Damascus. You can ride your own bike, or rent one from the shop. We all own bicycles and ride together at home in Raleigh, but we decided it would be smarter to rent bikes from the shop to avoid having to transport our bikes all over creation. It was only $24.00 combined for the shuttle and bike rental, a bargain.
Although it wasn't very challenging physically, the ride was about as much fun as you can have with your clothes on, with lots of beautiful mountain scenery. There were a few too many Boy Scouts riding at breakneck pace, but even they couldn't put a damper on such a cool ride. Below, some photos from the ride.
The riders (from left, Foy Beal, Terry Beal, me, Greg Howard, Paige Howard):
This is the kitten I met and fell in love with about halfway through the ride. If I coulda, I woulda taken her home with me. Such a sweet thing:
Shots from a few of the places I stopped along the way:
At one point, we had stopped by a stream to admire it. My dumb ass decided to step out onto a rock in the stream to get a cool photo, and of course I picked a rock just covered in slippery algae. Yep, slipped right off that sucker and into the drink. I only went in up to my knees, but I almost fell totally in. Just beyond where I got my footing, the water was deeper and I just about went facefirst into it. What sucked was that now my shoes and socks were soaked and would be cold for the next hour or two. Here's the spot where I did that:
Just after climbing out:
Greg's Photoshop-enhanced version:
Greg and Photoshop have me getting deeper:
And even a shot of Paige on her toy four-wheeler, pulling me out. Note the noose around my neck.
After the ride, we returned our bikes to Blue Blaze, then spent a couple of hours wandering around Damascus. The Appalachian Trail Days Festival was being held this weekend, and there was a lot to see and do. This included one of the strangest parades I'd ever seen, where the locals and the AT (Appalachian Trail) hikers had a water fight during the parade (a lot of the hikers were in the parade). Water guns, Super-Soakers, water-balloons, buckets, whatever you had handy was fair game. Greg guessed that the locals started this tradition years ago, wanting to bathe the hikers. Probably right. All the hiker/hippies were kinda smelly.
Me & Greg watching the hippies go by:
Me, Foy, and Greg reading anti-gummint propaganda. Note the look on the face of the guy standing next to me:
Here's how Paige kept herself busy while the rest of us were enjoying the more adult aspects of the festival:
Finally got out of Damascus mid/late afternoon. On the way back to the house, we stopped to hike up Backbone Rock, which was really cool.
When we finally made it to the house, I decided I really needed a nap. Went to lie down, but I heard the National Anthem (Free Bird) on the radio upstairs, so I joined everyone else out on the deck for beers. This is the view from my rocking chair. That's Grandfather Mountain in the distance to the left of my feet, and my favorite beverage to the right:
The normal view:
The sundown a bit later was magnificent:
Later on, Terry modeled her new idea for bike helmets, and then had me try it:
I had made a six-avocado batch of my famous guacamole for the weekend, which we all snacked on (along with all of Terry's goodies). I'm sure the whole house reeked of garlic by the time we sat down for dinner. Tonight, Terry made some wicked quesadillas for everybody, which we ate while watching the NASCAR race from Charlotte on TV.
By 11pm, everyone was out, but me. That was surprising, considering that I'd been up since 2:45am. For whatever reason, I still had some energy, so I sat out on the deck by myself for another 80-90 minutes and had a Bud nightcap. The night sky and view was so peaceful. I really love the mountains – I'd take a trip there over a beach trip anyday. Finally crashed close to 1am.
Woke up Sunday morning to the smell of Terry cooking breakfast upstairs. After we all ate, Foy drove Greg, Paige and I over to the Cascades area to do a little hiking. Terry wanted to stay behind to just read and relax. Some shots:
Greg and Foy, up on the rocks:
Paige trying to nap on a rock:
Scrambling upstream over all the rocks was a great workout. Lots of legwork and you can work up a real good sweat.
After that, it was back to the house to load up for the trip back to Raleigh. About 5 houses up, this was at the top of one of the neighbor's driveways:
We left a bit ahead of schedule, which gave us time to go cruise the Blue Ridge Parkway before getting on the highway.
As always, click on any photo to enlarge.