The third day of my fixed gear ride to Asheville for The Humane League I woke up cold, changed clothes as cars passed us on their way up Unicoi Gap, and got ready to get myself moving. I got driven back down to where I had quit riding the night before, and proceeded to drink too much coffee and ate toast (the only animal friendly offerings at the Huddle House). Lucas left to go pick up our new friend Drifter to give him a ride somewhere so he could continue his travels hiking through the mountain.

I rode through downtown Helen past the rather preemptive Christmas decorations.. Looped back down towards my intended destination and on towards some insane climbs where I would lose signal. Come across some gravel patches I thought I had worked out of my travels forcing me off my planned route and exploring while really working against the local topography.

After around 30 some odd miles I got back on course and started working on some even more intense climbs up two-lane roads in what seemed to be completely empty roads despite the occasional work truck. Riding up and down winding roads that all seemingly went to more rural destinations than I intended on going.

After lots of climbing, ripping the crotch and thigh of my favorite bibs, and nearly running out of water I ended up in Tiger, Georgia to charge my phone and make use of the signal and scenic views. I found a local restaurant called “Grapes and Beans” where, upon finding they had a few great vegan options, promptly posted my worn out self up on their back porch to sew up my kit and inhale two sandwiches and more coffee and water.

I made some light conversation with a local group of vegans in the area from Atlanta to go hiking. This was the recharge I needed to push through the last twenty some odd miles. The coming ride was less rural but just as beautiful, coming across beautiful mountain views every half mile mostly rolling hills and light descents. Until the last 9 miles, which quickly made themselves stand out as the most difficult riding I have done in my entire life.

Climbing all the way to the top of the mountain passing between the Georgia state line to North Carolina and vice versa three or four times. Stopping every half mile to mile-and-a-half to catch my breath and relieve  the strain on my legs and stretch.

I pushed myself harder than I ever have, huffing and puffing, struggling and persevering all the way up to  “The Mountain Retreat” Unitarian church. This was hands down the high point of achievement for me on this trip and potentially my entire career on two wheels. The staff there were beyond kind and interested in what I was doing, offering me not only a discount on the room for the evening, but also collected money to donate to my fundraising efforts (this same day I was advised that an anonymous donor had agreed to double all donations for our area until the end of the year bringing my total for the animals to nearly 1.5 more than what I had initially intended).

The view from their breath taking back porch and viewing station alone was worth the climb. It really helped me sit back for awhile and put things into perspective. Reflect on the lives of not only the farm animals whose lives we were tying to improve and spare, but also the world as a whole. With all of the negativity and stress and doom and gloom that has been enveloping most of society for what seems like the past few years. It didn’t reach here, the world was scenic and mesmerizing and magical. It was an experience that helped remind me that the world and all of its inhabitants are a gift that we easily take for granted and ignore, and destroy daily. This epiphany and connection to the world that I had been missing was worth the whole trip…admittedly a warm shower and a sleeping space that all of me could fit on was a close second. I connected to WiFi, talked to my wife for a little while on video chat, and made stupid noises at my cats…shortly thereafter I passed out while trying to find music to listen to on my phone.

We are still accepting donations till the end of the year with all donations tripled until the end.

The second morning of my Humane League fund raising ride on a track bike from Atlanta to Asheville started perfectly. The conversation had been started between Amanda and I weeks prior that I needed to eat at local vegetarian mainstay The Grit. I didn’t know whether I would have time for that or not after getting into town later than anticipated…but after a sluggish start to the morning (on a couch just slightly smaller than me) it was finally decided carb loading was a great idea! Which led to another late start, but it was worth it between the blueberry pancakes, soysage and conversation.

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After a little to much coffee, riding through Athens north towards Helen was an awesome experience. It marked a departure from the paths I’d previously traveled. The beginning of more serious elevation changes and climbs up through towns that were barely there, all the way to Cleveland Georgia – the first sign of “civilization” after miles of depressing farm land and home of the ever-creepy baby land general (Cabbage Patch Kids).

The climbs were steady and not too exhausting, but a definitive change from the city terrain I generally deal with. The ride itself was great aside from bonking not far from the ‘Welcome to Helen’ sign. Shortly before that the road narrows, the cracks on the shoulder spread further to the center and the speed limit decreases, riding at around 5 o’clock this fact seemed to have escaped most of the drivers on the road.

Although my goal for the night was to make it to Helen (I was camping a few miles up Unicoi gap), I had hoped to make the climb up the gap to meet my buddy Lucas at our campsite. I made it as far as the Subway before my shaking and nausea from not fueling properly throughout the afternoon got to be too much. A conversation with my Outback Bikes track team captain and close friend Rudy prompted me to forgo the ego and save my body for the next morning.

Lucas met me, bringing with him a match day program from an Arsenal match. Which meant a hell of a lot to me, as I’ve followed the Arsenal since I was young with football being one of the biggest parts of my life. He and I met through our local club The Atlanta Silverbacks in the early stages of the Atlanta Ultras.

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Lucas took me and my bike up the gap for an awesome night under a blanket of stars that I rarely ever see, and great conversation with a good friend who’s progress as an individual I have been continually inspired by.

We met a traveler named Drifter who had been traveling through the trails for several weeks, as he had become known to do every few years. The night was amazing, chilly and exactly what I needed. There aren’t words that I can use to explain how much I needed a night under the stars out in the elements with a good friend (even if it was just the side of the road right outside the beginning of the trails).

Between the light traffic and my naturally high stress level there were a few interesting if not embarrassing instances of night “terrors” including seeing non existent animals after waking up from a rather interesting dream (they were bushes). And jumping up ready to fight (in a two man tent) with Lucas reassuring me that everything was cool. Despite this I slept well and the next morning got a ride back down to where I had been picked up, to start on the grueling climbs up through the mountains.

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The Humane League are still accepting donations through the end of the year for this event, and year-round for all our other endeavors. 100 percent of the proceeds go to working relentlessly to reduce animal suffering through grassroots education to change eating habits, and corporate campaigns to reform farm animal treatment.

See you on Day 3.

 

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