Well, a week ago, after a fantastic farewell show, we pedaled away from Ivy Creek Farm. Back on fully loaded bikes for the first time since October we biked up into the mountains through the towns of Burnsville and Spruce Pine, NC. We rode the Blueridge Parkway for a few miles before turning east and climbing a few hundred feet higher to just under 4,000 ft. Soaked in sweat from the climb we began our inevitable decent down to the Piedmont in 55 degrees. We stopped and changed into dry clothes, and within the first mile we took a right turn onto a gravel forest service road that we would ride for about 25 miles down out of the mountains. This unassuming Pisgah National Forest road had no traffic as it weaved and switched back down the side of the mountain. The views we're incredible. It seemed that you could see for days. Weeks even. Somewhat potholed and washboarded, the road led us down to a deep valley in which Wilson Creek flows: a fly-fishing mecca, a pristine wilderness, and an intensely quiet and peaceful place to spend the night.
We pedaled along the creek as it wove its way down the valley, wishing it was warmer as we were hardly able to resist our urge to jump in to the beautiful clear water, stopping for lunch on the river rocks. It was the kind of place that takes you in completely. You almost forget there is anything else in the universe besides that beautiful river flowing gently under the soft springtime sun.
Experiences like biking along Wilson Creek in the Pisgah National Forest after crossing the Appalachian Mountains aren't that common in much of the touring that we do.
We rolled our way up Yadkin Valley to Wilkesboro, then on towards Winston-Salem, for the first show of the tour. We arrived a day early and gave a shout out to a few fellow cyclists on the Warm Showers network, and were quickly called by a Winston-Salem native who invited us to stay with her for the evening. She turned out to be a local organic farmer, who had worked at the Rodale Institute, where Jen has also worked. They knew a whole slew of the same people, and we had a great time hearing about her farm and felt like old friends when we pedaled away the next day.
We rode some pretty unfortunate roads through the north west side Winston-Salem in order to reach the Muddy Creek Cafe, the venue for the first show of the tour. High traffic, high speed limits, no shoulder, but we made it. Upon arriving we high-fived in celebration of completing the 200 miles and 12,000 feet of climbing necessary to reach the first venue.
The first show was a smashing success. A very engaged and supportive crowd, and a fellow named George who was totally obsessed with "Rolling in my Bones" (e.g. He requested it, I played it, and then he requested it again, and sang along) made me feel like Winston-Salem was my hometown. The venue owners were kind and generous, giving us a place to stay, inviting us to a concert the next night and taking us out to dinner. Such good people! We've been overwhelmed by the generosity of strangers on this trip. Strangers can turn into friends in short order.
Just a day's ride from Winston-Salem brought us to the fine city of Greensboro, NC, home of UNCG, a minor league baseball team called the Grasshoppers (ha!), and a really nice environmentally focused library called the Kathleen Clay Edwards Library, which was the location of show #2. Library shows provide a unique opportunity for me: I get to not only perform music, but I also get to practice presenting about the Freedom From Fuel Tour. There is so much to the story at this point, and I have so much music to play that packing everything into a one hour time slot makes for an action packed event. A solid crew of local cyclists, environmentalists, music lovers, and library patrons made it out to the show and we all rocked out.
Now we're heading on to Durham, Chapel Hill and then on up towards Richmond, VA along US Bike Route 1. Should be a wild ride! More soon,