If you’ve ever called our offices or ordered a book from us, chances are you’ve worked with this guy:
That’s Artie. He manages orders and customer service at Blair. And when he’s not here, he’s usually out biking. So when Artie headed out to the mountains this past weekend with the new edition of Touring the Western North Carolina Backroads, we asked him to share his cycling adventures with us. Enjoy!
Long before I started working at Blair, I loved using Blair guide books to find scenic places for bike rides. In terms of cost vs. hours of pleasure provided, they’re one of the best entertainment/recreation bargains around, even better than Netflix on Demand.
When Carolyn Sakowski’s new edition of Touring Western North Carolina Backroads came out, I couldn’t wait to try some of the tours on my Trek bike. Besides, I really needed a break from the sweltering summer heat of the flatlands.
I picked the Old Buffalo Trail Tour, mostly because it’s close to my in-laws’ house in Watauga County. I didn’t attempt all 126 miles of the tour on a bike. I’m no Superman and I gave up attempting feats of endurance when I turned 40. I picked 20 miles of the tour, enough to give me a good workout without too much of a strain. I started at Elk Knob State Park and finished at Cove Creek School. Honestly, it was the best ride I’ve done since exploring Monterey Bay on a bike a few years ago. Great scenery and I encountered fewer cars during the entire ride than I do during the first five minutes of my daily commute.
In addition to directions, Touring the Western North Carolina Backroads provides the history of the area you’re exploring, so you get a real feel for the place. I never knew that Old HWY 421 was the original route used by settlers heading west, but I should have suspected it since it’s one of the flattest stretches of road that you’ll encounter in the mountains.
If you’re new to cycling in the N.C. mountains, here are a few tips to get the most out of your ride:
- If you see big grins on the faces of cyclists approaching you from the other direction it might mean that they’ve just completed a particularly exhilarating descent. Prepare yourself for a grueling climb.
- Wave when you see strangers. This is the opposite of the rule about never making eye contact on a New York subway. You’re allowed to ignore this rule if you’re on a stretch of road where you need to keep both hands on the handlebars to maintain control, but at least nod your head.
- Bring a few dollars in cash so you can enjoy a refreshing beverage and rest on the comfortable benches of gas stations along the route.
- Bring a map, in case you decide to alter your route.
- Water-resistant jerseys look dorky but are infinitely more comfortable than traditional cotton shirts. Same goes for padded shorts.
- Read a comprehensive list of riding tips from an actual expert in Road Cycling the Blue Ridge High Country by Tim Murphy.
There are 4,000 miles of roads and 21 tours in the new edition of Touring the Western North Carolina Backroads. To find your adventure, pick up a copy from your favorite bookseller. Happy Trails!