First, cannot say enough about Bryan and Mechell at Flip Flop Burgers for an awesome place and making me feel at home Friday night. It felt very much like home to all sorts of biking, kayaking, rafting, outdoorsy riff-raff like me. Except Kim told her to be expecting Poncho instead of Honcho. So for one weekend only I stuck with Poncho Honcho.
"Inspiring ordinary people to do extraordinary things". That's been my creed for a while in this ultra distance self-support adventure bikepacking thingy we do. I also have a quote I love to use from John Wayne - "Life is hard. It's harder when your stupid." I think there is a big difference between dumb and stupid. Dumb appears to be totally innocent - one has an elevator that misses a couple of floors, can be dumb just about a specific subject, or just lack simple common sense and still be highly intelligent. Stupid is something smart people, or even average intelligence people like me, do where they have a total lapse in judgement or preparation or whatever.
For me my attempt at a portion of the Vista route started with stupidity. The night before I left I changed brake pads on simple 'ol Shimano XT's. Have done that many times. For some reason this time it precipitated brake scrub like I never experienced before, which I didn't notice until about an hour into my ride. I could spin the tire with a normal minimal rotation check effort and get about a full turn out of the wheel. Hmm, not good. I tried most of the tricks I know over the next few hours and would get some improvement, but nothing that didn't come back. Some of you are probably screaming as you read this, with "do this, do that, you shoulda done this." Yeah, I got it. Will fix it.
Anyway that was physically and mentally grating on me, and if that were not enough I think I had pushed my Ikon's a few hundred miles too far. Coming off Starr Mountain I cut a small hole in the middle of the tread and blew out all my air. No problem - throw in the boot and tube and carry on. Except at the peak of my evening frustration and physical and mental exhaustion, I could tell I was losing air in that tube. I did not care. I did not know if I needed to drink more water, eat food which was tasteless and exhausting to the point I spit it out. Or puke, or poop, or just sit down and cry. I ended up doing all of those except cry. I decided at 60 miles in that rest and sleep was more important than food. Which ended up being a good call. I threw out my bag and bivy, changed into my light sleeping clothes, and proceeded to pass out for hours. Screw bears, mountain lions, and people - I was exuding so much hate they wouldn't dare come around.
So what about the route? Didn't Chris Gray repeatedly say "don't underestimate this section" about every section? Yep - that nails it. There is no grin. One little fun descent of Starr Mountain, which I conveniently interrupted with a blowout. Sometimes I wish I had the cursing talent of Michael Rasch or Joe Rinehart, but it's just not in me. Mom would be disappointed. This is a tough route in many respects. Take a filter or Aquamira AB solution. The water will begin lessening but will be adequate, but there is no reliable potable water until Tellico Plains. Maybe the sulphur water Chris Davis found at that church, but that would only accelerate my puking and dehydration. I didn't find any outdoor water at the Epperson Church either.
It is remote. You will not find resupply until Tellico Plains. Then Indian Boundary camp store. Then Green Cove. Maybe Coker Creek welcome center. MAYBE. Then Ducktown??? Set realistic goals for your timing. In the fog of the pain cave you will have to make some very rational decisions about how much food to carry onward, or sit tight and wait on one of the stores to open.
The bright spots? Made some new friends out there. Got to see Jon and Chris (why didn't Chris and I get a picture? - I think we were both pissed at the world right then, but primarily just Kim).
And finally, 60 + 6? I pedaled and some HAB 60 miles Saturday. Where I flatted was at the top of the descent to Tellico Plains. So I spent Sunday morning doing a HAB downhill to Hardee's - the +6.
BUT, a day I will remember and tell stories of for a long time.