Day 109 (Mountains, Man)

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Well here I am, in the thick of the Appalachia. A place where rolling pastures and misty mountains reign supreme. I have nothing but love for this region of the country. There’s just something about this place; I think ‘preserved’ would be an accurate adjective.

Wikipedia. What a resource. Everytime I arrive at a new landmark, city, or state I always give a quick once over of their wiki. Appalachia it bursting with culture in the forms of music, folklore, literature, and art. It’s all a bit left of center and unrelatable to most living outside the territory, so this culture is usually dismissed.

It’s difficult to tell who is living in severe poverty and who is simply clinging to more traditional ways of living. There’s a tradition that still holds up here and people seem rather content living within that lifestyle. It’s quite refreshing really. Most people I talked to who didn’t live here had some sort of stereotype attached to this region as their only frame of reference. I’ve only been in the Appalachia territory for two days now and I haven’t seen anything to confirm the ‘backwards hillbilly’ stereotype. Much like the natives of this country, people here seem content with living off the lands in a minimalist fashion. But because that way of living contradicts our modern social norms, it’s deemed unsavory or primitive. I must admit I anticipated being greeted with ignorant, racist, and prejudiced schools of thought, but have found none of that. I may just not be in the thick of it yet.  In my opinion, the people living in this region of the country have figured it out. The back to basics mentality grows more and more appealing to me with each passing day. I mean, it requires a strong skill set and intellect to live in the middle of the woods and sustain. People have been doing it for centuries here and seem pretty content.

This area is so new and magical to me. It’s also insanely mountainous. For the first time in a long time, I exceeded 4,000 feet of ascent in one day. Lots of huffing, puffing, and sweating. But with the demanding uphill comes the wonderfully anxiety fueled downhill. Barreling down a mountainside going 40 mph evokes such euphoria, but is also coupled with the realization that one wrong placement of a rock or pebble under my tire would most certainly render me hospitalized. It’s like a drug. Very much like a drug. The initial thrill is there. It might seems like it will last forever, but the ride down is undersized in comparison to the feeling of having to spend ages lugging yourself up another hill for that short burst of excitement. The endeavor seems futile as you slowly and methodically ascend, but that need to ride down one last time causes one to justify the current torture in exchange for the exhilaratingly short lived descend. And on that descent, you’re essentially paralyzed because one wrong move could mean your life. There’s such a bizarre dichotomy there….Oh, now I totally get why people do hard drugs.

Anyway, the mountains break up the monotony of a day’s ride quite well. You know what else does? Vast, gigantic, inspiring gorges. Tallulah Gorge was a half a mile off my route. I’m glad I took the detour. I haven’t seen a gorge that massive since, well ever. As I stood and basked in nature’s glory, I noticed to my left a collage paying tribute to a man named Carl Wallenda. Why does Carl have a shrine at this gorge? Well I think it might have to do with the fact that he walked over it on a tightrope. The canyon is over 700 feet deep. Some man who was probably standing in the same spot I was thought to himself “I think I want to cross that on a tightrope”. And he did. Just like that. The human being is capable of extraordinary things I guess any species that was successfully capable of extracting themselves from the food chain is.

Later that day I reached the Georgia, North Carolina border. And as I always do, I took a few moments to reflect on the state I was just in. All the people I met, all the faces forever engrained in my mind. All the prolific and hopeful conversation I had with those people. The lush green forests that provided ample housing and vitality. Yeah, Georgia was not at all what I expected. None of these states ever are. I’m fortunate I saw the things I saw and met the people I met. And now I enter a new state. To repeat the same process.

There’s a lot more to this mysterious Appalachia than I originally anticipated. I might be here a while.

Stats:

Miles: 72.65

Time: 6:52:39

Calories: 3637

Total Ascent: 4158 ft.

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6 responses to “Day 109 (Mountains, Man)

  1. Tom, glad to hear your Athens visit was so memorable. We knew you would find great people and happenings. Safe travels young man .So enjoyed meeting you and having you as our unexpected Thursday nite guest..xoxoxo! Will await the book…..you’re writing is phenomenal!

  2. A thank you from Tom’s mom to everyone he meets that lends a helping hand and warm night’s rest to Tom. thank you for your kindness of heart and generous spirit.

    • I followed this from the start, worrying whenever a few days lapsed without a post, and relieved when a new one appeared. I too, am so happy to realize how many kind hearted people there are in the world.
      Thank you Tom, for sharing your journey with us. I feel that I’ve been along for the ride, and I didn’t even have to pedal & sweat.
      MG

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