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We made it, after all. You pop up in the morning and when you’re 3.5 hours from Asheville you are ready to roll. It’s 5.30am and you just want a medium carmel latte and a bowl of oatmeal but even the business Starbucks doesn’t open until 6am in Lexington, Kentucky. Go ahead, knock. Ashley and Mackenzie are inside and they hear you but they don’t look up. They know better. And you should, too, because it says right on the door they don’t open until 6am. Can’t you read?

The (Car) Ride:
So we bust. Pease is driving, I’m watching Paris-Roubaix. You can’t watch that race and not root for everybody. It’s too hard, it’s too cruel a sport to want anything but all of them to win somehow. But it is bike racing and everyone is going to lose except one dude. I counted Brad Wiggins out 3 or 4 times throughout the day, cursed Peter Sagan for bridging so easily, wondered what Ettix-QuickStep was thinking, and predicted no less than 27 riders to win. But Degenkolb did. And I’m cool with that.

We watched the last 10 km in the lobby of a Sheraton Inn, across from a superfluous fireplace next to a guy wearing an Alabama sweatshirt (again, superfluous, it was 70 degrees and next to a fireplace) and he kept looking up. I think he just wanted in. We pretended to chat about the result until Pease got us our room early and TWO (2) free breakfast coupons that expired in 10 minutes. We immediately ate cold breakfast food, which is my favorite.

One hour later I was spandexed and in the parking lot. We rolled out to Town Mountain Road, which we had a sneaking suspicion would go uphill. It did, but not before we saw 5 cyclists coming by, and one of whom, Lee, was willing to ride bikes with us. “Is this a group ride?” I looked at Tim, counted myself and thought, Yes, two can be a group ride. Two can be a party. So Lee was drafted as our third rider (who made it a crowd) and immediately started giving us tons of information about Asheville, his background (from the Chi, then Philly, now here) and was just really cool about it, too. Very nice dude.

The (Bike) Ride:
Pease was good after a bit and headed to scope out town while Lee and I carried on up toward Craggy Gardens. We talked about beauty and nature. We went through a tunnel. It was sweet. But all the time we were climbing, sometimes fast, sometimes slow, but always vertically. Looking out to the south we could see a massive valley ringed by mountain ranges. It was the sort of sight you scoff at on Instagram because you are jealous. I did not scoff today. I was living it, and Lee was telling me all about it.

Lee headed back to town (he’s a cook in a Mexican restaurant so he had to work) and I kept plugging away. I tried out waving to other cyclists, which people are really digging in TC but it doesn’t seem to have caught on yet in Asheville*. I am hoping it does in the next 4 days. That and ringing your bell at people and saying, “Looking good, dude.”

It took two hours thirty-five minutes to get to the top of Mount Mitchell. At two hours, I was not convinced carrying out was the best of ideas, but how often do you get within a few minutes of bike riding from Mount Effin’ Mitchell? In the last three miles the roads kicks up and right in your face, but luckily I hit the turn with a few dudes to slowly ride up to and pass as incentive. They got the “Looking good, dude” treatment and offered their own (“Good job, man”) and I chatted with a few of them at the top for a bit. One from Minnesota, two from Virginia and one madman from Florida, who deserves some serious propers.

Going down was easier because every time the road tilted past -6%, gravity was all like, “I got you, man” and I could daydream and watch out for speeding motorcycles. Believe it or not, it took me just an hour and fifteen minutes to get back. Thanks, gravity.

Altogether, Day One included 65 miles, 7,800 feet of climbing and 4:30 of my life. However, Gary the Garmin (my Garmin) sucks and ruined the file. I felt like crying for about 4 seconds but I didn’t because I’m a grown ass man, and I know the ride happened. I know because I was there, seeing it and I can feel it now, in my heart and soul and mostly in my legs.

Nature Update:
I saw three vultures today and that is all. Where is all the nature, guys? All these woods and forests and not even a squirrel. Tomorrow will yield a puma, I can feel it.

Landmark:
There’s a Starbucks 2 blocks from the hotel. I got lost leaving the hotel, and again coming back. Starbucks will serve as home base until I can remember how to get back.**

Tim Pease Outfit of the Day:
Matching Einstein Cycles Summer kit, of course. So much style. He’s actually been in spandex for four hours so far. Here’s hoping he keeps the look for dinner.

Deep Thought of the Day:
North Carolina seems to use “Watch For Falling Rocks” and “Watch For Fallen Rocks” interchangeably, even on the same stretch of road. The signs don’t technically mean the same thing. Is one more likely than the other in that particular spot? Who makes the call?

BONUS Deep Thought of the Day:
Reaching the top of Mount Mitchell is a big deal, and you can make it a bigger deal by encouraging someone else to finish it off. Everyone is someone else to somebody. Be good to each other out there.

*Trying to think of a cool nickname for Asheville but nothing works. Please submit your suggestions. 

**No, Starbucks is not sponsoring this, but I would LooOOOOoovve it if they did. If you haven’t noticed, Grzanka, Grit and McDonald are.