Sunday, September 10, 2017

TNGA 2017 (Spectating)

The 2017 Trans North Georgia Adventure started this past September 19th.

If I can swing it, I like to do a little spectating at MGap, the start, and Woody's. As luck would have it, this year I was able to.

On the drive in, I saw a bunch of whatever these are, hanging out on the side of the road.

Pheasants, Again, Maybe


Someone is laughing at that. I wish I knew birds better.

They were 100% ambivalent to my presence. I probably could have walked among them if I'd cared to.

Some guys are filming a documentary about this years TNGA.

2017 TNGA Documentary 1 2017 TNGA Documentary 2 2017 TNGA Documentary 3

They were walking around, talking to everybody.

I gave a rambling, interrupted bit on the origin of the route, and the goals I had for it. Ha! Goals. Yeah, some goals evolved as the route and event evolved, but it's a stretch to say I had any goals at the outset, other than to explore North Georgia to such an extent that a route across it would eventually become clear. I didn't have the original idea even. It was suggested on the Sorba Forum over and over, and ultimately, formally requisitioned by Robin Allen. The group rides, through-ride, and events were all organized in response to demand from the community. I did a lot of the legwork, to be sure, but I didn't even do that alone. I dragged my kids all over the woods, for years, trying to figure out what went where. It's absurd how many random roads and trails they've been down. ...and my Dad, and my old riding buddies. And the major legwork for the event has always been done by MGap, Sorba, GA Pinhoti Assn, Woody's, and so on. Koz and Honcho have done so much more with the event than I ever did. I maybe made a significant contribution, but the TNGA has always felt like a community effort, driven by the community. It's hard to say that I had a vision or goals for it other than to let that be.

So, it evolves, and as such, I regularly see things that amaze me.

There are 75 riders, every year, and a long waiting list.

These days, most of the riders finish!

Kate has a binder that says "TNGA Race" on the side.

There are TNGA stickers and t-shirts and stickers in the MGap shop.

Look at this:

2017 TNGA Bikes

Andrew actually built that, primarily for this purpose.

On the day of the event, there's a professionally printed sign at Top of Georgia that reads "TNGA Welcome" and they put out food and water for the riders.

There's basically a party at Woody's that night.

My TNGA experience was frosty-morning group rides with Travis and Russell and a through-ride with Johnny and Norma. My concept of the event is that jumble we managed to hold together from 2010-2012.

I love what it's become, but it strikes me as surreal. Probably always will.

But... back to Mulberry Gap.

Diane was up from Florida, and when I ran into her, we talked for like 20 minutes, mainly about Kathryn's recent props work and how Rachel is doing.


It was too bad the photo I got of her was out of focus. Damn iPhone. Seems impossible to get a well-focused shot these days.

I ran into Scott Thigpen too, and we talked for like 20 minutes about software development.

Me, Glen, and Justin talked about my brother John.

Me and Koz talked about trail work.

Seemed like I had something other than cycling to talk about with almost everyone.

Diane, Ginny, Eddie, and Scott

The riders were all camped out on the cool side of the barn for an hour or so, before they headed off to the start. They struck me as soldiers awaiting transport to the front.

2017 TNGA Riders

When they took off, I headed home, and drove over to the start the next morning, with the girls.

It was foggy in Clayton on the way in.

Fog in Clayton

Unlike 2016, we made it there in plenty of time. Norma and Johnny were there, as was Shey Lindner and John Hightower. Man it was good to see them. I ran into a guy that I'd met the year before too, who's son was riding, and we talked quite a bit prior to the start.

The girls went with Norma and Johnny across the bridge and hobnobbed with everyone over there for a while.

The riders assembled on time.

2017 TNGA Riders Assembling

And the start went off without a hitch.

We drove up to Sarah's Creek and got some photos and videos of the riders coming through there.

I didn't hang around as long as I did in 2016 though, and I missed Justin and Glen coming through. Dangit!

We grabbed some lunch at Fatz in Blairsville, which, honestly, wasn't as good as I've had it before. And then we headed back to MGap, slept on their couches for a few hours, walked all over the property, played foosball, chatted a bit with Ginny, Andrew, and some of the staff. I'd hoped to see Diane again, but she and Kate had headed back east not 20 minutes before we got there to rescue someone, or something.

Busy, busy, busy.

Toward the end of the day, we headed over to Woody's, by way of Helton/Hatchet Creek Road, and Hogpen Gap. Several of the leaders were climbing over as we descended. I tried to give them words of positive encouragement, but I fear I may have just startled the number 2 rider. So, for the rest of the riders, I just waved and kept my voice down.

It was just after dark when we got to Woody's proper and plenty of riders were taking a break at the various picnic tables. It's hard to describe the atmosphere there. It's a relaxed party, if that makes any sense. There are tents and light and lots of people, and food, but everybody's chill and the riders are usually pretty tired.

As necessary, it's all business too. Woody was busy repairing a difficult-to-seat rear tire as I walked up. Some of the riders interrogated me about what was next on the route.

I ran into Chris Ernst too, and continued my trend of mostly not talking about cycling with people, by mostly talking about GIS with him. In particular, getting the story behind how the Lidar data for White County ended up on the web, with him cited as the source. I also got the rundown on the recent work at Yonah Preserve, which I must check out ASAP.

Clark and Susy were in Asheville, getting some jelly work done, so they couldn't meet us for dinner. As such, we ended up at Wendy's, of all places. There are like 20 good restaurants in Helen, but the girls were tired of all of them, especially the Troll Tavern, which they've probably eaten at 30+ times in their lives already.

After dinner we spent another hour or so at Woody's again. I ran into Asa Marshall and actually talked to him about cycling, of all things, for quite some time. Jeff Williams (Mike Honcho) was there too, and we talked about anything and everything TNGA. Jeff's an NWGA Sorba guy, and the logical successor, so Koz is handing him the TNGA reigns, starting this year. Good luck Jeff! Thanks for keeping the junk show rolling Koz!

The film crew was filming, and the girls and I will no doubt end up in the background of a shot or two. Kris expressed interest in a sit-down interview about the roots of the route and the event. I'm kind of the Paul Di'Anno of the TNGA though, and he's mentioned in most Iron Maiden documentaries, but I've only seen him speak once, so we'll see how that goes :D

I watched the trackers over the next few days. Glen and Justin made it to Helen, but I haven't talked to them about how the ride went yet. Karlos and a couple of his buddies came up from Florida, but rode separately from the rest of the group and took like 6 days to ride the route. They were touring and having fun, but still beat my time, I think.

The route was a little different this year too. It follows the Pinhoti around Sims Mountain, down to Cave Springs, and eventually ends at the Alabama Line on the Silver Comet Trail. I think the new route adds 17 miles or so, and the end is very different. There are some trails in there that I've never ridden too, so I'll have to go check them out.

I love it!

Yeah, TNGA. Can't wait for next year.

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