Wednesday, September 5, 2018

TNGA 2018 (Spectating)

TNGA 2018! The 9th annual occurrence of the event. It was sure to be a spectacle. I wanted a front row seat, so I headed up to Mulberry Gap just before noon on Friday to see what was going on.

Almost immediately I ran into Diane.


It had been a while since I'd seen her, but she was up from Florida for the weekend, so we got as caught up as we could. She's been hanging out with Jason, spoiling her grandson and generally enjoying the Sunshine State.

The riders were showing up left and right. I ran into some folks I knew would be there, including Mark B., Glen, and Justin, and a few I didn't (but should have if I'd done my homework and looked at the roster) like Asa Marshall. Koz was there too, and rather unexpectedly running the show. Jeff Williams had handled everything this year, right up to the last minute, and then suddenly had a family emergency to attend to. Thanks for all of the hard work this year Jeff, and thanks for pulling it over the line Koz.

It was a bit of a zoo as everything got loaded up.

Riders About to Leave

But they've got the drill down pretty solid.

Loading Up 3

There was one bike though, that Andrew threw up on his roof rack, but it was wobbly and needed to be tied down. He tried to lasso the bars, but the rope got stuck on something, so I tried to jump up there and grab it. I wish someone had a video of me struggling to figure out how to get up on the roof of his truck, with almost nothing safe to hold on to. It took like 15 seconds, and probably looked like I was going to slip off over and over. I got it though! Wish someone had video.

One odd thing...

I saw several bikes with flat pedals on them.

Flat Pedals

Not what you generally expect to see... but!!! The number 2 rider this year had broken his foot, was still wearing the boot, and rode with it, on one flat pedal.

My. God.

I headed back home shortly after everyone left, but the next morning, Sophie and I were milling around the start, bright and early. We even ran into Norma and Johnny at a gas station south of Clayton, and then again at the start. Johnny'd had a tough couple of years. He'd injured his foot running and eventually ended up having to get a Cortisone shot to take care of it. He'd also gotten a tooth abscess, which didn't hurt, but taxed his immune system to such an extent that he was perpetually sick for months. He was finally healthy though, and finally back to running and riding too.

Norma works at REI and had a guy come in earlier that year asking about equipment for and info about the TNGA. She pointed him in the direction of my first write up from when we rode it in 2010. I don't think she told him that she was in the photos though. I can only imagine his reaction when he realized it was.

It was fun to watch all of the riders were getting ready.

Starting to Assemble

Everybody has these little particular things they do. Sophie noticed a common thread among a great many of them though... Almost everyone was carrying a banana. I'd even eaten one from the gas station earlier that morning. 2018 was the year of the banana, for sure. We'll see how it goes in 2019.

I also ran into a couple who just live nearby, had heard that the event started just down the road, and also came by to see the spectacle. It turned out that they did have a slight connection to the event though... The lady's brother in law is Jim Parham. This Jim Parham, to whom I owe considerable thanks for publishing his Off the Beaten Track series, and in particular his guides to North Georgia. In the early 2000's, I wore out an earlier version of that book. That, and the one that Alex Nutt wrote. Without those books, I'd have been relegated to the in-town trails that most everybody else rode, and never would have gotten to know the mountains. I got to thank Alex in person at a race once. I asked the lady to thank Jim for me when she sees him again.

T-minus 5 minutes...





Mark B.

Mark B.

Lookin' good guys. Lookin' good.

Koz gave everyone the pre-ride rundown.


It was funny though. He started it with: "Hi, I'm Koz. I'm the one with the big mouth. Whoever's not here, raise your hand."

Apparently there were a few riders that were unaccounted for.

I managed to get a shot of the exact millisecond of the start.

TNGA Start 2018

I joked the day before that it's all about the holeshot.

I think that's Kurt Refsnider, who ended up with the fastest time this year, on the far left, with the holeshot. See, it's all about the holeshot.

One of Johnny and Norma's friends Linda was riding this year, and Norma was shouting: "Big ring, no brakes!" to her as she rolled out.



They were off. Sophie and I went up to Sarah's Creek to see them come through there.

It takes a while for the riders to start showing up. Sophie remembered this from previous years, and brought her ukulele to entertain herself while we waited.

Ukelele Girl

She's gotten pretty good, and she entertained me quite well too.

Riders eventually started trickling in.

I almost missed Mark B., who was like in 6th place at the time.

Mark B at Sarahs Creek

A big crew came through a while later with Justin and Glen in it.

Justin and Glen and Crew at Sarahs Creek

At that point, groups were coming through every minute or so, and we were standing outside my truck clapping and half-shouting words of positive encouragement. There was a guy camping nearby, that we couldn't see because of the brush between us and him, that was no doubt pleased when we finally decided to leave. Right as we were pulling out, he emerged from behind the little stand of trees, and the look on his face indicated that he'd had enough of our disturbance. Yikes! I'll have to look around a little more carefully next year. Sorry man.

On the way back to MGap, Sophie wanted to take some landscape photos, photos of cool building, and the like, having seen that there were plenty of opportunities to do such during previous years. So, we did plenty of that.

For example, there was this pretty church in Clayton with pretty mountains in the background.

Church in Clayton

...and Sophie getting a shot of it.

Sophie Photographing the Church in Clayton

And we drove down to Lake Burton too.

Lake Burton Panorama

And got a few shots of the Popcorn Creek Overlook.

Popcorn Creek Overlook

I almost forgot though... On the way out from Sarah's Creek, we drove down to Earl's Ford, to get some photos there. To get to Earl's Ford, you first have to cross Warwoman Creek. We drove up to it, took some photos, and thought a bit about what to do next. Warwoman Ford is interesting. The creek splits around a sand/gravel bar, so you ford one part of the creek, drive across the gravel, then ford another part of the creek. It had rained quite a bit over the past few days, and the gravel bar was almost completely submerged, though only under an inch or two of water. I could see where I needed to go to get to it, but when I went for it, it was deeper than I expected and water came all the way up over my hood. Wooohoo! Now it's a party. I remember the other side being even deeper, and it was definitely wider. Without more experience, and/or a second truck with a tow cable at the ready, I wasn't ready to give it a try. We hung a u-ey on the gravel bar, dunked the hood again, and high-tailed it out of there.

When we got to MGap, I took a little nap, uploaded a video of the start that Sophie took, and kicked back on the couch for a few hours.

Stephen McHone's wife (who's name I got, but since I'm terrible at remembering names, I don't remember) hung out with us for a while, and their tiny, and surprisingly unfussy baby too. There are multiple acoustic guitars hanging on the wall in the barn. The nylon stringed one typically has all of its strings, stays in tune, and sounds reasonably decent. So, I played it to the extent that I could, for several hours, and Sophie and I even played several songs together, she on her ukulele. We had a great time.

I went walking around at one point, looking for local wildlife.

That consisted of this skink...

Skink at MGap

...and this banded water snake.

Banded Water Snake at MGap

There was a bigger snake too, but it got away before I could get a photo of it.

Sophie and I eventually headed east to watch some riders come through Helen. For the past few years, there's been a low-key party at Woody's at the end of the first day. This year, riders were welcome to camp there, and he left out some pop-up tents, a bike stand, and some tools, but there was nobody there. No party. Instead, there were a couple of people hanging out at the Quick-Pak in Robertstown. Andrew and Kate had been there all day in case someone needed to be picked up. It's easier to just hang out there than to head back to MGap and have to drive back over later.

The first few riders had come and gone when we got there. Another 10 or more came through soon after though. The riders were in one of two moods - completely shelled, or completely fine. Nobody was in between. Tyler Williamson was even chatty. We sat around talking about software development for an hour or so. I advised him that I felt like I was consuming his blood sugar, but he didn't care. He, apparently, had plenty to spare.

Mark B. did not.

Mark B in Robertstown

"F*** you!" was the first thing he said when he saw me, and he didn't seem to be joking.


That's about right. People thank me for creating the route sometimes. I usually tell them to feel free to curse me later. I've heard that people have done it, but it hadn't yet been done directly to my face.


Mark's blood sugar was low. He refueled, slept in Helen, and made it to Ellijay the next day before pulling out. I think Glen and Justin made it to Helton Creek Falls. Asa made it a bit past Snake Creek Gap. Linda finished! I was actually watching when she finished.

Eddie O called me, out of the blue, when it looked like Kurt Refsnider couldn't beat his record, proportionally. I guess he did some cross-multiplication to figure out what that would be. It's a bit of math actually. I was watching the trackers when he called and we talked for like an hour.

Next year is the 10th anniversary, and it's not completely out of the question that I could actually do the ride. It's funny, these days, there are actually plenty of local events that I can do to train up for it. Seems like this bikepacking thing has kind-of taken off. I even saw a Sweetwater Beer billboard on I-75 yesterday with bikepackers on it. It's so weird. I've been out of the loop for a while, and it's all so weird to me.

No comments:

Post a Comment