Friday, September 10, 2021

TNGA 2021 (Spectating)

Oh, man! I forgot to write about this year's TNGA. I'll try to make it quick...

Me and the gerch got up reasonably early Saturday morning and blazed up to Clayton. "Blazed" was the right word too, as I wasn't paying adequate attention to my speed down a big hill in Demorest, and I got a ticket! Dangit. The last ticket I got was in 2018, and the last one before that was in like 2010 or before. I can't even remember. Dangit!!!

The sun was coming up as we approached Clayton, and the early morning fog was still resting on the mountains.

Early Morning Cloudy Mountains

We could see the cross on Screamer Mountain too, but I couldn't get a photo of it.

On the way down Warwoman Road, we saw a few riders heading towards us. It turned that there had been a 7AM start. I knew they had an 8AM start the previous day, but I didn't know about the 7AM start that day.

Honcho pulled up right after we arrived, and I spent way too long talking to him. We were trying to figure out what the first year that the TNGA ran was. Was it 2009 or 2010? Turns out it was 2010, but I couldn't immedaitely remember. I had to look it up later. He also pointed out the distinction between the 10th anniversary and 10th running, which had never occurred to me as being different, but, in fact, are. The 10th running (or 10th annual) is the 10th time the thing is done. The 10th anniversary is actually the 11th annual/running of the thing. Eg. your first anniversary occurs on the year following your marriage - the second occurrance of that day. Mind boggling.

Yeah, we talked about that for so long that the riders had already started lining up at the border and we didn't have time to walk over across the bridge and mingle.

It was still about 10 minutes prior to the actual start at that point though, so we did get to mingle with everyone after they started lining up.

Riders Milling Around at the Start 
	Riders Staged

Also, I got to look around a bit and enjoy the area.

The Chattooga

Mike Rasch was volunteering this year, and there were official TNGA Volunteer t-shirts!

Mike Rasch - Official Volunteer

I should volunteer next year just to get one of those shirts.

Diane was in town too!

Robin, Diane, and Andrew

I don't get to see her too much any more, so that was great!

Any minute now...

Any Minute Now

At the last second, Chris Joyce decided he had to pee, sprinted off down the road, ran into the woods, ran back out, sprinted back, and got back in line just in time.


After the riders were off, we mingled some more, but the bugs were biting, so we didn't stay too long. The traditional next-stop is Sarah's Creek, so we made our way up there. In years past, we hung out near the little campground up there, but last year all of our hollering bothered a guy who was trying to sleep, but who's tent we couldn't see from where we were parked. So, this time we set up down the road a quarter mile or so. It worked out pretty well, and we got to watch lots of riders come through over the next hour or so.

The Turn on to Sarah's Creek 
	Heading Up Sarah's Creek 
	More Riders Turning on to Sarah's Creek

I even ran into Lucas Kindervater, whom I'd ridden with in 2019 for almost all of the third day. He eventually crushed me, but it was great riding with him, and really cool to see him again. He was there with a buddy of his. It was definitely his buddy's first TNGA, and possibly first bikepacking event. He picked a good one to start with!

After it looked like the bulk of the riders had come through, we headed back to Mulberry Gap. We ended up grabbing some lunch at Ellijay Wood Fired Pizza on the square on the way in, and it was so good. The square there is always busy these days. I love it. Historically, you could just drive through downtown, full speed the whole time. Now the lots are full, the outdoor tables are full, you've got to wait for people to cross the street, all the little shops are bustling. I hope this continues well into the future.

Back at the barn...

The Barn

...we hung out with Diane and Mike and Graham for hours.

Haning out in the Barn

We both ended up crashing on different couches at some point, and waking up later, spontaneously.

MGap really has their TNGA operation down. They'd moved most of the relevent shop stuff into the barn, set up tables and couches and cots appropriately. Volunteers were running around taking care of stuff. There was a table set up with trackleaders on a laptop and somebody was always keeping an eye on it. There were whiteboards with stuff on them that had meaning to those involved...


Kate was multitasking, as usual:

Kate, Multitasking

That's two phones at the same time, and some schedule or something.


Donna made lasagna for everyone and it was so good. I might have overeaten.

We planned to head back over to Helen and watch the riders come through the store there, but we were still at MGap when the first rider came through:

First Rider Through

He was a Friday starter, and looking pretty strong at the time. People were asking him questions that required thinking though, which he was a little slow to answer. My brain usually powers down partway into the first day, and runs in kindergarten mode for most of the rest of the time. It takes me a good 20 minutes of recharge time before I can do math or any kind of critical thinking. I'm always impressed with people who are still mentally sharp that far in.

A little before dusk, we headed back to Helen. Well, Robertstown actually, and parked next to the gas station. There's a big, long picnic table over there that you can sit on and cheer for people as they come through.

They'd emerge from the black abyss across the road:

Robertstown - Dead of Night

Usually one-at-a-time, but sometimes in pairs or groups. You could usually tell it was a rider and not a car by the single headlamp, but one time two guys came through riding side-by-side, and it took a while before I could tell that they weren't a car.

One guy was leaving right as we drove up. After him, two guys came through individually. One guy just kept going. I guess he was good on food and water. Then, the guy wanted to close the gas station, and even turned off the lights, but people just kept showing up and convincing him to stay open for them, including one lady, and these guys:

Riders Coming Through Robertstown

But that was it. After them, he was out of there. A big group of like 5 riders came through almost immediately after he closed, like less than a minute after he drove away. They kind-of didn't mind though, as they were heading into Helen anyway.

Everyone we talked to was feeling pretty good. Usually people fall into 2 groups at that point. They either feel totally fine, or they barely drag themselves in. It was a little more mixed this time. Plenty of folks feeling "pretty good". Nobody had any massive trouble yet, which was encouraging. It had rained, lightly, off and on, all day too, but nobody had crashed on the Hickory Nut, in the dark, in the wet. That was also encouraging.

With the store now totally closed, it seemed like a good time to head home, so we packed it in, drove back, and slept well.

I followed everybody on Trackleaders for the rest of the event. Eddie O finished. I think it was his first finish on the longer route. He missed the turn off for Sims Mountain and had to go back. Classic. Asa Marshall also finished. I think he's finished 4 or 5 times now. Linda Sledge finished, making her the oldest finisher, at 73. I want to say she beat my best time by several hours too. I don't think anyone else that I know finished, but a lot of people rode really well.

Yep, TNGA 2021 is in the books. Thanks everyone - organizers, volunteers, staff, vendors, enthusiasts, riders, and their families!

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