Spartanburg, SC to the top of Mt. Mitchell, NC, 102 miles and 11,000 feet of climbing to the highest elevation East of the Mississippi. You may ask yourself “Why participate in such a masochistic event?”. It’s an honest question and one that I’m sure each of the cyclists asked themselves at some point today. You see, there’s a reason they call these events “Challenge Centuries”. The challenge is different for each cyclist, but it presents a challenge nonetheless. I worked on the answer to that question for some time today……
First, I’d like to offer a big “THANK YOU” to our spouses for their work providing logistical and moral support. We truly couldn’t do it without you. Second, “THANKS!” to the Freewheelers of Spartanburg for putting this event on every year. The logistics involved is truly staggering.
Jeff Greene, John Sanders, and I lined up at 0630 this morning in Spartanburg with the 1000 riders headed to the top of Mt. Mitchell and the 700 (or so) that were headed to Marion. It was overcast and 74 degrees as we prepared to leave. I saw more than one spouse hug their loved one as if they might never see them again. It remained overcast without rain (Mitchell without rain? Ce n’est pas possible.) for the duration of the event and really couldn’t have been nicer weather for riding. Each of us found a group to ride with and made it to Marion without incident. At Marion, our wives were waiting with bottles and encouraging words. The ride from Marion to the top of Mitchell is 30 miles or so of almost constant climbing. It gets old and wears on everyone’s legs. This was where I did a lot of my pondering since the group is broken up and the riding does not demand such close attention to keep one from harm. The difficulty is occasionally punctuated by the beautiful vistas along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Some of the particular beauties experienced today were: the low clouds over the mountains, mountain laurel and rhododendrons in bloom, and a covey of quail crossing the road while ascending Mt. Mitchell. Each of us finished and were satisfied with our results. We then took a long, twisty bus ride back down to Marion and ate before heading home.
Ah, but what of the question? Glad you asked. My answer to the honest question would be that these events have provided me with a common goal to share with a few friends that gives us cause to spend time together in preparation and attending them. The relationships that flow from the time spent together would likely not occur without something like these events to provide the impetus for getting together. It’s those relationships and memories of times spent together that we’ll remember long after the timing chip results can no longer be found. That seems like a pretty good reason to me.