Dropping off the kids at summer camp can be an emotionally-charged experience and this certainly was true for our clients Joe, Tamara & Carrie…
But not for the reason that you might expect. Last June, Joe & Tamara (husband & wife), and Carrie (Tamara’s sister) dropped their kids at camp in Hendersonville. They were excited about their own summer cycling adventure.
Joe had contacted me to inquire about designing an Inn-to-Inn bicycle tour that would allow his group to enjoy three days of cycling in Western North Carolina with great accommodations, good food, and scenic routes. He wanted to ride self-supported, without a guide or van.
But also did not want to carry luggage and gear along on their bikes. No problem!
Joe, Tamara and Carrie live and ride in Chapel Hill, North Carolina where the terrain is much flatter compared to most of the area in and around Asheville.
Keeping this in mind, I created a three day tour that offered some flat roads, some rolling hills, and only a few long climbs.
I kept the total miles each day between 30 and 40 miles, leaving plenty of time to enjoy each destination.
I met the group at Burntshirt Vineyard just after they said good-bye to their kids at camp. I briefed them on the routes, safety, and the attractions at the destinations. I also loaded their luggage into the Velo Girl Rides Van for transport to their lodging the first night, as they rolled off on their journey.
The first day of riding took them through the village of Flatrock where they enjoyed some delicious treats at the Flatrock Village Bakery — a destination for hundreds of cyclists every week.
After leaving Flatrock, the route became hillier as it crossed through Tuxedo, past Lake Summit, and into South Carolina. Here is where the real work began.
Sometimes I joke that the roads around Chapel Hill are paved in silk because they are so smooth – truly a cyclist’s dream come true. In South Carolina, where the fuel tax is virtually non-existent, the pavement can be more like Swiss cheese than silk. Still, riding through the Greenville Watershed is a real treat. One of the most popular route for Greenville SC cyclists, the Watershed has nearly no motorized traffic, so it feels as if you are riding through a state park.
Just before arriving in the town of Saluda, the group passed back into North Carolina. The Palmetto Trail crossed the route near the state line. A planned 425 mile trail, the Palmetto Trail will host recreational biking and hiking and 235 miles of the trail have already been completed. A true accomplishment for our sister state.
Hours before the group arrived at The Oaks Bed & Breakfast, I placed their luggage in each of their rooms at the Inn — waiting for them to finish their day of riding.
Showers and a little time for relaxation preceded the stroll to the heart of the village where Joe, Tamara & Carrie found food and local craft brews to celebrate their day of riding.
Saluda boasts several options for great food including The Purple Onion, The Saluda Grade Cafe, and the Wildflour Bakery. Depending on the time of year and day of the week, live music can often be found in various locations in town.
And, of course, I cannot mention Saluda without including a little history about the Saluda Grade. The Saluda Grade is the steepest standard-gauge mainline railway grade in the United States. Owned by the Norfolk Southern Railway as part of its W Line, Saluda Grade in Polk County, North Carolina gains 606 feet (185 m) in elevation in less than three miles between Melrose and Saluda. Average grade is 4.24 percent for 2.6 miles (4.2 km) and maximum is 4.9% for about 300 feet (91 m). Thanks to Wikipedia for this history lesson.
What cyclists need to know about the Saluda Grade is that the road that runs roughly parallel to the old rail line was repaved in 2015 and it is a delight to climb or descend. And descend it, this group did on their second day of riding.
Day 2 included a screaming descent from Saluda to the base of the grade which lies near Tryon, North Carolina. Home to the Tryon International Equestrian Center and many horse farms, Tryon is a quaint town with a large rocking horse sculpture, great food, and a tribute to native Nina Simone.
After passing through the town, our group rode through peach orchards and made their way to the Cherokee Foothills Scenic Foothills and on to the Poinset Bridge. By now, the three riders were getting pretty hot in the summer sun, and the creek that flows under the bridge provided the perfect place to relax and cool down. If a picnic basket had been waiting, the day would have been perfect (typical on our supported tours!).
Poinsett Bridge is the oldest bridge in South Carolina and perhaps in the entire southeastern United States. Named for Joel Roberts Poinsett, it was built in 1820 as part of a road from Columbia, South Carolina to Saluda Mountain.
After leaving the bridge, the Greenville Watershed climb loomed ahead. Locals love to take this climb as often as possible because it is so very beautiful. Want to work on hill repeats? Why not make it epic in every way? The group returned to the Oaks B&B at the end of the riding day.
For the third day of riding, Joe, Tamara & Carrie retraced their steps to Burntshirt Vineyard where I was waiting with their luggage.
The group set their sights on a 2015 summer cycling adventure closer to Asheville (read…ready for a little more climbing!). Great food, great weather, great lodging and scenic routes made this tour a big success. Who says the kids get to have all the fun?
Interested in creating this sort of cycling adventure while your kids are in summer camp? Want to try it? We love to create beautiful cycling experiences, either supported (with Van and guide) or unsupported. Contact me at Jen@VeloGirlRides.com.