What’s that saying about the best laid plans?
Previously when I did the expedition update it is was recap on my training and packing. A brief summary of minor changes to the itinerary and how I’m feeling, nerves, confidence, physically. But not this time. I have had to make radical changes last minute, not something I would usually recommend. Another saying is ‘don’t try anything new on race day’. But clichés aside training had been done and I am itching for adventure.
Oregon is currently suffering the worst wildfire season in years. I have been watching with great interest from my base here in New Zealand. Anxiously opening my laptop to check the latest fire forecast. Switching back and forth between the fire website and the GPS of my route. It looks like the Pacific North West has been struck with measles. Fires have spread thick clouds of smoke all over the State and just this week the actual trail has been closed due to fires in Paisley. A Level 2 Evacuation has been issued. I don’t know the difference between level 1 and level 2 but I don’t fancy cycling through it to find out. Multiple campsites have been closed and damage to the trail has yet to be assessed.
The Back Up Plan
When I started seeing the fires I stated looking into a back up plan. To ride a segment of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route was my first idea. I am feeling strong and my gear is all set for a prolonged expedition ride. What I would take for a 4-week expedition isn’t much different than what I would take for a 6 or 8-week expedition (I will do a full run down of my gear choices and bike set up in a separate blog.)
So, I got the maps out and started looking at the GDMBR. I still had a few weeks until I was set to fly out. Yet again as I was looking at the fire maps, more of the little red spots started to appear over my prospective route. I’m trying not to say ‘spreading like wildfire’.
Then I check my ever-growing bucket list of adventures (I have this as a note on my phone and add new adventures when I stumble across events and routes.) And there is the perfect replacement for the Oregon Megaloop. Same distance, 2000km, more elevation gain but a lower max elevation. Now, this is quite important because I have done most of my training here at sea level, so although strong at climbing I will be weak at high elevation. Something the Timber Trail has plenty of. Therefore, this new trail is going to be the perfect fit. Very difficult, very remote and certainly the hardest expedition I have tried yet
The New Expedition for 2018
Without further scaremongering and fan fare let me introduce The Southern Highlands Traverse.
Starting in Front Royal in Virginia I follow the Blue Ridge Mountains through West Virginia, Tennessee, South Carolina and finish in Alabama. The trail is extremely diverse from highly technical and exposed ridge riding to converted rail trail and everything in between. Long abandoned backcountry fire roads and overgrown 4×4 track. This trail is going to be as tough as it is beautiful and throughout it all I get to experience the food, culture and famous southern hospitality. I can’t wait!
The Expedition Update
Pre-expedition jitters are in full swing. Same as last time, and same as the time before that. In the build up to Offroad Aotearoa I hadn’t trained physically enough but the logistics were fairly simple.
However, this trip I feel strong but there is so much to do, just to get to the start line (6 flights for example!) and so many options for things to go wrong. But this is why we train, once my tyres hit the ground on US soil it is down to me and adaptability is the key.
I feel fit and strong, I didn’t hit the weekly hours targets I set myself in my training blog but I have hit all of the challenges; i.e., 2000m elevation gain in one day or two back to back 6-hour days. So, my fitness is solid and my body feels good to go.
I tried to gain some weight in anticipation of losing some on the ride. During the Offroad Aotearoa I lost 10kg. I tried my hardest but can’t say I have gained any weight. On the plus side I feel very confident I can put that weight back on when I am unleashed upon the Southern food when I finish my ride. No doubt I will be a little heavier on my flight home.
My bike is freshly serviced and fully specced up ready for some serious abuse. My sponsors over at Mot Bike Co have been working hard to get everything as simplistic and bomb proof as possible. Dakine and Time Headwear have sorted me out with all of my clothing and I am travelling even lighter than the Offroad Aotearoa Rig so every sock has been counted! So, I am ready the gear is ready, the route is ready!
All I have to do is get myself state side …and the rest…well that’s what makes it an adventure!
One last thing, massive thank you to everyone who has donated to the charity page for Suicide Prevention. It means a lot to me but I always feel weird about asking people for money. The page is still up and we still have a way to go to reach the £3000 goal. Spread the word, here’s the link: