The following 4 images were taken by Jesse 'Dude' Hooks on his week and a half 1,180mile solo journey north, southwest and east on his trusty loaded road bike.
You know what, I am always amazed at the mental and physical capacities of the few people that I actually know in this world of say 7.6 billion humans. I'm not talking about acquaintances or the cool crowd that seems to be everywhere or those in search of their 4 million based on nothing who I seem to be surrounded by or those who keep asking me how I am and expect an answer or even those who have entered my life on principles of truth and have left never getting it. I'm talking about the friends who actually know me and who I know that give more than they take in this world and are not judging themselves against anyone at any specific place or time. They are the ones living.
The following story is not an attempt to document any emotional, mental or physical understanding of what Dude went through on his long ride. I am merely compelled to let as many of you out there know about one of the most interesting ride efforts I have ever had the fortune to hear first hand. Share it comes back.
Early morning Wednesday, May 7 2008 Dude left out on a solo 1,180mile bike adventure that he had been planning for awhile but kept on the down low until he told me the week before he left. His idea was way better than Ilan's best idea ever. Jesse decided to ride north roughly 365 miles( more accurately 380 miles) to get to Front Royal Virginia where the Skyline Drive starts from it's most northern point. On the second day of that northern journey Dude came up with a bit of a mechanical problem when his shifter stopped working. Thanks to the floating grid theory of human existence he met someone who helped him by getting him to a bike shop 25 miles away, waiting for the replacement of his shifter with a down tube friction version and then drove him back 25miles so that Jesse would not miss a single part of his route. Over coffee yesterday Jesse let me know that without this good ole boy's help at that time the ride could have been shut down. No shifting in the mountains with a 110lb plus rig sounds like a hellish nightmare that would have sent some of the best straight for the bar. His only other mechanical problem the entire ride was one flat.
By the end of Day 3(correction due to a literary misunderstanding: he had finished day 3 in to Front Royal and started the Skyline on the morning of Day4) Jesse was on the Skyline Drive headed south and west. The views and rolling mountains kept him moving down towards the NC line along the spine of the Appalachian. On May 11th which was his birthday Jesse spent his last night(correction due to my false assumption: 2nd to last night in Va was May 11th-his 26th Bday[his last night in Va was actually Fancy Gap which I knew but erroneously thought was within the NC border-14miles off I was]) in Virginia at a lodge in Peaks of Otter where the staff gifted him with a few malty beverages in celebration of the day of his birth. The initial plan was to be camping at night with his single bivy but he found himself passing closed camp grounds and open doors that led to shelter along the way. He did mention that he camped once at a grounds that were normally used by through hikers on the AT.
I received a text message from him the day he hit the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina and remember thinking to myself that he is moving fast and has to be seeing something amazing at that point in time. It was windy, cold and raining. Perhaps a battle against the elements and gravity is just what he was looking for and was getting. Where he had come from to the now meant that he had ahead 470 miles of the most amazing mountain road east of the Mississippi and when that was over there was just under 200 miles back to the Jar. The climbs on the parkway are more a plenty, longer and steeper than the Skyline Drive. The best was now ahead of him.
It seems as if it were only 3 days later in the afternoon that I got a call from Jesse who was just past Craven Gap near Asheville. He knew Eric Wever and his wife Erinna lived in Asheville and were both extraordinary bike friendly folk who would give him some space to drop gear for the night. I belled up the Wevenator and he was happy to oblige this bike traveler who he had ridden with on mountain bike rides before. I called Jesse back, gave him a phone number and some directions. Eric was specific, he must descend Craven Gap because that not only puts him in town but it is 14 miles of ripping road down hill. Dude was a little pissed at this point because he had flown down from the Gap 5 miles back to be where he was when I was telling him to get back up the hill and take the Toll Mountain Road down off of Craven. It was easy to give advice from the flat land of Charlotte. Everything went well for Jesse that night including some BEER, food and the warmth of the Wever house and hospitality which I have experienced personally myself more than once over the years.
The next day Jesse was once again rolling before the rise of the sun and by the time the day was done he would be at the end of the Parkway in Cherokee NC. One last night in a cheap hotel and only 180 miles or 18 Stay Alives to get himself home safely in Charlotte with his ride goal complete. Although he said that there were car commuter traffic problems on the Skyline and Parkway at multiple locations, including Roanoke VA, Boone NC and Asheville NC the nightmare must have come full circle when off of these two lesser travelled non commercial traffic roads. None of that mattered for he was focused on the completion of this Epic ride. He pedalled that last 180 miles on Friday and was back in town soon after dark.
10 days solo
infinite amount of climbing and descending
43mph top speed on 100lb plus road bike
Lynyrd Skynyrd music
legs that have lost muscle to the pain of hunger and weight loss
twist of fate