Tuesday, October 23, 2012

ESTN Day 3: Excruciating Sore Throat Now

Blogger's Note: Holy smokes, I took a bit of a hiatus from the blog, didn't I? Sorry about that! As you'll read, I became sick on the ESTN trip. Well, that illness still lingers nearly seven weeks later. Between not feeling so great for more than half of those seven weeks and eleven days of conference travel sandwiched in there as well, I have had neither the time nor the motivation to write. But that's over now. I'm back at it and will get you up to speed over the next few nights. Bear with me! For now, let's pick up where we left off over a month ago...with Day 3 of our ESTN trip.

Need a refresher? Check out Day 1 and Day 2, first.

When I woke up Saturday morning, my worst fears were confirmed. I was getting sick. The past two mornings, I'd woken up with a sore throat, but I had attributed that to sleeping with the windows open (at home Thursday morning) and the meat-locker-like temperature in our motel room (on Friday morning). But come Saturday, I wasn't just battling a sore throat; I knew I was getting sick. I could just feel it. That and I had no voice. (I haven't seen Chris that happy in ages!!!) 

We got up, showered, dressed, and walked to JB's for breakfast. At JB's, I managed to squeak out my order with special emphasis on the hot tea. Just after we'd ordered, Shane and Andrea joined us. JB's was full of ST.Ners plotting and planning their routes for the day. 

After breakfast, we returned to our rooms to suit up for our ride. In the absence of my voice, before we walked to breakfast Chris and I had cued up hours of podcasts for each of us to enjoy while we rode since we wouldn't be doing any talking. (Again...some of the biggest smiles I've seen from Chris in a long time!) Fortunately, after I'd had a hot tea with my breakfast, my voice returned.

We headed out and immediately stopped for gas across the street from the motel. It's our M.O. Get all geared up and ready to go, only to stop within minutes for petrol. (The flip side of this would be to gas up the night before on the way into the motel, but honestly, after a long day of riding, the last thing you want to do is get off the bike at a gas station only to have to get back on it again. When you're ready to get off the bike at the end of the day, you're ready to get off the bike. The minor inconvenience of gassing up the next morning is worth knowing you're getting off the bike only once at the end of the day!)

The route that Chris and Shane had planned for Saturday was over 300 miles. Andrea and I both agreed that we didn't see ourselves going that long on Saturday. The good thing was that Chris and Shane said there were several "bail out" points along the route where we could cut the ride short if (when) we wanted.

During our first hour of riding, I listed to Chris Hardwick's "The Nerdist" podcast. It's actually quite good! If you haven't listened to it yet, I recommend you give it a shot. Start with a guest you like. I started listening to it when Alton Brown was his guest. I've since gone back and cherry-picked episodes. I don't listen to all of them, but I've enjoyed all the ones I've listened to. 

We passed tobacco fields on our way out of Sparta to find the good roads.

Quilt squares are prevalent in western NC; unlike this one displayed in a yard, most are displayed on barns.

We popped back up into Virginia to ride on The Crooked Road.
Also during that first hour, "the illness" manifested itself. My head became stuffy, my sinuses became clogged, my throat felt thick and goopy, and my body ached. I felt like crap. But, we were on some of the best roads with some of our best friends. I really didn't want to cut the ride short an hour into it. At the same time, I felt so bad I just really wanted to cry. I finally clicked over to Chris (who, unbeknownst to me was talking to Shane) and said, "I'm sick." Chris thought I meant stick-to-my-stomach, so I clarified that I mean sick with a cold.

We stopped a short while later for a stretch break, bathroom, beverages, etc. and Chris and I began evaluating our options. We could bail and head back to the motel, but that would make for a boring day. So I decided I would try to press on with a little help from Advil, with the option to bail whenever I was ready. It didn't hurt that when we were in the gas station picking our a beverage, I saw that they sold Boone's Farm wines and had a bottle of Snow Creek Berry. SOLD! I snagged a bottle of wine and a bottle of Gatorade, knocked back four Advils, and got back on the bike. While we were stopped, James from Massachusetts (one of the guys who'd come down to ESTN) arrived and decided to tag along with us for a while.

We took US 58 - LOVE! - west to get to "The Snake." US 58 is a fantastic road and a portion of it weaves through Cherokee National Forest. The scenery was gorgeous and we really had the road to ourselves. We had a super ride down "The Snake" (US 421), including a portion of the road I'd not been on before. We stopped at the Shady Valley Country Store where we encountered two colorful locals who were directing bicycle traffic for a charity ride. These two gentlemen were an absolute hoot; it was delightful to talk to and laugh with them. I wish I'd taken their picture; they were so much fun!

Speaking of taking pictures, with James tagging along behind us, I managed to snag a few pictures of him riding as we approached and negotiated "The Snake."

We stopped in Mountain City, TN for lunch at Subway. I was still feeling pretty rotten, so I opted for just an iced tea (since they didn't have hot tea). We talked about our options and also checked the weather. The forecast called for afternoon rain and we wanted to try to avoid it, if possible. We decided to make our way back to the motel on a somewhat-direct-yet-back-road-route. As we left Mountain City, we pulled up next to James and Shane & Andrea to take their pictures.


Shane & Andrea
We got back to the motel around 3 PM. Chris and I walked a few blocks to "downtown" Sparta to visit a few shops and pick up drinks for that evening. When we got back to the room, Chris decided to take a shower and then go out and socialize. I decided to take some medicine and take a nap. Dinner was at 6:30 PM, so I went out to join Chris and everyone else that had returned in the parking lot.

The gang in front of me - Shane, Ben, Andrea, Chris, and John

The gang behind me, including Jim in the white hat.

The parking lot crew. Notice Jerry and Jeff checking out just how bald Jeff's rear tire is!

Shane joined the crew in the parking lot admiring the bikes.

Frank (center - gray shirt) is without his Beans (Scott).
Our friend, Doug, who organized the meet in Sparta also organized a group dinner catered by a BBQ joint up in Galax. We'd hoped to have the dinner outside, but the weather did not seem like it was going to cooperate, so the motel let us use their large conference room as our dining space; it worked out quite well.

Dinner was quite yummy! I opted for BBQ chicken instead of the pulled pork and was not disappointed. I love me a good BBQ'd quarter chicken. The beans (BEANS!) were sweet and spicy and the dessert (banana bread pudding) was tasty, too. We had a great time laughing and carrying on over dinner. I think a group meal is a great idea for a meet if/when it can be pulled off so easily. Nice job, Doug!

After dinner, we returned to the parking lot for another night of adult beverages and tall tales.

We never really got any rain, but we got a rainbow!

Jeff is always smiling! Maybe not always styling...but always smiling!
We said our goodbyes to most people Saturday night. Some folks were heading directly home (like Shane & Andrea) and would have to leave very early. Others (like us) were taking Sunday and Monday to head home, so there was a chance we'd see a few folks in the morning, but we didn't want to risk it. 

Day 3, despite the illness that had descended upon me, was a great day! Great roads, great friends, great dinner, great parking lot conversation...just GREAT!

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