leaving Athens

We visited The Tree That Owns Itself: a handsome enough specimen, but remarkable in its legal standing rather than being a very special tree in its own right.

I am pleased that I am still in towns that support tulips. (I don’t guess I got any pictures, but Greenville, too.)

just somebody’s front yard

And we finished up in another beautiful brewery’s back yard.

The Southern Brewing Company

On to Columbia, where I have friends waiting!

Athens

From Greenville I’ve headed a little further south to Athens, Georgia, where I wanted to pay my respects to another hometown of Drive-By Truckers frontman Patterson Hood, and its generally well-known music scene. There are breweries here, too. I wanted to see a show at the storied 40 Watt Club, but they don’t do much during the week. I did stop by the Foundry for a drag queen storytelling event, somewhat in solidarity with the Greenville library story – this is a very different kind of storytelling, though. Where that one was a children’s storytime (reading children’s books, as happens in libraries), this one was more Moth-style, where queens got up to tell their own true stories. Well, it turned out to be more catharsis or therapy than crafted artistry; and that’s great, but it was less entertaining than it might have been. I’m really glad for the lovely ladies (and one transman) that they’re doing so well, though, and looking good.

As in Greenville, I’ve found a few parks to wander through, and some beer. It’s a nice town, also with the diversity, and one where I think I could feel at home. So heavily college-student-culture, though. Not sure I’d live here.

moving on

Leaving Mulberry Gap was painful, and I mean that in a few ways. It was hard to leave such a perfect spot, although the beginning of a big event they were hosting helped to motivate me. But also, I was feeling pretty thrashed. Between a few days at Blankets Creek and a few days here, I’d done 6 rides in 5 days, including nearly 7000 vertical feet. The mileage wouldn’t have been a big deal for me at one time, but for these days and my poor fitness, it was plenty; the 7000 feet would have been a feat even at my best, I think, never having lived anywhere really mountainous. (A few individual weeks spent in Washington or Colorado do come to mind.) Whew! I loved every minute, you understand, but I was due for a break.

So Foxy and Hops and I hit the road, and put in some miles and saw some beautiful sights. We also had to see the inside of a vet’s office, unfortunately: a cat scratch to Hops’s left eye has become infected, so now we are having fun arguing over eye drops and ointments, hooray. This too shall pass, though, and more trails await after my legs have had a day or two to rest. Onward.

just a few days’ driving’

Mulberry Gap

Holy smokes, y’all, this one is a find! Leaving the Atlanta area, I headed a little north just past the town of Ellijay to Mulberry Gap Mountain Bike Get-A-Way. It’s a special spot in the woods where you can camp or rent a cabin, pay for lovely meals to be prepared for you, buy a beer, and most importantly, ride straight onto some fine trails and gravel roads. (Services also include guided rides, shuttles, and map consults. All services à la carte – meaning you can cook for yourself, etc.) This is a magical place.

Hops and I parked the van, took in a few meals, and listened to the creeks burble along. I did a short ride alone but was quickly set up with some other guests who took me out on some self-shuttled adventures. Even with shuttling, I climbed nearly 2000 feet each ride: these are hilly parts. My first night there – a night on which they were technically ‘closed’ – I was invited to share beer & pizza with a small group including the proprietors and a few friend/guests. Within hours of meeting, guys were handing me keys to their trucks to drive up & down mountains. The mountain bike community is a special one. I mostly keep well to myself on this trip, other than visiting with people I already knew before beginning. This couple of days was the first time I’ve really made new friends, and it was such a delight. Thanks to Kate & Andrew for the above-and-beyond hospitality; Alan of Walking Tree Brewery for beer & companionship; Greg for taking charge, pushing me, and even a bike wash (!); and Scottie of Club Ride for the ride, the gear, and talk of the future. I’m humbled.

For my mountain biking buddies out there, I highly recommend this experience. It’s remote – no cell service, and very spotty wifi. It’s absolutely gorgeous. The trails are plentiful and challenging, mostly in terms of climbing, but with some whooping fun downhills as well. Routes tend to include some gravel road as well. There’s more here than I could ride in a few days, even with shuttle assistance. I’d be thrilled to hang out for a week, like Greg was doing. The food is very good, the beer selection likewise, great company – really, this is the destination you’ve been looking for. Heartily recommended.

near Atlanta

There has been pie; a Mexican brunch; beer; and trails. I’ve mountain biked at Blankets Creek a few times, and Hops and I have hiked. That is our deal: I ride while he naps in the van (temperatures permitting), and then I take him out on the same trails. Repeat. Sometimes I find a bar or brewery afterward that we can enjoy together, too.

Most days I get to read, write, ride, and walk around with my partner in this wild and varied life. I’m the luckiest woman I know.

another home on the road

I have been much looking forward to seeing a dear friend in a suburb of Atlanta. I made part of the drive from Asheville at night, stopping around 11pm to sleep; I drove through part of South Carolina and into Georgia, but of course missed both state line signs. Getting to see Abby is such a treat. And the meeting of critters: Abby and I have spent so many hours exchanging stories and pictures of her cat and my dog, both of whom have so much personality and quirk, that their meeting was sure to be eventful. There has been some bickering. Never a dull moment.

I am so glad to be here in the heart of a friend’s home once more. Always a lovely interlude. Thanks, Abs.