Night had just fallen over the German metropolis of Cologne and the world-famous, gigantic cathedral at its heart overlooking the mighty Rhine River. I had come home from a long day of work consulting corporate clients of a large German bank. After a delicious dinner prepared by my loving wife, Sophia, I returned to reading a book I had just started recently: It's not about the Bike by Lance Armstrong – a rather fascinating story about the cancer survivor and the seven-consecutive-time winner of the prestigious Tour de France. It had been a pleasant read until now, and suddenly my mind went ZOOM. Here it was! Here was the glamorous and awe-striking description of one of the most magnificent places for road bicyclists on this planet – the Blue Ridge Parkway. This was it for me. After reading Lance's description of the beautiful roads and scenery, I was immediately sold to the idea of cycling the Blue Ridge Parkway. End to end. All 469 miles. I wanted to become an end-to-ender on my beloved leg-driven two-wheeler. The only question remaining was: when?
|I love the vistas of the Blue Ridge Parkway|
Setting a date for the event to happen and creating a plan to unfold was the first major step to bringing me closer to my desire. The effect of having a clear date is astonishing: it got me going and the stars and the universe immediately seemed to start conspiring in my favor. Things magically started falling into place. The first major shift for me that occurred was that I started to ride my bike and train my body regularly. Whenever possible, I'd include hills and mountains in my training loops. It was an average of three times a week that neighbors and mailmen found me pushing the pedals. The motivation to do that all came from declaring the date of my trip.
More coincidences manifested. I started to talk to people about the adventure I had envisioned in my mind. In no time at all, my wife Sophia offered to take on the role of what later turned out to be the backbone and 'MVP' - most valuable player - of the trip. She'd drive the support vehicle, photograph and videotape the ride, and cheer the cyclists on the hearty uphills of the Blue Ridge Parkway. A short while later, my cylcing buddy Phillip from Hamburg, Germany, subscribed to the idea of this challenging outing as well. On the very first phone conversation with him when I mentioned the trip to the Blue Ridge, he spontaneously and excitedly agreed to join in. “Great”, I thought. “I wouldn't be alone while sitting in and out of the saddle during the upcoming 469 miles”. I can tell you, it was such a great push for my motivation when someone fully bought into my idea and trusted my plan.
By June, my training was on course, I had a support vehicle driver and a cycling buddy to join me. Then, we decided that this 10 day ride would be a great way to raise funds for the neighboring Eliada Homes for Children in Asheville. Cycling the Blue Ridge Parkway for a Cause was now born. When this decision was made, even more people came to help. Our heartfelt big THANK YOU goes not only to the financial sponsors Angie Ensslin, management coach Führungspraxis as well as Dr. Sheela Sheth, but also to the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation. With a few weeks of preparation to go, I contacted them via e-mail informing them about our plan. You may find interesting to know that the Foundation issues certificates to all people who become 'end-to-enders' – be it as motorists, cyclists or otherwise. To my happy surprise, the kind women running the Foundation replied very excitedly in response to our plan of Cycling the Blue Ridge Parkway for a Cause. Just a couple of days later, we were stocked with beautiful Share the Journey T-Shirts, Kids in Parks pencils and other little items that create happiness when shared with kids and adults. The spontaneous reaching out of the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation still fills my heart with plenty of joy.
To really get this project working well, again my wife Sophia came to rescue. With the help of her guided Visualization Meditations that she offers at her Center for Meditation and Healing, Reflection Pond in Asheville, I developed a clear vision that I was able to turn into an ever-inspiring collage. This outward expression of my inner desire was no great piece of art admittedly, yet it was vital to keep and expand the vision in my mind. It helped me stay focused and excited about all the non-cycling activities that came with this undertaking. For, honestly, I do prefer spinning the cranks of my bike over planning the stages, creating to-do-lists and working the list down or writing press releases.
By the way, if you feel so inclined, we do still accept and greatly appreciate your contribution to help us help the children of Eliada. To donate, contact us under email@example.com or just click the yellow button that says “donate” in the right-hand side column of this page. Unless otherwise instructed, we split all donations 50-50 between covering our own costs and passing on to Eliada Homes for Children of Asheville Helping Children Succeed. As of now (beginning of October 2011) we are grateful to have raised 315 dollars for Eliada.
On this webpage (and also on our youtube-channel), we have posted short videos of each day of cycling. Enjoy the beautiful scenery of the Blue Ridge mountains, get a glimpse of our route and stages, and feel the excitement and exhaustion that a ride like and end-to-end ride of the Blue Ridge Parkway brings with it.
Imagine yourself going along the road – and out of the blue there is white-tailed deer next to you, grazing in peace, her small one biting oak nuts right behind her. You freeze. All you can think of is wishing these graceful creature 'Bon Appetit'. They just continue on, realizing, yet not at all minding, your presence. This is exactly what happened to us in the morning fog of Grandfather Mountain. What a mysterious setting! What an astounding meeting!
By the way, this was just one instance of many, that we got to enjoy viewing deer. Be it lonesome bucks, stags with royal crowns, or mothers with several young ones following her – be it stagnant face-offs, easy strolling ones, or leaping jumps of several yards distance, we cherished encountering every single deer on our way.
Besides deer and many many other land and air animals, there are (obviously) other human nature lovers around. Bikers and car drivers frequently asked us about our ride and cause. Joyce, a lady from Maryland, on a bus tour through the Blue Ridge Mountains, even gave us a warm, motherly hug. Once on a lunch time Overlook, a Californian cyclist called Ryan came up the mountain with his trailer, prepared for another few days in the wild. We also met Connor and Gaelan from London, Ontario, who were on their bicycling trip all the way to Georgia, staying overnight in welcoming churches and in touch with the rest of the world via free WiFi-Spots of well-known fast-food restaurants. It is fun to get a feeling of community on the Blue Ridge Parkway and meet great people, hear great stories, and fill up on great inspirations!
Emotionally, this end-to-end adventure was a roller-coaster ride. During the first days, when my legs were fresh and strong, it was a breeze. Coming out of day 3, the longest of our stages, I thought: “is that right - another day of cycling before rest day? Will the rest day be long enough to recuperate from the strenuous profile?” An hour in the hot tub of Hot Springs Spa in Hot Springs, NC, helped! Another two days later – my energy level equaled zero. I didn't even care about what would be on my pizza anymore! After the second rest day (another hour in the hot tub), however, the final two days were fun and joyful. The jump into the waters of Sliding Rock helped – freezing cold or not! On our last day, on the last climb (up to Waterrock Knob) cycling became fun and easy. We seemed to be flying up the hill as if on a one-hour-training loop. It all climaxed in the downhill into Cherokee, NC, when on the last ten miles of the entire trip the butterflies in my stomach made me feel like freshly in love. I just had to let it all out by countless outcries of joy.
Indeed, our journey turned out to be an experience of such fantastic impact, that I can say, “yes, we do want to do it again!” The exclamation regards both dimensions: Cycling the Blue Ridge Parkway as well as Cycling for a Cause. While it was meaningful already to go bicycling – of personal meaning that is – there is great satisfaction in going beyond the bike. I am thankful for everybody and everything that appeared into my life to shape this trip into what it was: an amazing process and an unforgettable experience. That's true meaning in the deepest sense.