Our friends Alex & Kim Nutt have decided it’s been too long since a southern gathering of off-road enthusiasts was held and are making plans for the first Appalachian Off-Road Tandem Adventure (A.O.R.T.A.) near Asheville, North Carolina on May 21-23. This will be what I believe is the 3rd or 4th off-road tandem gathering here in the Southeast U.S., noting we have attended 2 of the last three, all of which were coordinated and hosted by good friend David Lee of Asheville. I believe there was one in the late 90’s, followed by a weekend at the Bent Creek Lodge in the fall of 2000, and then a third at Tsali National Recreation Area near Bryson, North Carolina in the Spring of 2004. However, the grandaddy of off-road tandem rallies remains the Fall Allegheny Rally for Tandems (F.A.R.T.), a somewhat intimate gathering of off-road tandem enthusiasts that has been hosted by Karen and Brian Managan for the past 16 years. There has also been a number of other small gatherings ‘up north’ and our off-road tandem friends in France have held several installments of CMIEUXA2, so these types of gatherings while rare, are not without precedent.
The photo below was taken by David Hunter at Tsali in 2004 where a trail user who saw the 9 or 10 tandems storming through the single track in a line was heard to yell-out, “It’s an Armada!”. Can you imagine what it will look like when nearly 30 off-road tandem teams (that’s 60 riders) descend on the Bent Creek trails?
Although it’s still a bit thin on certain details, I’ve thrown together a quick & dirty (no pun intended) A.O.R.T.A. rally web site for Alex who is even more internet-challenged than me. Be that as it may, you can find some of the basic info on where the event will be held (i.e., Bent Creek), local lodging, the general plan for the weekend — meet, great, ride, eat, sleep and repeat — and the list of the 22 or so off-road tandem teams from 12 different states who have tentatively made plans to attend this event. You’ll also notice that there’s something of an abundance of Ventana El Conquistador de Montanas (ECdM) tandems owned by the folks coming to the event.
I should probably point out that Alex & Kim own and operate what I believe is still the only off-road tandem specialty dealership in the U.S.; MTBTandems.com. And, it’s also worthy of note that the first team listed on the planned attendee list is Sherwood & Valerie Gibson, traveling all the way from Sacramento, California. Who is Sherwood Gibson you ask and why would he travel that far for a 3-day weekend? He’s the man behind Ventana Mountain Bikes USA and a big-time tandem enthusiast who early-on realized there was an interest in, nay… a need for a world-class, full-blown, full-suspension off-road tandem. We’ve known Sherwood since December 1999 when we acquired our first Ventana ECdM. We were also Alex’ first customer at MTBTandems.com with the purchase of our 2nd ECdM in the Spring of 2002, a custom-sized model welded up by Sherwood. In fact, I can still recall receiving a phone call from Sherwood while he was jigging up the frame to verify just how we wanted the frame configured: you gotta love being able to have that kind of relationship with your frame builder. Anyway, like many of the folks who will be attending, this will be our first chance to actually press-the-flesh with Sherwood.