Friday @ A.O.R.T.A. (May 21st)

As foreshadowed in my Bloggishnish and Why We Ride A Tandem entries, here’s the first entry regarding our weekend in Asheville, North Carolina at the Appalachian Off-Road Tandem Adventure (A.O.R.T.A.) / Off-Road Tandem Rally.
The format for A.O.R.T.A. was modeled somewhat on the traditional road tandem rallies in the Southeast in that it would involve some structured social events, catered meals, and organized rides to ensure the folks attending the event would have a variety of different ways to interact as a group.   Unlike most rallies, this one was a bit unique in that the majority of the folks who attended made their travel and lodging plans before there was an event agenda, registration process, or even an established registration fee.  However, the hosts — Alex and Kim Nutt of Canton, Georgia — went to great lengths to deliver a lot of value for the registration fee over the three days of the event such that attendees probably spent less than they would had we gone out for some of the meals that were provided on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. This would be in addition to the beverages, hors d’oeuvres, give-aways, and very nice rally T-shirts that were also provided.  The T-shirts are what I consider very nice because they had the major artwork silkscreened on the back instead of the front and a smaller logo over the left breast: that’s just the way I like ’em!
Anyway, also unlike the typical 3-day road rallies A.O.R.T.A. did not have an organized warm-up ride for Friday which allowed us to sleep in and leave our home near Atlanta mid-morning for the 3.5 hour drive to Asheville.  The drive up I-85 is not one that I enjoy because of the nearly 1.5 hour leg on the divided four-lane interstate that you must travel between Atlanta and Greenville, NC.  Somehow the mixture of divided four and six-lane interstate used for I-75 between Atlanta and Chattanooga, TN,  makes for a much less stressful drive.  Regardless,  once you get off I-85 and get past the stoplights headed North on US25 to I-26, you find yourselves in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains and that part of the drive is spectacular.

However, the real carrot at the end of the journey for me was our upcoming weekend with Jodee & Doug Sellers at their Bent Creek Lodge, our favorite B&B, pictured at right.  It is simply one of the most warm and inviting, completely unpretentious B&Bs we’ve ever stayed in and our return for yet another off-road tandem weekend gave us the reason we needed to stay at the Inn once again. The last time we visited in 2001, the lodge had only 6 rooms as the basement had not yet been built-out.  For this visit we stayed in one of the four rooms on the lower level (the Cherokee Room) finished in 2002.  While also incredibly comfortable, we have decided we’ll make a point of staying in the Fern Room on the main level for our next visit… as that’s the creme de-la-creme of the Inn with its king size bed and other accouterments.  As always, Doug & Jodee were there to greet us when we arrived and shortly there after our good friends Marv & Miryam Rubenstein from Tallahassee, FL, returned to the Inn. We were also reunited with Ed & Pat Gifford from New Jersey whom we met during a visit to the Eastern Tandem Rally at Lancaster, PA, last year… members of New Jersey’s ‘Doubles of the Garden State’, aka. DOGS Tandem Club: one of the nicest group of folks you’d ever want to meet.

After getting settled into our room we explored the Inn to see what had changed since our last visit 9 years back and then retired to the great room to relax and meet other A.O.R.T.A. teams as they arrived. I believe it was Dave Snope & Sue Nicolich from New Jersey who arrived next, followed by Sherwood & Valerie Gibson from Rancho Cordova, California, our hosts Alex & Kim Nutt from Canton, Georgia and then Malcolm Boyd & Judy Allison from New Jersey.
After spending some time catching up with all of our friends, it was time to head over to the Bent Creek
Community Park for the 6pm social and dinner.  We invited Sherwood and Valerie Gibson to carpool over with us and, as often times happens, we made great time (i.e., I drive the way I wish I could ride) but missed a turn… I love my navigator and we’re in sync 99% of the time, but map reading remains an area where we always struggle.  Anyway, after showing our guests the road we’d be driving tomorrow on the way to the trail head we finally made it to the park where everything was being readied for us at the pavilion: a kegger was on ice, the wine was flowing and folks were all starting to gather and having a great time.
We met a lot of other old friends at the social and made some new ones.  David & Christen Hunter from Nashville, TN, are always a welcome sight at these events, but we also found an unexpected old friend in the crowd: Jan Andrews along with Al Grubb from our own backyard near Atlanta.  Long-time Double-Forte list members Chris & Heather McKim from Colorado and their son Cailan made the journey, as did Dave & Vanessa Seto and their son Owain from Canada (Sadly, Queen Maeve did not make the trip).  From the Midwest, Marvin & Mary Boehm made the trip down from Chicago while Ted & Sandy Weiss came in from Missouri.  We also found the rest of New Jersey’s DOGS as the intrepid campers arrived: Larry & Brenda Isherwood and Mark Cook & Cheryl Prudhomme.  While we didn’t get to meet everyone else at the event, I did get some time to visit with Mark & Katerina Koep who hail from Thousand Oaks, California, but call where ever their RV is parked at the moment home.  Mark & Katerina are a young couple who are doing what a lot of couples wait to do until they’re retired: that is, selling everything they own and packing up to see the US while leveraging technology to manage his internet marketing business from his cell-phone connection. Pretty cool..  They plan to remain on the road until they’re ready to stop!   Of course, a very friendly face in the crowd was David Lee who arrived along with his friend and stoker Bridget Brennan.  As mentioned in my previous blog entry, David organized and hosted the first three Western North Carolina Off-Road Tandem Weekends and was also working behind the scenes to support Alex & Kim Nutt with A.O.R.T.A.  We had somewhat expected Sam & Gail Jones to roll-up on their yellow Honda Goldwing GL1800 with Ventana in tow, but logistics issues cause them to switch horses mid-way and they arrived in a rental car with their Ventana hanging out the back hatch: a very neat couple to be sure.
Anyway, like I said, it was a great evening.  Moreover, I actually took our camera out of the car!  That’s actually a first in 13 years of attending tandem events.  Really, we’ve always taken our camera but never taken it out of the car or our hotel room, as we’re just not predisposed to take many photos. I took a few on Friday but my real accomplishment was seeing if the video capture feature worked.  So, for your viewing pleasure here’s a 360° pan of the party with about 1/2 of the folks on hand.  I think you can hear some Polish language tutoring taking place as Mary Boehm tries to teach Christen Hunter a few key phrases before she, David and Audrey move to Poland for 2 years and my beloved Debbie laughing intermixed with the din of off-road tandem talk and other chit-chat.

The post-event evening back at the Bent Creek Lodge was fairly uneventful.  I had my laptop out and fired up so that I could finish up some work when some of the other folks came back in.  Everyone was pretty tuckered-out from their respective journey’s to Asheville so the lodge became quiet shortly thereafter.  I think I finally powered-down just before midnight and called it a day.

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About TG

I've been around a bit and done a few things, have a couple kids and a few grandkids. I tend to be curmudgeonly, matter-of-fact and not predisposed to self-serving chit-chat. Thankfully, my wife's as nice as can be otherwise we'd have no friends. My interests are somewhat eclectic, but whose aren't?
This entry was posted in Events, Tandem Folks, Tandem Rallies. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Friday @ A.O.R.T.A. (May 21st)

  1. Dave Snope says:

    Mark,

    I didn’t notice this wonderful article on the A.O.R.T.A. event until I did a search on my own name while looking for something else. I guess I should keep up with these things.

    It was a great event for Susan and I, being relative novices to the world of off-road tandeming. Bent Creek was a beautiful location for the event and Alex and Kim could not have been better hosts.

    Keep up the good work on all you do for the great sport of tandem cycling!

    Dave

  2. Pingback: Appalachian Off-Road Tandem Adventure II, May 14-15 « The TandemGeek's Blog

  3. Pingback: A.O.R.T.A. 2011 – Still Time To Register « The TandemGeek's Blog

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