Sunday, October 26, 2008

Gaptoberfest 2008!

Who needs Octoberfest in Munich, when Gaptoberfest is right here in our backyard!? Some Atlanta roadies began a Gapfest weekend in Helen a few years ago, and the 4th annual celebration coincided with Frau Buggy and Herr Gustav's stateside visit from Switzerland. Knowing these two celebrities can get you into high places, and we received the coveted invitation to join in the fun.

Even though we had just seen Becky and Jeff less than 2 months ago, we were thrilled to see them again so soon! Camp Hillseekers reunion!

Enough with the greetings though....Raja, I need your help! This bike needs a new tire, water bottle cages, handlebar tape......
Sherpaman mechanic to the rescue.

The morning air was very brisk, and we weren't too sure how many layers to wear. The sky was crystal clear and the sun was shining, so surely we'll be warm in no time.

What's that I hear? An Alphorn? Maybe we're in Switzerland afterall!

Buggy and Gustav packed up their Alphorns, and we rolled out of Helen.

Happy, happy, happy, climb, climb, climb. This was our Swiss Camp Hillseeker mantra, and it was the song we would be singing today. We would need all the encouragement we could get, because our first climb of the day was Hogpen.

We were meeting some new faces today, but also getting a chance to say hello to familiar faces. Longtime riding friend, Sid, was there with his new bride, Jody.

We took a gorgeous backroad out of Helen that led us to Hogpen in no time. Nothing like a 15 minute warm up for the hardest 7 mile climb in Georgia! Even though today was a casual ride, each person settled into their own pace for the ascent.

Hogpen is not exactly a climb you saunter up while casually chatting. Those with fresher legs sprinted ahead, while others found a more reasonable pace. The wind was blowing hard, and wispy clouds whisking across the horizon above made for a dramatic affect to the sound of my heavy breathing.

Raja was still reaping the benefits of Camp Hillseeker and set a pace I could not match. My roadie friends, Rlaz and Damyankee, raced ahead as well, and I could only watch as they all pulled away.

This was the supreme Gaptoberfest package, as we had our own personal photographers and support crew. BeckyM and Bernadette were around every corner snapping pictures, carrying water & food, and taking care of any other need we had.

We climbed, and climbed, and climbed!

and climbed,

and sang, happy, happy, happy,

while we climbed, climbed, climbed.

The sun felt fabulous and actually made me hot at times. I learned my lesson a long time ago, and peeled down my arm warmers so they would not get soaking wet. I'll need them to be dry when I get to the top and it's freezing cold.

Becky is use to the colder weather, and didn't need all the warm gear the rest of us had. Those Swiss Fraus are tough cookies!

When you see the mile 7 marker, you know you've made it. That's the top of this bugger of a hill, and the pain is over. Sean leads Jeff and Raja to the top, whoohoo, you made it!!

Everybody knows that when you conquer a climb in Georgia, you break out your Alphorn and give it the ole celebratory song. Despite the freezing temps, Jeff and Becky still played us a wonderful concert.

Some of us even gave it a go as well. How hard can it be to play an Alphorn?

With the concerts over and frostbite setting in, it was time to start down in search of more gaps to climb. But first, we had to document the moment.

The descent is beautiful this time of year with all the colors, but dang it was cold. Normally, I would be quite upset over the frigid conditions. But after my stint at Camp Hillseeker in the real Alps, I was not that worried. This descent would only be a few minutes, as opposed to the 30-45 minute downhills we had in Chocolate Land. I toughed it out. No biggie.

Our next "gap" was Craigs Gap.

This is probably one of my favorite roads in North Georgia.

It is funny how we ride by cows here all the time, but I have never taken note of it. However, when in Switzerland or Italy, I freak out, oooooo & awwwww, and take pictures of the bell clanking creatures. I have decided to appreciate Georgia cows more and not hold it against them that their owners do not have the sense to put bells around their necks.

From Craigs Gap, we went up Jacks. That is when Jeff's tire decided to explode, but fortunately we had a support vehicle! Up until that point, we were having a grand time.

In spite of that little glitch, the party continued and we pedaled on to climb Unicoi. Rich sprinted ahead to summon the sag wagon, while Brian and John got extra points by climbing Brasstown. I opted out of the Brasstown excursion to stay with the socializing crowd. Besides, Raja and I did Brasstown a few weeks ago. That has already been checked off my list.

The Fall colors were gorgeous all day, and I enjoyed the scenery even though it was a blustery day. Normally this time of year you would never find me on my road bike. The wind plus the road do not mix well for me, but today was an exception. Riding my bike, whether road or mountain, is all about having fun, and we were having fun with some good friends.

With 42 miles and 3 hours, our Gap time on the bike was over, but the Fest part was still in full swing. We ate and laughed, while others soaked in the jacuzzi. Alpa, Brian, and Becky even carved a pumpkin!

While we were celebrating Gaptoberfest, all of Helen was celebrating Octoberfest. So, we strolled into town to join the throngs of people. The street was jammed with cars cruisin' and the sidewalks packed with tourists. We found a good spot for a concert and set the Swiss Alphorn players loose.

At first, people were not sure what to make of these two.

But then the crowds slowly gathered and the festivities began.

Japanese and American tourists alike were snapping photos and everyone clapped after each song. Then the tips starting coming, a dollar here, a dollar there. Hmmmm, maybe we're on to something!

A few onlookers were bold and wanted to try their hand at playing. This one guy was hilarious and had us rolling in the floor laughing.

This young kid was not the least bit bashful and stepped up to play. Playing alone was not enough for him. He insisted that Becky join him and they played quite a concert!

What a treat to have these 2 talented musicians entertain us. Helen has no idea what greatness has graced its streets!

What a fabulous day it turned out to be! It was a real treat to make some new friends and to ride the beautiful roads of North Georgia. Thanks to master organizer, John, and for letting us be a part of Gaptoberfest 2008! We hope to ride with you all again soon. And if you ever want to go mountain biking..........!

With a full agenda for Sunday, we had to leave the party and head back home. But not without sneaking in a brief mountain bike ride with The Captain, Robin, Ony, Jan, Speedy, and Maurizio this morning at Blankets. It felt great to be on the dirt, even though my legs were protesting the whole way. Oh yea, I climbed Hogpen yesterday. That's why they're tired!

Happy Gaptoberfest!

Hope to see you all on the trails soon!


regularjoe said...

It looks like Gaptoberfest had the same same amount of smiles and laughter as our silly mountain bike rides. That's awesome. I can't get over the alphorns. Playing them in the middle of Helen's Oktoberfest must have been a riot! Someday maybe I'll get to experience them in person.

Enjoyable post, as always...

Jeff Grant said...

awesome post (und sehr schnell!)-- thanks so much!

Brian said...

Thanks for sharing PhotoNinja! It was great to see you guys again, hope to see you on the trails soon!!!

Becky said...

I'm so glad you both could join us for Gaptoberfest (and not just b/c Raja came to my rescue fixing up my bike!). Such a great day riding and hanging out with great friends - What could be better? Thank you for documenting it all so superbly too!