Riding the Ridge
Are you a cyclist looking for a serious challenge? Check this out: a two-day, 160-mile bike ride through the North Carolina mountains that happens Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 11-12.
Dubbed the Sacred Summits Cycling Tour, the winding route from Valle Crucis (near Boone) to Lake Logan (near Canton) is peppered with climbs. Riders will encounter elevations ranging from 1,300 feet to 5,600 feet above sea level as they tackle ascents up to six miles long.
The tour includes long stretches of the Blue Ridge Parkway and a variety of mountain back roads (including a gated, paved Forest Service road).
Plenty of cyclists seem to crave just such a challenge. A recent 100-mile cycling event in Boone drew more than 900 riders from across the United States. Sacred Summits organizers anticipate several hundred participants in the event’s inaugural year.
“The Sacred Summits Cycling Tour showcases the best of the Blue Ridge,” says planning-team member Tim Murphy, the author of Road Cycling the Blue Ridge High Country.
Preparing for a rigorous two-day ride won’t be easy, cautions event director Judith Teele, but tour participants won’t go it alone. Registered riders will have access to customized training programs provided by the coaching experts at TriMyCoach.com. They’ll also get a ride guide with training-and-safety tips.
Sacred Summits riders will spend the evening of Sept. 11 at Camp Grier, a 640-acre Presbyterian facility at the foot of the Blue Ridge near Old Fort. Cyclists will have the run of the camp, including the lake, observation tower and rock slide. Meals, entertainment and bunkhouse lodging or camping are included in the two-day registration fee.
Building community is a primary goal for the ride, which is presented by the Episcopal Diocese of Western North Carolina. Although the event was originally viewed as a fun way to draw attention to the Episcopal conference centers at Valle Crucis and Lake Logan, church leaders soon realized that the ride could also serve a greater good, raising funds and awareness for environmental preservation.
Proceeds from the tour will go directly to environmental programs at the featured conference centers and to the Preservers of the Blue Ridge Parkway Fund. Land-trust representatives will be on hand at Camp Grier to talk with interested cyclists, said Teele.
“The Episcopal Church in Western North Carolina has a long history of commitment to the stewardship of creation,” said the Rt. Rev. Robert H. Johnson, bishop of the Diocese of Western North Carolina. “Riders in the Sacred Summits Cycling Tour are joining with us to affirm the responsibility of the human family to care for all of creation. Episcopalians and others who share our commitment are enthusiastic about providing hospitality and technical support for this event. We anticipate having a lot of fun and a very successful ride.”
The two-day tour costs $175, including support, meals and camping or bunkhouse lodging at Camp Grier, a ride guide and pre-event coaching. One-day registration is also available. For online registration, go to www.Active.com.
— Cecil Bothwell
Alternative futures — S.E.E. Expo
Comic Red Skelton’s dire prediction remains true: “If we don’t change direction, we’ll end up where we’re headed.” Many would argue that when it comes to energy use, we’ve already gotten there.
Following the 1973 OPEC oil embargo, the industrial world tightened its belt — for a while. When Jimmy Carter claimed the presidency in 1976, conservation was all the rage. He even installed solar water heaters on the White House while supportive lawmakers plotted a course toward energy independence, pushing for development of more efficient cars, appliances and machines.
But thrift was tossed aside in the feel-good 1980s, when Ronald Reagan removed the solar panels and substantially weakened fuel-efficiency standards. (Some analysts insist that, had we stuck with the stricter standards, we would import almost no oil at all today.)
And so we have arrived in the new century with rocketing demand for petroleum, a foreign policy largely dictated by energy concerns, and world oil production at or just past its peak, according to Matthew Simmons, founder of Simmons & Company International, one of the world’s largest energy investment groups.
In May 2003, Simmons, a key adviser to the Bush administration, observed: “Without volume energy we have no sustainable water, we have no sustainable food, we now have no sustainable health care. And since five-sixths of the world still barely uses any energy, it really is an important issue.”
As every head of household knows, there are two basic ways to approach a budget problem: make more or spend less.
Enter the fourth annual Southern Energy & Environment Expo, coming to the WNC Agricultural Center in Fletcher Aug. 27-29.
The three-day event will showcase currently available sustainable-energy technologies that address both ends of the budget equation. Scheduled events run from the theoretical to the practical — from a video titled “The End of Suburbia” to a how-to discussion of “Active Solar and Space Heating.” Attendees can learn how to conserve and generate energy at home or in the community, including hands-on workshops covering “green” building techniques. A Clean Air Car Fair will feature the greenest vehicles on the market (including electric, gas-electric hybrid, bifuel ethanol, bio-diesel and vegetable-oil-powered cars).
Daily admission to the event is $6/adults, $3/ages 13-21, and free for children 12 and under. Drivers of hybrid-electric and alternative-fuel vehicles (including bicycles) will be admitted free; those arriving by bus will get a $3 discount. (Tip: Cyclists can use the Asheville Transit System, which will leave from the Transit Center on the hour, Saturday and Sunday.)
There’s also a $50 VIP Weekend Pass, which includes admission, a 2004 S.E.E. Expo T-shirt, a tent/van camping site at the expo for up to four nights, and a pass to the Friday-evening VIP/Exhibitors Networking Dinner.
— Cecil Bothwell
Power to the x-chromosome
For 18 years, the Western Carolina Women’s Coalition has sponsored the Women to Match Our Mountains Celebration and Conference. Commemorating the constitutional amendment that gave women the right to vote, the annual gathering recognizes the accomplishments of local women. The 2004 event happens Wednesday, Aug. 25, at the Reuter Center on the UNCA campus.
Keynote speaker Valeria Lee, president of the Golden LEAF Foundation, will kick things off at 1 p.m., followed by assorted workshops: “Women and Politics — How safe is the vote?” “Women at Work — How equal are we?” “Across the Grain — Bridges and Barriers to Sisterhood” and “Journaling — Writing a Woman’s Life.” The day will conclude with dinner and this year’s WTMOM awards.
Lee says her talk “will pay special attention to women and politics, inasmuch as Aug. 26, 1920, was the date the 19th Amendment was signed, giving women the vote.” Before joining the staff of Golden LEAF, notes Lee, “I worked at the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation in Winston-Salem. Women’s issues was one of my responsibilities, and I had a chance to work closely with active/activist women throughout the state. It was during that time that I met Vera Guise and came to admire her and the work of the coalition.”
The event is open to the public, and women leaders in community organizations, business and government are particularly encouraged to attend. The $15 registration fee includes dinner; reservations are required. Local civic groups and businesses are invited to become co-sponsors for a $100 donation.
For more info, call Vera Guise at 293-1013.
— Cecil Bothwell
Good apples, good times
If you want to learn more about organic-growing techniques, you could surf the Internet and glean gobs of information. Or you could see for yourself how local growers are getting it done.
Of course, not everybody knows an organic farmer well enough to simply drop in for a little fruit-and-veggie edification. Fear not, however: The farmers want to get to know you. On Tuesday, Aug. 24, Windy Ridge Farms, in partnership with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service, will sponsor the second annual North Carolina Organic Pre-Harvest Tour and Dinner. The tour will help growers, consumers and buyers learn more about the variables affecting organic crops, such as weather, material costs, and problems with insects and diseases.
Tour buses will leave the parking lot of the Extension Service’s Henderson County Center (in Hendersonville) at 3 p.m. for the Windy Ridge organic-vegetable fields. There, participants will discuss heirloom-tomato varieties and disease-and-insect control. After that, the group will travel to the Windy Ridge apple farm to learn about harvesting, packing, sanitation practices and other topics.
The tour will also pay a visit to the Hendersonville Co-op for an up-close look at consumer demand for organic products.
By that time, all that talk of food may have prompted a mighty hunger. So at 6:30 p.m., tour participants will reconvene at the Kenmure Country Club in Flat Rock for an organic dinner prepared by Executive Chef Steve Adams. The evening will also feature an organic apple-wine tasting and a party with music by Menage. This Asheville trio has been wowing local audiences with sweet harmonies and stunning songwriting; and having formed here in the mountains and vaulted from open-mic nights to the festival circuit, can lay a claim to their own organic roots.
“Last year’s tour was a huge success; this year, we’re expecting participants from around the country,” reveals event co-organizer Anthony Owens of Windy Ridge.
The tour and dinner are free of charge, but space is limited, so reservations are a must. To reserve your place on the bus, contact Sandy Pridgen at the Cooperative Extension Service at 697-4891 by Friday, Aug. 20.
— Brian Sarzynski