Traveling Healthy – Blue Ridge (Part 1)

This year’s summer vacation location, Blue Ridge, GA, was not on the original plan. My daughter, Morgan, and I were originally planning to continue our exploration of Canada by visiting Montreal and Ottawa. In 2016 we visited Vancouver and Whistler on the west coast while starting in Seattle. Last year we spent time in Toronto while also seeing Niagara Falls and visiting my brother and sister in law in Erie, PA. We both loved the three Canadian cities we spent time in so much we wanted to continue the good fortune above the border. Here I will share how we try to vacation healthy in the first part of our vacation as we prepared to leave, arrive and explore Blue Ridge, GA.

Like most, vacation plans and our lives have changed quite a bit with COVID-19 this year. Hopes to travel to Canada looked worse and worse as the months passed and then vanished. As the summer began however I thought of opportunities that could work with COVID-19 restrictions. Even though I love where I live, working from home and not being able to do other activities that would take me to different places led me to a point of wanting to go somewhere completely different. That different would be – mountains! I knew Morgan loved the mountains, the Appalachian mountains were within driving distance, and it could serve as a place to be active but also reset mentally away from the city life.

I pitched the idea to Morgan and she loved it. We then began discussing things we could do and I began the search for places to stay. I found a cabin in a very secluded area in Blue Ridge, GA. Morgan then created a list of activities we could do on a spreadsheet. We had a great variety of things to do. One thing I think we have done really well in our past vacations was to have a list of activities ready but not over plan resulting in stress. We have our list, a few options for each type of activity, and then pull the trigger when we are in the city. We may anchor to one or two things ensuring we have a reservation but for the most part we flex to how we feel and to potential weather impacts.

Heading into this vacation work had been extremely busy. That added to my already active schedule, which I LOVE, resulted in little time to prepare. We left yesterday, Sunday morning, and I started getting my gear together Saturday afternoon and didn’t pack my clothes till Sunday morning right before we left.

Morgan and I love active vacations. We find excursions that help us explore the city while also finding time to get our training in, usually scenic runs and gym time. With this vacation being drivable it gave us an opportunity to bring our bikes. I brought my triathlon bike and two hybrid bikes for Morgan and her boyfriend, Lachlan, who would also be joining us for the trip. He’s a runner too so the active mix fit with him as well.

I have been wanting to ride in the mountains for a long time and this will be my first opportunity. I watched several YouTube videos on the best places in the U.S. to climb with a bike and one of them was within a short distance from Blue Ridge. I then watched several specific videos of one particular climb at Brasstown Bald which ends at the highest point in Georgia and where on a nice day you can see four states.

The climb is extremely difficult and I haven’t done anything close to it. This comes at a perfect time in my training cycle as well. I have been doing a lot of strength work for my legs prior to a more race specific training plan that is about to begin. Part of my strength training has been doing a lot of bridge climb repeats. These climbs have been a perfect build up for what I’m about to face in Brasstown Bald but I know it’s going to be a beat down…part of the adventure…

Knowing I would have time to get my bike and run training in I packed a lot of gear Saturday afternoon. This included all my bike equipment and nutrition. The bike equipment was easy to pack as it included everything I would normally take to a local ride where I would have to drive to the start location. Nutrition was another story. Usually I would pack for a single ride. But this would be for an entire week’s worth of training in another city. Items I included were:

These nutrition supplies, the Vita Mix blender, and other goodies had their own suit case. Some of the goodies included things I wasn’t sure we would be able to get in the local market and with the ability to pack a few more things I threw in some of my favorites. One was my favorite cereal, Engine 2 Berry Bowl.

I only packed a few bananas, Lara Bars, and water for the 9 1/2 hour car ride from Safety Harbor to Blue Ridge. On the way up we stopped near Valdosta, GA and picked up smoothies from Tropical Smoothie and had lunch at Chipotle.

As we approached Blue Ridge we stopped at a grocery store, Ingles, and picked up supplies for the week. After settling in the cabin, Lachlan and Morgan went for a run and then Morgan made us pasta with pink sauce and a side of vegetables. It was a fantastic low key dinner loaded with protein (chickpea pasta) and carbohydrates to help us fuel for Monday.

Monday morning came around quickly. We got up and headed to the Ocoee Rafting Company in southeastern Tennessee. It was a beautiful sunny morning with no humidity. We ventured down the Ocoee River that included Class III and IV rapids…meaning they were pretty adventurous. One was so adventurous it threw five of the six rafters into the river. The only one left on the boat was….Morgan. I’m not sure how as she was right in front of me and there wasn’t any chance I had to remain in the boat. In a split second I was thrown in backwards after dipping down into a rapid. It was a blast as we all got our act together and climbed back on.

It was  a perfect morning that certainly got my head out of the daily routine back home. We were out in nature, rafting through rapids next to a mountain…how different than Clearwater Beach…not that there is anything wrong with Clearwater Beach. Just a nice change up for the mind, body and soul. After the adventure we headed back to the cabin but stopped for some really good Mexican food at Habanero’s Fresh Tex Mex in Copperhill, TN. After a short nap back at the cabin we drove to Flat Creek Loop for a trail run.

What a surprise we had there. After a heck of a climb for the first half of the run we had a nice downward path on the way back. As I came around one of the curves two black bears were there strolling on the mountainside to the left. I only noticed as one took off up the mountain while the other just stood there looking at me for a couple seconds and then proceeded to walk slowly away while looking back occasionally to see what we were doing.

The trail, similar to the rafting experience in the morning was a perfect anecdote for the mind. We all felt a little beat up from the trail type of running we are not used to but loved every minute of it….maybe not the couple second spike in heart rate when we approached the bears…

We have four full days left here in the Blue Ridge area and I can’t wait for everything we have in front of us… I hope you can get your getaway of some kind if you haven’t already this summer. More to come in Part 2 next Monday…

– Add Health to Your Life


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