Words and photos by Lost Travel Co. (@losttravelco)
We had our suspicions this would be one of those classic adventures that becomes the stuff of many a tall tale.
Ride your bicycle from Asheville, North Carolina, to Nashville, Tennessee. Start off in the charming foothills of Beer City, meander your way through the Great Smokies, descend through the Tennessee Valley, and then climb over the Cumberland Plateau before dropping into the land of country music and moonshine. All on your trusty bicycle. All in seven days.
The “pioneer edition” of the roughly 360-mile Ash to Nash bike ride was held from June 5th to 12th and included 17 brave souls (nine women and eight men) who were willing to trace a route that few humans have pedaled before. We can say this with confidence based on our conversations with locals who seemed to liken it to riding your bike from the moon.
Ash to Nash kicked off on a Saturday afternoon with incredible vibes at the Andy Herod Art Gallery in the River Arts District of Asheville. There was great food from a taco truck, cold beers, a three-legged dog, funky art, laughter, lots of maps, bad jokes, opening ceremony tarot cards, and excellent banjo music by Old Sap. We also talked everybody through our suggested route to Nashville, which they all promptly ignored.
The following morning, the teams showed up to load up on coffee and donuts before putting last-minute touches on their bikes and pedaling toward Hot Springs, North Carolina. One team missed the start line due to a bit of a longer than anticipated layover (read: hangover) at the kickoff party bar.
Teams that opted to ride 63/209 through Trust/Spring Creek were surprised with a pop-up tiki bar set up in the back of a U-Haul truck overlooking the Pisgah National Forest. At least five of the 17 made it. The seven days of the Ash to Nash were packed full of “generosity of the locals” stories, camping in weird places, and tears of both joy and pain. Over the course of the trip, the teams developed their own monikers or had them bestowed upon them like trail names: “Kitty Litter Crew,” “Bobarosa,” “Rock N Roll Hobo,” “Dollywood,” “Rigatoni,” and more.
“Pedal, pedal, and pedal some more before you find yourself talking to locals and bartenders who are scratching their heads wondering what you’re doing. The beer and the ‘hell yeah, that’s awesome!’ you’ll get from them makes it all worth it.” — Joey, Ash to Nash Pioneer
Teams made it their own. Some followed the published route and used the Lost Wagon (aka semi-SAG vehicle) to lug their gear. Others literally went off-piste. Some camped the entire route, and others opted for Airbnbs and hotels every night.
The teams averaged 55 miles per day and most clocked a total elevation gain of around 18,000 feet over the course of the week. A few other stories that made this Pioneer trip into a true adventure:
- One team camped in a shed full of picnic tables at a motorcycle bar known for its fried bologna.
- The Kitty Litter gang managed to make great time on the long stretch from Pigeon Forge to Maryville but squandered their progress with a 20-mile “unintended detour” which will forever be known as the Townsend Deviation.
- Sensing the teams were needing a little TLC on Day 5, Lost Travel organized an Airbnb meetup buried in the hills North of Smithville that night, where cold beers and cheeseburgers were served up. The catch was the mile-long uphill gravel driveway and no signage.
By Saturday (Day 7) we had two teams in Nashville already, and the rest were approaching from Cedars of Lebanon State Park. Saturday temperatures had real-feel near 104°F, so the teams were feeling the heat as they cruised on the Stones River Greenway into downtown Nashville toward the finish line.
The finish party took place at 6th and Peabody, home to the Yee-Haw Brewing Company and the Old Smoky Moonshine company. Participants were treated to live music, tacos, and a nice splash of sun-rain while sharing stories of the previous week.
Medals were handed out, as is customary. We also gave a special acknowledgement to the Kitty Litter Crew, Dollywood, and Team Rachel+Kiley. They truly followed the guidance of the Lost Gods by refusing to use the support vehicle to carry any of their gear throughout the trip. The same cannot be said for the (cough) Bobarosa and Rigatoni crews.
The grand prize, a custom Lost toaster, was awarded to Christian Pedersen. Not only did he have the oldest bike, and not only did he camp in the most humid, frog-infested patch of mud anybody could call a site (and took a 20-mile detour in stride) but he somehow seemed to enjoy it.
The official finish line wrapped up with high fives and hugs. For the teams that had enough energy, the electric Saturday night downtown vibe of Nashville was pillaged in the best possible way.
Ash… to Nash.
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