“Mulberry Trap” and the 2021 TNGA
Mulberry Trap, as it’s affectionately called by participants, is at the heart of the Trans North Georgia Adventure. It transforms into a mission control center, support system, and community hub during the event to make this challenge an accessible one. Learn more here and find a gallery from in and around the Gap during this year’s TNGA…
Words by Logan Watts and Kate Gates; Photos by TJ Kearns (@timothyjamesphoto)
As reported throughout the week, the 12th annual Trans North Georgia Adventure (TNGA) started last Friday with several staggered group departs through Sunday. The route begins at a bridge on the South Carolina border and ends on the other side of the state at the Alabama border. Riders have until Sunday at midnight the weekend after the grand depart to finish—nearly 9 days to complete approximately 350 miles and 56,000 feet of climbing. Read on for a inside look at the event…
Months before riders heard the word “Go!” shouted across the bridge, the crew at Mulberry Gap and current Race Director, Jeff Williams (who’s not affiliated with Mulberry Gap), start planning. Located about a half mile off route around mile 212 between the P2 and P3 sections of the Pinhoti Trail, Mulberry Gap is a cornerstone of the TNGA route and event. It’s about two-thirds of the way across the state and makes the perfect oasis to rest, dry out, fuel up, and socialize before the final push.
Due to it being a point-to-point race and route, logistically, it can be very difficult for folks living outside of a 2–3 hour radius to make this event work. Mulberry Gap offers crucial shuttle support services, dropping riders off at the starting line and picking them up at the finish line if they manage to fight their inner demons until the end. They also provide support along the route should participants need a bail out.
As Chris Joice, 6-time TNGA participant and 3-time finisher, put it, “The accessibility factor is amplified because of Mulberry Gap, providing a logistical advantage… the shuttle aspect is key. Also, in case [your] ride isn’t going so well, you don’t have to worry about self-rescue. That opens the door for a lot of people to take on the TNGA, and also fosters community.”
For some staff members at Mulberry Gap, the month of August is practically dedicated to the race. They’re busy squaring away reservations for support, organizing 25+ volunteers, stocking up the retail store, and thinking through every detail of how they can help these riders be successful as they come through. Many participants get sucked in by those creature comforts, which is why they’ve affectionately nicknamed it “Mulberry Trap.” The comforts of home they receive upon arrival make it challenging to get in the mental space to straddle their saddles and hit the steep climb up Pinhoti 3 straight out of the gate.
In addition to shuttles, Mulberry Gap offers 24/7 service for riders as they come through. The Barn serves as the main hub for the event. The kitchen is busy cooking up an assortment of items off the menu—everything from breakfast sandwiches, burritos, and Cuban sandwiches, in addition to milkshakes and smoothies. The retail area is stocked with ride essentials like Lidocaine, nutrition, socks, and a well-stocked beer cooler.
Riders also have the option to take a shower, have their clothes laundered, have their bikes washed or have new brake pads installed—which was crucial this year—and sleep in a cot, campsite, or private cabin while they wait for it to be done. Rest is critical during these events and minimal clothing is essential during years when body parts have been wet for 20+ hours. What this looks like in reality is a bunch of haggard looking adults stumbling around in black robes appearing half drunk and struggling to form complete sentences.
The shared experience of TNGA amongst riders, volunteers, and staff is unique. Not many races allow all of these folks the chance to mingle before, during, and after the event. Shared misery brings about an immediate but long lasting friendship. Swapping stories at the end of their ride or once they’ve finished. Serving as basecamp for so many participants provide the opportunity for long lasting friendships to develop with the “misery loves company” motto.
Chris Joice adds, “a positive feedback loop happens here with the attitude of this event, and Mulberry Gap is a respite and reset. The Mulberry Trap is real. Then you have the pointy end that races through and gets it done, they shuttle back to Mulberry Gap, share stories, and kick back and relax.”
To learn more about Mulberry Gap, make sure to check out their website, or find a video and a couple other related articles in the “Related Content” grid below.
2021 TNGA Update
With 119 participants starting this year, there have now been 42 who’ve finished, 54 scratched, and 23 who are still out there pedaling. Nearly 75% of the participants are from the southeast—Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, or Tennessee, with the closest folks from Ellijay, Chatsworth, and Blue Ridge in the North Georgia mountains. The other 25% come from other locations throughout the USA, the farthest being from California. Unfortunately, out of 119 riders, only 13 are women. We hope to see that change.
Another bit of exciting news is that 73-year-old Linda Sledge finished her ITT on Tuesday night! To learn more about Linda and her ITT, check out our previous coverage. Also, check our Tracker page to find the top results and previous articles from this year’s 2021 TNGA.
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