Big day again

So today, with about 230 miles left, I really wanted to make some good mileage and posture myself to be able to finish tomorrow. First things first, I was up and at em early. I hit the road at 7:30. And it was cold!

Right out of the box, I had to climb from Waynesboro back up to the Blue Ridge Parkway. I knew this was coming and it was welcome as it warmed me up. No longer cold when I reached the top, I looked forward to descending and having a fairly flat day. 

Well, that’s about all I had of flat. Just looking forward to it. I’m disappointed in the elevation profile on the map. Not even close. There wasn’t anything tall really, just roller after roller after roller. 

I stayed on the bike pretty well and kept the breaks to a minimum. Just trucking along. As the afternoon went on, the distance and rollers were getting to me and quite frankly, I was spent. If there had been a place to stay, I would have pulled up short and rescheduled my flight. 

But there wasn’t anywhere to go, and I’m glad. Last night looking at the map, I had thoughts of reaching Mechanicsville. I didn’t quite make it there. About 16 miles short, but I did make Ashland, which was my for sure spot. The place I wanted to make it to for sure. I rolled into town right at dark, about 6:15.

I still had a huge day and set myself up to be able to finish tomorrow. That just seems so weird to say. Tomorrow I will be done. Anyway, I have just 98 miles left. I’m going to cut this blog short and get to bed. I’m beat and it’s going to be another early morning. 

Trip time-8:43
Avg speed-15.04
Max speed-39.63

Finishing up the Appalachains

I’m so glad I took yesterday off. Not only was the weather better today and I needed the rest, but it gave the snow a chance to melt to the north along the parkway. Yesterday would’ve been nasty and miserable, if not unsafe.  

I hit the road at 9:00, later than I wanted to, but it gave the temp a chance to come up a little. It was about 35 when I left. 

I tried to stay on the bike early and fight the urge to take breaks, even though I was cold. I had a big day planned and needed to keep moving.

That worked great until 20 miles in. I sold myself on the idea that I could take an early lunch. Better to sit down when it’s cold than when it warms up, or that’s what I told myself. So I had lunch at 10:30. 

I did a pretty good job of staying moving the rest of the day. I did take some breaks, but I also had quite a bit of climbing. The big one was from the village of Vesuvius up to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Right at 2000′ of gain in about 4 miles. That’s steep my friends!

Once on the Blue Ridge, there was a few climbs, but the big fun was the views and the descents. Down I went into Waynesboro, where I intended on making today!

That puts me in pretty good shape for the rest of the trip. I should have just a few hills early on tomorrow, then mostly downhill, albeit an easy grade, to the coast. I’m about 225 miles from Yorktown now. 

Trip time-6:51
Avg speed-14.52
Max speed-39.11

Time for a break

So here is the list of things I was thinking of for today:

-There was a massive storm system that is rolling through the northeast dumping rain and snow and causing temperatures to plummet.

-I’m in the northeast.

-Being in the northeast, I have come across the majority of the Appalachian Mountains, which has meant 44,000′ of climb over the last 700 miles.

-Having not taken a break in 9 days, I have been worn down.

Adding all those things together, I decided today was a good day to take off. I needed the rest and the weather is supposed to be better tomorrow.

So today I slept in, watched tv, took a nap, did laundry and took care of some bike maintenance. Tomorrow I’m off to cross the Blue Ridge and make some good headway. Should be just  a few more days until I’m done!

Cold and wet

After an absolutely AMAZING game six last night (!), I was excited to get going today and man up in the adverse weather conditions. I didn’t get out really early though. It was 9:00 when I left. Not bad seeing as it is getting daylight about 8:00. 

The road was wet, but it wasn’t raining at the time I set out. It was definitely cold though. Right at 40 degrees. As I rode, I warmed a little, but not much. My windbreaker was only breaking part of the wind. 

About 15 miles in, the rain started. Just sprinkles at first, but quickly it was a steady rain. I stopped and put on my raincoat. 

I was staying mostly dry except my face, but I was cold and ready for a break, so when I had the opportunity to stop at a spot in the road called Catawba at a convenience store just 23 miles in, I did. 

A snack, drink and about 20 minutes of break made me think I was ready to hit the road again. When I went outside, I found that the rain had picked up. It was just about to the pouring stage. Oh well. Part of the gig I guess. 

So I set out again with 18 miles to go to the next town, Daleville. I wasn’t very far down the road, maybe 2 miles, when I started feeling the moisture coming through my gloves. I hadn’t tested them in heavy rain, but I had hoped for better. Shortly after, my pants, which have legs that zip off at the knees, started leaking through said zippers. 

I’ve said before that I can handle wet, and I can handle cold, but put them together and I’m out. I was at that point. Those 18 miles to Daleville were miserable. The last couple miles, I’m pretty sure there was a little bit of sleet mixed in. 

With wet hands and wet from the knees down, I decided to call it a day. I was unhappy that I didn’t make it to Lexington as planned, but it’s not worth being that miserable. 

I checked in the Super 8, showered and chilled out the rest of the day waiting for game 7 of the world series! What a game it was! Cards are world champions!

Trip time-3:02
Avg speed-13.48
Max speed-37.01

Keep pedaling

I guess I was tired. After going to bed early, I slept in late and didn’t hit the road until 10:10.  Even still, with all that rest and a pretty good tailwind, when I came to a hill, I just didn’t have any gas today. I did make good time on the downhills though. 

Just 10 miles in, it was 10:45 and I wanted a break. My choices at that point were a gas station or Burger King. I went with the burger. 

Back on the road, it was more of the same. Hills, tailwinds and my lack of strength. 

I rode into Radford and stopped for a snack at a convenience store. I ended up sitting around outside for a half hour or better resting.

The next town was Christianburg, which was a highlight of the day. Christianburg marks the end of map 11 and the beginning of map 12! I’m now on the last map! 

Coming out of Christianburg, I had a great downhill for a few miles of winding road. Lots of fun. But when the road turned uphill again, I was dead. Looking at my options, I decided to take a 4 mile detour to Blacksburg and find a place to stay. It was just getting too late in the day and I still had 42 miles to my next possible stopping point. 

So here I sit in Blacksburg, wondering if I shouldn’t have slept in this morning. Then I might have been able to go on to Daleville like I had planned. Who knows. I do know that I plan on an early start tomorrow. Just keep pedaling. 

Trip time-4:01
Avg speed-15.63
Max speed-43.63

Damascus and Mt Rogers

I knew today was going to be a big day and it didn’t waste any time getting started. 150′ of climb directly out the door in the first .3 mile. That’s ok. I don’t ever worry about warming up anyway!

The mountain views were spectacular right away as well and didn’t let up all day. I would love to do some hiking here!

The climb up Clinch mountain came along fairly quick and although it was pretty, it was pretty steep too. When I reached the top, I was only 11.92 miles into my day and already had 1745′ of climbing. Just keep pedaling. 

Down the other side and into the valley to Hayters Gap, pronounced highters. The descent was cold and scenic. 

Back up to Meadowview and a rest stop at a gas station. I had one of my great snacks. A blueberry and cream cheese danish, a snickers, a package of grandmas oatmeal cookies and a 20 oz MT dew. That adds up to a 1350 calorie snack. Not bad. 

On down the road to Damascus, which had been my intended stop for yesterday. I stopped by a LBS, then went next door to Quincey’s Pizza, which I has been told had great pizza. It was ok. A nice break and a hot meal are always good. 

As I left Damascus, I saw on my map and along the road the Virginia Creeper Trail, a rails-to-trails project with rock and cinder surface. I was the only bike on the road and I’m certain I saw 100 bikes on the trail in about a mile, but they were all mountain bikes. I was afraid of my road tires on that surface and elected to stay on the road. 

The map said that the trail could be an alternate for 11 miles, and when I saw a parking lot and entrance to get on the trail about 3 miles out of town, my curiosity got the better of me and I decided to go for it. 

That trail is magnificent and I hope if you are ever in the area you will check it out. There are several companies in Damascus that rent bikes if you need one. The trail wound along a mountain stream at a nice easy grade. Absolutely beautiful. I didn’t get many pics because I was keeping an eagle eye out on the trail trying to save my tires.

 It didn’t work. Had a flat about 2 miles along. Not too big a deal though. The remaining 5 or so miles were uneventful and just as beautiful.

Back on the road, I was climbing up a valley along Mt Rogers, the tallest peak in Virginia. Nothing too steep, just a nice steady grade up to my highest point got the day. That was what I had been waiting for! 

The remaining 35 miles or so was more or less going downhill. I still had several climbs, but the general inclination was down. A nice reprieve. Overall, I had more climbing today than any other day on the trip. Not much more, but a little. It’s been a rough few days here in Appalachia. 

I rolled into Wytheville (pronounced with-ville) just a little before dark, checked in to a motel and then with the wife, then walk across the lot to Sagebrush Steakhouse. It had been quite awhile since I had eaten a good meal. 14oz ribeye with baked potato, a big bowl of pasta Alfredo, cheddar biscuits and lots of lemonade made me full and happy. With no world series tonight due to rain out, I watched a little tv and fell asleep early. A great day. 

Trip time-6:59
Avg speed-14.64
Max speed-40.02

Getting beat up in the mountains

When I left Elk Horn City this morning, there wasn’t any getting warmed up. Straight to work climbing. I had over 1200′ in the first 10 miles. Within that 10, I crossed into Virginia. I’m now in my last state!

I stopped at Breaks Interstate Park, which is part in Kentucky and part in Virginia. Beautiful views there. My reason for stopping was it said on the map that the state of Virginia likes for all cyclists to stop and sign their log so they know how many cyclists cross the state and then can use those numbers to allocate funding for cyclist specific improvements. Whatever. I signed in, just about had to hit the park ranger in the head to get away from him and then got back to the road.

Today was more of the same from the last couple days. Very small and mostly poor communities nestled here and there in the mountains. It’s a backward way of life that they lead really.

I stopped in Haysi for lunch at a gas station that had a Subway. After eating, I hit the road again, but before I left town, I missed a turn but didn’t realize it. The road I stayed on led out of town along a river and came to a dead end two miles out. Good for me. Otherwise I might not have caught my mistake! I turned around, retraced my “steps” and got back on track. Just a 4 mile detour.

Back on course, I kept slugging along. My legs were just beat all day. Hard to keep a good pace and the climbing seemed to be relentless. No sooner would I have a downhill and I was back to climbing again.

After what ended up being my biggest climb of the day, Big A mountain, I was beat. I rolled into Honaker questioning what I was going to be able to do the rest of the day. I checked the map and saw that I had 40 miles left to Damascus and in that, I had 2 pretty good climbs, then one big one and then 3 more pretty good ones. I decided to see what I could do with it. Not much choice as there was nowhere to stay there anyway.

Right outside town I hit the first climb and realized my situation. I was spent. I could carry on to Damascus, but I would be very late getting there. Way after dark. So I decided to cut my losses and find a place to stay. 7 miles south of the route was Lebanon with a couple motels. So off I went.

I ended up getting the last room at the Super 8. Evidently this place is full of guys doing fiber optic cable work. I ordered delivery from a local pizza joint and chilled in the room all evening. Tired and sore, but looking to the end that is coming soon.

Not only did I make it into the last state on my trip today, I also broke  the 4000 mile barrier. Just about a week and I’ll be finished!

Trip time-5:10
Avg speed-12.49
Max speed-46.34

Almost finished with Kentucky

This morning I was up at 8 and after taking a little too long to get going, out the door at 9:30. After asking the girl at the front desk last night about traffic on my route, I was pretty worked up and worried. 

My maps showed that I was to be on 80 for 7 miles then turn onto back roads from there. The front desk girl said if it was her, she would ride 80 the whole way to Elk Horn City (EHC) and that the back roads would be a good place to get killed by a coal truck. 

So I set out on 80. It’s a 4 lane state highway with shoulders. The traffic was absolutely insane. 70 mph and nobody even trying to get over even when there was nobody in the left lane. I even had a coal truck come over onto the shoulder right by me. I think it might have been on purpose, but I’ll never know. I was so glad to get off that highway. 

The back roads, although crooked, hilly and no shoulders, had very little traffic and what traffic they did have, got over and gave me room. Much better. 

After having asked locals for their ideas on routes several times now, I’ve decided to not do that anymore. Trust the map. It’s made by cyclists for cyclists and has been tried and tested repeatedly for 35 years. Trust the map. 

I wanted to stay moving today, as I was not real sure what the hills would be like and I wanted to have plenty of time to get to EHC. I really only took 3 breaks today, all at gas stations. Just quick food and back on the road. 

Most of the first half of the day was quite easy actually. A couple hills, but mostly winding roads along creeks and rivers. Great riding!

The second half had many more hills and the hills continue to get bigger and steeper as I go east. I thought one hill late this afternoon was going to get me. Long and extremely steep. I wish I knew what the grade of that one was. It wasn’t too bad at the bottom, but it had to have been close to 20% for about a half mile toward the top. 

About 3 miles outside EHC, I came around a corner and could see it pouring up ahead. I stopped to put on my rain gear, but it got to me before I could get suited up. Those last 3 miles were very cold and extremely wet. Downpour. 

I checked into the only motel in EHC, the John Moore Motel. It’s old, but not buggy. Seems to be kinda clean. Most important thing is they have cable so I can watch the game!

I don’t feel like getting into it now, but in the near future I want to discuss a couple of issues I have with Eastern Kentucky. Stay tuned!

Trip time-5:55
Avg speed-14.59
Max speed-46.34

Into the Appalachians

After staying up entirely too late watching the baseball game and seeing the forecasted low of 35, I decided to sleep in a bit and let it warm up. Up at 9:00, breakfast, gather everything and prepare for the day. Out the door right at 10:00. 

Berea is quite the neat little city. Beautiful actually. I think it would be great to come back and visit. Riding out of town along the rolling countryside was very relaxing and afforded nice views. 

Just 7 miles into the day and I found the first real hill marking the start of the Appalachians. The climb got me warmed up nicely and I stopped at the top to shed my jacket and long pants. The temperature was climbing as well and had reached the upper 50’s. 

The more difficult climbs continued to come around every so often. It’s a nice change from the rolling hills and let’s me know I’m getting closer to the end! 

I stopped in Booneville for lunch at a little dinner. Cheeseburger and fries did the trick. After that the waitress asked if I cared for anything else. I asked what they had for dessert. Along with an assortment of pies and cakes, there was banana split cake, which I chose. There was also “better than love cake” as she said. I almost lost it, but managed to keep my cool. It’s amazing the difference in moral view here. It’s so much more conservative, which is refreshing. 

After lunch it was back to the road. I was concerned that my late start might put me in a bind on daylight so I wanted to stay moving. More and larger hills kept coming and the views got better and better. I’m really looking forward to the next few days as I reach the real mountains!

Come to find out, my time concerns were not warranted. I had plenty enough time to stop in Chavais for a break and a snack and talked to a local for a good 30 minutes. Then rolled on down the road to Hazard where I checked into the Super 8 and had Taco Bell for dinner. 

What a day. Almost 100 miles and almost 7000′ of climb. Basically today matched my hardest day of the trip, which had been from Houston, MO to Johnson Shut-Ins. Probably going to be more of the same over the next two days as well. 

One of the best things about today was the stroke of luck to be where I am when I am. Today I rode right through the heart of some big coal mining areas and on some really crooked roads with no shoulders. Any other day of the week they would be teaming with semis hauling coal as well. Being Sunday, I saw not a truck one. According to the guy in Chavais, the farther east I go from Hazard tomorrow, the farther away from the mines I will get. I know there are other areas I will have to watch for, but it was nice to be able to skip a day of stress. 

Oh, I forgot to mention yesterday that reaching Berea put me at the end of map 10. Starting map 11 today means there is only one more to go after this! 

Trip time-6:24
Avg speed-14.94
Max speed-47.54

A nice day in the bluegrass

The morning started out pretty cold, but it slowly warmed to cool by afternoon and the sunshine was amazing! Kentucky’s rolling hills have been great.

With the cooler temps (35), I waited to leave until 9:00. It was really brisk, but I warmed quickly climbing little hills. At 10:00, I was sweating pretty good and decided to peel layers off. It felt great to get the extra clothes off, until I got moving again! The little bit of sweat chilled me, but after that I realized it just wasn’t as warm as I thought. I decided to leave the layers off and just tough it out. It kept me moving!

I stopped for lunch in Harrodsburg. Ate at a cool old pharmacy turned coffee shop/cafe/ice cream and candy store with a guy playing piano for entertainment. He was extremely good and my burger wasn’t bad either.

The afternoon went well and I was anticipating arriving in Berea a little early. My pace was good and daylight was on my side. Just outside Buckeye, which is little more than a couple houses along the road, I stopped at an oasis of sorts. A little bitty store with few options. I decided on a soda and a bag of M&M’s.

The older couple there were the owners and surprise, I got to talking to them. They are the Millers and have been there many years. Seen lots and lots of cyclists over time. I had a great conversation with them and ended up spending near an hour there.

Once back on the road, the last 20 miles to Berea went well. Pretty quick and not too bad. In town, I stopped at Burger King for supper, next door at the gas station for snacks and drinks for the evening and then the motel I had a reservation at. The evening was spent talking to Jeneen and watching the Cardinals open up a can on the Rangers! I hope the media keeps giving Pujols a hard time. Wow!

Trip time-6:03
Avg speed-15.61
Max speed-43.63