TABR16- Day 24+

I slept well in Lexington, but my thoughts before bed were troubled. I had made the decision to stay and not ride due to a storm going through the area I would have been riding over night. I knew that the choice was a smart one, but as far a racing goes, it was a poor one. About 99.9% of the things we are concerned about aren’t near as bad as we think they will be. Either way, I had made the choice to wait it out and it was done. I woke with my alarm about 3:45AM, got dressed in dank clothes and went across the parking lot to a gas station for an iced coffee and some donuts, then I hit the road. It was 4:00AM on the dot.

It would still be dark for 2 more hours and the air clung to everything with humidity and fog. The storms had come through in the night and left their marks. It was a cool ride as I made it out of Lexington and headed for what I believed to be my nemesis- the climb to the Blue Ridge Parkway at Vesuvius.

I had made a quick check of Trackleaders that morning and saw that the usual suspects had gotten out in front of me, like always. Michela, Stefano, Piero and Jimmy were up and had beat me to the punch. Reimo and Irena were in the vicinity as well, but had gotten into Lexington very late and I figured they would sleep a bit. As I rode along in the dark, I hoped to catch those in front of me, but didn’t think it would happen right away. I was going to settle in and just focus on how I would handle the climb coming up about 18 miles into my day.

Much to my surprise, just 4 miles down the road I came up on 3 riders. Michela, Stefano and Piero were there. They seemed surprised that I had caught up to them, but they were going pretty slow. We said our hellos and ciaos, then I rode on ahead. I settled in to a moderate pace focusing on what lay ahead. The only stop I made was to grab a photo of a fox I saw cross the road in front of me in the beam of my head lamp. He stopped long enough for me to pull out my phone, fiddle with it to get the flash working and then get a picture. He trotted off as I clipped back in and carried on up the road.

When I got to the little burg of Vesuvius, I thought I would try to find the general store that I have heard was there. I didn’t figure it would be open at such an early hour, but I thought I would try anyway. I made the turn to cross the tracks, then turned right and headed down the street that parallels the tracks. I thought that is where it was supposed to be. As I neared the end of the street, I still hadn’t found what I was looking for so I turned back and headed for the route. Getting some supplies there would have been nice, but I was prepared and had spent many hours thinking about the climb up to the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP). It was time to get it over with.

For Eastbounders, the BRP climb at Vesuvius is iconic. It is the last big climb of the route going East and represents the feeling of it being ‘all down hill’ from that point on. It isn’t, but everything gets smaller in elevation from there so I was looking forward to the challenge. In 2011 it had kicked my butt. I remember stopping quite a few times to rest. I would never walk because I wanted to be able to say that I rode my bike the entire way, but I did stop. This time, I wasn’t so proud and was more interested in just getting it over with, but I didn’t want to give up too easily either.

I settled in for the climb, finding my happy place in a small gear and alternating between sitting and standing to climb. I was surprised that I felt really good and before I knew it, I was at the top. I let out a victorious holler, pumped a fist in the air and a big smile crept across my face. At that point I felt I had slain the dragon and the Trans Am was mine. I had cleared the last major hurdle and knew I would be done soon.

Once on the BRP, I was experiencing euphoria. The sun had just come up on the horizon and the mountains were showing off. The early morning light shone orange and pink, poking here and there through mostly cloudy skies as the tree tops were tickled with smoky wisps of fog that looked like something from a pipe. It was a worthy scene of celebration for my final ascent. I rode on and soon saw the unmistakable pony tail of Jimmy in front of me. Riding up behind him, I shouted, “TADA!!!!!”, a little inside joke his wife Janie shared with me earlier in the race. We rode along on the parkway together chatting a bit until the downhill sections came along. I bested Jimmy by quite a bit on the scale, so gravity took me down the hills much faster and I moved on ahead.

After coming off the BRP, the route winds around through the foothills of the Appalachians on some beautiful back roads. It was 10:00AM, I was 60 miles into my day and had yet to have a place to stop so I headed off route to the little town of Crozet. There I went to a gas station that had a Burger King in it. I supplied up with things on the bike and grabbed a burger to eat right then. After eating, I went back the same way I had come and got back on the route. I was a little disappointed with my decision to go off route when just 5 miles up the road I went through White Hall and saw Jimmy sitting at the iconic old time general store there. If I had been more patient, I could’ve stopped there and saved myself 2 miles. Jimmy and I exchanged a few words of plans for the day and I went on.

I stayed moving through the remainder of the morning and into the afternoon, foregoing any stops. I rolled straight through Charlottesville with intention and carried on through several small burgs until I came to Palmyra. At 2:30PM it was still very humid and starting to heat up nicely. I went to a gas station there for a cold drink and to fill up stores again. I stood in the shade of the canopy that covered the pumps for a few minutes, then hit the road.

Another 25 miles down the road, I stopped at a gas station just outside of Mineral. I bought some snacks and drinks, but was really looking for real food. They had fried chicken, but it didn’t look appetizing to me at all. I asked the attendant if there were any restaurants or diners in Mineral. She told me about a couple places, but the one that stuck out to me when she mentioned it was a Mexican place. I thanked her and rode the mile or so into town in search of my place to eat.

I found Sabor Mexican at the stoplight in town, leaned my bike up outside and sauntered in. I grabbed a table where I could see my bike out the window and ordered tacos carnitas. While waiting for my food, I texted Jimmy and told him he should stop and have a meal with me. He responded that some friends from Washington DC were coming out to ride to Yorktown the next day with him. He would be meeting up with them for dinner elsewhere. I told him how cool I thought it was that his friends were coming out to meet him and wished him well. I ate my food and started contemplating the evening ahead.

I opened up Trackleaders, as it was an easy way to see the route since I wasn’t carrying the maps. I was 135 miles into my day and to the best calculations I could make, I was about 140 miles from the finish. 140 was very doable, it would just take me into the night where I would likely struggle with staying awake, if history was any indicator. Pushing through the night would do me no good as far as catching any other racers as the next ones in front of me were Jason and George who, at that moment, were about 20 miles from the finish according to the website. It also showed that I had put an ~25 mile lead on Michela, Stefano, Piero and Reimo. Irena showed to still be in Lexington. Jimmy said that he planned to stop and get a room in Ashland. If I stopped for the night somewhere along the way, I would likely lose some places to the group. If I rode on through, even if I had to stop for a nap somewhere, I would have an easy stroll to Yorktown and maintain my position. That was it. I would ride through the night and finish the Trans Am.

I left Mineral about 6:15PM and headed out of town. As I rode, I took a short video with my phone and posted it to Facebook with the caption that I planned to make the push to Yorktown overnight. It was of little significance to anyone else, but I felt that if I made it public, I would be less likely to succumb to what I figured would be my desire to stop along the way when I got tired. With my plan set, I laid down in the aero bars and settled in for the night.

I only made it about 10 miles before my body started telling me I needed to find a place to stop for a nature break. As I have mentioned in prior posts, Virginia doesn’t have a lot of places along the route where someone can find a private spot. I was in the country, going through farmland, but houses were everywhere and I was no where near a town where I could find a public restroom. When a wooded area with a gravel drive and a for sale sign that said ‘acreage available’ showed up, I knew I had found my spot. I bailed off down the gravel and then into the woods. Having taken care of business, I made my way back to the road, thinking I was good to go and had addressed all matters for my trip to Yorktown. Then it hit me that I would be arriving somewhere in the night. Yorktown is a small village with few places to stay. If I showed up at 4AM, would the little mom & pop motels have their offices closed? I thought it best to call ahead, so I pulled off on the shoulder and commenced to making a reservation.

Once that was taken care of, I got ready to take off again, feeling like all items were addressed. I clipped my right foot in, looked over my left shoulder to make sure I wasn’t pulling out in front of a car as I got back on the road and saw a cyclist coming up behind me. I pushed off, but didn’t take off fast as I wanted to know who it was. When they caught up, I found it was Irena! She had ridden into the storm the night before, taken just a short nap and then road through the day and caught up. Her tracker batteries were dead so it looked like she was still in Lexington. We rode along together and chatted a bit. She asked what I planned to do. I said that I was going to push on through to Yorktown. She said that she would have to stop. That gave me a bit of relief that I wouldn’t have to contend with her. Then she asked me how far it was.

I said, “it is 20 miles to Ashland, then 100.”

She said, “it’s 100 miles to Ashland?!?!”

I replied, ” Oh no! It is 20 miles to Ashland, then another 100 to Yorktown.”

Her face lit up with a great big smile! “It is only 100 more miles to Yorktown?!?!? I can do that!!!!”

Oh boy.

At once, she got up out of the saddle and started cranking it hard. After about 4 or 5 pedal strokes, she turned around to look at me and smiled. Her attack had been a tease. I said, “Well, I’m not gonna just let you go!” I now had a race to the finish, and with her dead tracker, we were the only ones that knew. The dot watchers would miss this one!

We rode along together at an easy pace chatting for a couple miles. She said that she would have to stop in Ashland for supplies and I said I would as well. I told her that my previous experience was that there are very few services in the last 75 miles and most would likely be closed through the night. I told her my intent was to make sure I had enough to make it through from Ashland. She acted like she might even stop for some sleep, as she had pretty much rode through the night before. I secretly hoped she would!

Very soon, a pretty good little hill came into view. I didn’t slow down or shift and just kept cranking. I seemed to be climbing better than her, so quickly I made a gap on her. I didn’t want to just drop the hammer and take off. First off, I thought that would look pretty childish. Secondly, if I was going to get away from her, I wanted it to be a gradual thing. This girl had a monstrous cycling pedigree from riding around Europe and Asia. I wasn’t interested in seeing if I could out sprint her. I wanted to sort of sneak away.

When I reached to top of the hill, I looked back and had better than 100 yards on her. I just stayed steady and slowly pulled away. When I would go around a corner, I would put the hammer down and make the gap bigger and bigger. Not long later, I didn’t see her anymore on the straight parts. I kept a high level of output and plotted my stop in Ashland.

The sun set as I arrived in Ashland. I stayed focused on the GPS to make sure I didn’t make any wrong turns and rolled straight through town looking for a gas station. When I found one, I already knew exactly what I would get as I had planned it out in the 20 miles before as I rode. I ran inside, grabbed the things I needed, loaded my bags and hit the road, all the time watching to make sure Irena didn’t go by. I got back on the road and never saw her or her headlamp. Back out in the dark countryside, I had the hammer down and laid it all out.

Another 17 miles down the road, as I made my way through the streetlights of Mechanicsville, I saw a gas station and decided to make a super quick stop to top up on fluids. I slammed an iced coffee, refilled my water bottle and grabbed an extra Gatorade just in case, then got right back on the road, all the while watching for Irena.

The next 60 miles or so was a blur. I was riding across the piedmont through wooded areas and corn fields. It was pancake flat mostly and very dark. I remember riding along for a good 15 miles or more, needing to pee, but not wanting to stop for fear of giving Irena an edge behind me. I finally stopped and did my business and never saw her light. Then it hit me. What if she was riding without her light to sneak up on me? ‘Dude! That is crazy talk! You can’t ride through the night without a light!’ My exhausted mind and body was going nuts with the thought of staying in front of her. The only real excitement was what seemed to be the constant threat of deer. They would be foraging along the sides of the road and get spooked as I rode by. It was then a 50/50 shot whether they would run in front of me or not. There were a couple that got entirely too close, but I made it through.

When I reached Jamestown, I knew that the end was near and I was glad for it. I was spent. It was strange to be riding through what are normally busy tourist areas in the middle of the night with not a soul around. I rode alongside the James River on the Colonial Parkway all alone, all the time watching behind me, just waiting to see the beam of a cyclists headlamp. On through historic Williamsburg and then back on to the Colonial Parkway for the last bit to Yorktown. As all the other racers have said before, the bone jarring cracks in the pavement were excruciating. All the while, I fully expected that Irena was right behind me.

When I got to Yorktown, I was elated, but frantic. I rolled down Water Street watching my GPS for turns and feeling my pulse rise even higher as I knew it was almost over. I had been to the monument before, but remembered that the route was a little confusing in Yorktown. That had been 5 years prior and in the daylight. Still, the GPS was taking me on different streets than I had traveled in 2011. When the GPS showed I was supposed to turn the wrong way up a one way street, I was concerned, but just wanted it to be over. As I came up the hill and broke out of some trees into a clearing, I saw it. Just to my left was the Yorktown Victory Monument.

I rode up to the monument and couldn’t believe it. I was done with the Trans Am. I had finished. It was complete. Two years total of dreaming and planning plus a DNF in 2015 culminated into that one moment. It was 2:58AM local time, which meant I had finished in 24 days, 15 hours and 58 minutes, putting me in 16th place in the overall classification.

Not a soul was there but me. I snapped a couple pictures and called my wife as I walked around the monument reading the inscriptions. I then sent out a couple texts to some close friends, letting them know that I had finished and posted my finish pic to Facebook. I sat for a moment, reflecting on what had happened, then got back on my bike and rode down the hill to my motel a couple miles away. I had wrapped up my last day on the Trans Am with 276.5 miles and 10244′ of gain. I was truly spent in every way- emotionally, physically, and mentally, but I had accomplished the one goal that I had planned to accomplish above all others. I had completed the race.

TABR16- Day 24

I woke early in Wytheville and had great aspirations of a huge final push of 420 miles, straight through to Yorktown. I dressed in my still wet clothes (again) and was out the door at 4:00AM. Jimmy was rolling out at the same time. It was dark and cool as I headed off into the farmland north of town.

Almost immediately I was dealing with sleepy eyes. It was still very dark out and a couple hours before sunrise. Riding through the countryside, there wasn’t any streetlights or other sources of light to keep my eyes tuned into. With the small tunnel of light out in front of me on the pavement from my headlamp, it was like I was being hypnotized and I just couldn’t keep my eyes open. I struggled along, trying to keep moving the best I could. When I got to Fort Chiswell, although I was only 9 miles into my day, I stopped at a gas station for caffeine and a snack to hopefully jog my brain awake. Piero was there grabbing some breakfast as well. We chatted a bit as we stood by our bikes eating and drinking coffee. After a few minutes I decided to get going and took off.

I crossed over the interstate and started to turn left on the outer road when I heard Piero calling out to me. He thought I was going the wrong way. A quick check of the GPS showed he was right and we both headed back across the highway to the outer road on the north side, which was the correct road. If it hadn’t been for him it is hard to tell how far I would have went before I realized I was off course. What fantastic sportsmanship to come chase me down to let me know! He didn’t have to do that, but I am grateful he did!

Once on the route again, Piero and I leapfrogged back and forth a few times for the next 14 miles or so. As the sun was coming up and I neared Draper, I saw a rail-trail trailhead adjacent to the route that had sufficient facilities so I went over for a personal pitstop. It is nice when everything works out and you have a place to go when you need to go, if you know what I mean. That isn’t always the case and frankly, it is rarely the norm.

Back on the road a bit lighter and faster (hehe!), I was moving along nicely and in short order caught up to Piero again right as we both caught up to Michela and Stefano. The three of them were chatting in their native tongue and I went on ahead.

About 7:30AM I made it to Radford. I was only 41 miles into the day, but I was starving. I found a convenience store that had a paltry supply of food. Nothing sounded good. I was getting pretty tired of junk food, but when that is all you have, you eat or starve. I scavenged up a few things and got a little creative. They had little portable Cheerios cups, so I had one of those and some milk as well as a few other snacks for a makeshift breakfast. Shortly I was back on the road riding again.

On my way to Christiansburg, I passed Piero, Michela and Stefano, as they had all gotten by me again while I ate in Radford. I didn’t stop in Christiansburg and just rolled on through, planning to make a stop further up the road in Catawba. I got down on the aero bars and cranked along at a good clip, feeling good and confident that I had pulled a fast one on the others by planning where not to stop and thus moving ahead on them.

About 27 miles up the road when I reached Catawba, I was bumming. When I came through touring in 2011, there had been only one store in the little spot-in-the-road that is Catawba. Much to my dismay the Catawba General Store was no longer open. Flustered that I couldn’t get supplies and feeling the super high humidity, I rolled up the road a quarter mile or so and found a pretty little spot of well kept grass under a shade tree next to the road in front of a school. I laid my bike down and plopped down next to it in the grass for a nap. My ‘nap’ lasted less than 5 minutes as I quickly realized I wasn’t having a hard time staying awake. I was just pouting. So I got back on the bike and took off before any of the others came along.

Just 2 miles up the road I was presented with a conundrum. There were barriers blocking the road, big arrows pointing me to turn left on a gravel road and a sign that read: Road Closed Ahead- bridge out 6 miles ahead- no thru traffic- use detour. Now, I have seen these sort of signs before while riding. Not once have I went off route and not once have I not been able to get through. I could take my chances and likely make it, or I could get there, have to turn back around and do the detour anyway wasting 12 miles. I quickly made my decision based on experience (which hadn’t done me much good just 2 miles back) and stayed on the route.

As I rode along, I kept hoping to see someone. Maybe someone who lived on the road or a car that had went to the dead end and couldn’t get through, but I saw not a soul. That is, until about a quarter mile from where the road was supposed to be closed. There was a man walking on the road. He said he lived at the house just back a ways. He said that they weren’t allowing anyone at all through at the construction site. He thought I would be smart to turn around and go all the way back around. I told him that I had come this far, I would ride down there and see what the guys working had to say. He eyeballed me like I was a trouble maker and I went on.

When I got to the bridge, there were 3 men working. They smiled and waved as I rode up. I was super nice hoping they would return the favor and let me pass. The said, “Sure! We let all the bikes that come through go on past. There was just a few that came through earlier today.” I thanked them and walked my bike thought the rough bits. I also asked them how far it was to town, as I needed water. They said 9 more miles to a gas station. I thanked them again and took off, victorious and proud that I had made the right call about the bridge. Yeah, it was luck, but hey, I’ll take credit for it. 🙂

I road on into Daleville and made a much needed stop at a gas station. Once I was supplied back up, I hit the road again. It was just a couple miles to Troutdale and then before I knew it, I was back out of town again. I say ‘out of town’, but the fact is in most parts of Virginia, you may be ‘out of town’, but you are always in sight of at least one or two houses. Someone trying to stealth camp or get off the road to do some natural business has a hard time finding a spot. As I rolled out of Troutdale, I was in need of just such a spot once again and there were none to be had. I almost turned around and went back to town, but decided that surely I would find something. I thought I had found just what I needed when I saw a sign for a park of some sort. I turned off the paved road onto a gravel drive that went up a steep hill, only to find that it was actually private property and basically a big flower garden. I didn’t want to get caught with my pants down, so I got back on the road and went in search of something more private.

Just 4 miles down the road I came across a convenience store. I was very happy to to find it and make use of the facilities. I didn’t want to just use them for what I needed and not buy anything, so I bought an ice cream. I really didn’t need anything at that point, but it served the purpose.

By the way, I say these things about potty stops, not to share with the world all the dirty details, but to give those folks who tour or race these sorts of things a small idea of what it is like out on the road. Our bodies have natural processes that you have to attend to despite the fact that you are in the middle of nowhere OR maybe right smack dab in the middle of EVERYWHERE and you wish you were in the middle of nowhere!

Back on the road, it was only 14 miles or so to Buchanan. I hated to stop again, but it would be another 30 miles to Lexington and I didn’t want to get hung without supplies again. I ran in a gas station for a few things, ate a little something and got back on the road.

The next 10 miles after Buchanan were just horrid riding in my opinion. The route goes along the outer road of I-81. The surface is fine, but you are just a few yards away from he constant buzzing of high-speed interstate traffic. The din is atrocious. Once the route turned away from the highway, it was back to serene country roads.

Over the last 20 miles into Lexington, I ran into a few rain showers. Most of the rain that I got was light, but it served to turn the already hot and humid conditions into a sauna. Steam rose off the road as the sun came back out and the effect was oppressive. I found myself hoping it would just set in and rain, hopefully cooling things off. Soon enough the sky was looking dark on the horizon and the sounds of far off thunder could be heard. Storms were coming.

I rolled into Lexington right about 4:30PM. I found a little burger joint just down the street from the Virginia Military Academy and went in to eat. As I sat waiting for my food I checked the weather. It didn’t look good at all. Heavy rain, high winds, hail and flooding were forecasted. Particularly on the Blue Ridge Parkway and in Afton, which is where I was headed. Things weren’t going to let up until the wee early hours of the morning. If I was going to ride on and make that huge push to finish in one go, I would have to ride through some really nasty storms.

My food showed up, I ate, called my wife, and tried to decide what to do. In the end, it just didn’t make sense to me to risk going out in it just to gain a few hours on my overall time. I had set some really big goals for myself prior to the start of the race, all of which I had not met. The only goal left that I could make at that point was to finish and riding through the night in a big storm wasn’t going to improve my chances of doing that. I decided to grab a room and sleep. I finished my meal and road up to the Best Western to get a room. Next door was a gas station where I grabbed some snack and drinks. I took them to my room where I ate more and filled up on fluids, then slept as it rained. I ended the day with 146 miles and 6910′ of gain.

TABR16- Day 23

I had my alarm set for 4AM, but when it went off, I looked out the window to even heavier, denser fog than the day before. Being tired, I was an easy sell for myself to stay in bed rather than fight the moisture and visibility issues. I slept until the sun came up about 6:15. I gathered my things, put on my still wet clothes and headed off into the soup. The fog was so thick I couldn’t see more than 20′ in front of me. I crept down the hills as slow as I did going up them.

Fifteen miles down the road through the fog, I rolled into Haysi. I stopped at a gas station and grabbed some breakfast. Jimmy was there. He had bivied along the road overnight. I told him about my groveling for a room the night before as we both ate. Soon enough, Piero came in. He sat down to eat, I finished my food and then I took off. I had stayed in bed way too long and needed to make up a bit of time.

The hills were only getting taller and my legs weren’t recovered from the day before. In actuality, my legs were toast from 22 days of riding across the country, but the big day before didn’t help matters. All I could do was stay moving and try to maintain some sort of momentum.

The ride to Council was all uphill, but not too bad- just a gentle grade. After Council it was straight up the monster that is Big A Mountain. I have my assumption of what the A stands for, but it is called just plain Big A on the map. It lives up to its name. It felt like the climb wouldn’t end. On the bright side, when it finally ended, it was all down hill to Honaker.

I stopped at a gas station with a deli in Honaker and ate big. It was Sunday at 10AM and they had loads of fried chicken in preparation for the church crowd coming a bit later. I had a couple chicken breast with mashed potatoes and gravy, then followed it up with some junk food dessert. The big meal was heavy on my gut, but I knew it would translate to more energy later.

After Honaker, there were a couple good sized little hills to get over before Rosedale, where the route took me down the shoulder of a four lane highway for about 4 miles. I always hate riding big highway shoulders and was glad to get off it and onto the smaller two lane that was leading up to Clinch Mountain.

Clinch is a big climb, going up about 800′ in just a mile and a half, but it is a pretty one. I remembered having to stop and take some rest breaks when I climbed it in 2011. This time I stayed on the whole time, but I don’t want to give the misrepresentation that I was killing it. In reality, it was killing me, but I stayed moving. Once I topped out, the ride down toward Hayters Gap was amazing. It felt so good to have yet another big climb down as I rode the switchbacks through the rhododendron.

After Hayters Gap, it was a much shorter, or at least it seemed so, climb up to Meadowview. This would be the first of many times I would cross paths with I-81. I stopped at a truck stop with a McDonalds and ate big. It was 12:30 and the after-church crowd was there in full swing. I felt like everybody was watching me like a psycho, but they probably were just amazed at my stench. I only stayed long enough to inhale my food and then got back to the road.

Just a mile or two down the way, as the route took me on some gorgeous country back roads, some crazed redneck came by at an alarming speed for such a small road and almost hit me. I was apocalyptically angry. It just hit me all wrong. I then rode on ahead hoping I would see the truck parked outside a home. I am so glad I didn’t.

Next up was Damascus, the infamous trail town that can sucker you in and have you spending way too much time there if you aren’t careful. I stopped at a gas station for supplies, then made a stop by Crazy Larry’s Hostel to meet the man himself. It was a treat to meet and chat with Larry for a bit. He asked if I was staying, but it was only 2:30 in the afternoon. I had to be going and did so pretty quick, but was glad I made the stop to meet him.

Leaving Damascus, it is about 10 miles of beautiful riding, albeit gradually up hill, along the Virginia Creeper Trail and Whitetop Laurel Creek. It is one of my favorite stretches of the Trans Am in Virginia. After making the climb up from Damascus, I made a stop by a convenience store in Konnarock. It was a little warm out, but mostly I was looking for an excuse to stop and take a break. I was tired. I sat for 15 minutes or so eating an ice cream and then realized I needed to get moving again.

The next 10 miles were along the valley just to the West of Mount Rogers, the highest point in Virginia. It was a beautiful ride up the valley to Troutdale.

At Troutdale there had been a store I stopped at in 2011. It was now closed and run down. I peaked in the door and it looked like it had been vacant for years. It seemed strange that things can change so much in such a short period of time.

From Troutdale, it was a little bit of climb up to a big drop down into the Jefferson National Forrest. After that, it was all down hill to Sugar Grove, where I found a gas station to stop at for supplies. I also found Michela and Stefano there. We all grabbed the typical gas station fare and loaded up on drinks. I took the opportunity to chat with them a little while I ate a snack and sorely wished I knew some Italian.

We all left about the same time, but I got out in front and rolled on down the road. It was an easy 15 mile ride to Rural Retreat. I saw a Subway and went in to eat some dinner. I had it in mind to stop at Wytheville for the night, but I figured I better eat before I got there. While I was eating, Stefano and Michela came in and sat down to eat. About the time I finished up, I saw a racer go by outside. I wrapped up my meal quickly and headed out to try and catch whoever it was.

A few miles down the road, I came up on Jimmy. We rode the last 5 or so miles together into Wytheville and chatted as we went. Both of us planned to get a hotel in town. It was getting dark and I was pretty well spent. I figured I could get an early start the next morning.

We got to Wytheville about 9:15PM and went to a truck stop to grab some drinks and snacks for the evening and an early morning start. Then it was across the highway to a Super 8 where we both got rooms. I grabbed a shower and hung up my still wet clothes to dry out best they could. Some were draped over my bike and some over the air conditioner. I had made just 137 miles on the day, but had 9675′ of gain. The Appalachians were rearing their head and the elevation gain was proving difficult on legs worn down by over 3 weeks of cycling big days. I organized my things for a quick morning exit, set my alarm for 4AM and went to sleep.

TABR16- Day 22

I got up early in Berea and gathered my things quickly. I had big intentions for the day. I wanted to make it to the final state- Virginia. The first order of business was a quick stop at the gas station across the street for some grub and a shot of caffeine. On my way over, I saw the Italian pair leaving the Motel 6 next door. They went on down the road and I figured I would be chasing them all day. I ate something quickly and took off. I was on the road before 3:45AM.

It was a cool morning and I felt good in the pre-dawn darkness, but required my rain jacket. I settled in right away on the aero bars and started cranking it up. A mile or so down the road I glanced at my GPS and saw that I had missed a turn already. Ugh! I turned back around and got on the right track, scolding myself for not paying better attention.

As I rode along Main Street in Berea, I saw the light of a cyclist coming up from behind. I was surprised to see Irena Sosinska, the Polish girl. We said our hellos and carried on into the downtown of Berea. As we turned left and out of town, I decided to up the pace and went on ahead.

I have heard Berea referred to as the entrance to the Appalachians and I experienced that right away. Just a few miles out of town, the road turned up and up. It was very foggy and it seemed like I was on another planet with the kudzu covered steep slopes shrouded in fog everywhere my light shone. I climbed that first hill well and came off the other side cautiously in the dense fog. It was so thick that within 30 minutes of riding, my freshly cleaned and dried clothes were soaked through. The water condensed on everything and made it difficult to see as my glasses continued to get droplets forming on them. When I would pull the glasses down so I could see, drops would form on my eyebrows and lashes, dripping into my eyes. It was a challenging just to see, much less ride.

As I approached McKee, I saw a rider ahead. It was Jimmy Bisese. As I caught up to him, he stopped and I went on. Just up the road I saw another rider in the dark in front of a shop that was closed, but didn’t know who it was. I carried on into town and stopped at a gas station for a snack and to dry out a bit. I grabbed some paper napkins to dry my glasses and face. I was stalling a bit, waiting for the sun to come up and burn off the fog. A quick check of Trackleaders showed that there were 9 racers, including myself, within approximately 10 miles either direction of where I was and 7 of them were in the little town of McKee. While I stood there at the station, Piero rolled by and waved. I figured the racer I had seen in the dark was him. Jason and George were in town somewhere as well. It looked like they had stayed there for the night and were still bedded down. I decided to get rolling and right away saw Michela and Stefano. As usual, there was a round of “hi” and then “ciao”. I was happy to have passed 7 out of the 8 other racers near me. I went on ahead, once again repeating to myself the mantra from the day before: stay moving.

The sun came up and the fog lifted. Soon I was plenty warm and had stowed my rain jacket. About 10 miles out of McKee I passed Luke. That made 8 for the day and it was only 6:30AM. It was shaping up to be a good day!

When I got to Booneville, it was 7:45AM and I was 52 miles into my day. It was time to eat. I stopped at a gas station, but was unimpressed with their fare. I asked the attendant if there was a diner close by to get breakfast. He said there was, but the directions I got seemed sketchy at best and the diner was off route. I decided it was better to grab some snacks there and move on.

The heat was cranking up again and the humidity was omnipresent. Added to the hills, it made for a chore. Once again, I came across a place where the signs and the GPS differed. I followed the signs and went off out into the seeming middle of nowhere. As I rode along through depressed areas with rundown mountain shacks, I came across a general store where I never would have expected one. I took that opportunity to grab a few things to eat and re-fill my drink stores, then took off into the hills again.

Before long I made my way back to civilization and into little town of Combs. I found a McDonald’s and went in to grab burgers to go, as I didn’t feel comfortable leaving my bike unattended there for some reason. I got my food and went back outside to eat while standing next to my bike. I kept the stop short and got moving again quickly.

Heading out of town, the road turned up and up again,following the folds of the steep mountains around me. Upon reaching the crook where two mountains met, it was then down the other side and into yet another valley. This process seemed to happen over and over with no end and made everything look the same ad infinitum.

When I reached Hindman, I was getting smoked by the heat, so I stopped at a station there for cold drinks and a snack. I stood inside a bit to cool off in their air conditioning. I was 120 miles in on the day and the hills just kept getting bigger and more numerous. As I stood there, trying to cool down, I chatted with the two ladies that ran the store. They asked in their drawl if I was doing the cross country route and I said yes. Then they asked where I had started that day and I told them Berea. They didn’t believe me. Just to add fuel to their disbelief, I added that I planned to make Virginia before the day was out. They replied, “Yo crazah!” I had to agree.

The next stretch of road was much more enjoyable than the earlier parts of the day had been. The road rose gently over 5 miles, then fell gently for 10. It was a nice respite in the mid-afternoon heat and should have served as a warning sign for what was to come.

At the junction to SR7 and CR1091, I stopped at the Marathon gas station/deli/post office/local hangout. I grabbed some food and sat in the shade. I knew that the tranquil ride along streams that I had been enjoying for the last few miles or so was about to end. From where I sat looking up CR1091, I was looking straight up a valley that ended in a wall of mountains. I finished my snack and got back to the saddle begrudgingly. Immediately the road turned up and I was reduced to a crawl.

On either side of the road were the most run down homes I had ever seen. Trash was strewn everywhere and most of the cars that were in the drives were on blocks. Many of the homes were actually small portable buildings that were intended to be used as sheds. Almost every house I went past had the door wide open, folks inside struggling to stay cool in the mid afternoon heat. These folks were literally dirt poor. The further I climbed, the steeper the road got and the closer the houses got to the road. Toward the top, most of the places you could sit inside and spit to the road. I just kept my head down and kept the pedals turning over. I felt a bit guilty that my bike and all the kit I carried was likely worth more than many of the houses I saw. Those thoughts occasionally turned to fear as I wondered if someone might come along and decide they wanted my stuff more than me. But with every person I saw, those thoughts would go away. These people were poor, but they were kind. You could see it when they looked at you.

The climb was, in my opinion, the hardest climb of the entire route going East. It took everything I had to make it without putting a foot down. As I reached the top of the climb and started off the other side, I was thankful for the relief in topography. The top of the hill not only meant easy street for me (at least for awhile), but the change in lifestyle of the inhabitants was drastic. Every home on the Eastern slopes was well kept and sat back off the road with manicured lawns and nice new cars in the driveways. It was a completely different world. I don’t know the reason behind the difference, but there was certainly a boundary of class and it was at the top of that hill.

The ride down into the valley was a short and fast one. Once at the bottom, the road turned up again, this time headed up the even bigger Abner Mountain. It was a leg breaker of a climb, but not as bad as the previous one. Either way, the compounded efforts of hill after hill had me beat down and I spent all my time in the little gears, just trying to stay moving. Once over and back down the other side, I stopped at a BP station in the next valley for supplies and a break.

I was in the very heart of coal country and very thankful for the day of the week. It was Saturday, which meant most of the trucks that normally flood the roads with traffic through the week were not operating. What a relief! I got back on the road after my stop and headed for the next climb. They just wouldn’t quit coming.

Up and over two more climbs as big and as steep as the previous two, I finally started down into the valley toward Elk Horn City, the last town on route in Kentucky. At this point, I was absolutely spent. I felt as if I had nothing left to give and didn’t care if I made it to Virginia that day or not. I rolled into EHC about 7:30PM with the intent to get something to eat and then grab a room at the little motel on the East side of town that I had stayed in back in 2011. I found a Subway right away coming into town and went inside to feast. I ordered big and ate while I chatted with my wife on the phone. I sat there chilling out a bit long, but it had been a big day and I wasn’t too worried about spending a little bit of time. When I finished I packed up and headed across town to a gas station for supplies. I knew there wasn’t anything on the East side of town and I would be leaving early the next day anyway, headed off into an area with little services.

At the station, I grabbed a bunch of stuff, preparing for my morning ride into Virginia. In passing, the attendant asked me where I was headed and I told him the little motel across town. Much to my dismay, he reported to me that the motel had closed several years ago. I was gutted. I had my heart set on a bed and had ridden 180 miles of tough hills. I asked the guy if there was another motel in town. Nope. “But there is The Gateway up toward Breaks.” He looked up the phone number for me and called, but got no answer. He then called the motel in Breaks Interstate park. They were full. I got the number for the Gateway and went out to my bike to pack up my supplies I had bought. While doing so, I called Gateway several times without an answer. It didn’t make sense to me. It was 8:30PM on a Saturday night in June. Why would a motel not answer their phone?

Frustrated and feeling I had nothing else I could do, I started riding that way. Surely there was someone there. I would just have to go see them in person. The sun was getting low in the sky, I was smoked  and I was heading off into “the wilderness” again without a solid plan. To make matters worse, Elk Horn City is down in a hole. The only way out was up. I wasn’t happy.

About 5 miles out of town, I crossed the state line into Virginia. My last state. It was somewhat bitter sweet as I didn’t want to ride any further that night, but I had made my goal for the day and I was now in the final state of the Trans Am. I carried on another mile up the road and found the Gateway Motel.

I got really excited when I pulled in the lot because there were less than a half dozen cars in the lot and the building looked to have 30 rooms or more. Vacancy! As I got closer to the office, I saw a sign that said closed. Closed?!?! There was a family playing frisbee in the parking lot and I asked them if they knew where the office person was. They told me that the old lady that ran the place had left before 8:00 and said she would be back to check folks out in the morning. I was floored. They also said that they had tried to get a room at Breaks and it was full. The thought honestly crossed my mind to start trying doors and see if I could get into one of the rooms that was vacant. I could always pay the lady later. My conscience made the better decision and I got back on the road to continue climbing.

As if a curtain was pulled, upon leaving the Gateway Motel, the sun went down. I rode up and up, watching for the turn to Breaks Interstate Park. I planned to see if they had any cancelations. Anything. It was either that or ride on through the night and I didn’t want to do that.

I finally made it to the entrance to the park about 9:30PM. I made the turn, rode the mile or so up to the motel and went inside. At the desk was the nicest lady I could imagine, but when I asked about a room, she had bad news. They were in fact full and had no place for me. I begged and groveled a bit. Surely they had some folks who had not made it there to check in yet? She said that there were 3 rooms reserved for folks coming in, but each one had already called and said they were on their way. The rooms would be filled for the night. I groveled a bit more shamelessly and explained that I had ridden the 190 miles from Berea over hill and dale and more hill. I was too tired to go on and needed a place to stay. She had an idea about a camping spot and called her supervisor. When she got back with me, she said, “I may have you a room.” The heavens parted and angels sang!!! Upon further review, they in fact had a room. It was an older room that they kept on reserve for volunteer workers with the park service. The maintenance man on duty would have to check it first to see if it was truly available.

I waited as patient as I could. After about 30 minutes, she got a call that the room was good to go. I would get to stay. I was stoked! She spent another 15 minutes or so trying to figure out how to get through the computer system so that she could rent me the room. Being a room for volunteers, they don’t typically rent it. Soon enough, I had keys in my hand. I thanked her over and over, then rode up the hill to the room, went inside, showered and got in bed. It was 10:30PM. I wouldn’t get to clean my soaked clothes, but I hung them over the air conditioner to dry the best they could. I had a monster day. 190 miles and 13933′ of gain. Sleep found me easily.

It is finished

Well, as many of you may already know through Facebook, I have finished the ride and I am now home. It was an amazing journey. Many highs, lows and in betweens. Some pain, both physical and emotional, but generally speaking, a great trip and something that I will remember for the rest of my life.

To start off, I guess I will recap my last day on the road. That was Tuesday. I started the day in Ashland, which is just north of Richmond. I was beat. Although I had just taken a rest day Saturday, both Sunday and Monday had been long days with lots of miles. I had a court date scheduled for Friday morning and a flight home for early Thursday, so I had been pushing to get the trip done with enough time to have a day to organize my activities and ship my bike home. So there I was, just 98 miles from the end in good shape to finish in my allotted time, but exhausted, sore and generally drained both mentally and physically. I was ready to get this thing over with and go home.

First things first, I decided to get a good breakfast. Just a little up the street was a Waffle House. Two waffles and a coffee later, I felt ready to tackle the day. I started fairly early. I was on the road by 8:00 and enjoying the change of terrain. Finally some flats!

Things went well for the morning. Although tired and sore, I was keeping a decent pace and tried to take a break about every 10-15 miles. Just often enough to get what I needed as far as nutrition and a rest, but not so often that I would extend the day too much. I also tried to keep the breaks to about 5 minutes. Gotta keep moving!

By midday, I had come about 60 miles and was feeling good about my progress, but I was really feeling tired. The breaks became longer. Not a lot, but I noticed.

When I crossed the Chickahominy River with about 30 miles to go, I felt like the end was in sight. I was on a bike path mirroring the John Tyler Highway and just past the river, the path turned south alongside highway 614 toward Jamestown. This colonial area seemed to be the beginning of the end for me. Not only in terms of nearing the end of my day, and thus the trip, but also in terms of my stamina. I had no desire to keep going.

As I reached the park surrounding Jamestown and then turned onto the Colonial National Historic Parkway, I began stopping at almost every roadside sign. They were very interesting and told the story of the early settlers and their plight with the Indians in the area, but the real reason for my stops was I wanted to stop. I was done.

I made my way slowly along the parkway and eventually to Williamsburg. My intention had been to stop and find something to eat and take a nice break, but I found no place to stop immediately along the route and before I realized it, I was out of town and headed toward Yorktown. With just 13 miles remaining, I decided I would eat in Yorktown as a
celebration.

After a grueling little ride with enormous amounts of traffic that gave very little room, I finally reached Yorktown! The route took me down through the historic colonial district right along the York River. All the way through the small village at the end of town was the awesome monument commemorating the surrender of the British in the Revolutionary War. It was amazing to see, not only because of the significance of the monument in regards to the history of our country, but also because my map said that the route ends at said monument. I was done with the Trans Am.

You might expect a sign or a banner or maybe someone standing there saying “you did it!”, but there were no such things. Actually, there wasn’t anyone there. Just me. I looked around hoping to find at least one person to ask to take my picture or someone to tell that I had just rode my bike 4555 miles across the country. It was a futile exercise. I was alone.

How anticlimactic is that?! It seems it was a great lesson. This trip wasn’t about the opportunity to tell anyone about what I had accomplished. It wasn’t about any sort of recognition that I might receive. It was strictly about a dream that I had and the completion of said dream and what it meant to me. As I stood there with my bike, walking around this beautiful monument and reading the inscriptions on it, I was humbled. My accomplishment of riding across the country obviously pales in comparison to what people had went through to fight for us to be a free nation. Perspective is key in the realization of
significance. I’ll come back to that thought.

After about 15 minutes, two young guys came running down the road. Out for a jog, they were talking and I felt guilty asking them to stop, but I did. They came over and took my picture and I told them what I had done. They said congratulations and went on there way, as did I. That was the pomp and circumstance! LOL!

Now I had a different journey ahead. Without the benefit of a set of maps to tell me what roads would be good to cycle on or where I would find eats, drinks or a bed, I needed to find my way south through Newport News and Hampton, over(and/or under) the James River and into Norfolk, where I would then need to find a way to ship my bike home and get myself on a plane to fly to St Louis on Thursday at 6:00AM. The trip would be roughly 35 miles, but I couldn’t ride my bike the whole way. Not only is it illegal to ride on interstate highways in Virginia, but you are forbidden from riding on the bridges and tunnels that cross the James River in and around the area. My choices were two, as I saw it.

One, I could ride back up to Jamestown and take the ferry across, then south and east through Norfolk and it’s suburbs to where I needed to go, totaling somewhere around 100 miles. With just 36 hours before I would be flying home and plenty of things to do to prepare for said trip, that wouldn’t work.

Two, I could call a cab and pay out the wazzoo to haul me and my bike to the area around the airport. I chose to pay out the wazzoo.

First I had to find somewhere to eat. After passing through Jamestown, Williamsburg and Yorktown without eating, I was famished and started getting the shakes. I’m not a skinny guy and you would think my body would find something on this frame of mine to sustain itself, but it wasn’t working that way. I needed to eat and quickly.

The first place I found was a gas station along highway 17 about 7 miles down the road. I had the worst hamburger I had on the trip, a honey bun, a king size 3 Musketeers candy bar and a 20 oz Minute Maid pink lemonade.

That did the trick. By the time I finished everything, I was feeling much better and considered riding on south a ways before I called a cab. But it was getting late. It would be dark in about an hour and the main roads were way too big and had lots of traffic. Not a safe situation. So I called a cab. They picked me up in about 10 minutes and I was on my way to Norfolk.

The cab ride cost me $100. I thought I was going to gag when I had to pay the guy. I came to terms with it quickly. I was safe and done with the trip. Not long to go and I would be on my way home.

I stayed at the Econolodge-Airport on North Military Highway. It was cheap and the
closest thing I could find to the airport, according to the map on my phone. But the neighborhood kinda scared me. The motel didn’t have a lobby, just a bullet proof glass window with a slot to pass documents and key cards. There were no gas stations or restaurants in site either direction. Only a used car lot, a transmission repair place and a seedy looking bar across the road. I went ahead and got checked in, went to my room and didn’t come out. I ordered Domino’s delivery for dinner, showered and watched TV. I also plotted my next moves. I had a plan for the next day. Then I slept. I was out before 10:00.

The next morning I slept till 8:00, but felt tired still. My legs were achy when I got up, but things would get better now that I didn’t have to get up and push everyday. My plan was to ride about 2 miles down the road to an area I determined might be better. According to the map on my phone, there were several motels in the area and places to eat. There was also a UPS store within a half mile so I could ship my bike. I got my things together and headed out about 10.

About a mile down the road, I found a Sonic and stopped for breakfast. Then fought traffic and got to the general area I was looking for. It wasn’t a lot better than where I had been the night before, but a little. I decided to try and save a couple bucks and checked in at the Motel 6. I looked at the room, which was kinda clean, but smelled a little bad, then rode to the UPS store.

On the way out to Portland, I had disassembled my bike, boxed it and all my gear up very carefully and checked the box as luggage on the plane. TSA found it necessary to open up the box, remove everything and put it back not near as carefully as I had first packed it. To eliminate this issue and not have to drag the box around Norfolk and St Louis airports, I had determined that I would ship my bike UPS.

So I sat in the UPS store, disassembled my bike, packed it and most of my things (other than my tooth brush, deodorant, phone charger and a small backpack I had with me) in a box and sent it all off on it’s way to my house. It was about $50 more than I thought it was going to be, but better to pack it and not have to worry about someone unpacking it. Hopefully it makes it home ok!

After stopping for lunch along the way back, I went to my room and watched TV. I ended up falling asleep for a couple hours. Later in the evening, I walked down the street to a gas station for some snacks and drinks, then went to bed before 10:00.

Up at 3:15 AM, I gathered my things for the final time and went to the office to check out. For some reason,  as I stood there in the office waiting for my cab to show, I found myself singing in my head, “Now I… had.. the time of my life. And I’ve never felt this way before.” You know the song. It seemed kind of fitting. Finishing up this tour and all and now headed home. In just a minute, the cab showed up outside and I went to get in. To my surprise, when I got in the cab, I heard Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes singing! How surreal! I laughed out loud and had to explain to the cab driver why.  How cool.

We headed to the airport and I was WAY early! I got there about 3:50 and found out the ticket counters didn’t open until 4:30. I couldn’t even check in as all the kiosks were down as well. Hurry up and wait.

At 4:30, I got checked in and was able to go through security. I had a terrible breakfast sandwich and waited for my flight.

My flight out of Norfolk left at 6:00 and arrived in Baltimore about 6:50. My first trip to Baltimore was a short one. I got off the plane, hurried along from one end of the airport to the other and didn’t have to wait but about 10 minutes before I boarded my plane to St Louis.

I arrived in STL a little before 9:00, Jeneen picked me up(yea!) and we headed home. Lunch was Hunt’s. What a way to be welcomed home!

Now that I’m back, I’ve been reflecting on the trip a bit. It seems a little silly to try to compare the trip to anything. Yes, it is quite a feat, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s not a big deal. I didn’t find myself while I was gone. I didn’t have any great epiphanies. I did learn that I am capable of a lot more than I give myself credit for. I also learned that I am pretty strong. Not necessarily physically, but mentally. To keep going day in and day out when you are beat up takes strength. I don’t know if this trip will help me along my
way in life, but I do know that I will remember things about it always.

Probably the most significant thing I learned on this trip is to not take life for granted. I’m glad I didn’t wait until I was retired to go on this adventure, like I thought I might have to. We are on this earth for a very short period of time. Many of us shorter than we think we might be. Before I left on this trip, I purchased a RoadID. Its a wristband that has my vital info on it and contact info for my wife in case I am unable to tell someone who to contact in an emergency. The last line on it had space for a motto or quote. I chose “live like you are dying”. You know why? I am. We all are. Everyday we get closer to death. It’s not a bad thing, I realize. Just part of life. We all die, and while I have no idea when that will be, I do know that I am going to make the most of life while I can. No sense waiting. I’m going to run another marathon. I’m going to participate in an Ironman. I plan to hike/run from rim to rim of the Grand Canyon. I want to climb Mt Ranier. My suggestion for you? Go follow your dreams. That’s living. If you wait, you are just waiting to die. Choose to live.

Last days stats:
Mileage-107.28
Total-4555.20
Trip time-7:01
Avg speed-15.26
Max speed-29.79
Climb-2501

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. 

Stats:
Mileage-131.23
Total-4447.92
Trip time-8:43
Avg speed-15.04
Max speed-39.63
Climb-6384

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. 

Stats:
Mileage-99.53
Total-4316.69
Trip time-6:51
Avg speed-14.52
Max speed-39.11
Climb-6575

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!

Stats:
Mileage-41.05
Total-4217.16
Trip time-3:02
Avg speed-13.48
Max speed-37.01
Climb-2560

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. 

Stats:
Mileage-62.92
Total-4176.11
Trip time-4:01
Avg speed-15.63
Max speed-43.63
Climb-4343