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.