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Sunday, June 1
Reality -- I will not survive the upcoming Appalachians with
the gearing I have on my bicycle. Hence, I will be buying
and new set of cogs and a derailleur tomorrow. This realization
came today as I huffed up the hill to Monticello with a small
parade of vehicles behind me and a heartbeat in my head. Otherwise
a good cycling day, the weather was incredible today though
a little windy. Encountered some hills but having had a day
off yesterday seemed to provide a little oomph to the legs
(though not to the posterior). The highlight was a visit to
Thomas Jefferson's home, Monticello. Jefferson's pivotal role
in Lewis & Clark's journey made this an obligatory stop given
my planned route along the Lewis & Clark trail. It was a beautiful
little house on top of a small hill with a view of the Blue
Ridge Mountains and Charlottesville. Charlottesville proved
to be a charming town and a good place to bunk.
Monday, June 2, 2003
Switching the gearing on my bicycle made all the difference
on the hills. For those “techies”, I was riding on an 11x26
and replaced it with a 11x34 - absurd by normal bicycling
standards but not loaded touring standards. I traveled solo
today and managed to get lost, though only a six-mile detour,
they were some hilly miles. Also, with 15 miles to go and
the sun making its way to the horizon, I fretted a bit but
found a kind individual who was willing to give me a ride
back to the place where I made the wrong turn. Nicest guy,
only problem was that I couldn't understand 40% of what he
was saying and ended up just nodding and smiling in order
to ensure I didn’t offend and that I did arrive at my wrong
turn. I am now in the house of the legendary "Cookie Lady",
June Curry. Apparently, in 1976 during the inaugural year
of the TransAmerica trail, Jane posted a sign offering water
to passing cyclists. Ever since then this has grown to include
cookies and now a free hostel to all cyclists. The tour of
the house included thousands of postcards and other memorabilia
she has collected over the years. To provide some perspective,
over 11,000 cyclists have passed through her doors. It was
a fabulous experience and something that has really added
another angle to my cross-country trip.
Tuesday, June 3, 2003
I was abused today. Over 4000 ft. in elevation through rain
and gale force wind. The blessing out of all this, if I can
survive a cold wet day like today, I can't see how it can
get much worse. Aaron and I got a late start from the Cookie
Lady house after chatting with Tom & Carrie Rock and Tom's
mother. From there it as a two mile climb to the Blue Ridge
Parkway where the "real" climbing commenced. There were stretches
of uphill that went on for miles through dense fog. The fog
severely limited the view but there were a few moments that
it cleared long enough to provide some glimpses of the beautiful
Shenandoah Valley and Blue Ridge Mountains. On top of the
rain, it was cold and I actually dreaded the long downhills
since it equated to no physical exertion and a biting cold.
It has been a bumper year for rain in this part of Virginia
and it is only expected to continue. Jokingly, one of the
local stations stated that they have decided to eliminate
all future weather forecasts since it has become blatantly
obvious that everyone knows it entails rain. Arrived in Vesuvius,
VA and found a very limited grocery store. Dinner consisted
of beans and licorice. It's 8:30 and I'm ready for bed.
Wednesday, June 4, 2003
Today was nice and easy and with minimal rain (ignoring our
lunch break in Lexington - a small picturesque college town).
I performed the first surgical procedure on my bicycle as
I changed my first (and hopefully last) broken spoke. The
route followed some truly remote roads along small creeks
and shaded roads. The landscape was incredible and reminded
me of my hometown, Galena (minus the mountains). We arrived
in Buchanan (pop. 1277) to find out that all the campsites
were either closed or a far from town. We opted to try and
find a friendly church willing to deal with a few tents for
a night and were utterly overwhelmed by all the kindness.
The local Presbyterian Church was having their monthly potluck/meeting
and insisted with "tank-up" as they phrased it. Needless to
say, we obliged. As we waited out the rains to pitch our tents
a local couple (Ed & Nancy Tolley) approached us and offered
us space in their house. The friendliness and hospitality
I have already encountered so soon into the trip has already
exceeded all of my expectations. Buchanan is another highlight
of my journey.
Thursday, June 5, 2003
The hospitality extended to us last night spilled over to
today. Breakfast, lunch & laundry all added up to a late start.
At least it was a low mileage day. Some more spectacular scenery
including small waterfalls and streams nestled in between
some mild mountains. For the past two days our path has paralleled
the Appalachian Trail and today we finally crossed paths in
the town of Catawba at an all-you-can-eat restaurant (The
Homeplace). Hard to believe a restaurant could stay in business
serving such a calorie-deprived clientele. We then wandered
out behind the restaurant and cashed in their gazebo with
a fantastic view of the stars.
Friday, June 6, 2003
I awoke earlier than normal today for a nice view of the
sunrise over the mountains. This coupled with a full mug of
coffee made my day. The mileage was light and the path traveled
along some back country roads with minimal traffic and nominal
development (we passed through a single town). Arrived in
Christiansburg and again experience the local hospitality.
Martha Mullen, a friend of a friend, offered us use of her
vacant apartment and treated us to some great Mexican food
and Margaritas. The weather forecast for tomorrow is looking
foul so tomorrow might be a rest day.
Saturday, June 7, 2003
The poor weather was a good excuse for a rest day. Enjoyed
Christiansburg, caught up on e-mail, ordered some gear and
watched a movie.
Sunday, June 8, 2003
We’re making a bad habit of late starts and today didn’t
notch our first mile until 1:30. The clouds in the distance
threatened but never really bothered us. Though we had originally
planned a 55-mile day, the late start, excessive heat and
hills conspired against us and stopped us 12 miles from our
desired destination. Accommodations were slim and we ended
up sleeping in the doggy rest stop at an RV park. As expected,
the weather forecast was dismal, flash flood warnings until
Monday, June 9, 2003
Awoke to a clear sky today and to my amazement, the weather
held. In other words, there was no rain today. We opted to
make it another short day in order to rest ourselves for the
upcoming climbs. Judging by the contour lines on our maps,
it appears that this climbing starts tomorrow. Tonight's campsite
is the polar opposite of last night in the RV park. A small
stream behind the tents, wooded hills 360 degrees around and
a degree of tranquility an RV park could never offer. During
today's ride, I was pleased to realize how much more time
on the road I actually have.
Tuesday, June 10, 2003
Finally, our first day of what appears to be summer. Broke
camp early today to tackle the climb before the heat. Much
to our surprise, the climb wasn't as bad as we had expected.
Much of the ride passed through National Forest and some paralleled
small creeks and accompanying waterfalls. Passed Mt. Rogers
today, Virginia's highest point (5,729 ft.) and lunched at
a classic Mom & Pop place where everyone was on a first name
basis. Also encountered my first strong smell of pine which
I so strongly associate with the West. Lodged in Damascus
at the Methodist Church's hostel for hikers and cyclists.
Damascus is the epicenter for people hiking the Appalachian
Trail. The transient nature of the place was evident and all
the boutiques, coffee shops and outdoor outfitters were welcome.
Virginia is drawing to a close. We all look forward to the
Promised Land, a.k.a. the Plains (i.e. no hills).
Wednesday, June 11, 2003
How did to today's ride treat me? Like I had hurt its dog.
For days we've been hearing about (and fearing) the ascent
over a section of the Appalachians. Our approach to the base
seemed to draw some strange looks from the people passing
by and I swear most of them were chuckling as they drove by.
We had 3-4 miles of pure uphill at 7/8% grade. At times I
was moving so slow that I watched butterflies whiz by. After
an hour of climbing we crested the pass to see a hawk swoop
down and grab a snack from the road. Quite intense. The hospitality
continues, the Methodist church in Elk Garden provides food
and lodging for all cyclists. Tomorrow - Kentucky.
Thursday, June 12, 2003
With a name like Big A Mountain, I figured it had to be tough.
So when I crossed it and called it "kindergarten", I reckoned
that I am either getting stronger or my expectations provided
a reality that could never be met. Another interesting point,
upon crossing Big A Mtn., we entered a whole new world. Out
of the farming community and into the mining community. No
more B&B's & manicured lawns, enter the smell of wood burning
stoves and mullets. With all the differences, the people continue
to be friendly as ever. We arrived at Breaks Interstate Park
on the Virginia/Kentucky border after some more vicious hills.
The humidity was thick and it often felt as though we had
to pedal through it. Thank goodness the day was cool. In a
moment of temporary insanity, I volunteered to run to the
store and pick up some beer for the campsite. Bad idea - two
miles straight down. Some kind miner that was passing by happened
to notice the early signals of exploding veins on me and pulled
over to offer me a ride. I'll count my blessings for his kindness.
Friday, June 13, 2003
Crossed my first state line today. My odometer read 622 miles.
The geography continues to be beautiful, lots of small streams
and verdant woods. Unfortunately we've found that some Eastern
Kentuckians like to store their trash in these same places.
We continue to encounter friendly people but are also finding
our fair share of drivers that are less than receptive to
the thought of possibly having to wait behind a cyclist. The
terrain was tough - almost 4200 feet of vertical climbing.
The present location is Pippa Passes, Kentucky, home of the
Alice Llyod College and our host tonight. Since tomorrow is
the weekend, we all pray that the coal trucks that have been
zooming around the roads will be on hiatus.
Saturday, June 14, 2003
Presently at the base of Buckhorn Dam State Park near Buckhorn,
Kentucky praying for a dry day. I've managed to set up my
tent on top of a picnic table. It is the only place that is
away from the waterlogged ground after the torrential rains
of the past few days. I'd like to say we missed most of these
downpours, but luck was not with us to day. In fact the rain
hit us so hard it hurt. I'd imagine something similar to a
weak sandblasting. Though we logged another relatively long
day, the hills were milder and we all appeared to have faired
Sunday, June 15, 2003
The clouds cleared just long enough to afford a spectacular
view of the surrounding hills this morning. Within these hills
was some low-lying mist that resulted in eerie view. Our earliest
departure today, out before 8:30 and immediately climbing.
Drizzle most of the morning. Rude awakening - most stores
in these parts are closed on Sunday. By fluke, we caught a
store owner passing by his shop after church. He apparently
recognized our situation and was accommodating to our growing
appetites. The route traversed along cliffs for several miles
and with the rain it offered a neat scene as water cascaded
down the rock faces. The dogs were more troublesome than normal
though I've still managed to avoid using my dog mace. We are
presently camped outside Mr. Snowden's house (outside Berea,
KY), a kind individual who has been housing passing cyclists