Oi! What a time. It seems keeping up with the blog is more trouble than I thought it would be! I’m currently in Charlottesville, VA, sitting in a McDonalds. Where to start? My second day was a hard, but good one. I pedaled from Roanoke and onto the Blue Ridge Parkway. It was incredibly misty so I passed many scenic overlooks, most were just a wall of clouds.
I only managed 32mi. That day, but I was completely wiped by 3. I pushed on till 4:30 when I hit the official camp and couldn’t pass it. We don’t have mountains in KY. Seriously, those things are no joke. The rain held off till I made camp which was nice. Some things I’ve learned about camping:
- My alcohol can stove works great. It may actually boil water faster than my stove.
- I’m scared of bears. Seriously. No bears. I ended up paying to camp at the official campgrounds so I could use their bear box for my food. Thankfully I never saw one.
- Your phone will drain itself trying to find a signal. Airplane mode is your friend.
- I did however get within about 15 feet of a deer. I guess they’ve gotten used to people as there’s no hunting in National Parks.
- My tent works great, but using your plastic drop cloth as your rain cover is a good idea… until it gets muddy and soaked. Then it’s not really good for wrapping around your sleeping gear.
- ALWAYS figure out where the bathroom is BEFORE it gets dark. Otherwise the handle on your rechargable flashlight might break. And you might need to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night/thuderstorm. And you might read the camp map wrong and wander through the woods, in the pouring rain and dark. Not that any of this happened to me. Of course not. I just figured I should warn you, the reader, of this possibility.
I was nervous about the climb the next day. The map showed I’d be heading over the Blue Ridge’s highest point of elevation in Virginia. Funnily enough I didn’t know I was on the mountain until I’d gotten to the top of it. Out in the woods there’s really no point of reference and when you’re always going up… Well, it was a welcome (and somewhat expected) surprise. 3,950 feet above sea level!
The ride down the other side made it all worth it. Ten uninterrupted miles downhill and a gorgeous scenic view every half mile. The pictures don’t do it justice, but it was awesome. One downside to the descent: I’d not tied one of my sacks tightly enough and it came loose. I lost my two t-shirts (no clue where they are) and only noticed it was open when the Ale-8 (that’s a local soda for you no Kentucky types) I was bringing Robbie leapt to it’s demise. The bottle didn’t break, but the cap came off so I downed the 2oz. left in it and put the empty bottle in the trash pile. Sorry Robbie! I tried!
I pulled 48mi. on day three, though they were sort of round about. I pulled into Lexington, VA and crashed with a couchsurfing contact. Alsten ‘Ali’ was great. A guy from Dubai living in rural VA with the license plate ‘ALI BABA’ = hilarious. We watched a few movies, drank a few beers and then I crashed out.
Unfortunately I hadn’t made contact with anyone I sent a message to on couchsurfing when I woke up. I sent a few more messages and headed out. This was the hardest and longest day yet. I’ve not sure how much I did, but I made it though the gap. Funny thing: Just because some place s named SuchAndSuch Gap doesn’t mean there won’t be a freaking mountain to climb. But, again, going down the other side was awesome. At about 6:30 I checked my phone. I was 13mi. outside of Charlottesville city limits and still no one had responded. I was riding to a city, rapidly losing daylight and losing energy faster. As I came to the bottom of a hill I noticed another cyclist pulling off to load his bike onto his car so I stopped to inquire about campsites. Unfortuantely I’d already passed them all and there was no way I was going back up the hill. The cyclist mentioned there were some cheap motels in town and gave me directions so I headed out again.
And that didn’t work out so well. I was starting to crash. My legs were shaking. I’d biked over 60mi. and wasn’t sure how much farther I could go. I stopped at the top of a hill to eat and try to pull myself together, when the cyclist who I’d talked to 15 minutes ago pulled off the road and offered me a ride into town. I knew I couldn’t really afford a motel, but I was exhausted. Cleve (short for Cleveland) ended up taking me to a Hampton Inn. Thanks for the ride man, you were a lifesaver!
Up until this point I’d felt great about my trip. I went inside and inquired about the cost to stay the night. It turns out Cleve and I have different ideas about what constitutes a “cheap motel.” I repacked my stuff and found a bench to sit and think for a bit. I cursed myself for not setting up couchsurfing contacts sooner. This was my fault. Why hadn’t I emailed people sooner? Furthermore, why’d I get in the car with Cleve, knowing I couldn’t afford a motel? Maybe this trip wasn’t such a good idea. I stewed for about an hour. I was losing daylight and without lights on my bike I wasn’t riding anywhere once dusk set it. Desperation breeds ingenuity. After feeling sorry for myself and kicking myself, I scanned my phone’s GPS, found a patch of woods between a subdivision and a shopping center and pitched my tent out of sight of the road and any houses. A few deer watched me cautiously as I pitched my tent and I took this as a good sign. If there were room enough for dear, surely there was room for me to make it a night without being noticed.
I was a little nervous. Okay, I’m lying through my teeth, I was really nervous. Two cop cars went by, sirens blaring and I was sure someone had seen me enter the bush and called about some scruffy looking weirdo poking around the bushes behind their home. But it turns out I was fine. That is until I reached for my phone. The brush where I pitched my tent was 5-6 feet tall and primarily long snaking grasses and kudzu vines. I’d put on my jeans to wade through the 150 feet of brush to get to my secluded campsite. My phone was somewhere between there and the road. I looked for it in the fading light with my broken flashlight for an hour and a half before giving up and laying down. Lesson: I can sleep when nervous but exhausted, but not when nervous, exhausted and furiously frustrated. The phone was within 100 feet of me but I had absolutely no way of figuring out where. I have GPS tracking on my phone, but I needed and phone to use that and I didn’t know a soul in Charlottesville. Asking was also out of the realm of possibility. “Hey buddy, can I borrow your phone to go wander around in the brush with it?” Yeah right. I couldn’t wait till morning to Skype with a friend, have them text it and relay the information to me: the battery would be dead by then because I’d left the Wifi and GPS turned on. Replacing the phone was out of the question and I needed the phone to navigate. After 30 minutes I got back up and started looking again. I’d tear every blade of grass out of that damn clearing if I had to. And… after ten minutes of searching, there it was. Note to self: NEVER clip yourself phone to pants without a belt. Ever.
I managed about 6 hours sleep, woke at 4AM, packed up… and I’ve been sitting in this McDonalds typing this up ever since. Next stop is Washington DC: 122mi. from where my butt currently occupies space. That’s 2 days travel if I keep up my current pace, but possibly three. I don’t know if I can physically keep doing 60mi. days. Liz has graciously set me up with a friend of hers there. There isn’t much between here and there so updates may be sparse till I get there, but I’m going to try to do a better job of keeping this updated.
Oh yeah, and I saw llamas yesterday. LLAMAS! Also this creepy abandoned house.