Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Long Awaited Detailed Update

Hi, friends and supporters! Thank you lovely people for keeping up with my blog. Again, I apologize that it's been so long since I updated with details. Seeing as it's been so long I may have trouble digging up details from each day of the trip. But I'm sure you all would get bored with too many details so that works out. The last post was from Meadowview, VA so I'll try to pick up from there.

A few hours after posting in Meadowview another cyclist pulled in to camp out at the same church pavilion as me. His name is George and he's in his mid to late 50s. We had some good conversation and it was great having company. He took off before me the next day by about 45 minutes. We were both facing Hayter's Gap, a particularly daunting mountain pass, the next day. It was sure slow going but we both managed to traverse the mountains successfully. I ended the day in Haysi, VA but George pushed on to Breaks Interstate Park about a mile from the Kentucky border.

That afternoon, I pulled into the small town of Haysi (pronounced Haze Eye) and found a state cop. He told me where I could set up my tent for the night and I moseyed on down to the river bank he'd pointed out. There was no cell phone reception but a couple of local restaurants had WiFi so i made use of that whilst eating dinner that evening. Other things were brewing, though. I was now officially out of clean clothes. I was trying to figure out how to get a couple pairs of clean undergarments so I swung by the Dollar General and picked up 2 plastic containers, some bottled water, some dish soap and some baking soda. It did not go well. This was a low point for me. Cleanliness is important to my mental state and only being able to clean 1 pair of bike shorts didn't help very much. This night there was just a breaking point. I felt homeless and destitute. All I wanted was to curl up on my couch, watch some TV and be indoors. Of course I couldn't. That night was miserable.

The next day, things didnt improve much. It was raining most of the morning. When it wasn't raining it was unbelievably humid. Coming down from a mountain pass, my brakes weren't working very well and I got into a scuffle with the side of a mountain. Skinned my leg up and tore a strap on my bicycle bag. Not a fun time. Thank God, George was around. He managed to fix my pannier up so I could still hang it on my cargo rack. About 90 minutes later, I got my first flat tire on the front wheel **right in the middle of an intense climb**. At this point I felt that staying at a bed and breakfast was no longer a luxury. After a miserable night, a fall, and a flat tire I needed a bed or I'd just start losing my marbles. Unfortunately, the next B&B was in Hindman, KY, a fair hike from Pippa Passes where I'd intended to finish my day. Even still, I don't know how I did it. That day I covered about 75 miles *in the mountains* with an injured knee for half of that ride. Met 4 other cyclists that evening. James and Daniel are traveling together. James is from the UK and Daniel is from Kentucky. And Janice and Katherine are together also. James and Daniel are both younger guys in their mid to late 20s and Katherine and Janice are both in their early 50s. Had a good night's sleep at the Quiltmaker Inn.

The following day was from Hindman, KY to Booneville, KY. Finished the teeth of the Appalachians that day and got into more manageable hills. Nothing really to report from that day's ride. Stayed the night at another church pavilion (this one with showers and a bathroom) in Booneville. Had a dinner of cheddar dogs and veggies.

Rode a long ways with Daniel and James from Booneville to Berea. Berea is a small college town in the foothills of Appalachia. They're a completely dry town. Not a legal drop of bourbon to drink. I would have stayed a rest day here if I wasn't bound and determined to see my old college roommate Timothy.

Booked it for Harrodsburg, KY the following day. An easy 45 mile ride followed by camping out in a community park. Tim arrived right around dinner time and we went to an old tavern on the other side of town. Enjoyed a nice dinner followed by some shuffleboard. The next day I took it easy and simply walked to the Harrodsburg Walmart. Upon returning, the pavilion where I camped out was flooded with middle schoolers! Apparently, it was a final celebration for this group called The Mighty Marvels. We talked a bit, got some pictures and then said farewell as it was the end of their picnic when I returned. A while later, another group started assembling but the rain and clouds were looking a bit daunting so they retreated elsewhere to celebrate.

Honestly, I'm tired to typing details. So I'm just going to jump right ahead to the latest developments. Two days ago, I was headed from White Mills, KY to Fordsville. I was heading downhill at a pretty good clip (about 25 mph) when a couple of dogs ran right out into the road. I lost control of the bike and took a nasty spill on the side of the road. The dogs left me alone when the owners came out but I was already pretty scratched up. Skinned part of my back and smacked my wrist pretty hard on the road.

The following day, instead of heading to Dixon, KY I moved north to Owensboro to see a doctor. Got checked out and now have a clean bill of health. Just some bruises and sprains. Nothing too serious. I'll be getting into Illinois in a couple more days and Missouri shortly afterwards! So that's where I am now! Thanks for following!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Apologies

Sorry for not updating my blog recently! Working through the Appalachians took a lot of mental and physical energy out of me. I'm riding through central Kentucky now and am in search of a computer where I can fill you all in on some details. It's just too much of a pain to hammer out a detailed report on my smartphone. So stay tuned and I promise to post soon!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Loneliness

Well, it's been a few days since Blacksburg and I've been alone for most of that time. Wednesday night I set up camp in a town park in Wytheville Virginia and skedaddled the next morning after swinging by a Walmart. Thursday night I set up camp at a self-serve campsite in the national forest. With no cell phone reception or WiFi, I felt pretty cut off from civilization. The loneliness really started to sink in that night as I tried to start a campfire. I began thinking about how lonely it must be to have ALS. These poor souls cannot talk, hug or otherwise interact with anyone around them apart from smiles or tears. the last two days have made me so hungry for human interaction any chance that I get. and that's just two days. Imagine being unable to interact with anybody ever. The days turn into weeks, the weeks turn into months, and the months turn into years. I think it would be enough to drive a person insane. We were made for community and when that community is muted or taken away from us we become a little less human. Anyway, those have been my thoughts for the last couple of days. Tonight, I'm staying in the small town of Meadowview, VA. The trip has become a lot more fluid in the past few days. I feel like a nomad, scoping out where I want to go the next day and riding without any plan for where to spend the night. The longer I go, the more I realize how little is in my control. All I know for sure is that I'm moving West day by day by day.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Highlights from my Delay

I'll share more details later but here are some of the goings on from my 4 day interlude:

1) Getting to know some of the awesome staff at East Coasters Bike Shop in Blacksburg, VA

2) Hearing more about the love of God in 1 Corinthians 13 on Sunday morning

3) Meeting some friends of a friend in Pennsylvania

4) Meeting some awesome new friends and spending time with them as my hosts from Sunday to Wednesday morning

5) Attending my very first baby shower and eating some amazing food/ drinking some amazing beer there (other men were present, not just me)

6) Meeting some brothers and sisters to grow in grace together

7) Hanging out in a coffee shop for about 4 hours

Anyway, I rode close to 60 miles today from Blacksburg, VA to Wytheville, VA. I'm wiped out. Going to get some z's now!

Saturday, May 9, 2015

A Broken Spoke

Forgot to mention in my detailed post that I broke a spoke coming into Blacksburg. Took Fledge to the bike shop yesterday morning and got the spoke replaced and was told it would be good for another 500 miles or so. But when I set out for Max Meadows this morning I got another one. I'd just left town so I managed to hitch a ride back to the bike shop. Now I'm having to get a new wheel and am paying quite a bit of money to do so. Hopefully this will be the only significant repair for the trip. In the meantime I'm stuck in Blacksburg until Wednesday morning. This could get a little boring!

Friday, May 8, 2015

A Rest Day in Blacksburg

Well here I am in Blacksburg, VA on day 10 of my trip. It's been quite a week! Last Friday night I stayed on the southern side of Fredericksburg after my last rest day. My host was a scout master who has led a few teams of boy scouts across the country on bicycle and he described his adventures doing that. There was another guy staying that night in the same home who was working on making a complete circuit of the US on bicycle. He'd started out in (I believe) Washington state, worked his way down the Pacific coast, made his way across the southern tier of the US and was in the midst of heading northwards where he would take the northern tier and finish back where he started in the pacific northwest. He rides alone. That made me feel a little safer/ easier about my little trip.

The following morning I headed south towards Doswell, VA whose only claim to fame is King's Dominion. I met a fellow cyclist named Laurie and we rode a ways together, perhaps 5 miles or so. She was practicing for a ride for Multiple Sclerosis and we got a chance to share some stories and pray together. A little while after parting ways I was riding over some railroad tracks and took a tumble scraping up my forearm and elbow. Nothing very serious so I just kept going and treated it once I got to my hosts' house. I saw a couple of minor historic sights there. There was a cabin whereat Stonewall Jackson drank from this lady's water pitcher. After she found out who the guy was she refused to let anyone else drink from that pitcher. And I saw an historic cemetery wherein were buried the wife of a signer of the Declaration of Independence, a soldier from the Revolutionary War and a confederate soldier. Of course there were others buried there, just those 3 stood out. The house I stayed at in Doswell had so much character, though, that it almost felt historic in and of itself! I can't even really put it into words. It had really taken on the personality of its owners from the decorations to the materials used to craft it to the little things that all mix together into an amalgam of beauty. The closest thing I've ever seen to this place was my grandma's house in Asheville, NC.

On Sunday morning I called a couple Walmart stores in Ashland, VA who'd expressed interest in seeing me as I passed through to tell them that where I was staying was right smack dab on the trail West and that it would be so much easier for me to just bypass Ashland and head for Palmyra, VA. They said that was just fine and they completely understood so after getting off the phone I headed due West for my first real day crossing the US. It was a fairly uneventful ride and I got to Palmyra in the late afternoon. I did bump into another cyclist named Warren who rode with me perhaps about 5 miles or so. He shared some tidbits of local history with me and we parted ways right as I got into Palmyra. My host met me at a gas station and gave me a ride to his house. That evening was spent enjoying dinner, drinking a mixed drink and watching The Hunt for Red October with my host and his roommate.

The next morning I had a *major* scare! Got all my bags packed, got a ride back to the gas station from the previous evening, loaded everything onto Fledge, and prepared to set off. But then I couldn't find my cycling cleats. They weren't in my bags or in my host's car or at the house. It seemed they were just gone. Nowhere. I can't ride without cleats. Not long distances anyway. It's kind of like loading up your car only to discover you don't have your keys. I looked behind the gas station. Nothing. Behind the next building over where I'd leaned Fledge up against a railing. Nothing. I was about to start panicking. Then my host walks into the gas station and asks the attendant. They'd found my cleats the previous evening and brought them inside in case I came back looking for them. I desperately tried to get the attendant to take a $10 gift of profuse thanks for holding them for me but he insisted that it was unnecessary and would not take it. Riding down the road that day I was thanking God for protecting me from my own stupid mistakes and foolish decisions.

About 2 hours after leaving Palmyra, I hit Charlottesville, VA in all its glory. I made a significant detour to go see an old college buddy and stop at a Walmart store. Adding that detour tacked on almost 17 miles to my route, not counting how much time I would spend lost trying to figure out how to get back on the Adventure Cycling map. I eventually got back on track but spent a LOT of energy and composure in the process. That ride had several low points where I was just sweating my brains out, not sure I was headed in the right direction and very mildly dehydrated. On my way towards my host's home I stopped at a convenience store and purchased the freaking best 2 bottles of Gatorade I have ever tasted in the entire history of my life! I can't even express how good that gatorade was! Literally no words!

I ended up getting where I was going just before the sun really went down. At this point it was about 8 pm and I'd been on the bike for about 11 hours. Another beautiful home. I felt like I was in an elvish residence at Rivendell. It was just magic. Had chicken, cabbage and mushrooms for dinner and hit the sack. The next day I'd be going over the Blue Ridge Parkway and would need my energy.

I hit the road about 9 am and the ride was relatively easy until I started heading up the mountain. That morning, the mountain beat me. I made it about a third of the way up but my legs were just so sore and I was breathing so heavily. I walked the bike the rest of the distance up the mountain and even that was a real test of strength. On getting to the top, I took a nice break, drank a good bit of water and snapped some pictures. Now when you're on the parkway it's not too bad. You've got a good number of hills and dips but it's nothing like getting up to the parkway itself. After a while I got myself "in the zone" and when I would come up against a somewhat daunting hill I would insult it telling it that it was about to be beaten by a guy who hadn't even been a serious cyclist a year and a half ago. This was a very effective tactic. haha

On approaching my descent into Vesuvius, VA I said a quick prayer that my brakes would hold. This was an insane downgrade. I basically rode my brakes the whole entire way down and even then took a breather when my hands started to get really sore from holding the brakes in place. But I made it to the bottom without a broken neck or any damage to my bicycle.

That night I was in a cabin off the beaten path without running water, electricity or anything except (amazingly) a few bars of cell phone reception. It reminded me of Christopher McCandless' bus. I camped outside as the cabin was a tad warm for me and got much better sleep than I'd expected.

The next day's destination was Buchanan, VA about 45 miles down the road. I made it there between 4-5 hours later and, since I hadn't found a host, decided to splurge on a motel room. After an 11 hour ride followed by climbing a mountain I desperately needed a good shower and a soft bed to sleep in. I ate dinner at the only restaurant within walking distance even though it was just a tad on the pricey side. The waiter, on seeing how hungry I was, brought out some dried fruits and nuts for me at no additional charge and when I told him what I was doing on bicycle he got me a cup of noodles to take along!

Yesterday's ride was LONG at 55+ miles to Blacksburg, VA. A good bit of it felt like I was riding through the French countryside with rolling hills, beautiful scenery, several wineries and many farms. My approach into Blacksburg was incredibly hilly but I rode the entire way without walking. Last night I ate a huge dinner at a mexican restaurant and got a fantastic night's sleep. Now to enjoy my day off!











After making it to the Blue Ridge Parkway!














A little guy I rescued from probably getting run over by a car!










My host's doggie, Zelda!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Some random pictures!

Well my itinerary got a little warped. I ended up going Fredericksburg to Doswell to Palmyra to Afton to back on track with Vesuvius. We'll see how tightly I hold to the plan in the future.