In the morning our tents are soaking wet with dew, and inside with condensation; when we pack them up the footprint/tarp things are again crawling with slugs. For breakfast there is boiled eggs and pre-cooked bacon. I'm the last one packed up but Dan has to change a tube due to a slow puncture so I'm not the last one ready to roll, which we do at something like 9 a.m. We stop after only 6 miles at the first gas station we find for an ice cream and soda break, which takes way longer than it should but hey whatever today's gonna be a shorter day than yesterday at least.
The first part of our day is mostly uphill, but it's thru a national forest with plenty of shade and the gradient is very gentle. Yellow butterflies flutter like early autumn leaves amidst the green of spring. (Their carcasses also, sadly, litter the road. At some point Anna Faye and Ben witness one get creamed by a passing truck.) I'm the slowest up the hill but the alone time in the lush forest is quite nice. At some point we pass the hill-walking cyclists again, as they stayed in Wytheville last night and passed us early in the morning. They're only going as far as some campground in this forest today so it's doubtful we'll run across them again--but, hey, you never know.
It's a long and wonderful downhill after that climb and for lunch we pull over by a stream and eat on its banks, sometimes dipping our feet in the swift, cold water. It's another climb after that thru similar roads and another luxurious downhill. At some point we're passed by a group of motorcyclists but we catch up to them at the bottom of the hill where they'd stopped at an old, abandoned gas station for a snack break. They offer us ice-cold sodas (I take a sprite), cookies, and candy, and we stay with them and chat for a while. Their kindness makes our day. Turns out they're from Kentucky and some of them actually live right along the route we'll be taking. They give us phone numbers and say to call when we're a few towns over, and they'll come out to meet us with more food or something. It's people like these that make this trip worth it. Should be seeing some of them again in about two weeks!
There's a nice coasting downhill thru a small town and then a winding, curving uphill thru another forest. The gradient is gentle enough that I can take it at 7-10 mph. Dan shoots up ahead of me on the climb but I stay ahead of the others all the way until the wicked-awesome downhill starts. It's bendy and all downstream; I go something like 30-35 mph, taking a few turns a bit too fast and having to be careful not to scrape my pedals on the ground while leaning over for them. I didn't manage to film much of it at all but I will say that was my favorite stretch of road so far, and it's gonna take a lot to top it.
When we reach Damascus the first thing Dan and Jenn do is get ice cream, and I get a 24 oz sprite and down it quickly. We sit outside in the shade for a long time, talking, me writing up day 12 to post. We take a nice, long, leisurely break, buying a few bits of gear (sleeping bag liners for Anna Faye and Ben, serving spoon and spatula for chef Travis, etc) and chatting with shop owners. We spend some time trying to find a place to camp tonight either in Meadowview or Hayter's Gap, but nothing pans out. We consider staying in Damascus but ultimately decide to press on to Meadowview and see what we can find.
The hills roll thru sun-stained, stereotypical farmland from Damascus to Meadowview. The first stretch is on a kinda busy road but once you turn off onto a little 1.5 lane county road it's really nice. We string out along the road quite a bit, Travis, Dan, and Jenn up ahead where I can't quite see them, Ben and Anna Faye behind where I can't see them, either. At some point we almost stop and knock on someone's door to ask if we can camp in their field but a bit of intuition tells us to press on to Meadowview proper. Sure enough, when we're cycling thru their little downtown a truck passes and a gentleman leans out the window and asks if we're tired and ready to set down for the night. We say yes, and he offers up Mount Carmel Christian Church to us, telling us how to get there before driving off to get a key and come back to open the door.
He's an elder of the church and says he usually offers their building to cyclists when he sees them and we thank him profusely as he opens it up to us. There's a covered pavilion outside to leave our bikes in and inside there's bathrooms and a kitchenette. We hang our tents out to dry while we eat supper at the pavilion--hot dogs, rice, peas, carrots, and black beans--and the boys have a philosophy discussion I'm too tired to really join in on. My stomach is still bothering me something awful and I actually throw up a little at some point, so I go in to lay down before my whole dinner comes back up. Can't afford to lose calories like that on a trip like this.
While inside I discover a tick on my ankle and yank him off. Scary stuff.
We put our dry tents away instead of setting them up and decide to sleep inside so that we don't have to pack up wet gear in the morning. We set up in one of their classrooms, rolling out our sleeping mats and bags. I go to type this blog and my word processor on my phone crashes and deletes everything, so I get really upset (that's the 3rd time it's done that) and give up blogging for the night. I've now downloaded a new note-taking app so hopefully that works better.
There's a pretty steep, tough-looking climb coming up tomorrow--wish me luck.
distance: 53 mi
riding time: 5 hrs 5 min
avg speed: 10.4 mph
max speed: 37.2 mph
odo: 684.4 mi
[picture below of mount carmel christian church, a one-storey brick building topped with a cross]