We get up pretty early in the morning with the goal to be rolling by 8 a.m. It's made a bit easier by not having to pack up tents and sleeping bags first. Breakfast for me is almond milk and fruit; the others eat leftovers from the potluck last night and things like that. Carla watches and helps us pack our bikes up, and Brian rolls up at 8:05 on the dot. After a few more pictures and farewells we head off.
Brian escorts us for our first 20 miles--probably the best part of the day. The hills are gentle and there's shade and running water. Brian usually stays up front with Dan but finds time to chat with each of us before peeling off back home. After we leave this last representative of Radford behind, we stop for second breakfast at the abandoned and kinda creepy-looking Pulaski Motel. All the doors are locked and chained and it seems like no one has been here in years; the sidewalks are crawling with little red bugs that Travis thinks are harmless spider mites. I make a dent in my new jar of chocolate peanut butter and put it on rice cakes. I'm starting to feel a little nauseated, but that won't become a big issue until later.
After 2nd breakfast we press on, and there's hardly any shade for a very long time. The predominant smells of the day are cow poo, skunk funk, and roadkill. Our path crosses over the highway several times because we follow county roads that parallel it to keep out of traffic, but quite a bit of traffic finds us anyway. There's long strings of gas stations and trucker stops all in a row here that's why. We pull into one at some point and I have a grape soda which is super refreshing on a boiling day like today.
At some point we come across two other touring cyclists, who are on their way to San Francisco, where they're from. They walk their bikes up any hill that I'd be using my granny gear on, and I find myself wondering, how are they going to make it over the Rockies and thru Nevada etc if they have to walk their bikes up Virginia hills? But their whole thing is "Cycle Slowly" (the name of their blog on crazy guy on a bike, iirc). They only do about 30 miles a day, they say--provided there's a place to stay; otherwise, they press on. (Such as doing the whole blue ridge parkway and then some, something like 80 miles, in one sitting!)
After I while a start to have serious muscle pain/weakness and I slow down way behind everyone in the breezeless heat. I'm worried about heat stroke a little bit, so I drink a lot of water and rest in the shade periodically. Still, tho', the nausea and muscle pain persists. It's related to my autoimmune disease, I think--it's not muscle soreness or muscle burning like working hard, it's something that happens to me from time to time and usually on those days I just stay in bed until it's over but I can't because I have to cycle. The hills today aren't quite as steep as what we've been doing but they're taller and last longer so I can't ride my momentum up them, and there's no breeze and no shade and the sun is boiling us so it's really hard. At some point I pull over by a duck and goose pond and just cry until I can pull myself together enough to follow and find the others again.
We finally stop for lunch in Wytheville, pulling into the shade of an abandoned shop front. All the stores we need--bike shop, camping goods store, gas station conbini--used to be here but are closed down now. I try to eat some clams for protein but they taste like fish poop and have the consistency of phlegm (ordinarily I like clams, but today my stomach won't have it) so I force down half the can, toss the rest and keep eating chocolate peanut butter on rice cakes. I take a really long time to eat because I'm dazed and in pain so while I eat Jenn, Dan, and Travis go to the post office to mail the key to Radford back home for safekeeping, along with some other things they'd been carrying but didn't actually need and didn't want to carry anymore.
Turns out we've just done 500 miles as a team, so we decide to go out for a couple drinks to celebrate. We only have about 20 miles left to go and it's only like 4 p.m. so we have time for a longer break. We find this log cabin restaurant place down the street and wait 10 minutes for it to open and go in and sit down. Everyone gets beers except Dan, who gets a Pepsi, and I get a hard cider. The decor of the place is really interesting and rustic and we have a nice time sitting there, me trying to gather some strength to continue without throwing up or giving up. I try to order another type of cider but when it comes it's just an apple-flavored beer, which is disappointing, but I don't want to deal with sending it back so I give it to Anna Faye and settle down with water.
I don't remember anything of the cycle beyond this except for latching on to Dan's back wheel as he acted the wind break for me, pulling me into Cedar Springs. I tuned everything else out but that wheel in order to actually make it to where we decided to camp that night. Except that where we thought the national, campable forest started wasn't and all we can see is POSTED: NO TRESPASSING signs. We go another 6 or 7 miles beyond where we wanted to stop and finally pass another abandoned, creepy, ivy-conquered house and decide to just camp in the flat area behind its barn because, well, who could possibly mind? The grass back there is tall and full of spiders which is hard for Jenn to take but we get our tents up and start on supper well before the light starts fading. We don't have water to cook with so Dan cycles down the street a bit to an inhabited house to beg a gallon of water off someone. Turns out it's an old lady living alone and Dan is pretty sure she's super scared of him but she does fill up our canteen in her kitchen while he waits outside on the porch. Hot links, canned spinach, kidney beans, and rice it is. We eat our fill and then all retire to sleep. There's no phone signal and I'm exhausted so I crash pretty hard, waking up later only as it gets colder so that I can wiggle into my sleeping bag.
Tomorrow hopefully my muscles will calm down and I can actually enjoy myself.
distance: 67 mi
riding time: 6 hrs 37 min
avg speed: 10.1 mph
max speed: 37 mph
total trip: 631.3 mi
Today's featured guest cyclist:
Brian riding Flagondry