We had set our alarms for 6 a.m. but of course don't get up till like 7:30. Breakfast is chili beans and mandarin oranges out of cans, which I supplement with some gluten-free blueberry muffins I had picked up at Kroger in Lexington. We make sure everything inside the church is clean and tidy as we use their bathrooms one last time and then get going again. It's mostly downhill thru the Catawba valley until we reach a gas station and go in to get lunch there. Mostly everything is poisonous to me in there but I find starburst (there were no skittles... sadface) and a bag of BBQ cornchips labeled "gluten-free" so I grab those things and also a tub of cotton candy which I eat right then and there all at once because I can. For protein I'll have some canned herring in tomato sauce that I've been carrying around for a few days now.
We keep on cycling thru gentler rolling hills for 20 miles, me and Dan in the front with Jenn sometimes with us, powering up the small hills rather than gearing down to climb them. As long as you still have momentum by pedalling down the last hill in a higher gear, it's easier to crest the top of the next that way as long as they're not too tall. Dan gets in front to cut the wind for me and Jenn for a while and it's really easy to just tootle along in his slipstream at like 18 mph. At some point we see a live snake on the road and take pictures and Jenn gets a short video of it crawling thru the grass. Dan and I want to pick it up, but we're not sure what species it is so we refrain. Now that I think about it, tho', I think it was just a harmless corn snake. We'll look it up later.
After those 20ish miles it's time for lunch so we settle down in the first bit of shade we find, in-between a wooden fence and the quiet road we'd been on. There's a farmer a field over mowing grass--I assume for making hay. When we get back on the road the hills start rolling a bit taller and it's harder to keep up with Dan on the uphills. At some point a deer jumps in front of me and I inadvertently chase it down the road a ways because it decides to run along my trajectory before panicking back into the woods on the left. Poor thing.
Later on, we decide if we were all members of the Fellowship of the Ring which person everyone would be. Ultimately we decide that I'm Gimli, Dan is Legolas, Travis is Aragorn, Anna Faye is Frodo, and Jenn and Ben are Merry and Pippin, respectively. We don't have a Sam or a Boromir but none of us has a personality like them, so.
Before the significant uphill into Christiansburg we stop for another soda break and I get a sprite in a glass bottle from a tub of ice and pop the cap with a bottle opener attached to the tub and it's the most refreshing thing. They give us tap water for our water bottles too but it's really sour and tastes even more like minerals than most Virginia water so it's hard to drink. We then go up the hills into Christiansburg, passing straight thru on Depot & College streets and not stopping at all. A school bus passes Jenn just to try and turn right immediately after which is annoying 'cause if it had waited another 30 seconds behind her it wouldn't have had to come to a complete stop mid-turn to avoid running her over. When we reach route 666 (yes, yes, I know; it's actually a lot of really well-manicured 'burbs tho') the traffic lightens up and we press on to Radford.
The sun burns us all a little but we make it to Radford at a reasonable clip (the hills are a bit taller so I can't keep up with Dan and Jenn anymore) and follow the map onto the bike path in wildwood park. It's a nice bike path, mostly downhill until a small tunnel, and then when it ends we turn around and have to climb an obnoxiously steep hill to get onto the bridge to cross the New River. When we cross the river it's time to deviate from our trail in order to find our Rivendell--also known as Jutta's house.
Jutta (the j makes a y sound) is a close friend to our grandparents--the ones me, Jenn, Travis, and Anna Faye share in common--since before I was born. Last time I saw her I was a senior in college and Mama and I had come out to Radford to see where I was born (oh yeah, p.s., I was born in Radford, VA) and to see Blacksburg where she grew up and to hike the Cascades. Jutta put us up in her house and we had a wonderful weekend. Jutta then found us all on facebook, and since we started this trip has been the Handlebarbarians' biggest fan. When she discovered that we were going thru the New River Valley she offered to put us up for a rest day. Turns out her house is only something like 3 miles off our course. We gratefully accepted and decided that her house was our Rivendell--a place to rest and obtain provisions and make plans, but still really near to the beginning of the journey with the hardest parts of it yet to come.
We put in Jutta's address and follow the iPhone directions from the river to get there. As we approach, everything looks more and more familiar... then, miraculously, we're there! We knock on the door and there she is, Jutta, in all her gracious, welcoming glory, telling us to put our bikes on the back patio and to come inside and have orange gatorade and showers and a nice sit-down rest in air conditioning and it's the best thing. We all get clean and sit and chat and relax, meeting Carla, Jutta's sister visiting from Germany (also a lovely and kind and wonderful person to be with) and neighbor-friend Brian who's a racing cyclist and brings us an air mattress so that we all have a soft place to sleep and we talk about racing and he says he'll join us for a while in the morning on Thursday when we get started again. Jutta brings me two giant packets of skittles because she's been reading my blog and knows how addicted to them I am and it's the sweetest gesture (pun intended) and then we go out to a gourmet pizza place in Dublin, VA so the others can pig out on pizza and sandwiches and fried mac-n-cheese and I can drink wine and talk nonstop because everyone else's mouth is full of food, haha.
After dinner Jutta and I go grocery shopping for tomorrow and she gets the groceries as a donation for our tour, including zebra cakes for Jenn in honor of her bicycle being named Zebra Cake. I get some apple-cinnamon rice chex and almond milk for breakfast tomorrow and for the others we get biscuits and the stuff to make sausage gravy with. I also get a bit of stuff for dinner tonight, and eat it when we return. Then, it's bedtime. Time to sleep in a real bed and get up whenever I feel like it and lounge around eating and talking and blogging and whatever else needs done.
*Insert long sigh of relaxed relief here.*
distance: 51 mi
riding time: 5 hrs 21 min
avg speed: 9.5 mph
max speed: 35 mph
odometer: 564.3 mi
[picture below is of me climbing a hill on bike rothar, in a bit of blessed shade from the trees overhanging the road]