It sucks to get up in the wet and mud and middle-of-the-night dark to pee but when I exit the tent I see that the field we're in is full of fireflies. There's something magnificent about that and I'm still glad we camped here in spite of the rain.
Sharing the tent with Travis works out pretty good. There isn't much room but we're not kicking each other all the time or anything. I get a good sleep and wake up rested in the morning when we get up. By then the courthouse is open so we can go in and use the toilets and put water in our bottles and everything. We wonder for a while if someone will tell us we shouldn't have camped here but several people see us and no one says anything.
Breakfast is what was meant for dinner last night: a stew of rice, BBQ pork, black beans, diced peppers, and mixed greens from the Williamsburg farmer's market. We spread our wet stuff over the sidewalk as we eat to dry but it's so humid here it's almost no use. Because we spread out so much it takes forever to re-pack and today is another late start.
From here to lunch the roads are all wonderful. Gently rolling hills, practically no traffic, wonderful woods and adorable neighborhoods. We pass by Malvern Hill and thru part of the Richmond National Battlefield Park, past a lot of Civil War landmarks. There are period cannons dotting the landscape. It's pretty cool. I have to pee and we decide it's not disrespectful to pee on a Civil War battlefield because enough time has passed since then.
At a tiny gas station/convenience store in Glendale we stop for lunch. I get some hard cider (Angry Orchard!), sardines in hot sauce, a banana, and skittles. There isn't much else there that I can eat, in truth. There's a man outside called Dave who talks to us nonstop and tells us stories and is generally adorable. He's lived in this area since 1954. The owner the store is stocking shelves from a truck so he keeps going in and out of the doors, talking to us as he does so. He's missing an eye from an accident so he has an orange plastic ball in the socket holding it open until he can get a proper artificial eye. He's very friendly and ends up handing us all a couple handfuls of peanut chews for free. Another group of transamerica cyclists stop here and we chat with them, too. They're doing 80 miles a day so they've come this distance from Yorktown without stopping and will sleep in a church here tonight. People ask if we're gonna stop at the church too (apparently a lot of transam cyclists do) but we're headed to REI in Richmond for my sleeping situation so we need to press on. When we're done eating (the others grabbed hot food from a deli-type place inside) I put some cider in my water bottles and we bid goodbye to Dave and the peanut-chews man and get going again.
Dan thinks from looking on an iPhone that the REI is on our route somewhere so we press on to Mechanicsville, alternating between lovely quiet neighborhood roads and busier thoroughfares. When we reach where he thought it was we see that it's actually something like a 12 mile detour. We get directions off google maps and follow them for a while but then my phone dies and everyone's phone's dead so we have to remember how to get there but we're close so we make it. Except Anna Faye and Ben get left behind (sorry, guys) and they accidentally turn onto the interstate into oncoming traffic (someone gave them a thumbs up, haha) and then have to walk their bikes thru the grass to REI when they manage to get off. This last stretch was pretty hard on Anna Faye because she's not used to long-distance cycling, only sprints, and we said we'd do 45 miles but we've already exceeded that. It's hard on me too trying to keep up with Jenn, Dan, and Travis. We reach REI when it starts getting dusky and it's been 57 miles and everyone is tired and frustrated and snapping at each other. I gotta do this tho', it isn't fair to keep displacing Travis just because my bivvy turned out to be so useless.
I return the bivvy for credit on my dad's membership and look at the other bivvies and one-man tents with a super-helpful staff member (who, and I remember this distinctly, smelled really good). I decide to get a tent this time and get a one-pole kind called the quarter dome which only weighs 2 lbs (altho' that's still way more than a bivvy...) and costs another hundred dollars or so above my credit. I had let Travis borrow my compression sack for my sleeping bag but I need it back so I get it from him and buy him a new one for his things, because if I put the sleeping bag back in that sack I can fit the tent in my panniers and only need to strap the pole to the back of my bike with my sleeping mat.
When I'm done buying things (the REI staff there on 2020 Old Brick Road are all wonderful, btw; the bike shop people helped Dan with some bike problems and chatted a bit with us about our trip), the sun has basically set. Everyone's still irritable so Anna Faye and I go to Whole Foods and they go to a Mexican place and once I've got my food we join them and I eat guacamole on chili-flavored rice cakes and once we've eaten we don't hate each other anymore. We decide to ride from here another 5 miles to the same Econolodge we stayed at when we got here (our detour took us back by the train station) and so we turn on all our lights and get going. I'm chafing something terrible so this last stretch feels the longest.
When we reach the room we pile in and start showering one by one. The whole room instantly smells like sweat and dirt and exertion. We've turned a motel room into a locker room. Jenn and I draw the short straws and have to sleep on the floor while the others get beds but it's indoors and dry and I don't mind at all. I'm the last one to shower and therefore the last one to fall asleep.
Today was a 63 mile day. Tomorrow is rest. Ashland ho.
Here is your featured cyclist for today: Ben!
Exupéry riding Shadow