Everyone has some serious tan lines already. haha.
Today we all get up at about a quarter to seven, moaning and groaning and wishing to sleep in. Breakfast is scrambled eggs and paprika cooked in the parking lot on the camp stove, and whatever fruit or snacks people have been hoarding. I fully intend to eat a whole bag of potato chips but I can't so I share it with Travis and Ben. Weather channel is now saying chance of thunderstorms today. Coverage of the Oklahoma tornado continues. We've wrecked this room, too. This time it's trash instead of stink and I throw another $5 bill down to make up for it.
The day starts out moist and overcast. It was good to be dry and indoors last night. We decide to go to Mineral, VA to camp tonight, a short-ish 45 mile day. We call ahead to a few places and ascertain that we can camp for free behind the volunteer fire department there! Sweet. Definitely Mineral tonight then. Having access to a proper bathroom (and, as we discover later, shower) is a huge plus.
As soon as we get out of Ashland, the cicada swarm is upon us. Their chorus is loud, their skins cling to the underside of every leaf, they buzz out of the trees randomly and smack into us or get themselves run over. The hills today roll steeper than they have been thus far; traffic is scarce save for local traffic and the occasional logging truck. At some point we see cyclists ahead of us so Dan, Travis, and I speed up to catch them, but they're not carrying any weight so it's hard to do. I give up when I hit a headwind. Dan catches them but Travis could never get closer than 100 yards to them until they finally stop at a convenience store for lunch.
We eat lunch just outside of Bumpass (which, whether you read it as Bump-ass or Bum-pass really seems like a bad name for a town) in a convenience store. I get a grape soda there but eat lunch from what I'm already carrying while the others get hot dogs and corn dogs and onion rings and mozzarella sticks. I've got dark chocolate peanut butter on chili-spiced rice cakes. It's actually really good. The cyclists Dan caught are on the Adventure Cycling van tour... they're going on the same route as us and have the same mileage goals as us so it's likely we'll be leapfrogging each other all along this trail till Oregon.
While we eat it's super sunny out so we put on sunscreen before restarting our trek. Lunch helped a lot but I'm flagging and getting really tired by now. Perhaps because it's so oppressively hot--sun boiling us in the humid air. Jenn, Dan, and Travis pull ahead and Ben, Anna Faye, and I go at a slower pace. We pass Lake Anna and have a quick photo op with Anna Faye and the sign, then it's a few more boiling miles to Mineral. On the way the three slowbies watch a hawk try to catch a bird in midair and totally miss.
We reach the fire station very early in the afternoon and pitch our tents now so we don't have to mess with it later. There's a pavilion with a corrugated tin roof that can provide a little shelter for our bikes and a grassy field next to it. There's already two cyclists here, an older gentleman and a younger guy from Michigan. The older gentleman camps here too, but after chatting with us the other guy heads off. His final destination is San Diego. The firemen let us use their showers and after we all rinse off (a cold shower feels SO GOOD after today) we walk down the street to eat ice cream (I eat skittles).
When we're walking back we meet a guy who cycled here from New York--his accent is so familiar--he's Irish! from Mullingar! He's a photographer and seems to be just going wherever he feels like, and met up with the TransAm trail in Ashland. He's cool and we chat and trade stories. We're also joined by two older and very experienced Dutch cyclists (one has done this trail several times before) who at first are separated and looking for each other but are reunited here in Mineral by some of us Handlebarbarians. We now have quite the tent village here in the fire station--7 tents in all (see below for a picture). I hope they don't mind *all* of us using their showers.
Time to cook supper as the sun begins to set. Pretty much the same stuff as before except with pinto beans instead of black beans and with canned chicken. It's still oppressively hot but at least there's shade and breezes from time to time. Hopefully it cools down at night. Supper is good with tumeric and paprika and after we eat it we chat with our fellow cyclists again.
Now it's grocery store time. We walk to a little one and get eggs and sausage for breakfast and stuff for tomorrow's dinner, then Dan gets us all some wine in a box and we come back to the campsite, where the firemen are outside playing basketball. The sky is still clear, which is a great sign. Maybe we'll see stars?
Time to drink wine, socialize, wind down, and sleep. See what my new tent is like.
Here is your featured cyclist for today: Dan!
Scribble Ninja riding Bento (aka Lunchbox)