When we get up in the morning there is a woman there who works for the Appalachian trail; she says we look like an advertisement for REI--we kinda do, me with my quarter dome, Jenn and Dan with their limelight, Anna and Ben with their half dome plus, lots of REI logos. She and the others exchange pleasantries while I try to wake up and get ready. Due to the wind and the bump under me I didn't sleep so well. When we finally go to put our tents away there are little slugs all over the bottom.
The blue ridge parkway has a lot of long, difficult climbs, even tho' the worst of it is behind us. Being able to see out over the mountains like this makes it all worth it, tho'. Wooded hills as far as the eye can see, all shades of blue and green under an aquamarine sky. It's sunny but there's plenty of shade and the downhills are actually kind of chilly. There are little pink flowers all over the sides of the road that are the perfect shape, the epitome of the word "flower," like something a kid in kindergarten would draw.
There are lots of cyclists out today on their racing bikes. Most of them talk to us, and have done touring themselves. When we reach the junction with state road 56 we take a turn and it's a long, steep, windy downhill to Vesuvius town. My brakes aren't too good by now and that means I have to take the curves a little faster than is comfortable lest the front wheel wobble uncontrollably under the brake. Tho' the others were WAY ahead of me I pass or catch up to them by the bottom. I got that descent on film so hopefully it turns out.
Supposedly according to the map it's all downhill to Lexington so we take only a short soda break at Gertie's country store (I have a proper Coke in a glass bottle with real sugar) and then get going again. Truth is it's only all downhill to Riverside, and even then due to a headwind it's not a particularly relaxing downhill. It's beautiful tho', mostly along a river with clear, cool waters, and it's a green, quiet road.
In Riverside at the bottom of the hill we find a small gas station and have a quick break there too, eating candy or ice cream or just sitting for a little while. We still think it's downhill to Lexington so we get going again but it's actually mostly uphill. Since we skipped breakfast and barely ate at the snack breaks we all start getting really crabby and tired. Food makes a big difference on trips like this. You have NO idea.
We take a wrong turn at some point, following the river instead of crossing it. We pass some cool houses built on stilts due to periodic flooding (there are signs that say, ROAD MAY FLOOD). When we find out it was a wrong turn it's really disappointing because it was a big hill we climbed and we didn't need to. When we finally roll into Lexington we pass the Virginia Military Institute which has a lot of cool buildings and reminds me of Dad, and we have to take a detour around a giant pit in the middle of the road to get to a grocery store to eat (Jenn and Dan go get Dominos). We're all completely knackered so we take a really long, hazy lunch in the small amount of shade afforded by for-sale patio furniture. There's a really friendly cashier from Jersey who talks to me as I go in and out getting things. She says she'll pray for us, which is nice, and I give her our facebook group and the address to this blog.
The road after Lexington rolls real easy and is full of cows and sunshine. We still find some things to argue about tho'. It's one of those days I guess. When we reach Natural Bridge there's a gas station where we take another potty/water/snack break and the sun is getting really low in the sky so we ask the guy if there's a place to camp anywhere around since after all we have gone 60 miles today already. He says there's a field down the road a ways that nobody owns so we could prolly camp there. We head to it and there's an old, creepy abandoned house attached. Jenn vetoes camping inside it but we all get flashlights and go in to explore, looking for ghosts. The floor is full of broken glass and there are half-packed suitcases in some of the rooms like someone moved out in a real hurry. There are even filled-out checks scattered across the floor, half of them filled out to the signer, from 1994. We ponder the mystery for a while then go out to pitch our tents in the last sliver of light left before the sun is completely gone. For some reason everyone pitches their tents really close together but mine is far away and lonely. Closer to the haunted house. Jenn thinks that she'll be scared of that house whenever she gets up to pee at night.
We have to cook supper in the dark but we have the front lights off our bike and we also build a small wood fire under our little grate dad gave us. Dinner is great... black beans, sausage, rice, mustard greens. The others drink some Pabst Blue Ribbon and I have a cream soda. Fireflies flit around us and all the stars come out--all of them. The little fire is just enough to warm our bare legs as we stand and talk. We'll get up earlier tomorrow so we can stop for the night with enough light left to have a proper camp.
distance: 60 mi
riding time: 6 hrs 1 min
average speed: 9.9 mph
max speed: 40 mph
odo: 471.7 miles