So. The bug-screen bivvy *seems* like a good idea, right? Considering the major problem I had with midges back in Ireland, July 2012?
it isn't. it is the worst thing. There's no way to shrink the screen so if it rains it leaks from every angle AND on top of that all the zippers in this bivvy bag leak as well. We didn't expect rain, of course. We went to bed out under a clear sky and hung all our clothes and towels up to dry... then, right as I'm falling asleep, there it is. A thunderstorm with lightning and everything. Jenn and Dan rush to put the rain cover on their tent, which in our weather-arrogance they'd neglected. I flip and flop around and try to find a sheltered angle for my face under my raincoat. After an hour or so I dive under the vestibule of their tent to protect my leaky face, leaving my supposedly waterproofed lower half in the rain and my upper half under shelter. The bag seems really moist. I try to convince myself it's just condensation from sweat or my breath, but it isn't, it's getting worse... all the zippers are leaking. Half an inch of water at my waist, soaking into my sleeve. This is the most useless bivvy bag ever. Soaked and miserable, I crawl to the campground bathroom, hang the bivvy inside-out in the showers to dry, and try to sleep in my damp sleeping bag on the concrete floor. It's too cold to fall asleep there, so I crawl up on a wooden bench less than a foot wide and catch snatches of sleep before losing my precarious balance and waking up. All-in-all, come 6 a.m., I've slept maybe 45 minutes.
most. miserable. night. ever. I spend a lot of it crying from exhaustion, kicking myself for not bringing my Army bivvy from Ireland and just adding a mosquito net to that instead of trying this new and apparently terrible bag.
At sunrise I get up, collect my rain-soaked things and try to wash the mud off them in the showers. I eat a mango while Jenn and Dan put their things away. Apparently their rushed job of rain-cover-setting missed a spot and they woke up to a lake of water at their feet after maybe 3 or 4 hours of sleep, which forced them to bail it out of their tent with a water bottle. No one slept much last night. Lesson learned: ALWAYS expect rain.
I didn't sign up for 36-hour days but we have no choice but to move on to Yorktown. We leave the campground before dawn, before there's even a person there to charge us for our plot. We stop along the trail somewhere and eat canned meat for breakfast. Trail goes toward Jamestown. The trail is off-road and wonderful scenery and it's nice to be out of traffic for a while. At Jamestown (which costs money to see so we skip out on) we turn onto the Colonial Parkway toward Yorktown.
The Colonial Parkway is a cobblestone road, and as such going is a bit slower on it due to friction. Lots of tourist traffic, but lots of cyclists and runners as well. The hills roll gently at least, and the woods on each side give way from time to time to tidal-river vistas. The woods here are all covered in green vines, ivy or kudzu or something. I decide my favorite smell in the world is honeysuckle.
The Parkway takes us into Williamsburg, a cute little town I'm too exhausted to see. I feel nauseated and sluggish from sleep deprivation so I lay down in a patch of grass and sleep while Jenn and Dan eat somewhere. I get maybe an hour and a half of rest before they come back. I buy some ginger candies and dark chocolate peanut butter in a shop next to the baskin robbins while they eat ice cream and then we head out again. Going is really slow and my body rebels. I eat an apple and the whole bag of ginger candies while cycling. A fellow touring cyclist, a Lutheran Pastor, tarries with us for a while and chats until an inlet opens up on the left and the wind picks up and we slow down. Today was supposed to be an easy day but with so little sleep, it is harder than yesterday!
Finally, FINALLY we reach Yorktown. We research accommodations for a while before discovering the Grace Episcopal Church ministry to cyclists--a small, 2-bedroom, 1.5-bath house by the sea where cyclists can stay for no set price, just donations, on a first-come-first-serve basis. We find the house but no one is here, so we check the church, where some ladies are decorating for Pentecost, and ask where the people in charge of the house are (as no one answered when we called). They tell us to knock on the door of a nearby house. John comes out from the middle of cooking and gladly helps set us up in the house. It's the best place. After last night it is a friggin' resort--sea views and everything. I fall asleep immediately for a nap (it's like 5 o'clock?) and don't get up till my dad calls to ask about last night. Then it's time for a shower, to figure out laundry, to figure out food, to wait for the others to arrive.
...So the others from the airport are supposed to visit the grocery store on the way up but at 9:55 p.m. they text us that they haven't left the airport yet because their bikes were giving them trouble, but we're in desperate need of food so Jenn Dan and I sprint on our unloaded bikes about 4 miles north across the York river to a Food Lion to get stuff for dinner and breakfast tomorrow and also laundry detergent so we can wash our stuff in the washer downstairs. It's night and dark and we have to cross a big scary bridge but I'm determined and we do it even though it stresses Jenn out a lot. We reach the Food Lion with 15 min before it closes and grab what we need fast as we can and ride back. The fields are full of fireflies; the river slides underneath us like a ghost in the dark. It's scary but also invigorating to ride at night, in a strange city, over strange waters.
The others are waiting for us when we return, having cycled triumphantly from the airport to here. We cook a big stew for dinner with rice and salad (greens from a farmer's market in Williamsburg!) and talk a bit then head to bed. It's a late night with an early morning to follow but the real trip starts tomorrow...
picture: cool brick bridge over the Colonial Parkway, with Jenn and Dan posing underneath it