Phew! I have a lot of blogging to get done! I let myself get behind. So let’s start at the beginning and I’ll give you a run through of what I’ve been doing for the past 4 days.
Last I left you we were camping in the public park/playground in Troutville, VA. It was great to know that the next day we only had 45 miles to ride and our destination was my favorite place in the world, Blacksburg, VA.
I thought the ride would be really easy given the short mileage and the fact that I was riding a route that I was familiar with. It ended up being difficult and I loathed it. Funny how that works.
We were joined by a lot of cyclists from Blacksburg and the New River Valley who came out and rode into town with us. It was great to see some new faces. Or, in my case, it was great to see some different backs/butts as they all flew past me on their fresh legs. I rode a lot of the day with this man, who actually has MS but in a milder form. He really appreciated what we were doing and it was nice to be able to talk to him.
We finally made it through all the rolling hills, conquered the crazy headwinds, and struggled up my nemesis local hill, Harding Ave. I had to train on that hill and I loathe it. I hated it even more as it was the only obstacle between myself and HOME. Well, I made it up; some people said they thought it was the hardest hill we’d rode up to date. That sort of made me feel justified in hating as much as I do. We all regrouped at the top and rode into town together as a giant group to the Blacksburg Farmer’s Market. We had wonderful surprises waiting for us there. There were sandwiches, fresh watermelon, assorted fruits and veggies, and best of all a keg of beer to ourselves at Champs.
I had planned to go to Hokie House and stay out drinking until 2, but of course that didn’t happen. I went out to dinner with my boyfriend and our friends John, April, and Ollie. It was nice. Here’s a picture of me with everyone except my boyfriend, Ish. We went home and I promptly fell asleep. I think it was before midnight. I guess I’m getting old.
The next day was our full day of rest. When I woke up I laid in bed with my eyes closed, excited that I had slept until I was refreshed. I was shocked to open my eyes and find that it was 7am. I am old! Do you know why I never wake up at 7am? Because there’s nothing open and nothing to do that early in the morning. I settled on taking the dog for a long walk and then wandered downtown where I bought some hippie stuff like hemp for bracelets and a bandana. Later when Ish finally woke up we headed down to the New River to do some fishing. We weren’t properly outfitted for river fishing (or so I’m told, I just use corn as bait wherever I go) so after not catching anything for a few hours we moved on to the Virginia Tech Duckpond on campus.
Bailey went fishing with us. Would you like to see more pictures of my dog? Good, cause I took a billion!
It’s like Glamour Shots!
He’s scared to death of water/everything so this was very nerve wracking for him
Ish and fish! That’s the only fish either of us caught the entire day. Impressive, eh?
We ended the night by going to an all you can eat chinese buffet which was extra great because I can actually eat whatever I want without feeling guilty! It was depressing knowing that I was only going to be able to see my town, friends, boyfriend, and dog for a few more hours before I had to take off again for 8 weeks.
Needless to say, the next morning came too quickly and I was upset to leave. I felt depressed the whole day knowing that every mile I rode was a mile I was getting farther away from home. Before I was just riding to Blacksburg; now I was truly starting my journey. We rode out of town on the Huckleberry Trail. If you’ve read my blogs you know how the trail holds a special place in my heart. It was touching to ride the length of it as my farewell to my life as I know it.
This first picture I took from the New River Trail during my training ride a few weeks ago. I think I may have posted it in my blog. The second picture I took yesterday as we passed under the same spot on the trail. I was gradually leaving familiarity.
I figured it was time to take a few pictures of the trailer to show you guys where we keep our stuff. We each have one of those wooden shelf cubbies assigned to us that we have to jam all of our stuff into. They just added those black ties across the length of the cubbies because our stuff would fall out and all over the place when the trailer encountered curvy or bumpy roads. I took this picture yesterday because the trailer looked especially clean and beautiful. It is usually a million times messier. And it smells like feet.
Here’s a close up of my cubby for everyone interested. I thought I did a great j0b cramming everything into it, until about 6 hours later when I found my sleeping bag and other assorted items floating around the floor of the trailer. So yeah, it’s never as roomy as this. I have no room for souvenirs, sorry everyone.
Aside from the trailer, I think I took about three pictures yesterday. It was horrible. I had my first bad day. I think it was a combination of leaving home, pain everywhere in my body, and the long, boring mileage. We did 86 miles yesterday (my all time high), all of which were within sight of beautiful I-81. There was nothing pretty to look at and I could hear the roar of the tractor trailers on the interstate. The hills were a constant grinding up and soaring down, over and over. It’s discouraging to try to hard to gain elevation only to immediately lose it. And then have to start over climbing another hill. My bike computer measures how long I’ve been riding and pauses every time I stop. Yesterday it recorded that I rode for SEVEN straight hours. That’s just riding. Seven hours of constant riding. So yeah, yesterday was no good.
We pulled into the campground at Rural Retreat and I struggled to find the strength to set up my tent and make my usual beef Ramen with tuna fish. The sheriff rode by our campsite; turns out his sister has MS. He was nice enough to direct us to some hot showers which were hidden a half mile up the trail. I showered and crawled into my tent at 9pm. I brought my computer with me with every intent to blog but I immediately passed out. I’m not sure if it was even totally dark outside.
After the pain of yesterday, I was not a happy camper (pun?) when I woke up this morning. Today was arguably THE HARDEST day of the ENTIRE trip. You might recall me saying a few days back that Afton was the second hardest day. What’s the first hardest day, you might have wondered. Well it was today. 85 miles again with a few huge mountains in our path, including the much talked about Hayter’s Gap which has consistent grades of 10% and sometimes up to 15%. For four miles. At the end of the day. Phew. But we had to get there first. I made a breakfast of oatmeal (now with brown sugar I bought!) and coffee (now in a mug I brought from home!).
After the horrible time I had the day before, I was determined to make today a good day. I want every day to be my favorite day. I rode off to camp consciously trying to have a positive mindset. I also adjusted my seat which ended up making a big difference in the back pain department. Virginia is beautiful, by the way. Old houses and barns everywhere. It’s just gorgeous. I think that after a few days you take it for granted. I’m trying to appreciate every dilapidated house and crumbling stone wall I see along the way. That’s why I’m mentioning them now, so I can remember.
We thankfully left the I-81 corridor and quickly entered the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area. I think Mt. Rogers might be the highest peak in Virginia. Thank goodness we didn’t have to ride our bikes up THAT.
Today looked like this. Beautiful. For real, the cold and the rain were a welcome break from the sun and the heat. There’s something special to be said for being out in the (relative) wilderness in the rain. Everything has the forest-smell, sort of a pleasant mold. Things are super green and the flowers look brighter. It’s pleasant. It started to pour so most of us ducked in a little hole in the wall gas station/diner that ended up having awesome breakfast. I had coffee and biscuits and gravy with sausage and eggs. That brings my coffee count for the day to 3 cups.
We climbed up through the Mount Rogers Recreation Area to our highest elevation of the trip so far, just under 4000 feet. It was a long, gradual climb. My favorite and nothing I couldn’t handle, even in the pouring down rain while wearing my stupid raincoat (aka “the sweatbox”). We had an awesome long downhill into Damascus, VA. The town of Damascus happens to be the intersection of the Appalachian Trail, the Transam (what we’re on) and the Virginia Creeper Trail. So it’s a sweet place full of dirty hippie hikers and dirty lycra-wearing bikers. They town caters to people like us. Our friend and riding buddy Pepper runs Sundog Outfitters, a camping and biking store right in town. We met Pepper in Yorktown. He is riding fully loaded and not technically a member of Bike the US for MS, but he’s been with us since the beginning and stayed with us the whole time. He is super knowledgeable about anything gear related. It’s nice to have him around and we’re going to miss him terribly when he leaves us in a few days. He gave us 30% off of everything at his store. I took the opportunity to buy a camping chair, some stove fuel, and some dog pepper spray. You know, for Kentucky. Giving us 30% off was nice enough, but Pepper completely outdid himself by treating us all to pizza at a local place in Damascus. I had another cup of coffee, bringing my total to 4. I think that might be the secret to my success. Coffee is power!
I failed to be fast enough to draft behind the van and trailer
So we’d already put in about 70 miles for the day before we started our climb up Hayter’s Gap. 4 miles of climbing doesn’t seem bad until you realize that people like myself ride so slow at that grade that our speeds top out at just about 5mph. So it takes, ya know, almost an hour. It’s a long time to be panting. Your thighs burn, sweat drips from your face, your sunglasses become unbearably foggy. It was switchbacks the whole way up. Luckily it wasn’t raining. Anyways I totally surprised myself and FLEW up the mountain, maybe even averaging 7mph. I was totally in the zone. Maybe it was all that coffee. The best part was reaching the summit. Of course about 75% of the team made it up the mountain before me. Everyone had waited at the top and when they saw me coming around the corner, huffing and puffing and standing up on my pedals, they all started to cheer and shout and congratulate me for getting to the top. I was so happy I thought I would cry. I probably would have if I weren’t so dehydrated. We were all smiles and high fives. I waited with the team at the top for the other riders to make the climb and cheered them on. And everyone made it! We made it up Hayder’s Gap. We can do anything.
It was a thrilling downhill into Rosedale, VA. We are staying at a church that must have the nicest congregation ever.
Not only did they offer us a break and water, but we are allowed to use their full kitchen and help ourselves to the food in their cabinets! I don’t believe how incredibly welcoming this church is. There isn’t actually anyone here to supervise us either, just a note saying that we can do whatever we want. Chef Bridget whipped up 1,000 calories each of mac and cheese for herself, Liza, and me. Yum! Everyone took food out of the cabinets and left donations for the congregation. They had some awesome food too. Good work, whatever church this is.No better way to end the day than exactly one cold can of Natural Light on a porch swing
Today was a good day. Today was my favorite day again. Despite the climbs, the mileage, the rain, and the cold, it was the best day. What really makes it is the food and the camaraderie of my teammates. And the kindness of strangers. Did I mention how cool this church is? We get to sleep INSIDE and on carpet. That means no setting up and taking down of my tent. The weird part is that we are actually sleeping in the church, as in between rows of pews. Some people are sleeping on the alter. I wanted to get a picture of everyone’s sleeping bags and stuff laid out on the ground but it’s 10pm and people are already asleep.
I think it’s time for me to rest my back; I can’t wait to lay down on that soft carpet and relax. Tomorrow is a shorter mileage but we are still going to be hitting some pretty difficult climbs. We are going to end the day on the Virginia-Kentucky border. Pretty cool that after tomorrow I am going to have biked across a whole state.
Since I have the internet at the moment, I want to thank some people who I see have made a donation in my name:
Thank you all so much. I haven’t seen many of you in years and I really appreciate your support of my cause. My mom says that some of you read my blog. That’s great, it keeps me motivated to write every night. It’s hard sometimes when I’m tired to find the time and the energy to sit down in front of a laptop and relive my day. Anyways I’m so happy that y’all donated. MS sucks and I hope that our team can raise $100,000 this summer for the cause. I know my donation goal was set at $3,000, but please feel free to continue donating if you feel so inclined.
OH! I almost forgot the most important part: the new video! I think I have a starring role!
Goodnight. Also good news: there’s a coffee pot in the church kitchen!