the hills, the trials, the people

Entering Christiansburg
Mike, cyclist from Yorktown
Austin, Murphy, & Trip

There’s been so much happening that it’s been difficult to keep up with this blog. I am trying my best but I also journal and have limited service/battery. My thoughts are also very much scattered so I apologize for that in advance and for the 6th grade journal entry quality of writing.
It’s day 12 and we’re still going, so that’s good news! We are 415 miles in, near Dublin, VA and have about twice that number in bug bites. It’s been such an exhilarating experience so far but also a testing and demanding one, as expected. Being out on these country roads and passing through these small towns has exposed us to a very different country than we’re used to. It’s interesting that Kissimmee, where my mom’s lived for a bit over 7 years was my interpretation of the “boonies.” I always considered the town to be “the middle of nowhere” and when I moved there briefly in high school, all I could do is compare it to Miami. Miami was a mecca to me, and any other place was a pathetic place to live in comparison.

Though I am still not too much of a fan of living in isolation, it’s beautiful to see these truly remote towns, with homes often built atop hills, and the sense of community that is apparent every time we walk into the one grocery or country store the town has to offer. It’s just so distinct from the big city life I’ve known. I wouldn’t leave my bike unlocked anywhere in Denver or Miami, even for a brief moment. I don’t know my neighbors by name, and I live in an apartment building. So crossing these small towns, to some extent, is humanizing. And the thought of going back to a larger city and being indoors constantly, actually sounds morose at this point.

But anyway, these 415 miles have been hella difficult! I have never done something so exhausting that I feel my legs are going to fall off everyday. But even though the hills of Virginia have been brutal and unforgiving, at the end of the day it’s all just so rewarding. Whenever I get really down or frustrated, I remember that I’ve already biked this far! My two legs have gotten me almost across Virginia, it seems surreal. The more it hurts, the further we’ve gotten, and that progress is comforting. I enjoy looking at our maps and seeing how much headway we’ve made. Speaking of which, we’ve conquered section 12 of the trail! The Adventure Cycling Association maps we have are broken into 12 sections and we started with 12 because we’re headed westbound. So, only 11 sections and less than 3,800 miles to go! We should be there by sundown ;p

So far, Virginia has just been beautiful. Also hot and muggy and rainy, but beautiful nonetheless. I’d say the highlight so far has been biking a small portion of the Blue Ridge Parkway. We rode on it for about 25 miles. It was one of the steeper climbs the TransAm has to offer but the outlooks were amazing and of course, the downhill to Vesuvius was frightening but the best yet!  Austin has clocked some of our downhills at about 35 mph so I’m sure we topped at least 40 mph down to Vesuvius. I surely do not envy the eastbound riders that have to go up it, especially carrying a large load like ours.

Second to the parkway, a highlight of the trip has been the people we’ve met that have been so hospitable and kind. From the folks that have offered lodging to cyclists, to the folks we’ve just met at grocery stores. People have been so inquisitive about our trip and seemed genuinely excited to hear about what we’re doing. We’ve met folks that have done some touring of their own and some that frankly just think we’re crazy. Still, the conversations are always positive and remind Austin and I that people can be so kind despite all the ugly we more often hear about.

It was such a shame to get to the town of Afton to learn that June Curry, best known as the Cookie Lady, passed in 2012. She lived right on the trail and offered showers, shelter and of course, cookies to all the cyclists that came by. We were at least able to tour her basement, which is open to the public, and see all the mementos she’s collected in the 40 years she came to the aid of so many exhausted cyclists. She was truly a trail angel and we’re happy to know that ACA honored her generosity with an award by the same name.

Two other trail angels we’ve met so far have been Trip from Mechanicsville and Pastor George from Palmyra. Trip has a large yard and contacted ACA to offer his space for cyclists to camp. He didn’t charge us, he just wanted to help in spite of his neighbor that has made him an offer on the yard so that he can park an RV. Trip rather have the space open for cyclotourists and we really appreciated it as well as all the other tips he offered us. Pastor George of the Palmyra Methodist Church was similarly generous. He welcomed us into his church, offered us food, a shower and even did our laundry for us. We are so fortunate to have met these kind hearted individuals and can’t wait to reach Oregon to send them postcards.

As frustrated as I have been at times, and believe me I have been, this is really the trip of a lifetime. The best thing is of course having Austin with me every step of the way. This was his dream before he ever met me, so I am thankful that he’s shared it with me and that we were in a place where we could realistically go on this journey together. From taking shelter under the pouring rain, improvising camp on private property and sneaking out before the owners awoke that morning, to hanging out with Appalachian Trail thru-hikers at 4 Pines Hostel, every moment has been that much more enjoyable with him and I feel especially indebted to the cosmos for making sure our paths crossed.

I’m likely leaving out a ton of detail, but it’s impossible to share it all or remember every bit of the last 12 days. Plus, my phone has a keyboard lag that’s driving me insane. But we’ll keep writing and intend to keep our family and friends posted. I am honestly surprised and thankful for the few that have reached out to wish me/us good luck. There are even friends that I haven’t seen since high school that have reached out and you all are truly the best! The biggest acknowledgements go to our families, though. I love getting to talk to my mom and brother when I can and I update them with the day’s mileage and accompanying stories. It’s amazing that they don’t know much about cycling or camping but are still following along every step of the way. But right now, we are getting back to enjoying our day off the bikes at Claytor Lake State Park. We need to stretch and reenergize. See ya next time!

Rotunda at the University of Virginia
Palmyra Methodist Church

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Amanda says:

    Glad you have enjoyed your trip through Virginia. Have enjoyed reading your posts so far and look forward to reading more! – Amanda


    1. Amanda, I’ve thought so much about you while being here. What town are you from here? I know you went to school in FarmVille but I forget where you grew up. Thanks for reading! 🙂


      1. Amanda says:

        Went to school in Farmville but grew up in Stafford, about an hour from DC.


  2. Teila says:

    Can’t wait to read more!


    1. Aw thanks Teila! Hope your road trip’s going well!


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