Leading into today, I had a horrible gut feeling, much like I do before a big track race like the Penn Relays. But instead of it lasting only a minute or two, it’ll last over 5 hours. I always heard that cycling over the Appalachians is the hardest part of the trail. In fact, before starting the trip, I was already dreading the day I would see them. Steep climbs on top of relentless hills was always the number one comment about them. However, as we rolled into camp today, I thought, “wow, that actually wasn’t bad”. The feeling of accomplishment and pride between me and my fellow group members was palpable.
Sheena and I started out early, in attempt to beat the heat of the day. We also realized that we would need frequent rest breaks, so we left a little before 7am to prevent getting into camp too late. Rolling hills were abundant, as per usual, but we encountered breathtaking views of the upcoming mountains peeking through the fog. As we approached the climb to the town of Afton, we realized that the Appalachians were no joke. We encountered multiple mile plus hills with a steep climb that even the granny gear couldn’t handle. I wish I had my clipless pedals, however, sweet little Addie chewed them up and I saw it as a sign to keep them home because I would frequently fall with them. As we climbed them I could only imagine what the actual mountain would have in store for us. However, when we ended those climbs and came to the Blue Ridge Parkway, our leader, Whitney, informed us that the previous mentioned climbs were actually the steepest and most difficult we would encounter the whole trip. A feeling of relief overwhelmed me knowing that we conquered what I was fearing since before the start, and I didn’t even know it!
The Blue Ridge Parkway was incredible. Words cannot describe the overlooks onto the surrounding mountains. During the 14 mile ride through them, we encountered all kinds of weather. From sunny to downpour to foggy, watching the mountains change with the weather was magical. At one point we could see rain patches move through different towns. We even watched one cell move right to us. I thought about taking pictures to try to capture the moment, but between the rain and little to no shoulder to pull over safely over on, I figured I’ll just try to remember it. Views like that are hard to forget.
The day off yesterday was much needed, woke up refreshed, although my muscles didn’t feel so well. It was nice to walk around Charlottesville and see the culture of the town, dominated mainly by UVA. In preparation for today’s ride, a lot of us shipped non essential items back home to lessen the load.
I had my first fall today. I’m pretty proud I held out so long. During the rain my shoelace got caught in my pedal. My only option was falling so I did just that. No harm minus a few minor scrapes to the knee, but it was pretty scary because I fell in the middle of the road in a downpour with low visibility. But crisis averted!
We talked to a few interesting people today. Of note was an Englishman, Chris. He also was making his way cross country. He started on Wednesday so I have a feeling he’ll beat us to the destination by a week or two… or more. We also ran into Greg, a local who does a lot of cycling. He said he was jealous of our trip. Sheena offered him her bike, but he graciously declined her generous offer.
Tonight we’re staying just west of Love, VA. We rented a house and it is comparable to the Taj Mahal, complete with a hot tub. It was a nice surprise after a very hard day. The only downfall is no cell service, which is probably why I’m going to post this a day late.
Tomorrow we’re continuing on the Blue Ridge Parkway and descending Mt. Vesuvius (no not the Italian one). It is a 4 mile stretch of steep downhill, which I am extremely nervous for. A wipe out on that would be not be pretty. But after tomorrow we will have successfully crossed over a mountain! A good night’s rest is most definitely needed. Sheena and her cooking crew made a delicious dinner of pasta, complete with wine. Fancy!
I am extremely proud of myself and everyone else on today’s ride. It was not easy but we did it!
What would my mother think seeing me sitting on the side of a highway eating a sandwich and sleeping on the gravel?
I fixed my bike computer! The engineer engrained in my blood made an appearance yesterday!
Miles: 48.6 miles
Hours on bike: 5 hours 13 min
Avg MPH: 9.3 (hills were killers)
Max MPH: 35.3 MPH