Day 20 (June 17th 2016) Springfield – Rough River Dam KY;

Well, we all made it! 105 miles later, we’re all exhausted, but we’re all pretty proud too. Surprisingly enough, group consensus is that today was easier than yesterday’s ride. Fancy that. The weather had a big part in making it a more enjoyable ride, despite the distance. It didn’t get above 82 degrees and the sun stayed in the clouds the majority of the time. We ended the ride at Rough River Dam and are staying right off the airport’s solo Tarmac. As I’m typing, a plane just started its engine. Probably going to have a few nightmares about planes careening out of control into my tent.

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The ride had nothing too notable to mention. A couple decent hills and a few dogs, but all in all it was an “easy” ride. We saw a lot of cow and horse farms, Sheena caused a few stampedes with her angry “MOO”ing. We crossed into central time zone today as well, that’s pretty exciting!  We had dinner right next to the lake, which obviously we had to jump and swim around in!

Definitely looking forward to a good night’s sleep and a shorter ride tomorrow.

Day 19 (June 16th 2016) Berea – Springfield KY;

Today started not so bright, but super early. Knowing it was going to be a hot and humid day, we departed at 6:15 am and rolled into camp a mere 12 hours later (not really, but close). The morning was fine, but once afternoon hit our routine of slow and steady continued. We had 47 miles under our belts before noon, but the last 28 were killers. There was no shade and the wind picked up majorly, making every pedal all the more difficult. After many breaks (but no break downs), we arrived into camp in Springfield KY at 5:30pm.

We originally were supported to camp in a town park, but a few members of the group were approached by a man in a van to stay in the town center, indoors with AC and a shower. As creepy as the proposition may sound, we are all happy they agreed. The mayor even came to greet us and welcome us to her town.

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There were more dogs today, no surprise there. One pair of dogs I found so cute I got off my bike and played with them for a little. They were on par with Addie in terms of cuteness. The one dog is pictured above. Mom and dad, as a heads up, she is an Australian cattle dog mix. Note how Stella doesn’t begin to compare with her gorgeous looks (ha!)

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Tomorrow is a 103+ miler day. We have a new member of the group who joined us tonight. What a way to welcome her in!
Sheena’s corner: I apologize to my beloved readers for the lack of updates over the last few days. My recent post was about feeling stronger and confident on hills. Since then, I believe I have entered hell and am still waiting to get out. The heat, hills, humidity, more heat, and dogs have been dreadful. I was surrounded by 6 dogs and 1 tried to bite me. Thankfully my Baltimore/Puerto Rican sides came out and I made it through. There have been more rough days than good recently. The silver lining is that I feel proud of myself for making it through everyday. I’m thankful to Emilie as well. I definitely wouldn’t be making it through without her constant support. Lastly, Berea, KY is an awesome city. Everyone is so nice and we got free shirts for biking the transam. 🙂 Oh, and 103 miles tomorrow 😅🔫

Day 17 + 18 (June 14th and 15th 2016) Booneville – Berea KY; 50 miles

Yesterday was a short, relatively “easy” day compared to the previous couple of days. It’s funny how now we refer to 50 miles as short, and only a few half mile steep hills as easy. But we made it, and have successfully crossed the Appalachian mountains, for the most part. The last 3 days have been the most difficult of the trip and my legs are paying for it dearly. I woke up this morning with a full body hangover that has yet to fully dissipate, but I have faith that come tomorrow morning, I’ll be ready for a 75 miler with rolling hills (fingers crossed).

Yesterday started with a few climbs that got worse as the temperature increased. We had some experiences with more dogs, a jack Russell terrier chased me and almost got ahold of one of my bags. It was the most ridiculous and comedic series of events. A few were incognito and jumped out at us when we were least expecting it, causing Sheena to shriek and find some extra energy to outpedal their attack. As terrifying as the dogs may be, I argue that the drivers can be worse. I was inches from being hit by a woman who was not patient enough to wait for me to clear a parking lot entrance. She rode around me and turned sharply into the driveway, cutting me off. If I hadn’t put two and two together and instantly squeezed my brakes, she would be owing me a new bike. And probably paying for some medical bills too.  I cooled off from the near death experience with a Freeze Pop – a grand suggestion from Alec.

 

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We had the most beautiful downhill of the trip yesterday as we descended down Bighill (with a name like that, you know it has to be good). We went right through a blasted out chunk of mountain and were able to see the last of the Appalachian mountains as we passed through. There were no blind curves so we could cruise without braking. The wind was in our face so that kept our speed nice and safe (no need to worry mom and dad). After that we were basically in Berea, where we have been staying. We had a couple more hills (Sheena fell in a ditch) and ended in a restaurant for some drinks and food. We’re staying in a dorm building at Berea College. They are beautiful and, the best part, we each get our own room! Complete with a real bed! We are living life like kings.

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We had a much needed off day today. We did some chores and mainly just relaxed. A few days ago some guys who stayed with us in a church who are also doing the TransAm (in the opposite direction) told us we can get free shirts in the visitor center. Because we are freeloaders, we jumped at the opportunity first thing in the morning. The woman who was working, Maya, was awesome. She was thrilled to see us and told us that she hosts cyclists at her home via Warm Showers. She told us all about the history of Berea and the college. She said that because a lot of coal mines have been shut down recently, kids in the Appalachian region need education, as coal mining is no longer an option. Berea College is tuition free (paid for by grants and alumni donations) and the students are required to work 10-15 hours/week to help subsidize their education. It was really interesting. Later we visited a tea shop and talked with a girl who graduated from the college. She loved the school and found it as a way to leave her home in a not so well off town. The rest of the day was spent napping and doing bike maintenance. We have to rest because judging from our map meeting tonight, this next week is going to be tough, we have a 100+ miler coming our way 😳

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Day 16 (June 13th 2016) Hindman – Booneville KY; 67 miles

Today was the worst day I’ve had this entire journey. As much as I tried to be positive during the ride, the hills, heat, and fatigue got to me. It was so hot I could feel myself baking, between the sun bearing down and the hot road roasting up. There were multiple times during the climbs where I thought, “I must’ve gotten hit by a car, died, and St. Peter did not rule in my favor.” It is absolute torture when you think you finally finished a climb, because there is literally no physical way for the mountain to continue, only to turn the corner and realize that indeed it can. The hills, though shorter than yesterday’s, felt twice as difficult. It was just plain rough. The dogs, however, were not nearly as ferocious today. So that’s a good thing.

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Today was also a day of mechanical issues. Sheena’s handle bars became misaligned after going over a nasty pothole and my gear shifter became so lose it almost fell off. Because I am not mechanically inclined, this sent me into a panic. But we figured it out and fixed it. Genuine geniuses. Jake’s pedal crank also apparently fell apart. No clue what that means, but from what I’m told, it’s not good.

We got dinner from a diner tonight and have plans for going there for breakfast in the morning. Much shorter day tomorrow, we’re all excited about that!

Total miles today ~67

Day 15 (June 12th 2016) Breaks Interstate Park VA – Hindman KY; 71 miles

We are finally out of Virginia! And Kentucky did not give us a very warm welcome. Within the first 5 miles of entering its borders, we were greeted by multiple unrestrained dogs, and not in the most friendly of ways. At one point, I was surrounded by a group of about 6 dogs. I slowed down and paid them all compliments, as they all were pretty darn cute. They accepted my flattery and let me pass unscathed. Sheena, however, was not so lucky. I’m sure she’ll talk about that in her corner. Not only did the dogs not welcome us, but a bird was not too thrilled to have us enter its state either. I must have startled a crane that was perched high up in a tree. After hearing it take flight, I looked up and noticed that when it flew away, it broke a huge branch that was headed right for my head. Due to my excellent cat-like reflexes, I pedaled really quickly out of the way right before the branch crashed to the ground. It was a close call!

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It was an extremely hot and humid day (which made roadkill all the more appealing) that added an extra challenge to an already challenging day. We got out early and we were half way done by 10:30 am. But once the heat hit the pace changed drastically. We sought shelter for an hour or so at a nice little diner in Bevinsville called Fatdaddy’s. We were starving so it was a much needed stop.

Flat continues to be a four letter word we know better than to dare utter, but wish we could anyways. Everywhere we ride is either a gradual incline/decline or a horrifically steep up/downhill. It’s physically and mentally exhausting and can get extremely frustrating. After my couple of wrecks on Friday, I am traumatized by going fast downhill so my brakes (and hands) have been getting extreme workouts.

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I was in cooking group for tonight’s dinner, in which we lucked out and got pizza. But we still had to grab groceries for breakfast/lunch. About 2.5 miles before hitting camp, we came across a grocery store. I joked with Mary, who is in the cooking group, that that was probably the grocery store we had to do the shopping. The joke was on me when I came to the realization that it was indeed the store. In attempt to not bike an extra 5 miles on an already extremely fatiguing day, we looked at a convenience store for any semblance of a well balanced meal. No dice. And I still was not willing to bike to the store. We came up with the great idea of asking one of the church volunteers to take us to the store. We asked just in the knick of time, as he was just pulling out just as I approached his truck. I must’ve been convincing because he was a saint and was happy to take us! Bubba told us that he volunteers at the church for youth ministry and also does backlighting for major concerts. He was extremely nice and we appreciated his efforts to help immensely.

Tomorrow is another long day and looks like a carbon copy of today. Lots of hills and heat!

My bike computer broke again, but according to everyone else, it was a 71.4 mile day.

Day 14 (June 11th 2016) Council – Breaks Interstate Park; 28 miles

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Today was a short and relatively easy day. It started out with a chilly 20 miles of rolling hills that soon turned into 8 miles of mostly uphill. It was tough, but nothing we haven’t encountered before. We got through it and to our destination of Breaks Interstate Park all before 10:30 am. We set up camp and then set out exploring the park, whose nickname is the “Grand Canyon of the South”. A bit of a stretch, I say, but beautiful none the less. We hiked a little bit and experienced hills off the bike. Definitely a different feel! After the hike I got in an excellent nap and plan on getting to bed early. We have a longer ride tomorrow to make up for distance we didn’t make today. Wish us luck!

Miles: 28.22
Time on bike: 2:28
Avg MPH: 11.4
Max MPH: 38.4

Sheena’s corner:
Since I drew a blank yesterday, here’s my corner for both days. Hayter’s gap was not nearly as bad as I was expecting. I feel a lot stronger on climbs and haven’t needed to walk up anything in quite some time. After that, however, it was an anxiety filled day. Everyone on the team seemed to be having an off day with falls or crashes. We made it through though!

Today was a nice and short day. I hit 41mph! I forgot to go into 3rd gear, so I didn’t get the chance to go faster. Tomorrow is another day with more climbs and faster descents.

Oh and Emilie tried to poison the team with food that she shared with mice…

Day 13 (June 10th 2016) Damascus – Council VA; 54 miles

Today started not so well. I woke up to Sheena rustling about and thought, “why is she up so early?” I checked my phone and realized that my alarm never went off. I got up in a panic and broke down camp quickly. My adrenaline was pumping so hard I didn’t need coffee! But after a delicious breakfast made by Woodchuck (the owner of the hostel we were staying at) we were off. We were nervous about today because of the elevation map and the dreaded Hayter’s gap, aptly named because we all hated it. It was 4 miles uphill at a grade of 8-10%. It was brutal on the legs! But although no one enjoyed it, we all agreed it wasn’t nearly as bad as we had envisioned. We all got up it in one piece.

Getting down, however, was another story. I was hoping that all the hard work I put into that uphill would reap the benefits of a nice downhill. Although it was a nice downhill, I did learn a valuable lesson: 30 MPH and gravel DO NOT mix. When taking a turn during the downhill, I noticed a patch of gravel I was headed right towards. I preemptively braked but could not avoid the patch. I swerved and got caught right in it. I wiped out completely, with my left knee taking the brunt of it. Luckily there was a guy sitting in his car on the exact curve and came out with a first aid kit ready to go. I bandaged my bleeding knee and limped off. Though I was embarrassed and hurt, I was more concerned about my bike. Seems to be running alright! And, ironically, not even a mile down the road I hit another patch of gravel and went right into a guardrail. Luckily for me, both times Meg was there to calm me down and make sure I was okay. Another lesson I learned was that a total wipeout (or two) may dampen your day, but it won’t destroy it. Also, I wasn’t the only victim of gravel. Ten wiped out three times. And, on another side note, Mary was a part of a bad accident. A car rear ended another car that was following her at a safe distance on a road without a shoulder. She was able to outpedal the almost devastating accident, but both cars did not fare well. One ended up in a ditch several feet off the road. All drivers are presumed to be okay. This caused a panic for me and Sheena, as a lady passed by Sheena in her car and told her that one of our girls was involved in a bad accident. We waited about half an hour for the unscathed Mary to make her miraculous appearance. Disaster averted!

We hit another bad hill getting into Council. It was shorter and less steep than Hayter’s, but it was all in the sun and we hit it during the hottest part of the day. It was a struggle, and apparently it was very obvious. A guy in a pick up truck offered me a ride into town, stating that the climb is steep and tough. I declined his offer, saying that I liked the challenge. He said he could relate, as he was ex-military. We got into camp shortly after and have been trying to stay out of the sun ever since. Tomorrow is a short, but hilly, ride. And our last day in Virginia!! Finally!
Total miles: 54.72

Time on bike: 4:56

Avg speed: 11.0 mph

Max speed: 36.2 mph

Day 11 + 12 (June 8th/9th 2016) Wytheville – Damascus VA; 62 miles

Today (well technically yesterday) was by far the most fun day of riding yet, and the whole group agrees. Mom and dad, sorry, but you probably won’t like the reason why. The day started out fine, nice and chilly with some wind. Towards the middle of the day we hit some gradual inclines, which I have grown to love. I have accepted that this is my life and uphills are an inevitable part of it. I better learn to just grin and bear it! We were in the trees which provided shelter from the wind. After the 5 or so miles of uphill we were blessed with 15 miles of pure downhill bliss. We were cruising down the mountains at 25+ MPH down windy roads. We didn’t have to worry about cars behind us because we were going faster than the speed limit. It was a lot of fun and definitely an adrenaline rush

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We started out leaving the church early and when riding on the main road a man came running out of his house and cheering us on. “Woo hoo! Go on to Oregon!” he shouted. It’s nice to know we have adoring fans throughout our ride. We also had an older gentleman stop on the side of the road and tell us, “you are the first smart riders I saw who are wearing bright colors. The lot of you are gonna get yourselves killed.” It’s nice to know he was concerned about our well being.

We had lunch in a pretty spot by a river on a bridge in a driveway. The owners came out and talked with us and were very hospitable. They invited us to wade in the river, but it was too chilly to partake. Jake and Catherine joined us for lunch and we had a very entertaining conversation. Some more bike racers passed us during lunch and gave us a thumbs up.

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We are camping in Damasus tonight in a hostel. There is a dog here named Buster that looks slightly like Addie and I have been able to get in my dog fix. Because Damascus is a cross through town for the Appalachain Trail, we are camping with a lot of thru hikers. They are very entertaining with funny stories. We have a layover day in Damascus, there isn’t too much to do here, but it’s nice being off the bike and relaxing.

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Sheena’s corner: Yesterday restored my desire for this trip. The climb went great and the long descents were, by far, the best time I’ve had yet. I finally hit over 40mph! Next goal is 45mph.

Total miles: 62.2
Hours on bike: 5:12
Max MPH: 38.1
Avg MPH: 11.9

Day 10 (June 7th 2016) Christiansburg -Wythville VA; 34 miles

Not a very good day. Hilly, hot, and windy. This was our first main encounter with wind this trip. It started in the afternoon and was relentless. It was blowing so badly that it was even challenging going down hill. We had to pedal just as hard as we were going up! It was also scary in that it pushed us all over the road, into oncoming traffic. Which, during certain hills, would have been a much welcome gift (joking!). But we persevered and made it to another church camp in Wythville. After tomorrow we have an off day, which everyone is in of dire need!

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Sheena’s corner: today was a tough day, but I made it. So that’s nice.

Total miles: 57.5
Time on bike: 5:13
Avg MPH: 10.8
Max MPH: 33.8 MPH

Day 9 (June 6th 2016) Troutville – Christiansburg VA; 52 miles

Today was not as good of a day as yesterday, not in the least. Hills on top of hills. Some were rollers (Sheena was a beast on them) and some were unforgiving tear jerkers. But the scenery is at least still a stunning distraction. The weather was hot and sunny which didn’t help. What also didn’t help was taking a wrong turn, unknown, and going up more hills. Luckily it only added a mile or two to the total mileage. We missed the turn because we were concentrating so hard on tackling a hill, no time for map reading! During our detour we came across a sign, “I believe in God and guns. Trespass and you’ll meet both”, a true sign you’re in the south!

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Last night we shared camp with a cycling group, Bike Across the US for MS. We rode with them throughout the day, mostly they passed us throughout the day. The are a van supported group so their bikes are not loaded. When one passed us, Sheena offered him her pannier. He refused her kind offer.

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When arriving into Christianburg, we noticed a bicycle at a pizza shop that stood out. I instantly recognized it as a bike used in the TransAm bike race, in which a bunch of crazies ride their bikes across the country as quickly as they can. I convinced Sheena and Catherine to go into the shop with me to talk to the racer. When we went in, he was paying and we were able to ask a few questions. He answered but politely excused himself, like he was in a rush or something (ha!). His name is Jason and he is currently in 2nd place going westward. He started Saturday and in those few short days he completed the same distance that took us 8 days. Makes us feel like complete slackers!

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I was on dinner duty tonight with Catherine and Jake. We made rice and beans. Luckily the church we’re staying at has lots of room and we won’t be in close proximity with each other once the beans kick in.

Today we finished map one!! Only 11 left until we hit our destination!! Woooo!

Sheena’s corner: After a nice 40miles and an atrocious 10 miles, it’s awesome to catch up on game of thrones.

Shocker: Kentucky has a ton of steep hills.

Total miles: 52.45
Time on bike: 4:49
Avg MPH: 10.8
Max MPH: 36.0