AXC - The bike

AXC - The bike

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Miles under my wheels

I have the weirdest tan lines!

Cute little convenience store we stopped at for a rest and a snack. 

Camping on the front lawn of Hale's farm. 

Creepy (but pretty) long dirt road to Hale Farm

Some random abandoned farm machine along a country road that looked interesting.

After 5 days of riding, things are starting to feel familiar and routine. And yet at the same time, it's less than a week into a 3 month tour, so there's still a whole lot more to discover. And generally as soon as I think I know some routine, it changes anyway. 

Since I last posted on Monday night, we've covered an additional 160 miles, yes, in just 3 more days. This is by far the most riding I've ever done in my life. And possibly the most exercise I've ever done in a single week! 

On Tuesday we left the cushy quarters of the Willis Church and headed out for an 'easy' 45 mile day. Unfortunately, most of the mileage that day was on heavily traveled roads through towns, so there was very little scenery. On the plus side, we stopped into a fantastic BBQ place, and I had a terrific pulled pork sandwich (one of my favorite things!) With stomaches stuffed full of roast pig, we pedaled on. And the pedaling seemed a little easier with full and happy bellies. 

Tuesday night was our first camping night, and it was a nice way to ease into things. A nice roof on day one, then some more pedaling with a nice campground at the finish. We stayed at a place called AmeriCamp (formerly a KOA location.) This was super-fancy camping, and we took over the only tent camping section in the enormous campground. Everything else was campers and RV's, many of which probably cost more than my house (if you factor in the truck needed pull these portable mansions.)
The accommodations were top-notch, with nice showers and laundry facilities. Even wifi, with which I was able to make a Facetime video call from my tent. The concept of 'roughing it' was severely challenged. 

Wednesday was a longer riding day, and we got started a little earlier in the day. Once again, we broke into roughly 2 groups, although these sort of ebbed and flowed as people rode ahead or fell behind, and then we all caught back up at a rest stop or lunch stop. 
Although this day was slightly harder with more hills - and one hill so steep several people failed to down-shift in time and ended up having to walk their bikes up. I personally think pushing 80 lbs of bike and gear is far more difficult than pedaling, so I did my damnedest to keep spinning. 
The day was much nicer in general as well, the majority of the miles were on back country roads with almost no traffic and lots of beautiful fields and forests to gaze on while the miles rolled by underneath. 

At the end of the day's riding, we didn't stay at a campground, a hotel or a hostel, instead we stayed at some dude's farm! He kindly put up signs for us to follow, that led down a long street, then to the end of the street and only a long dirt road covered in trees. It felt like how a slasher flick starts. When I finally arrived at the house, there was a guy sitting on the patio playing the harmonica. It was cliche, and honestly a little bit creepy. (The harmonica player is a member of our tour, and apparently 'Deliverance' is an inspirational flick for him.)

The farm belongs to a Mr. William Hale, who has been gracious enough to allow the TransAm tour (the name of my cross-country tour) to camp on his farm for the last 12 years. He opens his house to us and lets us use his shower, bathroom and kitchen. It was an interesting mix of camping and staying in a house. And since we had access to his grill, dinner was cheeseburgers and hot dogs. Just what I wanted after a long day of riding!

The grounds were very nice, and I slept well. I figured out a nice way to organize the gear in my tent so that I had everything I need, but it didn't feel cluttered. I'm trying out this process again tonight and so far it seems to work. Some fellow riders even got a peak in my tent and commented that it looks so well organized, theirs is a mess. Well, I'm generally not this organized with my space, but I think you make due with what you have, and I have a 4 x 6 nylon house for the next 3 months that needs to feel comfortable. 

That brings me to today. As I type this, I am freakin exhausted. Today was hard, really hard. For one thing, the mercury topped out at 88 degrees, with full sun for the whole day (making it feel much hotter.) Then, it was a big 60 mile day, and if that wasn't enough, it was extremely hilly. For most of the ride, the hills and scenery were beautiful. At one point we turned left and coasted down a switch-back, and as I rounded the bend I could see the lush hills and the valley around me, then I pointed the bike downhill and enjoyed the fruits of the hard climb up as I coasted at up to 40 mph, breaking the speed limit actually. The amount of stunning vistas was almost overwhelming, and the beauty did not get old, even mile after mile. I'd round a bend and find myself presented with some new view that made me smile. 

And yes, the day was hard, my legs are sore and I'm sweating just sitting in my tent writing this. But, this is not complaining. I knew what I was getting into when I signed up (well, maybe it didn't really dawn on me until a little later than that), and I'll take the good with the bad. It won't all be this hard, or this hot, but sometimes it might be more of both. 

In the meantime, we have a layover day in Charlottesville, Va (Home of UVA) where we will be visiting Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson, and then finding someplace nice in the city for dinner. I'll still have to ride a bit to get around, but it wont' be as hard because I'll get to leave all my gear at camp. And riding unloaded is going to feel as if I'm riding my super-light racing bike! 

Here are a few parting thoughts;
Apparently I had several assumptions about how things would work, and some of them were way off. For whatever reason, I thought our 'layover' days would coincide with staying in a cabin or hotel. Someplace with a bed and a roof. That is not the case, but on the plus-side we're staying in a nice cabin on Saturday night. Basically, we stay at whatever accommodations are available at that location. Another assumption was that the first week would be somewhat easy in order to ease us into riding. That was blown way out of the water today, with a 60 mile hilly day. And Saturday we cross the Blue-ridge mountains on a 55 mile day with 3000' of climbing. 
My last assumption was that showers would be scarce, and that is one that I'm glad I was wrong about. I've had a hot shower at the end of each day, and it looks like that will be the norm, not the exception. (Although there will be some days without, and for that I have wet-wipes!) 

That's what I have for now. When I get a chance I'll add some pictures of Hale farm, some vistas I saw along the way, and a beautiful sunset I had the pleasure of watching last night. Until then, thanks for reading. I'm going to collapse into sleep now. 


1 comment:

  1. Excellent commentary, and info

    almost right behind you