AXC - The bike

AXC - The bike

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The lows and the highs

Tuesday and Wednesday, May 13 & 14. Trip days 10 & 11. 

I knew this trip would be hard, and I thought I knew just how hard. But I was sorely mistaken. 

It was hot on Tuesday. 
Like, hotter'n Satan's scrotum, and just about as sweaty.

Tuesday was a miserable day. It was hard, for sure, but 'hard' isn't the right word, miserable is the right word. It was 96°, cloudless, no breeze whatsoever, and just really long. 

It was a hilly day, which is more or less normal at this point, but this felt worse. 
Some days we've been on nice tree covered roads, but not that day. These were long, wide open, rolling back-country roads full of nothing but farms and closed churches. 

The heat and humidity were oppressive, the sun beating down on our backs, the heat radiating up from the asphalt, and not a single leaf was swaying in the stagnant air. 

The heat was probably the biggest issue, but it wasn't the only one. This ride day was hard in general with a lot of climbing and long mileage for the day. And adding to the mix, these barren back-country roads were completely devoid of any gas station, restaurant, or even a lowly water spigot. Then, the cherry on top was that my bike wasn't shifting gears cleanly because the rear deralleur was still out of whack and the leak in my rear tire had gotten worse, so that I had to pump it back up about every hour. 

As the day wore on, the heat seemed to get worse. I was rationing my water because there wasn't anyplace in sight to fill up. Having trained all through the winter, I wasn't quite acclimated to the hot weather yet, and all these other things just combined into a very tough day. 

At one point, a local gave us a 'tip' that there was a convenience store "just a mile or so up the road." So in search of gatorade and some food, we set off. This "just a mile or so" turned out to be more like 2+ miles, up a big-ass hill (and down the other side, so we had to climb it twice!)
Once there, I had a horribly disappointing gas station hot dog (as if there's any other kind.) And we dragged our asses back up the hill and back onto the route. It was a terrible 4 mile 'inconvenience store', as I coined it. 

The day dragged on in much the same way for hours. I did try to look up and appreciate that at least the scenery was still beautiful.

I also realized that it could have been worse. 
The roads could have been pitted and potholed. There could have been more traffic. It could have been a ride through downtown detroit instead of scenic western Virginia. I could have been chased by africanized killer honeybees. I could have had hemorrhoids. I could have had a Nicki Minaj song stuck in my head (yes, worse than hemorrhoids.)
So, yeah, there are ways the day could have been worse.

To top it all off, there was a horribly steep and long climb to where we were sleeping that night, which was at a 'biker hostel' at a United Methodist Church in Churchville (yup), Virginia. The church didn't have a shower, so we rented a room at the motel across the street and all showered there. It was certainly nice of the church to allow bikers to stay there, but these were not the nicest accommodations. 

At the end of the day I was just all used up. Exhausted and unhappy. I also managed to get a wicked sunburn on both my calves because I didn't think to reapply sunblock there. 
Tuesday was not the highlight of the trip.

(The route sucked, but the view was still nice)


We rode Rt 666 out of Churchville (yup, for real) and put the crappy tuesday in our rearviews. 

The day started off better in many regards. For starters, it was a good 10° cooler, there was a breeze, and clouds in the sky to block the sun on occasion. 

We rode through a very pretty park that was tree covered sparsely used (at 8 am on a weekday morning, at least.) 

Practically everything that was bad about Tuesday was better on Wednesday. There was the weather, which was a nice reprieve, the hills were easier, there were infinitely more stores and places to stop along the way. We were never left wanting for gatorade, snacks or ice cream. Heck, even the church we stayed in Wednesday night was like the four seasons compared to the 'budget inn' of the night before.

But the true piece-de-resistance was the lunch stop. Just as the group decided it that it was time to stop somewhere to eat, we rolled right up to 'The Junction'. A restaurant and bike shop in the hills of western Virginia. 
A biker's oasis. 

The restaurant was beautiful, spacious and I even liked the artwork on the walls. Heck, the music was even great, a mix of 40's era jazz, swing and blues.
The bike shop was also fantastic, and everyone was SO friendly. As we rolled up a gentleman met us with a pitcher of ice water to refill our bottles.

A few people in my group were commenting that this was too good to be true. It was that fantastic. 

Without even needing to ask, there was an unspoken consensus that we'd stop and have a real sit-down lunch. Something we hadn't done once yet on this trip (due to the lack of real restaurants along the route.)

After we ordered, I went over to the bike shop and met Thomas, the nicest bike shop employee I've ever met. I told him of the numerous issues I was having, and he graciously listened and talked with me about what I needed.
Then I left the bike with him to be fixed while I ate lunch!

All told; I got the rear tube and tire replaced, both deralluers adjusted, my kickstand adjusted, and I bought spare cables in case any break again. All for a price that beat Amazon (and that included labor!)
It might have helped that Thomas kept raving about my awesome Pink Floyd jersey, or that he thought the Captain America patch on the front of my sweet canvas bag was just all too cool. Really, he was just super friendly and helpful. 

And this is the point where I realized that a switch had flipped. From the sheer misery of the prior day, to practical elation at something as simple as a great meal (with friends) and really helpful people.

From there, the day just rolled on easy; my bike worked and shifted great, I wasn't nervous about my back wheel, and my belly was full. We even took a 'flat-cut' (my term, that the group really liked.) A 'flat-cut' is like a short-cut, but instead of being shorter its flatter. We got a tip from a real local-yokel that pointed us to an access road beside highway 81 that was practically flat and cut out loads of end-of-the-day hills we would have had to climb otherwise. 

See, everything about Wednesday was better. It was hard to even remember how bad the very day before had been!  And I realized that this was another lesson, the trip in a microcosm; that one bad day doesn't have to make for more bad days. People will say 'take it one day at a time', but I don't think that properly conveys the real meaning. 
If you flip a coin, and it comes up tails - that flip has absolutely no bearing on the next flip. One bad day doesn't have to have any bearing on the next day. And sure, there might be several bad days in a row, but that doesn't mean it's all bad. And a truly awesome day can come out of the blue and just turn everything around. 

I know there's going to be more miserable days to come, but there will also be many more wonderful days filled with great people, wonderful views, fun riding and new experiences, and I have to remember that a bad day can just as easily be followed by a fantastic one. 

This is one of my favorite pictures so far. 


  1. Curious - Have others been having any mechanical issues?

  2. Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.

    ~ Albert Einstein