Archive for June, 2011

Week One Stats

Week 1 Stats:

Starting city: Charlottesville, VA

Ending city: Elk Garden, VA

Total distance traveled: 282

Days on the bike: 5

Average per day of riding: 56 miles

Shortest day: 38 miles

Longest day: 72 miles

Top speed: 42 mph! (leaving Blacksburg, of course)

Total money spent: $34.60

Average per day: $4.90

Roadkill: Lots

Stinkiest: Skunk

Nights inside Jed’s house: 2

Pizza slices consumed at Jed’s friend’s house: 5

Unexpected rest days: 1

Wrists sprained: 1

Spaghetti lunches hosted by the church: 1

Elk Garden locals met: Lots

Happiness quota: Overflowing


Written on Friday, 6/24/11

On a bench swing outside the Ellk Garden United Methodist Church.

I hadn’t meant for today to be a rest day, but it turned into one…

Jed, my gracious host in Blacksburg. He's spending the summer working with Floyd County to clean up their watershed, since they're the water source for many of the surrounding counties. Smart.

Leaving Jed in Blacksburg, I moved along to Wytheville, VA. Two things of interest: I hit a new top speed of 42 mph leaving the mountains surrounding Blacksburg, and I met Jim, a TransAm cyclist near the end of his Oregon to Virginia trip. After mentioning the mountains I had just conquered, he scoffed.

“Mountains? Those 2000’ers are hills, my friend. In the Rockies, there would be days I would spend the whole morning climbing, non-stop.”

Well, I’m glad I’m going east to west. Hopefully I’ll have semi-tree trunks by the time I hit Colorado.


The next day, I had a decision to make – I was ahead of schedule in Wytheville, so do I go a mere 20 miles to my planned stop in Atkins, VA, or push on another 50 miles to a cyclist-friendly church in Elk Garden? My lunch at Mi Puerto Mexican restaurant decided for me; fueled with beans, rice, tacos, and (bottomless!) chips and salsa, I pushed on to Elk Garden. The only thing standing in my path…the Appalachians.

Ready to conquer.

As you know, I’ve been following a roundabout route to Ohio to avoid the mountainous West Virginia. That, and the TransAm bike route follows a similar path. I eventually had to cross them mountains somewhere, though, and doing it around Glade Spring, VA seemed to be the most docile. So I took off, and soon was huffing it up steep switchbacks. At this point, my legs are strong enough that if Moose is in a low enough gear, I can keep spinning the pedals and slowwwly (5 mph-ish) make it up the mountain without killing myself. So I did that for the four mile incline…

And then the downhill! The best part of mountains (besides the view). Recess after class. Dessert after broccoli. This is what bicyclists (particularly mountain bicyclists) live for. However, I forgot there would be switchbacks going down as well…

By the time I saw the first sharp turn, I knew I was going too fast. I hit the brakes, swerved to the far right, hit a patch of gravel, and my tires lost traction. Moose slid sideways into a ditch, and I tumbled after. When I came to a stop, I got up, retrieved my belongings scattered across the road, and checked myself. Nothing seemed broken, my right palm was scraped and my wrist hurt, but other than a few nicks and scrapes, I was fine. My bike, miraculously, was nearly untouched. I bandaged my hand and, with brakes heavily applied, made it the rest of the way down the mountain.

Glad they're behind me.

As I continued across rolling pastures, I noticed my right wrist had swollen substantially and it was painful to shift gears. So it was a sight for sore eyes after 72 miles when I saw the church on my right. And it nearly brought tears to my eyes when I saw this sign:

Sure enough, to my disbelief, the door was unlocked. Food in the pantry. Tea in the fridge. Ice in the freezer. This was exactly what I needed. I used the church’s hose and my camping shower to get the gravel out of my palm and cleaned myself off.

A little scraped, a little chubby

Then, I made an enormous pasta dinner, iced my wrist (which I diagnosed as a minor sprain), and promptly fell asleep on the carpeted floor of the church. An intense day ended tranquilly thanks to the hospitality of Elk Garden United Methodist Church.


Written on Friday, 6/24/11

Somewhere windy.

*click on picture for full size



That’s wind.

West to East.

In my face.

Nothing much I can do about it, so no use complaining. Still, I wonder what it would feel like to have this invisible force propelling me forward instead of pushing against me.

Nice breeze on a hot day, though.

Mountains Kick My Butt

From a couch in Jed’s house, Blacksburg, VA

Taking a rest day. Blacksburg is surrounded by mountains (I thought this is why I was skipping around West Virginia!) I guess living in Virginia for four years, I should know this. Oh well. Katherine was kind enough to put me in contact with her friend Jed, who was kind enough to let me stay at his place for two nights as my legs get a rest. Anyway, here are some pictures of the last couple days.

Natural Bridge in Natural Bridge, VA. 200 ft tall. Massive. Cody who works there gave me a free ticket. Continue to be amazed by the kindness of strangers.

Butterflies at

the Natural Bridge.

History made awesome.

Timed shot. Tricky.

Countless farms.

Walkway in Buchanan, VA

River I swam in Buchanan


Camp in Buchanan park

Catawba Mountain on the way to Blacksburg.

From behind.



Awesome (Second) First Day

Written on Sunday, 6/19/11

Underneath a tree in a park in Buchanan, VA

Just like last time, Edward and Katherine joined me on my first day of cycling. Unlike last time, our friend Matt joined us at the start of the ascent of Afton mountain (brutal start, but he’s a beast). We took a different route up the mountain because we wanted to visit the famed Cookie Lady.

June Curry has lived in the same house on Afton for 85 years and has been offering water and cookies to cyclists since 1979 (the TransAmerican Bike route passes right by her house, so  she’s become somewhat of a legend to cyclists looking for rest after the difficult climb). She’s quite an interesting lady – she talked our ears off about everything from the morning news to a childhood memory of her washing her dad’s car with vasoline…

She gave us keys to her guesthouse, offering whatever snacks we could find and asking us to sign the guestbook. As we unlocked the door and entered the guesthouse, we were stuck by a sight we couldn’t have imagined:

Wall to wall, staircase, tables, nearly every surface area covered with postcards, letters, and bike paraphernalia from cyclists who have visited her. She really has touched thousands of bicyclists on their journeys. Amazing. (Also, she forgot about us after lending us the guesthouse keys; despite ringing the doorbell, knocking, and hollering, we couldn’t get her attention, so we had to leave the keys on her front door, hence no group pic…)

Other points of interest: we met a lost Appalachian Trail hiker on the top of Afton. Knowing my direction skills, I let the other three do the talking in helping him find his way. Also, we got caught in a rainstorm around the time we realized Google maps had led us astray – turned out the campground was 10 miles further than we thought. But when we arrived, weary and wet, our spirits immediately soared when we saw our friends at the campsite! That’s right, several of our friends from Charlottesville (and one from DC – you’re a trooper, Katy!) drove to meet us at the campground, loaded with burgers, hotdogs, beer, watermelon, potato salad, coleslaw, s’mores…put simply, bicyclist food porn. We gorged ourselves (in fact, got so lost in the food I forgot to take pictures of this momentous event). Needless to say, it was the BEST start of the trip I could ask for.

Also, I write this amidst fireflies glinting in the sun’s fading rays, resting against a tree in a park, facing a river I swam in an hour ago. Peaceful.

Trial Runs





  • Beefed-up wheels with Threadlock in the spoke ends to prevent loosening.
  • More durable and waterproof compression sack (replacing the trash bag) for tent transporation.
  • Front rack and bags graciously lent to me by a co-worker/fellow biker to better distribute the weight across the bike.

Actually trying this whole “plan before you go” thing this time. I’ve been riding my loaded bike around Charlottesville the past few days to get a feel for biking with front and rear bags, to see how my wheels hold up, and to get me semi-in-shape for round 2. The plan is to start Bike Trip Round 2 tomorrow, Saturday, June 18th!

Unrelated, here are a few pictures on a hazy day on Skyline Drive.