Thursday, June 20, 2013

Day 16 - June 19, 2013 - Wytheville, VA to Damascus, VA

Mileage - 61
Total mileage - 515.2

We woke up to clear skies, even if it was a bit foggy in the mountains from the previous day's rain.  We are a few miles away from the hotel, and suddenly I remember that I left Shep on the dresser in the hotel room!  I hate backtracking when driving, and I sure as hell am not doing it on a bike, when we have already conquered a few of the days first climbs, so I called the hotel and told them to send him to Mel's parents if they find him.  They inform me that if they do find him, they will send him to that address, via UPS, using the credit card they have on file for incidentals...I have a feeling my $.59 quarter-sized rubber pig is going to cost a small fortune to be reunited with me!

Missing pigs aside...the ride is pretty uneventful for the first 10 miles.  We stop at a fruit stand for a mid-morning Gatorade/chocolate milk/peach snack, and continue on our way.  We made a quick stop in Rural Retreat to send 8 pounds of unnecessary (hopefully!) stuff home, then stopped at the only open place in Sugar Grove, a gas station, for a pizza lunch.  We knew that we had a couple of sustained climbs coming at us this afternoon, so we wanted to be ready!  

We made the turn into Mount Rogers National Recreation Area, get a few nice little turns in on a road with a beautiful creek running alongside, then the climb begins.  Looking at them on the map, we were terrified that they would be similar to the ridiculous road we had to hike up to get to Afton, but they were far from it.  Graded beautifully, never steeper than our little legs could pedal on fully-loaded touring bikes (yes, maybe in the lowest of gears!), and we kicked that mountain's ass!  It even started to rain on us near the end, but after a rest break here and there, we enjoyed a brisk downhill into the town of Troutdale.

The only think left in Troutdale is the cyclist hostel.  We sat on the steps of the defunct general store/diner in town, having snacks of bananas, Paydays, and Stingers, contemplating if we should just stay at the hostel, or keep going to our intended destination of Damascus, another 24 or so miles, containing another giant hill.  We eventually settled on continuing to Damascus, even though we were tired, and a little chilly after the rain.  

Almost immediately after leaving Troutdale, I had a fleeting thought that we were going to regret our decision, then be stuck having to slog through horrendous terrain to get to Damascus late at night, tired, hungry, and grouchy.  All my cares were washed away about 3 miles down the road though - we met the next hill, it was graded just as nicely, the clouds parted and the sun shone through, and we kicked that hill's ass too!

And then there was the best, I mean the best, downhill of the trip.  It was probably 4+ miles of sustained, controlled downhill - no braking, few turns, and just pure fun.  Every ride should have one of those!  We coasted through the town of Konnarock (which no longer has any services either), then got to the not so fun part of getting to Damascus.  It wasnt horrible, but there  was a bunch of curvy, gently uphill sloping road that we had to tackle.  We are already around 50 miles in to our day, and wondering where this lovely downhill to Damascus is that everyone's talking about...

Then we find it!  It is quite a bit steeper than the previous downhill after the first mountain climb, but it is incredibly gorgeous and fun!  The worst part of the downhills on this trip has been traffic behind us following way too close, and getting annoyed or frankly just doing dangerous things (passing too close to us, passing on a hill, or passing on blind turns) because we aren't going fast enough for them.  Luckily there wasn't much traffic out here, and we coasted for miles at well over 30mph down another road with a mountain stream running next to it.  Perfect way to end our longest day yet!

We pull into Damascus, which is a huge hit with the Appalachian Trail crowd too as the trail crosses very close to the town, and set out to find one of the hostels to spend the night in.  We make it to "The Place" hostel, famous with both hikers and cyclists, and notice our friends Mary and Joe from a couple of days ago are also there!  Live-in hostel caretaker, trail name "Atlas", gives us the rundown of rules (the hostel is run by the church out front, so this isn't a free for all!), assigns us a couple of bunks (think wooden bunk beds), and tells us where to get dinner.  He's a great guy, and has some entertaining tales of hiking and hikers.  He came to Damascus as an AT hiker about a month ago for Trail Days, and is still hanging around - I think Damascus has that effect on hikers.

Most of the others we shared the hostel with were hikers.  Good group of people. We grabbed burritos at a place in town called Hey Joe's, one of the guys behind the counter gets up and plays a song that a kid there requested off of his album (which we ended up buying - he was pretty good!), had a well-deserved beer, and headed back to the hostel.  After setting up our bunks and chatting with Joe and Mary a little more, we climbed into bed.  Only to have about 4 hikers show up at 10:15 or so, loudly!  We go to bed early, so we can get up early...quiet hours were from 10:30 to 7:30, but they had to be given bunks, told about the rules, set up their bunks, etc.  The one who ended up in a bunk in our room I think opened each and every zipper on his pack before settling in!

I was out like a light - Mel didn't have the same luck, couldn't get comfortable, got cold, etc.  I'm glad we had the experience though, after hearing about this place for so long!  

Oh, and we rolled over 500 miles today!  Yay!

1 comment:

  1. Great post! Downhills, furthest day, broke 500 miles, meeting cool people again... sounds like a great day. Again, the scenery sounds lovely!