Total miles- 294.6
Today began our part 2 of conquering the Blue Ridge Parkway and the mountains that Virginia threw our way. We got a pretty early start, since we didn't know exactly what the mountains would be like, though we did know that we had a crazy downhill waiting for us at the end of the Parkway.
Here's Erica's mascot, Shep, up and at 'em early at the cabin:
Just as we expected, we faced more uphills and major climbs. But something was different about today's ride...maybe it was the promise that we would be through one of the most challenging parts of our journey by the end of the day, maybe our legs are actually getting stronger as the days go by, but despite the climbs today, we did manage to make it up them. I (Mel) finally think I have my gearing figured out, so I know what gears I should be in and what will get me up a hill in the best and most efficient manner. Erica has been riding bikes with gears for years, so I think she has it down pretty good.
We came across a number of beautiful overlooks today, such as this one, which apparently serves as some sort of way for the folks in the valley below to tell time in the summer months. I'm not sure why there is a giant gun on the sign, though.
We finally turned onto the road taking us down off of the parkway and into the town of Vesuvius...and this descent is legendary to TransAm riders. We're not 100% sure what the grade is, but our best guess is it is at least over a 10% grade. This is crazy enough in a car, but on a bike, we are talking potential speeds up and over 50 mph. Most folks ride the descent while engaging their breaks, which means that after 100 feet or so, it is necessary to pull off to the side of the road and let the rims of your tires cool from the friction of the brake pads. Too much heat can severely damage the rims or completely blow out your tire. Neither of which are very fun to deal with, so it's best to play it safe, kids!
When we made it totally down the mountain, we stopped in to the famous TransAm landmark, Gertie's Country Store. Gertie's has seen hundreds upon hundreds of bikers and hikers, and even hosts overnight guests behind the store in a nice little pavilion. We had some awesome food, refreshing drinks, Erica had a Choco-Taco, and we talked to the folks there for quite a while. Everyone at the store was super kind and we genuinely enjoyed the food, drinks, and conversations.
Next we experienced such wonderful biking as we traveled on a slight downhill, next to the South River and some railroad tracks. We reached some coasting speeds that we hadn't seen in days and it finally felt awesome to not be struggling up another hill.
Our original plan was to stop at the Mallard Duck Campground for the night, but we both felt so good that we rolled right past it. We figured we could make another 8 miles easily after what we faced over the past few days. And we were mostly right...though we did have about 3 miles of some very serious hills that forced us off the bikes and into the hiking position, and some construction that took one of the roads down to a single lane road. We finally made it to Lexington by about 6 p.m. Of course, our hotel is up a hill, as are all things we are trying to get to in Virginia. But we're glad to be out of the mountains, and we both had huge smiles as we immediately got in our swimming gear and headed down to the pool to cool off this evening. As the great poet, Ice Cube, would say, "Today was a good day."