The trip almost didn't happen. The weather was iffy, and I got some sort of intestinal virus the week before, leaving me a bit weak. But when I started feeling better and the weather looked promising, I decided to go for it.
I didn't get to leave until Wednesday morning this year. I would miss thanksgiving dinner, but I like leftovers so, I was not worried.
Climbing up the parkway, I remembered to assume my touring pace, slow, spinny, and just a grind. I enjoy going fast and pushing my limits, but on this kind of ride, distance is the limit to push, not speed. As I wound up, I left the warm air of the valley, and stopped to pull out some layers. I continued climbing and was a little more worried as I observed the clouds thickening, not thinning. This was not looking good, but it was not bad enough to turn back.
I was ok when climbing, but as soon as there was a decent, I was shaking, almost uncontrollably. At one point some giant white snowflakes fell from the cold gray sky, and all I could think of was how the hobbits and friends felt on the side of that wretched mountain in the middle of the snowstorm.
I managed to stay in control of the bike, my fingers and toes were numb, and I could think of nothing other than making it to the other side of Mt Mitchell, clinging to the hope that the weather would improve.....
After 55 ish miles, I did the only sensible thing and pulled the plug on the day. I rode to my friend's house in Little Switzerland, happy to have a warm dry place to hole up for the night, but bummed at not reaching my goal for the day. I had planned to ride approx 90 miles per day this year, and not have any epic days. My plans were foiled, and having ridden through this storm was about all of epic that I wanted on this trip.
|I was not feeling good.|
A middle aged man cautiously opened the door and asked if he could help me. I explained what I was doing and what I needed. Just inside the door was a sink and he told me I could fill up there. As I filled my water container, I noticed that he held his right arm behind his back. As we made small talk and even as he closed the door, I continued to observe that he still held his arm behind his back....I assumed he was ready to take me out if I tried something funny, I had not such intentions, but I can't blame a man for protecting his property!
At this point in my journey, knowing of an upcoming detour off of the parkway, I decided to make an early detour, hoping to avoid any undue climbing. I was able to pedal, but I was moving so sluggishly that I did not want to waste any energy on any more parkway climbs. I headed towards the town of West Jefferson, I'm not sure what I was hoping to find there, but I headed there. It was on the way to Sparta, NC, which is where the detour would eventually lead. I had intended to make it 30 miles past Sparta for the day. That goal faded with every pedal stroke.
Once I ground my way into W Jefferson, I estimated that I had another 30-35 miles to Sparta. I stopped and bought a coke, looked at the pre packaged food in the gas station fridge, then headed out. I sat for a spell in the sun, letting myself bake, and considering my options. I was not ready to throw in the towel yet, and I still had 5 hrs of daylight. If I could make it back to the Parkway around the detour, I would ride the remaining 15 miles in the dark. I had lights and was prepared to do so.
After finishing my Coke, I once again headed north on some state highways. I was not down in the valley and the riding was fairly flat with a couple of short climbs. Traffic was courteous and the miles clicked by. With 15 miles left to go, I was done and was willing to pay someone for a ride to Sparta. There was quite a bit of traffic but there was no way to let a person know I wanted a ride. I didn't want to waist time standing by the road with my thumb out and risk having to ride the rest of the way in the dark. So, I did what I have learned works, kept spinning.
Hours later, I dragged myself into the sleepy town of Sparta. I was done. I looked around for a church and considered curling up behind it and sleeping. I finally decided to head to the local hotel and decide if it looked appealing. As I rode up to the Allegheny Inn, I was surprised that it looked kind of fancy. I pulled in to the parking lot, went inside and asked for a price. I went back outside and called Rhonda. The price was a little high and we talked about a rescue. I went back in and told the clerk thanks but no thanks. The kind clerk offered me a better price. I called Rhonda back and decided that for less than the cost of the round trip to rescue me, I could rent the room, rest and eat, then ride north for a closer rescue in the morning. I rented the room.
Gas station pizza never tasted so good. And that pint of Mayfield Moose tracks was divine!! And topped off with Country Music Television? Was I in heaven? or simply delirious?
|Dinner in the Hotel|
After staying up way too late watching Swamp People on the History Channel, I allowed myself to sleep in until 5:30 am. I was feeling ok and grits and Starbuck Via was on the menu. I took a picture of my pump up session before I walked out the door into what would be below freezing temps for the first 30 miles.....I was glad that I had not camped out.
|Crossing the NC/VA state line|
|The heavily frosted terrain.|
As I walked through the door, for a split second, it seemed like slow motion. Then I bellied up to the bar, placed my order and drank coffee.
|This my friend, is breakfast!!|
|Proud retired vet with a license, and an NRA hat!|
|I raced this guy.|
|Then followed this guy.|
I look forward to next year!