Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Day 1 Blacksburg to Lake Moomaw- 106 miles

 The window opened, and I thought it would be a good idea to attempt the Allegheny Mountains Loop.  I got dropped of in Christiansburg VA, and spent the night at the Microtel Inn,  cheap rates, nice room.  The day before and morning that I was supposed to start, I was feeling a bit nauseous, not sure why.  I was able to choke down half a bowl of granola before rolling out.  I think I was nervously excited.  I don't get the chance to take long rides often and I wanted to make the most of it.

I slept in and rolled out at 9am.  After arriving at VA Tech 6 miles later, I finally found the start at the War Memorial.  Then is was on.  I was out for an adventure.  While sometimes I consider going for a record,  I quickly remind myself that I would likely drive myself beyond my limits if I tried that.  Maybe one day.  I was hoping to complete the 400 mile loop in 4 days.  200 miles of pavement, and about 200 miles of gravel would present quite a challenge.  I felt I was ready.
 The first 20 miles out of town was rolling hills with some punchy climbs.  Normally, I would be able to make quick work of these, but loaded with food and gear, I was spinning and averaging 5mph on the steeper climbs.  The sun was out, the sky blue with puffy white clouds, and I was cruising,  glad to be alive and getting out on an adventure.  It has been a while since I was able to go somewhere new and I was not taking it for granted. 

And then 13.5 miles into the 400 mile ride I hit the first road block.  Literally.   The giant sign in the middle of the road said "Road Closed".  I looked at the map and saw that a detour would mean another 20-30 miles.   Ouch.  I rolled past the sign and around the corner and was greeted by a local sheriff's deputy.  His car's lights flashing, and he was leaning again the car looking pretty tough.  I rolled up and said " That's not a  good sign".  He said " Nope,  road's closed,  they are repairing the train tracks where the rain washed out under them".   I said something like "wow".   Then he mentioned that I might be able to squeeze through and I should go ask the construction crew.  
I pulled up to a big truck filled with 4 big dudes, and made some small talk.  Being tough construction dudes, they all ignored me, so I made some sort of joke,  I can't remember what, and they loosened up.  After a few minutes, the head guy radioed the machine working on the track to hold up and I was able to scamper through.  That was a relief.  
Back on track and rolling through towns like Sunnyside, Eggleston, Pembroke and Interior.   Most of the towns I passed through consisted of nothing but a few houses.  I was loaded down with food, and had enough for the trip,  but it is nice to be able to stop for  a sandwich and a coke occasionally. 
Crossing the New River

A short bit of gravel.

Climbing the grade up to Interior, I was able to make some good time.  The trees overhead were thick and I was cruising up the 2-3% grade.  I was running  low on water so I started looking at my options when I came across this cool little picnic area.  No water but would be a good place to stealth camp if someone got a late start on the rout. 
The route starts in Virginia and crosses back and forth into West Virginia several times.  I was going to take pictures each time I crossed but there weren't always signs, so I gave up on spending that energy.  I got to Waitville and had 11 ish miles to go to Paint Bank. (Waiteville is the point that the loop rejoins the route on the way back, forming the stick part of a lollypop loop)  That 11 miles was fairly flat, through a long valley with rolling ridgelines on either side.  I picked up the pace, looking forward to lunch at the Paint Bank General Store.  I didn't notice that I was getting overheated, and arrived in at the store a bit fuzzy.  I walked in a little woozy and asked for outdoor seating.  I saw people eating piles of french fries and my stomach churned. 
I wanted some of the BBQ fresh off this grill but ordered a salad and BLT instead.  Then I proceded to down 2 glasses of sweet tea and a glass of Nuun.  I could only eat a little bit of salad and 1/3 of the BLT though.  I payed my bill and explained that the food was good but that I was overheated and my body was not open for intake. 
Pulling out of Paint Bank was a sort of point of no return for me.  Rhonda was one phone call and one hour away.  If this had been 2 days later, that phone call would have been all too easy.  But since I was only 55 mile into the ride,  I headed out,  and was greeted by the first real climb of the day.
Kicking up to 8% in places, I shifted to the granny gear and climbed roughly 1000 ft in about 3-4 miles.  The scenery was amazing and I was enjoying the ride.  A middle aged guy pulled up next to me in a beat up subaru half way up the climb.  He said in a gruff, taunting  voice"  Hey, do you know where I can get some gas?  Cause I need some real bad!",  then started laughing and drove slowly up the mountain.  I could still hear him laughing as he went around the next bend.  I didn't see him again and was glad. 

Somewhere later that day, I hit my first 100 miles.  Yeah,  300 to go and I was feeling really good.  I'm not quite into stealth camping yet.  I definitely want to give it a go sometime, but with the relative comfort of a campground nearby and not far off route, I decided to go for the Campground at Lake Moomaw. 
I came to another road block with police lights and at this point I took my first wrong turn.  Fortunately, the road paralleled the actual route and looking at the map it appears to be more difficult, so I didn't negate my efforts and I didn't turn around.  The realist in me won that fight! 
And then there came the steep climb up to the campground.   A long 1 mile grind up to the ridge.  I got there, picked a camp site,  set up,  had dinner and watched the sun go down.  And then I realized that I had forgotten my long underwear.   It was turning bit chilly with just enough wafting breeze to make me wish I had them.  I settled for knee warmers. 
As I laid there, for most of the night, not sleeping, I kept asking myself why I wasn't riding?  I only got about 3 hours of intermittent sleep,  I was fed and warm,  I was not blown to bits and could walk around just fine.   Something to think about.....and then the sky started to get light and I rolled out of my sleeping bag,  excited for another day.  

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