Thursday, August 01, 2013

Day 4: Lewisburg WVA to Blacksburg VA

 Day 4 rolled around and with just under 100 miles to go, guess what?  It was raining.  A quick check on the hotel computer showed that it would be clearing in about an hour with another green blob headed my way.  One item I packed and I was glad that I did were my yellow rain pants.  Back in 2001, I purchased these pants for my ride across America  and I used them once on that trip for about 15 minutes.  I kept them and have not used them since... until this trip. 
 The first hour of day 4 was rainy, but then cleared up.  I peeled off the rain layers, packed them away for good, and continued to enjoy the ride.  The skies cleared up, the temps rose, the roads dried and so did my chain.  I was disheartened this morning, when I got halfway through lubing my chain with Pro Gold and ran out.  It was barely enough.  But with the hour long rain shower, and the rain all day yesterday, it was not quite enough.  I thought about calling Bruce Dickman, but didn't think he could get there soon enough.  As I listened to my chain grinding,  I pushed forward and looked for a solution.   Also, as my riding clothes dried from the morning showers,  assorted chafing started to make itself apparent.  I was tensing my body to try to aleve the pain, but could not.  I finally stopped to apply some Chamois Buttr, and thought about applying some to my chain.  Then it dawned on me.  Mosquito repellant has an oily substance to it.  I had a little travel tube of the stuff and sprayed it on.  I ended up running out of that too, but it was enough to quiet the chain.  After about 5 miles, I didn't think about that again.  Good to know!
 Today's route was pretty simple,  climb a lot, enjoy the views and make it to the start/finish by 5pm.  The roads were narrow, the climbs steep, and I kept a steady pace.  After yesterday's 100 plus mile ride, the spark was gone from my legs.  There was no pep, no get up and go, just the steady turning of the cranks in the granny gear. 
 I wanted to pick up the pace, but knew that doing so would dig a hole deeper than I could get out of.  If I kept my current pace, I would finish and be fine.   I noticed early on, that I was also hungrier than the past 3 days.  It seems that my metabolism was in high gear and needing fuel.  I came to the town of Gap Mills, which the maps said had a grocery store, only to find everything shut down.  It was Sunday morning, and I don't think that I saw a grocery store. 
 The whole section between Moncove Lake Rd and Waiteville was a bit tedious, as there were signs missing, and some of the road names did not match the map.  If I had been traveling in the dark, I would have had a very difficult time finding the way.  During the broad daylight, I relied on my gut and a little bit of luck.

The climb up and over the mountain to Waitsville was steep and long. Picture Curtis Creek Road paved over and there you have it.  
 Right turn at Waitsville,  then a left on FR 613 for the Mountain Lake Cut Off, and a gravel road climb of I don't know how long, but it went on forever. 
 And then I came around the bend and the road tilted up.
 And then I came around another bend and the road tilted up,  some more.
 And finally, I reached the ridge line and crossed the AT.  I ate a giant Oatmeal Creme Pie in two bites while a startled day hiker watched in awe.  When I could speak, I said " I'm hungry".  Even though this is the ridge, it is not all down hill from here.  It is several miles of punchy rolling hills until reaching the Mountain Lake Resort,  then after a mile or so of pavement,  there is a long fast decent.
The miles ticked slowly by and the temps warmed up.  More cars, buildings, pavement than 2 days ago, combined with lower elevation and the humidity was higher as well.  20 miles to go,  in 1 mile I would take the left turn on Goodwins Ferry that would lead me on the final 19 mile stretch to Blacksburg.  I bombed down a hill, enjoying the wind in my face and soaking up the scenery.  Up and over a couple of rolling hills,  2-3 miles went by.  I crossed the river and kept pedaling.  The road should be bringing me parallel to the river, but it was taking me away from the river.  I stopped and tried to figure out where I was on the map,  but once again, the heat, the fatigue, battle against my thought patterns.

I waved to a passing motorist, but she did not stop. I waved to a second one, who stopped to help.  It took her a minute to get her bearings and figure the map out so that made me feel a little better.  We finally got our location and direction sorted out.  She told me that her great, great, great, great grandfather was the founder of Blacksburg.  
signs like this don't help.
 And then I was mentally done as well.  Nothing left to do but pedal back up the long climb I had just come down.  It was a grind.  I made it to the missed turned and down to the river.  There was no cruising left in me.  One pedal stroke after the last,  turning the cranks,  thankful for the pedaling techniques I had learned.  I was getting really hungry and kept eating what I had.  Fritos,  trail mix,  the last bits of pineapple.  Then The New River Junction Campground appeared.  I pulled in to use the rest room and get some water.  And then I saw the Coke machine.  I walked over and bought one 12oz can,  and went to the snack shop.  When I asked if they had ice cream, they said they did but there was not much left.  I opened the freezer to find only Popsicles.  Nothing creamy and chocolatey about that.  I didn't have the energy to be disappointed, so I bought some salt and vinegar potato chips.  Walking back outside, I went to the Coke machine and bought another Coke.  I filled up my bottle, drank the rest out of the can and ate some chips while watching the flooded river.  It had rained a lot!

 Sipping Coke and grinding up the hills, I knew that I would make the finish by 5pm if I could keep rolling at a steady survival pace. 

The Flooded New River

And suddenly I saw buildings, traffic, streelights, and stop lights.   I had less than a mile to go.  I was elated deep down, but still rolling at a snail's pace. It was almost over, 400 miles in 4 days. I'm not sure of my actual mileage because of getting lost and back tracking.  I'll go back and add up the miles soon.  It was  a big goal for me, and a huge confidence booster to complete the loop. 
I rolled back onto the VA Tech campus and immediately got lost again.  The road names on the map did not match the road signs.   I got off route but found the memorial and called it a day.  The fam was already there waiting for me. 
We took some quick pictures and loaded up the van to make the drive home.  That 3.5 hr drive was more painful than the last 4 days on the bike!
And that's my story.  I recommend this loop to anyone who wants to log some miles through some beautiful country.  I had a great experience and definitely plan on going back one day.  I still need to work out Trans North GA.  An adventurer at heart,  the current adventure is barely complete and I'm already thinking about the next one.

Update: Approximate Daily Mileage ( my cyclo computer stopped working so these are not exact but close)
Day 1 106.5 miles
Day 2 110.5 miles
Day 3 127  miles
Day 4 75 miles

A personal record of 3 back to back centuries.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like a great trip

Joe Rinehart said...

Hey man,

I've really enjoyed these posts and just finished my own first AVL -> Roanoke trip, using some of your older posts as a guide.

Is there anything on this route that you think needs fat tires, or would cyclocross tires be enough?