Afton, VA (The Cookie Lady) – Troutsville, VA 100 miles (325 total)
Time on bike: 10:15:52
Avg: 9.9 mph
Daily Ascent: 6780 ft (68 ft/mile)
Max: 37 mph
Hills, hills hills. The day began from The Cookie Lady’s Bike House. I left around 630am and there was a thin fog on top of the mountain. After a short climb I reached the Blue Ridge Parkway. This is a beautiful, scenic drive along the Blue Ridge mountains as part of the Appalachian Mountains. The road is closed to commercial vehicles. I spent the majority of the morning climbing, and climbing and climbing. When you move at 4 mph you don’t cover a lot of ground, but the many scenic overlooks were breathtaking of the valley below. Land on either side of the road is maintained by the National Parks Service. It stretches for469 miles and is the longest, narrowest national park in the world and is the most visited park in the US National Parks System.
After what seemed like days of climbing mountains, I finally hit a long decent. One and a half miles later I hit flat land that took me into Lexington, VA. Lexington is a historic town where Stonewall Jackson and General Robert E. Lee (and his horse, Trigger) are buried. Upon pulling in to Lexington I was immediately approached by a cyclist named Rick. He eagerly asked if I was riding “The Trail” and then pointed out some places to eat as well as an ice cream shop around the corner. He then proceeded to tell me that he rode across the US on the Transamerica Trail as one of the original riders back in 1976 and then went on to describe the hills along the way leading out of Lexington.
I ate lunch and ventured to Sweet Things Ice Cream Shoppe for a treat. There I met Chris, the owner. Chris worked as a lawyer for a few years before he got burnt out “…ruining people’s lives with divorces and law suits,” he tells me. “Now I make ice cream.” Chris and I talked about cycling, Africa, religion (he was a preacher’s kid), and Tony Campolo among other things. He treated me to more ice cream than I could eat. Great ice cream, too! Homemade and very rich! (Hey Chris, tell Rick that I made it to Troutsville and got my century in!) It was great to meet Chris and stop in the ice cream shop and chat for a while.
I went out to get back on the trail when I found a small crowd gathered around my bike. People are fascinated by it, I have to say. I really half expected the bike and my trip to just be another biker going through town, but people are genuinely interested in me cycling across the US and curious about the bike. It’s quite different from my Uganda experience where they were just interested in staring at me. The big questions is, “is it comfortable”. And the answer is YES! I’ve been going for 5 days and my butt is fine. My legs have a dull ache to them, but that’s to be expected, but the butt is A OK.
From there I proceeded west. The big hills were behind me. Just some small ones to climb. I kept going and going. I wanted to get good miles in to make up for my rain day the day before. I’ve seen a number of animals along the route: deer, ground hogs, squirrels, turtles and foxes.
My route took me near the Natural Bridge in Virginia. It’s one of the 7 natural wonders of the modern world, so of course I had to see it. I’d seen pictures of it before my trip but nothing would have prepared me for the real thing. First off, the highway you take to get to it drives over the top of the bridge. Then you have to pay $13 admission to get in to see it (I skipped the additional package for the wax museum). The bridge is HUGE! 215 ft high and 90 ft wide! It’s much bigger than it looks in the pictures. 157 acres of land including the bridge was purchased by Thomas Jefferson in 1774 from King George III.
Finally, I pushed ahead to finish my mileage and bed down for the night. I reached Troutsville (population 424) at dusk and asked a passing couple out walking the dog if cyclists stayed anywhere in particular. They directed me to the city park. No sooner had I set up my tent and began to prepare my macaroni and cheese than Cecil, an older man wearing a sleeveless white shirt, blue jean shorts and tinted glasses approached me and welcomed me. He then told me he was the parks director and that he’d leave the men’s restroom unlocked for me and that I could shower across the street at the fire station. He also told me there was a restaurant 7.5 miles up the road called Nanny’s where I could get some good biscuits and gravy in the morning for breakfast for a reasonable price. He asked where I started from that morning and I told him. He said he couldn’t remember having someone biked there over 60-80 miles, including the “young, strapping ones like yourself” and that I had biked 100 miles. I was very happy with that! Very!