Distance: 79.12 mi
Average Speed: 9.7 mph; Max Speed: 35.8 mph
Elevation Gain: 9,400 ft
Average Temp: 77.8 F; Temp Range: 62.6-100.4 F
Last night after I had written up my post it started pouring. Rain and lightning and wind enough to cause the power to flicker off for a few moments. At that point, I was mentally patting myself on the back for being a wimp and only riding 50 miles (in my head, that was wimping out). Having a hot shower and sleeping in a warm bed were also welcome parts of the evening.
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Where did I wake up on Day 61? I forgot to take a picture again!
I tossed and turned and had odd dreams including a very detailed one where I was in a pet store trying to get a cockatiel to keep mine company and contemplating which of the color mutations I thought most appealing: pied, whiteface, or lutino. Finally, I got up around 6AM to greet the day. I had a goal of riding about 80 miles, and while I didn’t think that would push the limits of daylight, I didn’t want to dawdle either.
I had prepped the coffee maker last night and only needed to add water (it’s apparently in an always on state, which I discovered last night when I tried to fill it for this morning and it started hissing and spitting hot water everywhere) and, of course, I had the corn fritter/pancakes I made last night for breakfast. It might have made for a quick get up and go if the coffee filter I used had actually fit the pot. As it was, water and grounds went all over the counter and I had to spend a few minutes mopping it all up.
After Daniel had fully loaded his bike he commented, somewhat teasingly, about how heavy it was. I picked it up, and bike and gear together are lighter than my bike. I’m mildly envious but not enough so to want to part with enough of my gear to be that minimalist.
The morning air was comfortable both in terms of temperature and humidity, so I set off in high spirits. My spirits even endured the first long climb of the day and the winding descent where I had to ride my brakes. Part of this was because I saw some of the effects of last night’s storm. Two trees were down in the first few miles of my ride, both blocking one lane of the two-lane road, the small stream next to the road was now much higher, swifter, and dirtier from all the runoff, and the roads were still wet. Yes, it was good to have been inside for all that.
The morning wasn’t all reminders of the rain, though. The sun was out and I was anticipating a major “last” for this trip. My last crossing of a state line.
I had a few interesting break stops today. At one, there was a dog sitting outside the convenience store. His’s coat was a lovely reddish color and somebody had put down food for him; presumably he was a regular. When I came out of the store, he came over to inspect what I was putting in my panniers. At least he wasn’t pushy about it, because at that point I noticed several hugely engorged ticks poking out of his fur. Eww.
At another I was tweaking my wheels, a now regular occurrence until I hit a bike shop since the rear wheel is wobbly enough that I notice it. (The one in Damascus won’t work, since tomorrow is Sunday and they won’t be open, but I should hit another in a day or so.) Thankfully it doesn’t impact stability overmuch, yet, but I want to avoid a second (fourth) broken spoke if I can. One gentleman figured out what I was doing and asked if I had warped a wheel. We chatted for a while, with a few other guys as well, about bike shops and the big hill I was about to climb. The mountain is called “Big A.” I asked if that stood for anything, but no. One man claimed that if you could see it from the sky it would look a bit like a capital A, so apparently that’s the origin of the name.
Big A was the fourth notable climb and for all that people had told me about it, it wasn’t as bad as I expected. I had to stop for a rest at one point, but I never had to walk any of it. There were even some good sight lines on the descent that allowed me to ease up the death grip readiness I was maintaining on the brakes.
It would have been nice if Big A was the last major climb of the day, but it wasn’t. There was one more bigish one and a few smaller ones to go. I pulled away from the last town before the final climb and a few minutes later began to notice storm clouds gathering behind me. When I heard a roll of thunder, I stopped to check the weather. What joy I experienced when I found a special weather statement saying that a strong thunderstorm with torrential rain, quarter sized hail, and wind gusts of up to 40 mph was headed my way at 10 mph. But it was headed east and I was headed south. There was a possibility that I would escape it (though others were on their way, they were further out). I passed a church with a “Cyclist Hostel” sign out front and considered stopping for the night, but decided to take a chance on the weather.
There were houses and fields along the approach to the mountain, and I looked at each one as if it were a potential bolt-hole from the rain. Then the climb proper began and there were no more bolt-holes. The road was narrow, a tight squeeze for two cars, with steep inclines on both sides (one up, one down). If the hail came, I would have to rely on the forest cover to soften the blow. I turned off my music to better hear the approach of any rain, stowed all non-waterproof electronics, and rode. But it had been too long since my last snack break, and I was beginning to feel the effects of that. A stop was in order, to scarf down a Clif Bar and some water before moving on.
Happily, I did make it to the top before the rain came. I expected at this point that I would be able to outrun the storm on the descent, but this was possibly the least comfortable or speedy descent of the entire trip. Steep, narrow, dark, with copious switchbacks. My poor brakes.
The town at the bottom of the descent is Hayters Gap. I’ve been mentally pronouncing it Haters Gap (Haters gonna hate) but I learned today that it’s an “ah” sound. Hahter’s Gap. I’m probably still saying it wrong, but it’s closer. When I told the man who first said it to me what I thought it was, he got a laugh out of that, commenting that I might hate the narrow winding road. It was lovely scenery, but I didn’t enjoy that part of the ride.
Hayters Gap was 8 miles from Meadowview, my destination for the night, and had no services to offer, so I kept on through. For some reason, I had thought that I would get to descent a little more, but it was in fact a gradual climb up to Meadowview. I was tired, the rain was approaching again, and I started counting down the miles.
I arrived at the church no more than 15 minutes before the rain hit. Between still being sweaty from my climb up the mountain and the wind from the storm, I was grateful to still have my down jacket. It is possible that my rain gear would have sufficed to help me warm up, but this was faster. The wind did mean that I had to throw all my panniers inside my tent to keep it from blowing away, though. I hope tonight is a bit calmer than the evening was.
Safe under a pavilion from whatever new storms the night may bring, well fed, and sleepy, it’s time to turn in. Tomorrow will be a slightly shorter day. There’s a taller climb, but I don’t think any more elevation gain than I had to deal with today. I haven’t had numbers like these since the Rockies.
Roadkill count: 5 birds, 1 raccoon, 1 skunk, 5 unknown mammals, 2 snakes, 2 turtles, 2 frogs, 2 newts*
*I’m fairly certain they were newts and not lizards, since they were bright red. I couldn’t tell for sure, but the color was similar to the Eastern Red Spotted Newt