Distance: 70.59 mi
Average Speed: 10.6 mph; Max Speed: unknown
Elevation Gain: unknown
Average Temp: unknown; Temp Range: unknown
* My Garmin crashed late in the day. It restarted with the correct mileage, but seems to have lost details about route, elevation gain, speed, and temperature for a large part of the route.
The biggest storm last night was the one that passed by as I was getting ready to cook dinner, I think. Either that or I was sound asleep by the time the next one hit and I didn’t hear a thing of it. Either way, I slept well enough. It was still mostly dark when I woke up a bit before 6, which facilitated using the non-existent facilities without being seen by any of the houses who had backs facing the church. I went about my normal routine of breakfast and breaking camp while wearing my rain pants and jacket. It wasn’t raining, yet, though the forecast predicted plenty of precipitation, but it was chilly and I figured that since I was likely going to have to get the rain gear out soon enough anyway, why not now?
As I was getting ready to leave someone, the pastor maybe, came and opened up the church. He greeted me and asked if I wanted to come inside and use the restroom. (Only about 3 times since arriving, but we’ll overlook that for now.) I thanked him and took advantage of the bit of civilization before setting off for the day.
Today’s elevation profile contained a slow climb to Damascus followed by what looked like a tall mountain with one smaller peak on each side. A fair bit of climbing, but it didn’t look as steep as some of the other days’ climbs have been. I was settled in for a good day of riding. And rain. The rain started coming down within an hour of when I started. By the time I reached Damascus, only 15 miles into my day, I was drenched. At least this rain was the kind of rain that it’s mostly safe to ride in. Yeah, traction, braking, and visibility are always affected when it’s raining, but unlike last night’s storm, this one didn’t come with gusting wind or lightning. It was just water. Lots of it.
I stopped at a popular café to warm up and have a snack and possibly wait out some of the rain. The only problem with the café was that it was air conditioned to the point where I was cold most of the time I was there. I ordered a coffee and a cinnamon bun, and spent nearly an hour eating and talking to people who noticed my bike outside and wanted to know where I was riding to and from and how long had I been on the road, and so on. It was a nice way to spend some time.
On my ride into town I had noticed a few bike rental places open, so as I was enjoying my second cup of coffee, I did a quick search on my phone. Yesterday I assumed, based on the last few weeks’ experience, that most things would be closed on a Sunday. But Damascus caters to Appalachian Trail hikers and people cycling the Virginia Creeper Trail. Right next to the café was a bike store and it was, indeed, open, so I wheeled the bike in to have the spoke looked at.
I was told by the mechanic that the spokes I got at the last place were too long and he doesn’t know how the guy made them fit. He gave a few that were shorter, but still not exactly the right size. Good enough, in his opinion, so he installed one and put a second next to my pump (where I was keeping the other two spares) just in case. He also retrued the wheel, saying that I had done a pretty good job of keeping the wobble down considering that I didn’t have caliper brakes. Since caliper brakes grab the rim from both sides, they can be used to help fine-tune the wheel. Disc brakes are mounted towards the center and on one side. This means that wheel wobble doesn’t affect braking as much, but you won’t have a reference point for reducing wobble. I use one of my tools leaned against the rack and held as steady as possible. If I had been in a position to buy souvenirs, I would have been spoiled for choice here. Instead of souvenirs, I took some pictures.
It didn’t take long to get the wheel fixed, and I chatted to the mechanic as he worked. The ride, the AT, Chicago (he has a relative who went to the University of Chicago). I even told him a story or two from my days researching in Thailand, the one about having something roar from a bush two feet behind me and fleeing as fast as I could. When he was done, he said tell the people upfront to charge me for one spoke ($2). I suspect there was a labor charge that didn’t get added. At the register, I told them to charge me for two spokes, since he had given me a spare. The last time I got my rear wheel fixed it took 40 minutes and cost over $60. This time it took less than 30 minutes and cost me $4. Average repair cost, $32.
On my way out of town, I couldn’t resist stopping to take a hike on the Appalachian Trail. So it was only 50 feet of trail, I can still say I hiked on the AT, right?
The rain had slowed, meaning that I wasn’t wiping droplets or fog off my glasses every few minutes, but it hadn’t stopped. The climb kept me long for as long as it lasted, but the descent between peak 1 and peak 2 left me chilled. So I did the only rational thing: I stopped at the town nestled there for another cup of coffee and a snack. I’ve had so much caffeine today! The people in the Konnarock store were very friendly, letting me know before I even asked where I could wash out and fill up my water bottles with good mountain well water and so on. And the locals who were in for lunch chatted with me for a while about my ride. By the time I left, the rain had stopped.
The next two climbs were much nicer than the first because the rain had stopped. But all of the climbs today were more comfortable than those of the last few days. The grades were nice, the roads were wide enough to feel comfortable, and the descents were fun! With reasonable grades going both up and down and gentle curves, I didn’t have to ride my brakes like I’ve been doing. Just about the only time I braked was on straight portions to allow cars to pass me more quickly.
Oh, and the sun made an appearance. That was nice, although the humidity started to rise at that point with the recent rain evaporating off the road and surrounding surfaces. Overall, though, the afternoon was pleasant. Much more so than the rainy morning.
And even with the repair and longer than usual stops to avoid the worst of the rain, I got to my intended destination around 4PM. I checked in with the community center and then made my way to the park. There was a small group of people under the pavilion there as I sat to plan out my next (last!) few days. After noting that the park had a port-a-potty and no water source, I decided that tonight was a good night to go out to eat. Not for the bathroom, but for access to water. I brought my 3L Camelbak with me and filled it up at the restaurant before I left. That should be enough for tonight, breakfast, and leaving the park with 3 full bottles tomorrow morning.
And tomorrow should be the day of another last for this tour. The last map section switch. Tomorrow I should retire map section 11 for map section 12. It’s final days now. And Vesuvius looms every closer…
Roadkill count: 4 birds, 2 cats, 1 possum, 2 raccoons, 5 unknown mammals, 1 newt