Biologist on a Bike

Day 63: Wythville, VA to Catawba, VA


Distance: 78.66 mi
Average Speed: 10.2 mph; Max Speed: 32.9 mph
Elevation Gain: 4,607 ft
Average Temp: 76.3 F; Temp Range: 59.0-95.0 F

I did not sleep well last night. The park where I was is apparently a popular one and there were people around several times. They weren’t loud, but I woke up anyway. And made sure my knife was handy. Yeah, not a solid night of sleep.

The view from my tent last night

Where I woke up, Day 63

I was happy enough to wake up in the morning (somewhat tired) and nearly jumped out of my skin when I pulled open the door to the ladies room to find a woman already in there fussing with a makeup box. She said something about her roommate being asleep with…company…so she had spent the night in the park. There’s a place in the small gazebo where you can crawl up into the roof and nobody will know you’re there. I wonder how many times she’s done that. I lent her the use of a charger, she had a cable but not the bit to plug into the wall, and we talked a bit as I got ready. Not much because I wasn’t caffeinated yet. She gave me one of her bandanas before she left as, she said a reminder of Wythville. This might sound a bit harsh, but I was needing a new rag for cleaning my bike chain off; my old bandana is too greasy and should likely just be tossed.

I was on the road a bit before 7 AM, admiring the low clouds hovering over the mountains. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it more than 8 miles before a ping alerted me to another broken spoke. Yes, another. This makes four! This one was also on the rear wheel, but not on the drive side, so I sat down to try and sort it out. It would have gone better had I been able to remove the cassette, but I got the shorter spoke from the Damascus store positioned only to realize that I couldn’t get it to thread into the spoke nipple. My frustration level at that point was high enough that I had to stop and take several deep breaths before doing anything else. I then repeated the entire maddening process with one of the longer spokes and got that one in properly.

Low clouds

Since the bike was already unloaded, it seemed like a good time to try and address my shifting issue. That didn’t go as well as I had hoped, but I didn’t make anything worse. Didn’t make it any better either.

Frustration of that caliber is difficult for me to shake off, so when I saw a restaurant a few miles later, I stopped in for pancakes. I wanted a break in my day that would let me start “fresh” so to speak. It mostly worked.

Off again in a somewhat better mood, I worked my way through constant rollers. I almost miss yesterday’s big climbs. No, strike that. I definitely miss the big climbs because it’s a pain to try and shift down into the smallest chainring and have the chain not move. Even more maddening is that it shifts perfectly when unloaded, so the bike shops couldn’t fix it. I’ve the low limit screw and that helped a bit, but also increases the risk of the chain slipping off entirely. It’s a calculated risk, I suppose.


At one stop there were some storm clouds looming. One woman came into the gas station saying it was pouring five miles down the road and headed our way, but my phone said no rain was expected for 2 hours. I took a chance on the phone and kept riding.

The entire county welcomes cyclists. I like this sign.

Guinea Fowl

Such a deer family.

Perspective is funky. This barn looks like it has no roof, but the structure to the left is another shed, not the barn wall.

Fifty-five miles into my day, I achieved another last. The last map change! I have now completed 11 map sets and have only map section 12 to go!

One map more!

I even got a text from some work friends asking how I was doing. I sent them an update with a smiling photo.

368 miles from the end

But mostly today was a grueling slog of hills, difficulty shifting—even to the point of having to stop and roll the bike forward a bit without me on it to get the chain to shift down properly—and lingering tiredness from last night’s poor night sleep.

Covered bridge

A lovely view once the clouds cleared up

The road

Little purple orchids

Twenty miles from my destination, I called the hostel to see if there was space and there was, which was good since the next nearest place to stay was either 20 miles past that or 5 miles back. It was a few miles off the trail, so I let the GPS find me the fastest way to get there, a route which involved a slog uphill and a glorious and somewhat winding downhill. I almost missed the hostel, got honked at for not getting completely off the road to check the address on my map, and pushed my bike up the gravel driveway. There are seven Appalachian Trail hikers (most not attempting a thru-hike) here, making for some interesting conversation. Still, if there had been another place to stay in the area, I likely would have headed there after seeing the confederate battle flag hanging next to the US flag on the hostel wall.

I have a nice bunk, ate a good meal, had a shower, and washed my clothes. The clothes are hung up outside and it’s even odds whether they end up dryer or soaked by rain when I wake up tomorrow, but even if I ride in damp clothes, at least they won’t smell bad.

A hiker offered me some wine as I ate, and that combined with not drinking or eating as well as I should have today has left me feeling like somebody hit me over the head with a tired stick. Bed calls. An actual bed. No sheets, but my bag liner and quilt will do for that. I am certain that I should sleep better than last night’s interrupted attempts.

Roadkill: 5 birds, 1 possum, 1 raccoon, 2 squirrels, 7 unknown mammals, 1 snake

Map Day 63

5 thoughts on “Day 63: Wythville, VA to Catawba, VA

  1. Linda Beutler

    The “little purple orchids” are Lathyrus latifolius, the perennial sweet pea. Not a New World native, but now a common form of Roadsidea vulgaris tribe of wildflowers. Sadly, they are wholly unscented.

  2. Leslie Diamond

    Wine doesn’t sound great after a long day on the road. Hopefully, you don’t wake up slightly hung over in the morning!

    1. Spin Doctor Post author

      I made sure to drink plenty of water before I drank any alcohol to minimize that possibility. It seems to have worked.

  3. Terry J

    Things that would be major calamities to me seem to be minor irritations to you. The fact that you’re on Day 63 and still haven’t totally lost your cool says a lot abt your character.

    Your pictures are captivating. A day well done.

    1. Spin Doctor Post author

      Oh, I lost my cool when the second spoke broke. I slipped into that angry/frustrated/want to cry mood that happens sometimes when things are overwhelming and out of your control. But that is not a mood that facilitates clear thinking; I try to avid it when I can. I am more successful than I was 10 years ago, and hopefully getting better every year.

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