The last couple of days have been amazing...about 60 and 56 miles, respectively, of some of the most gorgeous forest, farmland, plantations, and lakes I've ever seen. I did get poured rain on for the last couple of hours of each day, but it was nice and warm, so it wasn't so bad. At least it cleaned off my nasty, salty, sweaty, sunscreen-caked body.
The one thing I've learned about Virginia is that, surprisingly, going downhill sucks! Why? Because the descents are short, and you're met immediately on the other side by a really difficult ascent. I'd heard that the roads out in the West are of an easier grade, but are longer, while the Virginia hills are really short and really steep. Now I understand. In fact, I have now learned to hate going downhill. Really?! That's usually the fun part.
Since my last post, I camped one night behind an Episcopalian church, and was offered housing for the night by the Mineral (Virginia) Fire Department. The Episcopalian church in Mechanicsville, VA was just conveniently located near the Mexican restaurant I wanted to eat at, and it was located on a hill so there was a little concealed area down and to the rear where I could put my bike and not be seen. Bonus: there was a concrete slab in front of a door to the preschool that had a ROOF over it!!! Woo hoo!!! No tent hassle tonight, and no drying of the tent tomorrow.
The second night, at the fire department, was awesome. The firemen and women were super hospitable (they didn't have any inventory of patches or shirts to trade or sell....sorry, Orlando...I tried!!) and offered us the top floor where there were electrical outlets (phone charging), sinks (washing hands, prepping food), laundry facilities (washer and dryer...free), and indoor storage for our bikes. We had the run of the place. They're used to cyclists passing through, and so it's kind of become a tradition for them to house us wayward sweatbags. It was a real blessing to get to Mineral that night because the thought of camping out in the POURING rain, after getting soaked for the last two hours of riding, was not sounding really appealing.
You'll note that I said "us" in the last paragraph. Though we are all riding solo, I met up with Sam (Colorado, age 25) and Nick (Pennsylvania, age 20) who are also riding the TransAm. We all got along famously and had lots of stories and tips to share with each other. It was really interesting to see what other people are using for gear and what they did/didn't bring. I have the most shit. That equals the HEAVIEST load. (And this is after I stopped at a post office in a small town along the way and mailed 10-12 pounds of stuff home). I may have a few more things to get rid of soon because the biggest hills (so I'm told) of the trip are coming in the next two days. Some say they're worse than the Rockies. I can't believe that, but I gotta believe that!
Sam is riding 60-80 miles a day and trying to get across in 2 months...much faster than Nick and I plan to go. So, today, Sam took off...then Nick took off...and finally I took off. That's nice thing about being alone, but meeting other people. You can still be on your own schedule, but have familiar faces around. We all traded cell numbers, so that if anyone got in trouble or stopped somewhere for lunch/dinner/sleeping, we'd maybe all be able to congregate. As it turns out, Sam was LONG gone, but I caught up to Nick at lunch where he was eating a turkey sandwich under a shade tree. After a nice lunch of chocolate milk, turkey sandwich, a small bag of cheetos (they came with the sandwich!!), and a banana, I was mostly refreshed. Nick and I hit the road, and it turned out we ride at a very similar pace so we stayed together all day.
Finally, getting close to Charlottesville and the end of today's ride, we passed Ashlawn (James Monroe's beautiful acreage...he was our fifth president) and Monticello (Thomas Jefferson's opulent hillside spread...he was our, uh, whateverth president). Nick and I managed to get ourselves kicked out of Monticello. We didn't know that you couldn't just ride in the gates, ride up the hill, and get a photo of the famous house that's in all the history books. No, apparently you have to dismount, board a bus, pay 20 bucks, and be shuttled up to the house to take a photo. Maybe you get to go in and have a look around too, but we were way too waterlogged and tired by this point to go through all of that. We just wanted a picture and had no idea that we were trespassing if we rode up the hill on our own. We got part way up the hill and an old dude started yelling at us and chasing us down....he ripped us pretty good and told us we had to leave and then stood there and watched us go until he was satisfied we were really gone. He was kind of a dick. Yes, he was just doing his job, but still. I was pissy after riding for hours and being soaked to the bone so I kind of yelled back at him for being such an asshole. Then we left before he called in more nasty, old man troops for backup.
Now, we sit in the Budget Inn, drying out, and drinking the best damn Budweisers we ever tasted, courtesy of Virginia Jerry, some motocross-racin', chain-smokin', local boy who just moved back from California and for some reason felt like greeting us outside the hotel with encouragement. I love nice people. The last few days have been filled with them; there have been lots of smiles, waves, "where y'all goin's", and "be safes" out there on the road. It's encouraging to see that there are such great, supportive people out there. They are definitely outnumbering the assholes who pass closely, those who honk, and others who pass at speed on blind curves only to swerve back in front of me when there's an oncoming car. There are also "No Trespassing" signs on private property everywhere, but it's nice to see a number of "Welcome" signs out in front of peoples' houses too. I may need to take advantage of one of those "Welcome" signs soon when I need water or a place to camp.
Nick and I are off to dinner. I was able to do a longer blog entry tonight because Nick is carrying his computer along, whereas all my entries up to this point, and probably in the future, have been by my cell phone keypad.
Thanks for listenin'...thanks for followin'...
Love to all.