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September 19, 1992 Breaks to Elk Garden (46 miles, 3850 ft, $30)

It wasn’t raining when we got up so we decided to make a run for it with a planned breakfast down the road.  We noticed potato bugs in our room as we packed things up.  Not a great hotel room but good enough considering how wet we were yesterday when we got here.  For the first bit, the road was a lot of up and down.  At the top of one hill I noticed Dave sort of twitching more than usual.  This normally means that he has to go the bathroom and a stop is imminent.  I asked him if he needed to stop but he replied no.  He still seemed to be fidgeting and he pedaled with some urgency up the hill.  At the top I found why.  He quickly pulled us off the road and whipped his helmet off.  One of our potato bug friends had been crawling on his head.  He did not want to stop on the uphill and knew that if he told me about the bug we’d have to stop and fumigate.  I had a feeling that was what was going on but I didn’t say anything.  Needless to say we did a complete cleaning at the top!

Next stop was at Haysi for breakfast.  It had started to rain so we procrastinated a bit.  Dave had a second order of biscuits and I had a hot chocolate.  Eventually, we gave up and rode in the rain.  More climbing with a couple stops to put on and take off rain gear as the rain stopped and started.  We stopped to eat again in Honaker, breadsticks and chocolate chip cookies.  From there it was 6 miles to Rosedale and the rain was really coming down.  The traffic had also picked up and it seemed everyone was driving too fast. 

We spotted a hotel and pulled over to discuss our options.  The owners informed us that there were no rooms until Marion, which given the conditions looked too far.  They told us that the church hostel was not very nice either.  We decided to go 7 miles the wrong way to Lebanon and get a hotel.  The hostel was on the way and we could at least check it out.

Our hotel friends were right about the old hostel, the log cabin behind the church was the old hostel and it was almost falling down.  The rest of the hostel, however, they got all wrong.  For starters, the local church wives were having a bake sale that day.  There’s nothing better than a bake sale and hot coffee to take the edge off a rainy day.  It got even better as the church was also having its monthly Saturday night spaghetti feed that night.  Lots of great food and before long we’d forgotten the rain.  They didn’t have showers but a sponge bath did the trick.  Finally, they offered to let us sleep inside the church sanctuary as it had the best carpet.  We helped clean up after the feed, Dave washed dishes.  We broke the “wet feet = hotel room” rule but it was still a great end to a soggy day.

Tomorrow we head over Hayters Gap.  It’s supposed be the last big climb in this part of the Appalachians.

September 19, 1992 Elk Garden to Wytheville (71 miles, 4510 ft, $58)

Even though it was raining in the morning, we got up on time.  We did not want to be sleeping in the sanctuary when the parishioners started to show up for Sunday service!  We had to climb Hayters Gap almost straight away and it turned out it was not too bad.  It was foggy in the valley but we actually got above the clouds as we climbed.  Very pretty terrain.  We stopped at Meadowview for a morning snack.  A guy driving a souped-up car asked us where we were going.  When we told him the ocean, he sort of dropped his jaw and told us it was a long way.  He was completely speechless when we told him that we had started at the other ocean, on the Oregon Coast!

We took Route 11 all the way from Meadowview to Wytheville.  Traffic was pretty light.  Lots of rolling hills but nothing too steep, though we had a pretty strong headwind the entire way.  Seems like we are back into the farmland and out of the mountains once again.  We’re in the Shenandoah Valley, the great valley between the older and newer Appalachian Mountains.  Hopefully tomorrow we’ll have fewer hills.

We got a hotel room, as there was no camping.  The hotel had laundry, which was nice as the last few days of rain and grime meant we needed a good wash.  We had a greasy but tasty dinner at Long John Silvers fish house.

Tomorrow we’re not sure where we are riding.  The only town with camping appears to be 50 miles off, which might be too short if the hills and weather cooperate.  We are supposed to have a rest day the next day, so we’ll look for something nicer.

September 20, 1992 Wytheville to Blacksburg (56 miles, 2850 ft, $122)

We had blueberry pancakes for breakfast today.  The owner of the restaurant told us of a service road out of town that would have minimal traffic, better than the route our map showed.  You never know about hills or winds when the local, non-cyclists recommend route but normally they are spot on for road traffic.  This proved to be another example of that, it was a nice quite road, and not too hilly either!

We stopped for a snack in Bradford.  There was a bike shop there and we asked about camping.  They were not much help, guess you never camp in your own hometown.  From there we rode to Blacksburg, a small city a little off the route.  It’s a college town, the home of Virginia Tech so it looked like a fun place for a rest day.  We stopped at the Chamber of Commerce for a B&B flyer or hot tip on a fun place.  It’s all a little more expensive than we’d like for our budget but it looks like a fun place.  We found a B&B called Per Diem.  It’s right on the edge of campus and looks nice.  Separate residence for the owners so it should be quiet.  The people who own it are very nice.  Already we’ve really hit it off with them, to the point of the first night they offered us free use of their beach house in the Outer Banks NC at the end of our trip.  We’ll have to potentially re-think the trip up to DC and seriously consider the offer.

The husband, Vic, is an art professor at the University.  The B&B is full of his work.  We asked about a poster and he said that he would sign one and mail it back to Portland for us.  Big country breakfast planned for the AM, out by the pool.

September 21, 1992 Blacksburg rest day (0 miles, 0 ft, $112)

We slept in until 7:30 then got up and swam in the pool – the water was nice and warm.  We had a great breakfast, read the paper and kept the B&B coffee machine going.  The B&B has a boxer named Ziggy, a great dog that was really fun to play with.  He barked a little but only to get your attention.  Dave worked on the bike in the driveway.  We took the chains off and headed to a bike shop to get them cleaned.  Then we wandered around town a bit and had lunch and another coffee.  Overnight the bike computer battery died so we had to replace them.  Nice to have that happen on the rest day.

We had a coffee at little shop on campus, thinking it actually might be the first espresso based coffee since leaving Oregon.  When the waitress asked me if I wanted whipped cream on my latte, I readjusted my standard a bit.  When she finished taking our order, turned to the automated hot chocolate/coffee machine and punched a button, I abandoned all hope of a proper latte.  No Starbucks revolution here yet, even on the college campus.

We returned to the B&B after lunch and hung out.  Jo Pat informed us that the local TV station was going to swing by and film us for the evening news.  We lazed around the afternoon waiting for our 15 minutes of fame.  They finally arrived at 6:30.  We put on our bike cloths and rode a few laps round the news van.  The camera guy kept fumbling things up and after 3 or 4 tries decided that the camera was broken.  They gave up and left – we got cut before even making it onto film!

For dinner, we hit the local Chinese joint that Vic recommended.  Jo Pat is going to make us breakfast earlier than she normally would, 7AM.  Looking at the map, it appears that we might only have 6 days of riding left.  Guess it depends on the weather as it’s been raining more lately.  This has been our best rest day so far, mostly because of the great people we met.

September 22, 1992 Blacksburg to Natural Bridge KOA park  (73 miles, 2980 ft, $32)

We had blueberry pancakes for breakfast, with fruit and zucchini bread too.  It was sad saying goodbye to Jo Pat and Vic.  Jo Pat gave us both big hugs and even said it felt like it was her own kids leaving.  They gave us the key to their beach house and for sure we’re going to use it.  Got out of town around 8:15.

The morning ride was through a very scenic valley, lots of farms and old houses.  It was a school day so we had an hour or so where we leap-frogged with the school buses.  We stopped for snacks in Daleville and then again in Buchanan.  We stocked up on dinner supplies at Buchanan, not knowing what the campground might have. 

We stopped at Natural Bridge but found that it was private.  It had a tall fence and to actually see it you had to walk a ways in – couple that with no bike friendly/safe parking and we decided to skip it.  Not quite what we expected when we heard that George Washington was the first owner.  Guess the first president was a businessman also.

We are staying at the KOA campground 4 miles down the road.  Nice campground, clean showers and laundry.  It has all the normal KOA “don’t touch this” signage, but that’s to be expected.  It seems that somewhere in the KOA franchise kit the owners get a handy dandy sign making machine.  Everything is signed.  Don’t do this, don’t stand here, this is a tree, this is a building and so on.  Some of the owners make lots of “don’t” signs, some just make lots of signs.  This one was a “don’t” signer.  We followed instructions and avoided KOA jail.

Tomorrow is a big day.  We tackle the infamous “Vesuvius” climb that we’ve heard so much about.  The climb takes you up onto the Blue Ridge Parkway so I hope the reward will be worth it.  We hope to call on the “Cookie Lady”, another of those route icons, though we heard she was thinking about retiring.  It’s already dark at 7:30, autumn is coming.

September 23, 1992 Natural Bridge KOA park to Afton, Cookie Lady (62 miles, 5230 ft, $31)

Boy was it cold this morning.  Clear sky and frost everywhere.  We left camp later than planned but thought it a good idea to let the roads thaw out.  We wore long finger gloves and tights.  We stopped in Lexington for a hot cup of decaf and a few minutes under the blow dryer in the bathroom.  Dave was not shy about using the women’s rest room when he found that the men’s dryer did not work.  We actually slid on some ice on a corner coming into town.  Dave pretended we didn’t so I would not be nervous but he was pretty quick to stop at the first mini-mart we saw.  We hung out in the rest room for quite a while.  It wasn’t much warmer starting up plus we’d changed direction and had a biting headwind.

We eventually covered the 30 miles that took us to the base of the big climb, Vesuvius.  It was 4 miles from the valley floor to the Parkway on the top.  We settled into our lowest gear and kept expecting it to get really hard.  It never did.  Before we knew it, we were at the top.  It was actually pretty anti-climatic, certainly nothing compared to Teton Pass or many of the no-name roads in the Ozarks.  We really couldn’t figure out why the cyclists coming from the East would have thought much of it.  Sure they hit it early in their trips before they had months of road conditioning, but then it was also downhill for them.  Strange.

The Blue Ridge Parkway was very nice.  It has a fairly low maximum speed that is strictly enforced and virtually no traffic.  We rode 30 or so miles of beautiful rolling mountain top road with leaves changing to autumn colors.  It was still a little cold and we never got out of our tights but the scenery made out it worthwhile.

We stopped for lunch in Fork Mountain and again for a snack at a Forest Service information center.  They had a heater at the information center, which was very difficult to leave.  I read every book in the shop until finally buying an Appalachian cookbook more out of guilt for hanging out so long than any desire to cook!

We debated staying at a hotel at the junction where we left the parkway.  It was all downhill to the Cookie Lady’s house but we were not sure that she would be open.  We decided to push on and were glad we did.  She is open and wow, what a place.  Over the past 25 years thousands of people have stopped.  Many left something or sent her a gift.  She has set up the house next to hers as a hostel and it has become a bicycle tourist shrine.  We filled hours reading the walls and looking at pictures.  The Cookie Lady herself was a real sweet lady.  To think this place got started back in the 70’s just because she offered water to a passing rider.

Hope it will be warmer tomorrow.  The forecast sounds like rain.  It seems that the remnants of Hurricane Andrew (the one the hit Florida really hard) is making its way up to Virginia.  It’s not a hurricane anymore but it has big bands of very heavy rain still.

September 24, 1992 Afton, Cookie Lady to Charlottesville (20 miles, 310 ft, $71)

Not cold this morning, just raining sideways and blowing real hard.  We hit the snooze button a couple times but it never really let up. We got up, ate breakfast and packed very slowly.  The Cookie Lady looked in on us and said that we were welcome to stay another day as the forecast looked very wet.  We chatted with her until 10AM, with an eye out the window looking for the break in the rain.  It never came.

I’m not sure why but we decided to give it a go, at least we could do the downhill part to Charlottesville.  Boy did we get wet.  It rained the entire way, with a real downpour coming as we hit town.  We had to stop at the information center on the edge of town, not for directions but because Dave could not actually see it was raining so hard.  We had to ride through some puddles so deep that our feet were under water as we pedaled.  Good thing they didn’t have big potholes under the surface.

Eventually, we made our way to a budget motel in the middle of town and checked in at noon (the clerk took pity on use and let us check in early).  Yes, we met the wet feet rule today, make that puckered feet today!  We turned the room heat up all the way, strung a cloths line across the room and hung up our wet cloths.  It’s a good thing we have everything in zip lock bags, as even our thick panniers were wet on the inside.

We walked across the street to the Italian Villa, which served breakfast all day.  We had pancakes and warm coffee, then went back to the room to take a nap in our newly created sauna.

We watched the news and it sounded like the coast really got battered.  We called Jo Pat to see if her beach house was OK and if we could still use it.  Guess the storm was not as bad there so it was ok.  It was nice to talk to her.

Tomorrow we head for Richmond, about 69 miles.  That’s the plan anyway, but who knows with the rain though.  We’ve left the Bikecentennial route again and will take the old road, highway 250 all the way to Richmond.

September 25, 1992 Charlottesville to Richmond (65 miles, 2120 ft, $77)

Got up and had pancakes across the street.  We stopped on the way out of town at the University of Virginia to get a photo of “Monticello”.  We stopped for a snack at a mini-mart.  They were having a grand opening party with free giveaways, and I won a Virginia lottery T-shirt.  Later we snuck into a polo match to use their porta-potties.  It seems that none of the stores in these parts let you use the facilities.

We rode Highway 250 all the way to Richmond.  It nice rolling terrain without too much traffic early, picking up as we got closer to Richmond.  The town was pretty much strip malls, Wal-Marts and cheap motels.  We chose a Super 8 on the near side of town; we’ll tackle riding through the city earlier in the day tomorrow.   Dave asked for a no smoking room when he checked us in.  The room turned out to be really smelly so I sent Dave back to check.  The clerk told him that no smoking meant that they didn’t equip that room with an ashtray!  She offered to have someone come spray it but we declined, perfume and smoke would have been worse.  Oh well, it’s only one night.

For dinner we wandered across the street to Morrison’s Cafeteria.  When I stepped to the counter, the guy behind asked me what I would like to have as my main.  He said, “What would you like Ma’am…. Sir…. Ma’am…. Sir…..  <silence>…?”  I got my hair cut very short before the trip.  I’m not as brave as Dave is when it comes to letting anyone cut his hair.  When you travel on a bike earrings and make-up become more trouble than they are worth also.  All that coupled with a good tan and the poor clerk did not know what I was.  Dave was on the floor laughing.   Food was ok, for sure all the “big southern eaters” stopped here.  Not too many skinny people that we could see.

Tomorrow we’re off to Smithfield, across the Jamestown Ferry. 

September 26, 1992 Richmond to Smithfield (81 miles, 890 ft, $107)

We had pecan waffles at the Waffle House for breakfast.  We rode right through the middle of Richmond.  It would have been a nightmare yesterday afternoon but on Sunday morning, we had the streets to ourselves.  Downtown seemed pretty worse for wear.  We stopped at Varina a little out of town to snack and use the bathrooms.  Several locals chatted with us, generally very friendly.  From there it pretty flat until the ferry, we made great time, arriving at 11:00 at the ferry.

The ferry cost $.15 per bike and again, they charged us for only one bike even though there were two of us riding.  It was about a 20-minute ride, complete with a period sailing ship cruising the river to entertain us. 

We stopped for lunch in Surry and then rode the last 20 miles to Smithfield.  The roads were nice and quite today, good for cycling.  A local cyclist whom Dave found on the Internet suggested the route.  Tonight we are staying at a very nice hotel, over our budget but it’s the last night.  We walked the town, lots of nice historic buildings, then had dinner in the hotel restaurant.  We splurged and had room service bring us dessert.  I don’t think that we could have gotten that in Muddy Gap!

Tomorrow is our last day.  It’s about 70 miles to Virginia Beach.  Hopefully the roads will be quite.  We are after tourist season so it should be just the locals.

September 27, 1992 Smithfield to Virginia Beach (63 miles, 510 ft, $111)

On our last day of riding across the continent, the hotel served us a “continental” breakfast.  Dave thought that was pretty clever. 

There was lots of fog starting out in the morning.  We stopped in Suffolk for a snack.  From there to the end of the day we had a lot of traffic.  We had a flat tire in the morning also, our 10th flat tire of the trip.  Actually, that’s not bad for a tandem and 4000 miles.  Only trouble with this flat was the drainage ditch beside the road where we changed it, thousands of mosquitoes descended on us as Dave made a quick change.

We only got lost once today which is pretty good for city riding.  When were stopped trying to our next move, a policeman pulled up behind us with his lights flashing.  We weren’t doing anything wrong, he was just a tri-athlete and he wanted to help / chat with us.  He gave us a better route.

We finally reach the beach at 2:30.  It was very deserted and pretty foggy.  Still, we were thrilled to be there!  We took our shoes off and walked in the waves, snapped lots of photos and wrote our names in the sand.  It felt strange to be done.  The next road to the east was somewhere across the ocean.  We hung out for a long time, just enjoying the moment.

Eventually, it started to rain so we headed off to find a hotel.  It was pretty easy as everything seems to empty out here once summer is over.  We called our parents from the room, showered and headed to a fancy restaurant for dinner.  We celebrated with a beer!

September 28, 1992 Car to Atlantic Beach NC

We spent the morning getting a rental car and arranging details for a week in NC.  After seeing lots of monuments of some historic event or another from the side of the road for the past two months, we decided to skip DC this trip.  A week a Jo Pat and Vic’s beach house was just what we needed. 

We drove most of the way there (250 miles) in a little over 4 hours.  Both of us could not get over how fast we chewed up miles in the car.  We would have taken three days to cover the same ground on the bikes.  We’d see signs for something 30 miles away and we would be past it before our bike speed minds were ready.  And of course, we had a strong tailwind all day long!

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