Today was full of ups and downs. It started late: Sara, Dom, Emily and I were up late (for me) last night, til about 10 talking. By the time I’d written last night’s post it was about 11:30, so I slept in a bit until about 7. Half asleep, I said good bye to Emily as she left for work. I got up and saw note shed left inviting us to anything in the fridge. She was the best. Dom and Sara were still asleep as I left. I’d later find out that they took a rest day in town due to some aches and pain. Best wishes to them.
I tried to grab food at a bagel place Emily recommended, but it was closed Monday. Instead I went to a coffee shop that opened at 9. I waited around for 15 minutes for it to open and talked with a nice local named Chelsea and a fireman/preacher who hosts cyclists at the firehouse. He said once they had 15 cyclists there who had a party and went crazy all over the equipment. I got a honeysuckle chai tea that was excellent and got on the road. Traffic was heavy even at 9 leaving town. I was riding straight towards the hills.
I reached an intersection with US 421, which was worrying because any US route is bound to be trafficy. However I immediately started a huge climb through the most surreal hills: they looked like they were straight out of the rainforest
I continued and at the top of the grade the shoulder just ended. This dumped me into the travel lane with lots of high speed cars. It was immediately unpleasant. Looking at the map, I was on it for a solid 20 miles. Shit. I rode for a while without too many issues, traffic was mostly respectful. Then I passed a quarry with gravel trucks thundering out onto the road. The gravel trucks were impatient and went very fast. I had the scariest moment of my trip when a logging truck (fully loaded) was coming up behind me on a steep climb. For some reason I pulled into the narrow <1 foot shoulder, with a 6 foot drop into a ditch, to give him room to pass. He took it, even though there was a blind corner coming up. As he starts to pass gravel trucks come.around the corner on the opposite side of the road. The logging truck driver jerks back over towards me. His wheels rolled over the shoulder line right into where I was riding, luckily about 5 feet ahead of where I was. I was insanely rattled after that and resorted to just pulling off (where possible) to let cars go. I don’t trust the drivers here to pass safely. I reached the top of a hill and rested in a family dollar. I asked the clerk about bypasses for 421 and she said there weren’t any. I checked google maps and saw something that looked like a bypass for an 8 mile section of 421. I went for it. Turns out the road I saw on Google maps doesn’t exist. I checked again and there was another detour, this one much longer. I went for it anyways. I rode for a long time, mostly downhill which worried me, and was considering just turning around. Right then I came around the corner and saw a nicely manicured lawn and a pretty house. A family was sitting on a porch so I called out to them and asked if I could get some directions. They told me to come on up. They were peeling corn all together. They offered me a seat and some cold water. I took both and told them about the difficult road and my attempted detour. They said the road I was on would work, but it was about 4 miles of gravel. It turned out that the patriarch of the family had been the head of the parks for the county. He knew all about the route because he used to host cyclists in a visitor center in town. We talked for a when the. They offered me corn on the cob, summer sausage, soda, and just an all around tasty lunch. The entire time I learned about them and their life, and told them a bit about myself. It was the patriarch, Darrell, his wife whose name I didn’t get, his son Daren, and a caretaker for the wife, since she’d had a stroke a few years ago and was developing dementia. It matched with an experience I’ve lived through with a loved one so we commiserated over that. As I was about to head out they went and got me apples, pears, and a bunch of food to take with me. They also refilled my bottles with bottled water. I got a photo because I really wanted to remember these people and the kindness they showed me when I was having a very rough day.
I continued down the road and followed their excellent instructions. Sure enough I hit gravel. It wasn’t too bumpy and I had a wonderful time riding through the beautiful trees. Somehow this entire section felt entirely downhill.
I got back to pavement and turned left and rode along a dog filled back road back to 421. It was just as busy as it had been earlier if not more so with school buses (it was around 3). I took it veryslow and pulled off when possible. Eventually I turned off 421 and thanked my lucky stars I was alive. It felt very dangerous.
I decided I was done for the day, as it was still 20+ miles over to my planned destination. I’d been recommended to check out Flat Lick as a cool detour, and been told it even had camping. I detoured a couple miles off route to the town of Gray Hawk and got a huge ice cream at a convenience store.
I asked about places to stay and they told me to go back the way I’d come to a place that I knew to be closed. I called a church to see about staying there and they said they’d never had anyone ask which is crazy because it’s only just off route. They were hesitant so I said don’t worry about it and just decided to camp. I went over to the Flat Lick. Turns out it’s actually a waterfall and a free campground. I went down and had a wonderful soak in the water.
Unfortunately I scared the hell out of a couple down there by accidentally sneaking up on them. I felt much more relaxed after the days events after that. I had the dinner that Darrell had given me (more corn, crackers and meat) and am sitting in my tent listening to crickets, the river, and the wind in the trees. It’s relaxing. I’m gonna get some sleep. My strategy for traffic tomorrow will be to ride very early, a 4 am wakeup. Night.
- Complete cookie
- Chai tea
- Jimmy dean sandwich
- Corn on the cob
- Family dollar sausage
- Cherry tomatoes
- Naked juice
- Trail mix
- Ice cream
- Broccoli fried
- Summer sausage
- Vienna sausage