Today was probably one of my favorite days of the trip. I got up at 5:45 after a great night of sleep and packed up. I went and got some breakfast provided by the hotel which was excellent. My plan was for a big day into Charlottesville, including the last major climb of the route, Vesuvius and the Blue Ridge Parkway! I left the hotel at 7 to beautiful clear blue skies and chilly weather.
Everything looked clean after the heavy rains and the smells in the air were damp and pleasant. I rode through town and saw the college that I didn’t get to explore and a bunch of awesome little stores and restaurants I didn’t get to visit: I may need to come back here. The streams were swollen and somewhat scary.
I rode for a good 13 miles upstream through this valley. I took a video of the eerie riding through fog
I reached the town of Vesuvius. This marked the start of the final major club of the trip. I’d heard about this climb for a long time, it was said to be extremely steep and difficult. Unfortunately for the climb, I’ve been training to do it for over two months now. The climb didn’t disappoint: there were some extremely steep sections though they were linked by less steep sections that gave me time to catch my breath. It was just under 4 miles long, perhaps the highest climb since the Rockies. After a bit less than an hour I came up over the top of the hill and reached the blue ridge parkway, marking the end of the climb! I was so happy, I’d just completed the last major hurdle before the end of the ride.
This also marked the completion of one of my personal goals: do the entire transam without walking my bike up any inclines. Indeed: I’ve climbed every hill on my route, and I couldn’t be happier about it.
I pulled onto the parkway ecstatic, this was kind of my reward for the climb, and generally the final major landmark on the trip. Making things better, the weather was perfect. About 70 degrees and not a cloud in the sky. Interestingly the wind was very strong on the parkway, to the point that it was actually cold up there. I enjoyed it, having been hot for over 2 months of riding.
Traffic on the parkway was miraculously almost nonexistent. It was stunningly empty and that made it all the more beautiful.
The parkway started with a climb. I recorded a video of it
From there there were rolling hills, leading to a massive descent over cobbled stonework holding up the road. The views out the right side of the parkway were excellent
It was surreal getting scenic vistas again. I feel like I’ve been trapped down on the trees for a month, and I kind of have been. Kentucky and Western Virginia both are fairly flat, offering precious little visibility of your surroundings.
After the descent I reached a large climb and the views changed to the left side.
I stopped for a lunch of beef jerky and granola. I climbed some more and reached an area called Hump Back Rock. I didn’t see any rocks so descended to the visitor center. A very nice ranger let me put my bike in his office and I went and did the 2 mile hike back up to the rocks. The views from the top were worth it.
I met a threesome doing the hike: Klaus, Stew, and Rudy. Klaus and Stew are doctors (one a radiologist one a PhD) and Rudy is a dog, a sweet Siberian husky. The guys are both mountain bikers and knew about the transam. We chatted the whole way about different touring routes. Klaus warned me not to get hit by a car around here: the trauma unit has a policy of testing for muscle response with a finger where the sun don’t shine. I left them at the top and hurried down to get back on the road: I was worried about afternoon traffic. I had some more rolling hills for 6 miles before getting a big descent down to 250. This marked the end of the Blue Ridge Parkway. I took over 50 photos. You can view them here, but I’ve also included a minimal selection inline
I descended on the terrifying US 250 with someone tailgating me for some reason, then turned onto a nice windy road through the town of Afton. It took me to the bottom of the Blue Ridge Mountains, past a hole bored straight through the blue ridge mountains for trains to pass through. I then got back on, then off 250, turning onto small farm roads. Unfortunately it was rush hour and the roads were busy. I stopped at a peach orchard and got a smoothie and donuts and got in touch with my host for the night, Brian.
I then continued, eventually getting on 614. This was a busy two lane shoulderless road and I didn’t enjoy it. Unfortunately I was on it for over 10 miles. The traffic was mostly respectful but it was just constant cars. Quite stressful. The scenery and homes along it were actually beautiful, but I didn’t take any photos, I was too focused on riding safely. I pushed hard to finish it and soon enough pulled up to my warmshowers for the night. It was a beautiful suburbs home belonging to Brian, a guy I’d met on the road. He’d done a ride from Kentucky to Denver and had recently finished it up, and had told me to get in touch when I came through town. I met his wife Shannon, son Justin and daughter as we ate an amazing dinner of lasagna, salad, and toast. They then took me to see a University of Virginia soccer game.
The game was a convincing win for UVA and the crowd was super hyped. The other team, the High Point Panthers (I think) goalie got ejected for arguing with a ref. Brian and Shannon were fantastic and fun hosts. I loved chatting with them about the ride, our backgrounds, and life in general. Brian then drove me around Charlottesville to show me the sights. Unfortunately the town was super busy, all the kids from the University where out and there wasn’t anywhere to park and sightsee. Instead Brian told me to swing by tomorrow as I rode through. We went back to the house and had some ice cream. I tried writing this post but only got a rough draft done: I passed out halfway through editing it. I finished writing it the next morning, so I guess, good morning! See you in the next one.
- Shot blocks
- Cliff bars
- Beef jerky
- Peach smoothie
- Ice cream