the very short day

I made it to the Breaks and crashed hard last night, in spite of the rowdy bunch of late middleagers who were carrying on at the campsite next to mine. I put Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks on the headphones, and by the time Sweet Thing started up, I was out.

Yesterday probably involved more physical strain than I have ever experienced in my life. The Adventure Cycling maps had misled me, and it turned out I had one more 1000 ft climb before my campsite. I did it without walking–probably because I had some food in my stomach–but it was a very, very slow climb.

I don’t ever remember taking real note of the climbs described in other cyclists blogs that I’ve read, so let me emphasize this: I am in better shape than I have ever been in in my life, but climbing 1000 ft in altitude over two to three miles is very, very difficult. It’s not even a matter of taking it slow. I end up in my very lowest gear–crawling–and still I strain to get my bike to the top. It’s hard, hard work.

Okay, end emphasis. Then comes the downhill, which is glorious and it balances out all of the hard work.
But, this morning, I had a very difficult time getting going. Pedalling the bike out of the campsite up to the restaurant at the Breaks hurt, and I began to consider hanging out for an extra day there. It is a very nice park, afterall. But I bellied up to the buffet, had two heaping plates, stopped at a couple of scenic overlooks to digest on my way out, and I got on down the road. Which, of course, involved some pretty hefty climbing almost immediately.

I knew from my map’s elevation profile that I had the largest continuous climb, up Big A Mountain, ahead of me for the day. So I readied myself with some music (I haven’t listened to music while riding since I started on the Adventure Cycling route), and, 40 minutes of intensive pedalling later, I was at the top of Big A.

At 3:30 I pulled up to the Elk’s Garden Methodist Church Cyclist’s Hostel, and called it a day. I only did about 40 miles today, but I am a-okay with those 40 miles.

–Here is where a glitch ate a huge chunk of writing about altitudes, hostels, and my plans not to bite off more than I can chew while in mountain country… Sigh…–

Regardless, this hostel is a beautiful spot to stop. They encourage you to take food from their kitchen, and I’m going to get to brew myself some coffee in the morning. The Methodists know how to treat a cyclist.

Now to answer some questions/concerns I’ve recieved via email–not to avoid the personal correspondence, but because I think it might be good info to share with everyone.

The route I’m taking can be found here: http://www.adventurecycling.com/routes. I am currently in the middle of TransAmerica Trail, Section 11, which takes you from Berea, KY to near the northern point of the KY/VA border, then down near the VA/TN border, then back up to Christiansburg. Christiansburg is where I’ll start Section 12 of the TransAm. I’ll take Section 12 to Ashland, VA, and then I’ll take Section 3 of the Atlantic Coast trail north to DC. I believe you can look at details on the Adventure Cycling site, though you may have to look at them from the ‘Store’ section of the site.

About camping in the cool of the evening/early morning… My sleeping bag has proven itself more than capable of handling the 40ish degree temperatures I’ve had a couple of mornings on this trip. I’ve been plenty warm–maybe even too warm. The real trick is pulling myself out of it and getting going in the morning. The layers I bought have been working great for the cool morning cycling too, but it took me a couple of days to figure out that if I put them in the bag with me before I go to bed at night, they’re nice and warm when I’m ready to put them on before crawling out.

At this point, I’m not sure when I’ll be in DC. I might be able to come up with an estimate in a couple of days, after I get past the max altitude of the trip and start sliding my way down to the jarring 2000 ft climb up the Blue Ridge

Well, it’s cooling off and the cows across the street have sauntered off. I think it’s time to grab tomorrow’s layers and slide on into the bag for the night.

Until next stop,
D Rex

P.S. The Appalachian Metal building was down in a valley between the Breaks park and the tiny town of Haysi. I thought it was a very cool design and deserved some publicity.

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