Church (Elk Garden United Methodist)
L:27 H:65, Sunny, Slight Wind
Last night we were treated to a room-sized wrap-around couch for our bed! Nathan slept really well, but my sleeping bag kept waking me up because it's so warm (it's rated down to 15 degrees!). Anyway, Nathan got up all bright-eyed this morning, but I didn't feel very rested. Poo.
Pastor Bryant was coming at 8am to take us out to breakfast though, and that made both of us excited, so we put our smelly bike clothes on, packed up, and waited for him at the door. He took us out to the Huddle House, and we all got to know each other better while we ate our yummy, warm breakfast. Thanks Pastor Bryant!
On our way back to the church, he drove us by the log cabin he's building for his family. It looks so cool! It's up on a hill, and he can see most of the town from his front porch. He can even see the liquor store. Some people have started joking that "the pastor's gonna catch you if you go into the liquor store!". Haha :-)
Back at church, Bryant wanted to give us some (more) food for the road. The Baptist church is a Red Cross emergency shelter, and during the winter of 2009, the power went out for two and a half weeks (crazy!). Most of the town took shelter in the church, and the Red Cross gave the church these things called "Heater Meals" to feed people. Bryant has boxes full of left over Heater Meals, so he gave us each one. We've never seen anything like them. You just pour water into a pouch, then set your food on top of the pouch, and the pouch heats up and cooks your food! We're curious to try them out today.
After finding room for the Heater Meals (they're pretty big), we said our goodbyes and headed out....to a really long uphill! The hill was a tough one, then we had a short downhill and went right back up into another mile-plus long uphill. Ug. The long, steep hills lasted for 5 miles, and I was beginning to get concerned about how far we'd make it today. And then, to my delight, the next 25 miles were easy and beautiful. Horray!
At one point, we crossed a road named "Road". Ha!
We had been off of our route since Hazzard, but today we met back up with the TransAmerica Trail, and when we did, we saw a familiar sign. These signs are posted every once in a while to tell bikers were the TransAmerica Trail is, just like road signs. We've seen more in the East than we did in the West though. The trail was started in 1976, hence the 76 in the middle of the sign.
We stopped around mile 20 eat, and pulled out our Heater Meals. After some initial confusion about the directions and which food in the box got heated (there was a lot of food in the box), we got our meals heating and were excited for warm food. You have to let the food cook for 10 lloooonnnggg minutes, so while our food was cooking, we ate the other food in the box: dried fruit, M&M's, and a powerbar-type thing. We also got some of the left over biscuits with ham from the church. We put them on top of the Heater Meals box and let them heat up too. Mmm, mmm. We ate all of our food, and it was actually pretty good. We were impressed, and better than that, we were full! I took some Ibuprofen too, because my knees have been hurting a bunch lately.
After lunch, we rode 10 miles to Davenport, and were very anxious to get there because it was one of our MAIL STOPS! We got 2 packages and 3 letters!! We were totally stoked to get so much mail. We looked to see who had sent us stuff, and...it was ALL from Nathan's parents! Haha :-) His parents are great!
We read through all of the sweet cards and notes, and we opened the packages, and they were full of cookies and other yummy things! Yay! Thanks Mom and Dad Reinhard!
After eating cookies and feeling loved by our mail, we set our sights East and pushed for our biggest challenge of the day: Big A Mountain.
We've been told Big A Mountain is the tallest mountain in Virginia, and today, we were going to ride up and over it. It was 2.5 miles to get to the top, and while that is not nearly as long of a climb as we had in the Rockies, it was WAY steeper. All of the hills and mountains seem a lot steeper in the East than in the West. I don't know what grade the road was going up Big A, but it had to be more than 6% (the typical grade going up the Rockies). I was still tired from yesterday's ride over Jenkin's Pass and the tough first 5 miles today, and as we rode up Big A, I felt like I was using up the last bits of my energy and strength, so I stopped and walked a few times. (I'm still blaming my diarrhea.) Nathan was tired too, but he kept on riding and never stopped. He's amazing! Seriously, I don't know how he does it sometimes. It's really stunning how strong his legs are! I'm proud of his determination, but I hope he doesn't end up hurting himself. (Then he'll become and Ibuprofen fiend like me.)
On the way over Big A, we saw some really pretty views. Virginia is totally beautiful, and it looks very different than what I was expecting. I apparently don't know my geography, because I was expecting a lot more flat land in Virginia. I didn't realize it was covered in mountains (or maybe I was just HOPING it wasn't covered in mountains!).
We only ended up riding 45 miles today, which wasn't as far as we'd hoped to go, but it was tough, and I feel like we put in a good effort, and I can't complain about that. We pulled into a town called Honaker, and I started looking for a place to stay. We went into a Family Dollar, and I borrowed a phone book. I think I called about 15 churches. Out of the 15, only one church answered, and they said we needed to call back in an hour and a half when the pastor was in. It would be dark by then, so I asked if we could come to the church while it was still light and wait for the pastor, but the lady wouldn't give us the church's address. She said we needed to wait and talk to the pastor, and then he could decide to give the address to us or not. Huh?! It's a public building! I was amazed and appalled! I fumed about it for a little bit, and finally went over to talk to one of the Family Dollar employees who had given me the phone book. I said I hadn't had any luck and told her about the church that wouldn't give us their address. She asked the name of it, and then told me we didn't want anything to do with that church anyway. She said they didn't have a very good reputation in town. Well, I think I know why(!).
Then she recommended calling the Town Hall to ask about camping. That was a great idea, so I called them, and they gave me the phone number of a man named Lawrence who ran a campground just a few miles out of town. I called him, and he said the campground was closed and the water was all turned off (aka: no bathrooms). He said he'd come by to pick us up anyway, and we could figure something out. I told him we were on our bikes, and we'd be happy to ride to the campground, but he said, "No, no - you just wait there, and I'll come by with the truck". We went back and forth a few times, but he just kept repeating that he was going to come get us, so I finally said "ok".
I told Nathan about it, and as we waited, a song came on the radio that I'd never heard before, and I thought it was pretty funny. The lyrics went, "Where I come from, rain is a good thing. Rain makes corn, corn makes whiskey...".
I laughed and commented on the song as a lady was walking out the door. She laughed at it too, and we started talking. Her name is Debbie, and as soon as she found out we were on our bicycles, she asked if we had a place to stay tonight. I told her Lawrence was coming to pick us up and take us to his campground. She responded by telling me that there was a church not too far away that hosted cyclists all the time, and we should stay there. I told her I had called that church, but there was no answer. She said the doors were always unlocked, there was always food to eat, and that it would be a much better place for us to stay. Then she said she was going to stick around until Lawrence came and ask him to drive us to the church instead.
I didn't know what to say. She seemed pretty determined....just like Lawrence was. I decided to wait and see what would happen.
When he pulled up, she did just what she said she was going to do. She went up to his truck, opened the passenger door, and asked if he could "take these good people to the Elk Garden Church for the night". They seemed to know each other. He agreed to her request, and then they talked for a bit while Nathan and I loaded our bikes into the back of his pickup. Then I sat on Nathan's lap while Lawrence drove us about 10 miles East to Rosedale, VA and dropped us off at the Elk Garden United Methodist Church in front of a "Biker's Welcome" sign.
He told us he hadn't quite figured out what to do with us yet at his campground, but that the church would be a great place for us to stay, and he was happy to give us a ride. He is a really, really nice guy. He said he loves people, and he loves to help out wherever he can, and he seemed genuinely happy to be going out of his way for us. He and Debbie were a big help to us today - that's for sure.
During my phone calls at Family Dollar, I was beginning to be concerned that we weren't going to have anywhere to stay tonight. But it turns out today is just another example of how God has been constantly looking out for us on this trip. When we walked into the heated church and found a full kitchen stocked with food that said "Help Yourself", I just couldn't help but be in disbelief at how drastically everything had changed, and now here we were, with more than we would have even asked for, totally taken care of. It just makes you stop...and think...and give thanks. Thank you God, and Debbie, and Lawrence, and the nice people at Family Dollar!! Thank you, thank you :-)
In the kitchen, I decided that I would put one of my favorite talents to work, and I organized their entire food pantry. It was big and totally full, so this was no small task. I happily sorted and categorized, and when I was done, I must say it looked quite a bit better and was MUCH easier to use. Also, while I was organizing, I took note of the yummy options we had for dinner tonight. We ended up making beans, chicken, spaghetti, and a beef/veggie mix for dinner. Then we topped it off with nutty granola bars, cookies, cheese, and bananas. And I further topped off my dinner with some more of my trusty Ibuprofen. Seriously..what meal is complete without it anymore?
Happy and full once again, we explored the church, and found some fun stuff. Olé!
Also, we talked about our Life Insurance and figured out what we want to do about it. If you remember, we accidentally allowed our policy to lapse, so we had to re-sign up for life insurance. At first we were bummed, but then, after shopping around, we realized that if we switched Life Insurance companies, we could actually get a better deal. Cool! So we tried to sign up online, but in the middle of filling out forms, the signal died, and we couldn't finish. Bummer. Well, here's hoping we don't die anytime soon!
Speaking of losing signal, our phones haven't worked for a few days. Most people we've talked to say that's normal though. For example: When I went into the Family Dollar to make calls this evening, I had to ask to use their phone (in addition to using their phone book). I told the lady I had a phone, but I couldn't get any signal on it. She handed me her phone and replied, "Honey, no one's phone works 'round here!". The culprit seems to be the hills and mountains. They just cut the signal off. That's a bummer. So, here's hoping we don't die OR get in an accident!
I worked on the blog a little (offline), and Nathan worked on post cards (both seem endless). He's getting a little cranky about my post-card pile-up. See...
Then we set up our sleeping bags upstairs in the hallway, because it's the only place we found carpet.
We're so happy to be here tonight! God is good, all the people we've met are great, Virginia is really pretty, and I can't believe how close we're getting to the Atlantic! Eee!!