Unfortunately, neither of us slept real well last night. I was too hot in my sleeping bag (again), but I didn't want to get out because I was afraid there might be spiders in the church. Nathan was a little creeped out by a light that was on all night in the supposed-to-be-empty parsonage next door. That was pooey, but se la vi, right? Right.
We had oatmeal, coffee, poptarts, and bananas for breakfast (and I also had Ibuprofen...but really, is that even news anymore?) We wanted to get a quick start this morning, so after breakfast, we changed, and went outside to load up our bikes and skedaddle. But as soon as we walked outside, we wanted to go right back in the church. It was COLD this morning!! There was a bird bath in a garden by our bikes, and it was frozen solid.
As we left, I was hoping for a hill to ride so I could warm up. Well, remember the saying "careful what you wish for"? We got a hill all right, and it turned out to be one of the biggest, steepest hills of our whole trip! Criminey!
It was 6 miles up to the top, and it was rreeaallllyy steep. We had to stop and take breaks a bunch of times going up to the top. Also, when we first leave for the day, we always have to go to the bathroom sometime during the first hour, and, as usual, it happened again today. But this time, we were in the middle of this huge climb, and there was nowhere to go. It was a drop-off on one side of the road and just a wall of earth and trees on the other side. And let me tell you, riding up a steep hill when you've gotta pee makes it hard to hold it! When we finally got to the top, we took turns holding each other's bikes while we ran off into the woods. :-)
Relieved and back on our bikes, we caught our breath, marveled at how tough the uphill had been, and then started down the other side. We were excited at first for the steep downhill, but soon, it wasn't very exciting anymore. The downhill was super-steep, the steepest downhill we've done yet, and it seemed like almost every turn could be described as a hairpin turn. We had to hold onto our brakes really hard most of the way down so we wouldn't go off the road on the turns. I was nervous my brakes were going to start melting, and I was also afraid my forearm muscles would either start cramping up or just wear out. I thought that if we needed to come to a sudden stop for any reason (animal, vehicle, etc..), I wouldn't be able to do it using my brakes, so I'd just need to fall over or something! The downhill was so tough that we actually stopped for a break in the middle of it to cool off our brake pads and rest our arm muscles! We laughed, because this was the first time we ever needed a break on a DOWNHILL! It was crazy.
We saw some REALLY, REALLY pretty views on our way down the hill, but we couldn't stop to take any pictures. That was kind-of a bummer. Once in Hayters Gap, we both thought it was a pretty cool place. We think it could be a really successful tourist area if they would advertise it. However, looking around, we also figured it was the kind of place that didn't really want tourists (note the community center behind a chain-link fence below).
Hayters Gap turned out to be a valley between two big hills/mountains, and pretty soon, our time in the valley ended, and we had to climb back up the other side of the gap. This climb was much easier though. Phew!
A little while later, a dog ran at us while we were riding by a country house. He got pretty close to us (a few feet away), but he always stayed back if we pointed and said "no!". Then a lady came out of the house and yelled, and threw sticks and rocks at the dog, and told it to "go home". After the dog backed off, she turned to us and said, "Someone needs to shoot that dog!". Then, after apologizing, said, "He'll bit you, ya know!"
Away from the dog, we rode on and couldn't help but notice how beautiful the landscape was. One of the things that made it so beautiful was all the hills (which were still taking me by surprise). There were lots of sheep and cattle grazing on the wide, green, lush hillsides. There were houses only every once in a while, and sometimes they would have smoke coming up from their chimneys. I was lost in the scenery and my imagination, and I wondered if Meriweather Lewis (of the Lewis and Clark expedition, and my book, "Undaunted Courage") had ever ridden his horse around this part of Virginia. This was obviously a great place for a video and another "thank you" to one of our supporters, so we stopped and made a video specially for Tony Nunn. Thanks so much for your support and friendship, Tony! You're awesome!
We took our first 20 mile break in Meadowview, VA. We went inside a store that looked like a general store and were stunned to find postcards that ranged from $4-$14 for just FOUR POSTCARDS! I buy them for 25 cents each, normally. These were more expensive because they were artisan postcards. They were pretty, but seriously, WHO is going to spend that much on postcards?!
So we left the general store and headed over to the post office where we finally mailed some postcards that we had purchased wwaayy back in September! Nathan was relieved.
Then we sat down in the post office parking lot and ate our lunch. While we ate, Nathan looked at our route and realized that if we got off our route and took Virginia SR 11, we could 1) avoid a really big hill, and 2) make it further today than we originally thought we could. Both sounded good to us, so we decided, once again, to go off the route. I'm not sure if I was wimping out or not, but avoiding big hills sounded AWESOME to me! At the beginning of the trip, I would've felt like a weenie for avoiding a hill, but NOT ANYMORE! Haha :-)
Virginia SR 11 turned out to be awesome! It was beautiful, we rode through some really cute little towns, and it was relatively flat. Yay! While we were riding, I had the realization that my legs have gotten me almost all the way across the United States! It just hit me, and I was so stunned that I just couldn't believe it! In my excitement, I told Nathan. He laughed at me, but I was still lost in amazement.
At one point, Nathan and I were riding up a small hill, and there was a sign on top. I told Nathan to stop. He said, "For what", and I said, "Look, you'll see". He was looking and looking, and he even looked at the sign, but he was confused. He said, "What are we stopping for," and I said, "Hellllloooo, the Mr. Rogers sign! Let's get a picture!". I was getting frustrated.
He looked around and STILL didn't see it. I could tell that he was getting frustrated too.
We finally got up to the sign, and I said, "Nathan! Look!", and after looking, he pointed out that the sign ACTUALLY said, "Mt. Rogers" not "Mr. Rogers". Then we both stopped. We were both frustrated, then confused, then we just started laughing a lot. We took a picture by the sign to mark the occasion, and then Nathan started singing the "Won't you be my neighbor?" song, and he knows a LOT of it. I was surprised! I think I only know like two lines.
He was still singing when we got to Marion, VA. Marion was established in 1835. Woah! We rode through it marveling at the old, historic buildings. Almost out the other side, we found a Hardees, and decided to stop and eat.
After Hardees, we called Wytheville, where we would be staying the night, to ask if we could camp in the city park. They said yes, but told us the water had been turned off for the winter so there were no bathrooms. That was a bummer, but we were sure we could make it work, so off we went.
It was 25 miles to Wytheville. When we got there, we found the city park, and it was really cute. There was a little stream and some gazebos with a few old-fashioned light poles here and there. We locked our bikes to some picnic tables, put on sweats over our bike clothes, and went for a walk to find dinner.
In the downtown, we saw an office supply store, and they had a giant pencil sticking out the front.
Then we found a really cool sub/pizza place where you can get a large cheese pizza for just $4.95!! Nathan and I went in, and we each ordered our own large pizza! I've never ordered my OWN large pizza before. I was really excited! In addition to his large pizza, Nathan also ordered a cheeseburger (crazy!).
We ate and ate and ate. It was totally awesome. The pizza was great. There was this guy and a girl about our age in the restaurant, and the guy noticed we were bikers, and he started telling the girl all about bike touring and a trip he took. He kept looking over at us, and I wanted to go say hi, but Nathan though maybe they were on a date and we shouldn't interrupt, so we never went over. I was kind-of bummed, but oh well. We almost finished our large pizzas, but in the end, we just couldn't eat all of it. We did a good job though, and only had three pieces left between us!
Back at the park, we were setting up the tent when my phone rang. It was my brother, Evan!! He's in Florida with his girlfriend, Amanda. He's on a 2-week leave from the Army currently (he's stationed in Afghanistan). He called to say that he proposed to Amanda, and she said yes!!!! My romantic little brother said he had champaign, roses, and chocolate covered strawberries - oh la laaa! He gave her a honker of a ring too! He had it specially designed by the jeweler, and it is beautiful! CONGRATS, EVAN!! I LOVE YOU!!! WELCOME TO THE FAMILY, AMANDA!!
After talking a bit more, I told him I needed to go to bed. It wasn't too late yet, but we need to go to bed anyway. We decided that we need to start going to bed earlier now, because we need to get up earlier, so we can start riding earlier, because the sun sets earlier, and that means we need to get where we're going earlier. Sheesh-o!
Hopefully, with REALLY FULL tummies, we'll finally get a good night's sleep tonight!