Mill Creek, VA
Church (Mill Creek Baptist)
L:31 H:68, Sunny, Slight Wind
We were up with the sun this morning around 6:30-ish. Nathan went inside to make breakfast while I stayed outside to pack up the tent and play with Michael and Kerry's doggies over the fence.
When I finished, I went inside to a feast! My hubby made oatmeal/pecan/whole wheat pancakes with egg's over-easy on top, and he also set out bananas and applesauce for us! Yuh-um!
While we ate, we realized we only have 10 days left of our bike trip! I can't believe it! 10-days. Tomorrow will be 9, and we'll be in single digits. Single digits! It's crazy to think we're almost done, although right now, I can't say I'm entirely upset about it. The trip has been amazing, but we're both starting to be ready to be home.
After wrapping our minds around that for a bit and eating some more breakfast, I asked Michael about the results of his dart tournament last night. They lost. Michael said his partner was doing really good at the beginning of the night, but then got worse as time went on. Bummer. He also said they had the tournament at a bar, and everyone was drinking...
So we changed subjects and asked him about something we've been hearing people start to comment on every once in a while: The Blue Ridge Parkway section of the TransAmerica Trail. The Blue Ridge Parkway is a road that actually travels along the ridge line of the Blue Ridge Mountains. That sounds so cool! To get to it though, we need to climb to the top of the Blue Ridge Mountains. That sounds hard. When we asked what they thought about it, Michael and Kerry just looked at each other, smiled a bit, and then laughed. They said that part of the ride would be awful, hard, yucky, etc, etc...
I looked at Nathan, but we didn't smile or laugh. We've heard the same thing from other people lately. I'm trying to stay open-minded about it, but it's getting harder. Michael said not to worry about it though, because it would still be a few days before we'd get there. Phew.
Then Michael asked a bunch of questions about our trip, and we talked and showed him our bikes and gear. It turns out we have the same bike as Kerry! Neat!
We left their house around 10am, and as we headed out of Christiansburg, the TransAmerica route immediately put us back on small country roads with little or no grading on their many, many hills. Here we go again.
We were in the middle of complaining to each other about it when Nathan noticed a very important seeming set of stop signs at an upcoming intersection. We couldn't figure out what the big deal was, but we definitely stopped before we continued, that's for sure!
After the intersection, we suddenly found ourselves out of the city, out of little country neighborhoods, and into the wild, expansive, gorgeous countryside of Virginia. ...And boy was it pretty! We rode for about 20 miles through views like the one below nonstop. It was just amazing, and as we were riding, I kept taking big, gulping breaths of the fresh country air. It was so stunning, and I marveled again at how I didn't realize Virginia was such a beautiful place.
As the beautiful countryside went on and on, and our ride got less and less hilly, we started enjoying the day quite a bit and decided that maybe yesterday's route madness was actually over! We were all excited at the nice ride when we noticed we were about to hit the 4,000 mile mark on our bike odometers! Double bonus!! As we got closer and closer to the magical mile mark, we were staring at our odometers and became almost totally oblivious to everything else. It's a good thing a deer didn't jump out in front of us or something - we would've crashed into it for sure. And then, taa-daa, we made it!!! We had a water-bottle toast and took a picture to celebrate this unbelievable achievement. I mean, I never ever would've thought I could do this!! BUT I DID!!! WE DID!!! WOO-HOO :-)
A little while later, we stopped for lunch by a small storage shed with a fence to lean our bikes on. We ate bagel sandwiches and snacked on anything we could find in our bags, and were getting ready to head back out when a minivan pulled up to us. We were definitely in the middle of nowhere, so we were both a little weirded out by the van stopping, but then a guy in American stars-and-stripes spandex got out. He was a biker! And a patriotic one at that. His bike was in the back, and he asked if we needed anything: food, water, tool set. We said we were fine and thanked him very much for stopping to check on us. How nice!
Then we got to talking and told him we were headed for the Blue Ridge Parkway. He looked at us for a second and seemed stunned. Then he laughed and said, "That's a hellacious ride!".
Ok, seriously..."hellacious"?! Why does everyone keep saying these bad, bad things about it?
After I gave Nathan an "I'm not excited" face, he gave me an "I don't care" face, and we got on our bikes and kept riding. After a few more miles of the colorful and relatively flat countryside, the nice part ended, and we started into 15 miles of super-steep, non-stop hills. I'm talking hill after hill after hill. As you might imagine, it didn't take me long to get frustrated with our route again.
Who knows, maybe I'm just in a bad mood because I'm starting to have more thoughts of home than I am of the route, but this was REALLY tough. Why did the Adventure Cycling Association choose such difficult roads? I mean, these roads would be difficult in a CAR! Was the route planned as a super-duper weight-loss program, or a Navy Seals training course or something?
My legs were tired, and my mind was tired, and we just kept turning corners and finding more hills to climb. I decided that if the route was this hard BEFORE the Blue Ridge Parkway section, then I didn't think I could handle it, so I devised a great plan in my mind, then I pulled up to Nathan and told him I had something to tell him.
I told Nathan I was absolutely tired of biking up hills, so mountains were out of the picture for me right now, and the Blue Ridge Mountains especially. I said that they did seem like they would have great views though, so what I thought we could do was skip them on our bikes, but then drive the Blue Ridge Parkway when the trip was done and we were on our way back to Indiana in a rental car. Taa-daa! Jazz hands!
I was all excited about my plan, and after I told Nathan, I waited to hear what he thought. Well...he didn't really like it very much. The Blue Ridge Parkway was our last major challenge on the route, and he thought that if we skipped it, we'd regret it forever. He then said that the Blue Ridge Parkway section of the route was only 30 miles long, and he suggested that, to make it easier, we would take a whole entire day just to do those 30 miles.
Gosh..that was a good counter-offer. A whole day to go just 30 miles. How hard could that be?! We could probably walk all the uphills, ride all the downhills, and still have plenty of time! Plus, Nathan really wanted to do it. So, with my mind set to walk most of the 30 miles, I agreed to do it.
Great compromise! We were both happy, and with our spirits revived, sped through the last of the hills and made it to Danville. Once there, we realized how tired we were after the beating we just got from those hills, so we headed straight for Wendy's where I ordered my OWN frosty, no sharing this time! I got one of their new "Twisted Frosties" (like a Blizzard), and it was just what the doctor ordered. It was fabulously cold, sugary, refreshing, and all mine! Ahhhh.
While at Wendy's we connected to their wifi and called some churches looking for a place to stay tonight. We called about 6 churches, the town hall/police station, and an outdoor store to ask about places to camp, and NO ONE answered their phone anywhere! I called the police twice, and they didn't answer. And it wasn't late or anything; it was only 3pm! And of all the places I called, I only got 1 answering machine, and it wasn't at the police station, it was at a church. Crazy! How does the town run like this?
So after having no luck on the phone, we pulled out our map to look at our route again. We wanted to go 20 more miles, but since we couldn't get a hold of anyone in the town 20 miles away to ask about housing, we decided to go to a campground that was only 10 miles away.
We got on S.R. 11, and headed East. S.R. 11 was a nice, big road. It had had some grading work done, so all the hills were nice and gradual. Hooray! Graded hills were ALSO just what the doctor ordered. On our way to the campground, we passed a sign that we had been looking for for a few days now, a sign marking the Appalachian Trail. Cool! Of course we stopped to take a picture.
Just before we got to the campground we saw a church with a bunch of cars in the parking lot, so we decided to stop and ask if we could camp on their lawn instead. At the church, we found out the pastor wasn't there, and neither was any other decision-making member from the church. All the cars were for a daycare that was run out of the church.
A nice lady helped us find the pastor's phone number though, and we called him and asked if we could camp on the lawn, and he said yes!! While we were trying to find his home phone number, the lady found a number she thought was his and dialed it. We were in the church's office, and when she dialed the number, the phone right next to the one she was at rang. She called the church! We all thought that was funny.
After getting the "OK" from the pastor, the lady took us out to meet the head of the daycare. While we were talking, lots of the little kids stopped what they were doing and just stared at us. Sometimes one or two would run up to us and yell "Hi!!!" and then run away real fast while their friends laughed. I think the kids were daring each other to talk to us...
After that, we made ourselves at home in a sunday school room and I journaled a bit while Nathan called his parents. At 8pm, the janitor told us he had to lock the church, so we left and were outside for the night. It was pretty chilly, so we ate a quick dinner, got ready for bed, and crawled into our sleeping bags to get warm.
While we were eating dinner, we realized that the church was only about 100 yards from the interstate. It was loud, bright, and full of big rig trucks. Hopefully no one does any honking in the middle of the night!