Home (Cookie Lady)
It was only 19 degrees when we woke up this morning. That's happened to us once before, near the Grand Tetons, and there was ice on the outside of our tent when we woke up. Today was similar, but more extreme, because not only was there ice on the outside of the tent, there was ice on the INSIDE of our tent too! The only thing not covered in ice was us and our sleeping bags. When we went outside, it was a frosty, icy wonderland all around us. There was so much frost covering everything that it almost looked like it had snowed. In the picture below, the green spot in front of our tent marks where our rain-fly was. Haha!
Nathan and I got up and went to the porta potty behind Gerties, and my butt almost froze to the seat! That wasn't the best way to start my day today...especially considering how much I was already not looking forward to it. Today, if you forgot, we are going to be climbing up Mount Vesuvius and riding the Blue Ridge Parkway. This part of the trail has been laughed at, called "hellacious", and was said to be the hardest part of the entire TransAmerica Trail. This is also the only mountain we've ever heard people say they would rather go UP than down because it's so steep. For a girl who's already tired of mountains and hills, this makes me grumpy just THINKING about it.
So anyway, where was I - o yeah, my butt almost froze to the toilet seat in the porta potty. Changing clothes wasn't much better. It was 19 degrees out, and there was frozen pee on the floor. Ew, ew, ew! The only thing I was looking forward to was our warm breakfast at Gertie's and the end of the day at the Cookie Lady's house. (Have I mentioned the Cookie Lady lately? She is apparently famous on the TransAmerica Trail for her hospitality. We heard about her for the first time in Kansas, and today is the day we're finally going to meet her and hopefully spend the night at her famous bike house.)
For breakfast Nathan and I each ordered coffee and one-eyed bacon cheeseburgers ("one-eye" = an egg), and we split an order of home fries. Everything was really yummy, just like it always seems to be in a small town. While we were there, almost everyone else who came in made a comment about how hard it must've been to camp out last night. The weird thing is they would say that before we even said anything! I think that somehow they all knew we were camping behind the store! ...this is another small town phenomenon we've noticed. This weird, psychic, telepathy-like communication seems to happen at most of the small towns we visit, and they ALL always seem to know stuff about us even though we've only talked to just a few people! Everyone we met was really nice though. One couple even gave us their phone number and told us to call them if we needed anything! Wow!
We stayed in the store for an hour or two until the sun melted the frost. To pass the time, we added our own touch to the walls like many patrons had done before: we signed the ceiling.
As the sun came out, the temperature started rising so fast that the tarp we always put over our bikes was actually STEAMING as the frost melted off of it! After our tent, tarp, and bikes thawed out, we packed up, said our last goodbyes and started to ride towards Mount Vesuvius.
We got to the base of the mountain pretty quickly, and then we started up...and WOW was it steep! I decided that I would at least give it a good shot before I got off my bike and walked, but only 0.1 miles into the climb, I started walking. Now for those of you who think I just wimped out, Nathan - the guy who didn't walk a single time all the way through the Rocky Mountains - he only lasted for 0.3 miles before getting off his bike and walking. Now THAT's saying something. This mountain was STEEP!
It was a 2 mile climb to the top, and it took us over an hour to get there walking and pushing our 60lb bikes. The hill was so steep it was actually hard to WALK our bikes up it. We had to alternate walking on either side of our bikes because our calves were getting so sore. This mountain was like a stair-stepper on steroids! We even had to take breaks every few tenths of a mile because our arm and leg muscles were getting so sore and tired and we were breathing so heavy. Who knew walking would be so hard?! Seriously, I don't know how anyone could ever RIDE up this mountain! It was pretty though. This is a view of Nathan coming up behind me (so it's looking downhill).
While we were walking, the hunters we met last night (who just shot the deer) drove by us as they came down from the top and waved at us as they went by. Then, a wwhhiillee later, they drove by again, this time coming up from the bottom. They had gone down, eaten lunch at Gerties and then drove back up, and we were STILL walking our bikes to the top! Ah!
Finally, after like a lifetime and a half of pushing heavy bikes up this 'hellacious' mountainside and feeling like almost every muscle in our bodies was sore and almost swollen from exertion, we made it to the top!!!! Horray!!
We celebrated by taking a picture, leaning our bikes under a bridge, walking to a grassy hill in the sun, taking our shoes off (our feet were all sweaty and sore), and eating lunch in the grass on top of the Blue Ridge Parkway, and watching the cars and motorcycles drive by. It was actually really cool. We both loved it. Sitting up there, soaking in our accomplishment and the mountain air, waving to drivers, and letting our bodies rest...it was great!
Of course, it eventually came to an end, and we went back to our bikes - this time to ride them, not push them. We had 30 miles to go to get to the Cookie Lady's house. It was after noon and we'd gone less than 2.5 miles. That meant we needed to ride, not walk, as much as we could for the rest of the day. Otherwise, we might not make it 30 more miles before sundown, and that would be bad.
The Blue Ridge Parkway is a really unique road, and as much as I wasn't looking forward to it, it was actually a neat place. It's a road that runs across the ridgeline of the Blue Ridge Mountains. I've seen roads that cross over the tops of mountains before, but not one that STAYS on the top. As you might expect, it was beautiful. We couldn't always see out, but when we could, man we got an amazing view! It was stunning.
Since we were under a bit of a time crunch, and since the riding was still tough (up and down the ridgeline of the mountains!), we didn't stop much except to take a picture or get a drink from our water bottles. Mostly, we just pedaled, pedaled, pedaled. We did make one special stop though at a gift shop to get a commemorative pin (for me) and patch (for Nathan). This was tough, and I wanted a commemorative pin (darn it!). :-)
It wasn't too cold today because there was lots of sunlight, but as it got later, it started to cool off. Also, as it got later in the day, we started to descend the mountain. The combination of us speeding downhill and the temperature dropping made it pretty chilly! By the time we made it down the other side and found the town of Afton, we were shivering.
Afton is a pretty cute little town. Super hilly, but pretty cute. We had a little trouble telling which house was hers, but fortunately we met some passers-by who let us borrow their cell phone to make a phone call (ours didn't work) to the man taking messages for the Cookie Lady and double check directions. Thanks guys! We followed the directions and knew we had the right house when we saw the sign on the front door.
We knocked and a very elderly lady came to the door. Cookie Lady? She introduced her self as June and said she was the Cookie Lady. She was very sweet, but seemed surprised to see us. She said she didn't bake cookies anymore and that the bike house (next door) that she lets bikers stay in was closed down for the winter and there was no heat or hot water.
We were surprised and bummed. The man we talked to about staying at the Cookie Lady's house hadn't mentioned anything about the bike house being closed. After thanking her for her time and telling her we could find somewhere else to stay, she invited us in to talk. I thought to myself that we didn't really have time to talk because we needed to work on finding somewhere to stay the night, but we went in anyway, and I'm glad we did. After talking with her for a while, she said we could stay at the bike house after all! There was still no heat or hot water, but that didn't bother Nathan or I at all. We were so excited to be able to stay at the famous Cookie Lady's famous bike house!! Yay!!
After saying goodnight, we went over to the bike house, not sure what to expect, but having great expectations nonetheless...and it was AMAZING!! The place is like a museum. There is just tons of stuff everywhere. So much to look at, so much to read, it was too cool! And in the kitchen, there was food!! Granted, a bunch of it was expired because it was supposed to have been used up in the summer, but there was still some good stuff there, and we were welcome to help ourselves. Woo-hoo!
June had recommended that we open the oven door and turn it on to help heat the house, so I did. Then I made dinner in the warm, little kitchen while Nathan worked on the blog a bit and looked around. After dinner, I started reading through one of the binders on a table in a front room. The binder was from 1976 to 1996 and commemorated the first 20 years of the Cookie Lady. It said there had been over 9,000 bikers that had come by in those first 20 years, and they were from probably 15 different countries! Woah. It was amazing. We wanted to just look, look, look, but we knew we needed to get some sleep, because we had to hit the road again tomorrow. Boo for responsibilities and timelines.
It turns out there are no beds in the house, just couches and chairs, but never two couches in the same room, so Nathan and I decided to set up our sleeping bags and sleep on the floor in one of the living rooms. Check out what it looked like! All of the rooms were covered in stuff like this - so neat!
This place was amazing. I am so, so glad that we were able to come here. Tomorrow, we'll make a video and show you around. We wanted to tonight, but we just got way too caught up in looking at everything and ooh-ing and aww-ing over all of it. It's so cool!