Home (Bruce's House)
Cool, Overcast, Slight Wind
When we awoke on the futon, the house was quiet. We were definitely the first ones up, which wasn't all that surprising. What was surprising was that April, who usually enjoys gently easing into the day, woke up ready to go. She was on a mission to get our day started!
We ate our breakfast, found a place to stay tonight, and packed up our stuff to leave. As we loaded things on our bikes, I was finally starting to catch up with April's enthusiasm to get moving. Or so I thought.
It turns out that while I was working up to being motivated, April was coming down from being motivated. About the time we were ready to roll out, Olin, still looking half asleep, came out to say good-bye. That was all April needed to take the last of the "hurry up" out of her.
We had been hoping to leave a little before 9:00 today because our goal, Ashland, was just over 73 miles away. Unfortunately, with our mismatched motivation levels, we ended up talking in Olin's driveway until about 10:00!
Given the early sunset, that meant we had 7 hours to go 70 miles. Not to bad, but between us and Ashland was Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's home, which I wanted to stop and see.
Monticello was beautiful and the fall colors made it even more so. But it is also a money machine, which we sort of expected. We figured we'd skip the pricey tour of the inside of the mansion and just walk around the outside, take a few pictures, eat our lunch and be on our way. Except to see even the outside meant buying a $22 tour ticket for each of us! Crazy!! This map is as close as we got to seeing the grounds.
We didn't feel like we had enough time to spend there to justify the ticket price. So we looked in the visitors center, watched a free video about Jefferson, and took our picture with his statue. We opted to eat a snack instead of lunch, and left hungry and slightly disappointed in our stop.
About 15 miles up the road, we stopped at a McDonald's for lunch and split 4 McDoubles, 1 large fry, 2 pies, 1 parfait, a chocolate milk, and 2 bananas. By the time we left, it was after 1:00pm, meaning we had 4 hours to do the last 50 miles. We knew it would be super tough to maintain that kind of pace on our loaded down bikes, but we gave it our best shot.
Over the next four hours, we pushed through the small, rolling hills, thankful that we weren't still in the mountains! The only stop we made was for a bathroom break and to make a call to Bruce, our host for the night, to get directions to his house. Despite our efforts, it became apparent that we weren't going to make it before dark.
As darkness fell we had no idea how far we were from Ashland. Since we'd taken a different, more direct route than the official ACA route, our maps didn't give us accurate mileage estimates. We only knew that our legs were tired, there was no shoulder, we were in the middle of nowhere, and it was dark! In fact there was no moon, no stars, and no street lamps! If it hadn't been for the near constant stream of cars from the other direction, we wouldn't have had any usable light at all! We were definitely not enjoying our second night ride any more than our first one back in Yellowstone. Maybe even a little less!
At one point, as we climbed a fairly large hill, we realized that we had no idea where the top was because the road and the sky were an indistinguishable black!
Since we couldn't really see very well and we didn't have a shoulder, our pace slowed considerably. Of course, we also couldn't tell how far or how fast we were riding because we couldn't read our bike computers. But, all-in-all we think we rode eight long miles in the dark, hoping that our brightly flashing lights and reflective vests would keep any approaching cars at bay.
I would like to take a moment to say that should you ever encounter a fully loaded bicycle (or two!) at night, laying on your horn as you pass is not helpful. We don't want to be there any more than you want us there! Just pass when it is clear, and be merrily on your way. Or better yet, follow with your hazards on! It will give the cyclist(s) light to see and help alert approaching cars to his/her presence.
Anyway, we finally arrived at Bruce's house and got to meet his wife and two kids. Not ten minutes after we got all our stuff onto their amazing screened in porch, it started raining! Thank goodness we weren't still out riding when that happened!!
Bruce invited us to join them for a dinner of steak, potatoes, and peas. We offered to contribute a Knorr Sides (formerly Lipton Sides) packet to the meal, which they accepted. It was a great meal and we had a lot of fun talking, sharing stories, and learning about Ashland.
After dinner we were treated to a chorus of "Ashland, Ashland, Center of the Universe", the official town song. Yep, tonight we are sleeping at the center of the Universe. Who knew it was right here in Virginia?
We also got to play with the family pets: a dog, two cats, and a cockatiel!
When we finally went out to our sleeping bags on the porch, it was still sprinkling a little, giving everything a fresh, clean smell and providing a great background noise for us to fall asleep to. It had been a tough day, but we had proven yet again that we were up to the challenge!
Thanks for reading!