Day 9 - 6/17/12 (31 miles)
With the finish line clearly in view, we started pedaling early. Even though it was to be a short day, we were told to get on the road from Ocean City as early as possible since the weekend traffic would make crossing the Bay Bridge a multi-hour adventure. As has been the case the majority of the Chapter, there was a pretty strong headwind, but friendly drivers and beautiful scenery.
After a couple of mini-mart stops, yes, which included Starbucks Frappuccino, we came to the final water-crossing of the trip. As we pedaled across the Ocean City bridge, which turned out to be the most intimidating crossing due to a very high curb and fence on the right to enclose the sidewalk. We thought about going across on the walkway, but determined that it was too narrow for the panier bag on the bike and fishermen all across.
After the crossing, and a few turns, we arrived at the Boardwalk, and snapped a few pictures. Then we connected with friend, George, strapped the bike into the back of his truck, and snapped this picture as we began our journey back West. A mirror image on the sign in Sacramento.
And, with a few logistical stops - one in College Park, MD at a bike shop that works with tandems so they can prepare and ship the bike back to Tour of Nevada City for complete overhaul, and one in Alexandria, VA to visit Kim's sister - we've completed the adventure.
The End... Or is it just The Beginning?
Day 8 - 6/16/12 (41 miles)
After a relaxing evening, and a great night's sleep we enjoyed a quick breakfast in Norm and Barb's dining room with the two other guests, Gabe and Kim, who had also stayed at the B&B. The first course was something neither of us had ever had - half a grapefruit, baked, with meringue and coconut on top. Odd, but pretty tasty. The second course was much more familiar - delicious French toast with fresh fruit and excellent maple syrup.
Then, with a quick wrap-up and pack-up we were pedaling the 5 miles to the port where we were to board our transport boat for the first half of our trip across the Chesapeake Bay, to Tangier Island. We were able to secure the tandem on the back deck, and spend the hour-and-a-half on the top deck watching many different types of seabirds dive for breakfast.
We also enjoyed talking with some of our fellow passengers. Laura and Ian, from South-End-on-Sea, in England are temporarily living in Richmond as Ian does some accounting software implementation work. They were taking their friends from London, Chris and Sarah, on a bit of a US tour. After they asked about our ride, we learned that back in the 1970's Chris had ridden his bike, solo, from Alaska to Chile. Truly amazing! They were also going to head South to NOLA for the weekend, so we were able to recommend Creole Creamery and Dat Dog for their dining pleasure.
After the island docking, we learned that there are basically no cars on the island, just golf carts, and that the population is about 500. Many of the residents were at the dock, with their carts ready for hire to take tourists around the island. We parked our bike next to the fence, and went into Lorraine’s restaurant for lunch. This turned out to be a brilliant plan, as we got our order in before the huge tour crowd descended. As the tables and all spare chairs filled, we ended-up welcoming Alan and Paulette, from Newport News, VA, to join us at our table.
After lunch, we made our own tour of the island which included ice cream at Spanky’s, a stop at the excellent museum, and purchasing note cards from the local artist. In all we spent about 4 hours on the island, which was enough to take in all the sites. Then it was time to catch the second boat of the day to take us across the remaining section of the Bay. This was another hour-and-three-quarters, and we arrived at Crisfield, MD at about 5:30.
We quickly changed to bike gear and pedaled out to try and make it to Salisbury, our target stop for the day. The roads were great, except for the return of rumble-strips. There was a pretty good head-wind, but there were also nice sections of road with trees lining both sides. We made pretty good time, and made it to our lodging at just before sunset. After quick showers and a late dinner, we’re looking forward to the last day!
Day 7 - 6/15/12 (35 miles)
Although today was short on the miles side, it was long on the wind side. (Very long) We had a strong headwind for almost the whole ride from Warsaw to Reedville. There were a few hills, but the terrain is leveling-out a bit. We were surprised by the significant amount of farming this close to the Chesapeake Bay.
And, even though it feels like it, we're clearly not in the middle of nowhere, given that we came upon this theatre, and its Pulitzer Prize winning offering. A few miles further down the road we stopped at Jett's hardware and marine supplies store to get some silicone spray. The bike has been making some odd noises, perhaps due to humidity, and we thought it might help.
While there, we met Marc, a retired firefighter from Florida who moved here with his wife, and her sister owns the hardware store. He's also a “retired” cyclist, and had driven past us on the road yesterday. He gave us helpful info about the town and the bay-crossing tomorrow, and offered to help provide tools, a new chain, and provide any assistance while we're in town. As a result, he was named MVP and we snapped this picture.
Just a few miles down the road, we entered Reedville and pedaled down its historic Main Street to our home for the night - The Gables Bed & Breakfast. WOW is the first thing we said. The main house is the amazing brick structure below, which we got to tour with the owners, Norm and Barb. Our water-front bungalow was lovely - about 23 feet from the water, with an excellent view of an Osprey nest with two youngsters being tended by their parents.
Reedville is an active fishing village, and has been even before the Pilgrims arrived. The locals showed John Smith how to use the Menhaden to fertilize the corn. As we learned in the amazing fishing museum, from our personal tour guide, Michael Pawlukiewicz (yes, really), this fish is basically all oil and protein. There's a good chance that any fish oil you consume came from here. Reedville is the second largest fishing industry location in the US, after Kodiak, Alaska.
The highlight of the day, as we're sure you can imagine, involved ice cream. Just across the street from our B&B is Chitterchats. It has the BEST (yes, capital letters required) ice cream ever. It's made in Richmond, and sold at only 4 locations, that is, until we open one in Grass Valley. We each had 3 scoops, and then 3 more after dinner. Yes, that's 6 scoops for each of us in about a 3 hour window. It's that good.
Dinner was at the near-by Crazy Crab, where we sat outside, enjoyed wonderful service, Andy had soft shell crabs, and we learned even more about the town. It was an excellent day, and we're already looking forward to a return visit.
Day 6 - 6/14/12 (64 miles)
After quiet night in a hotel under renovation, we awoke to discover (after we checked the cell phone) that the clock was off by an hour, and it was really 7:30 instead of 6:30. I guess when we noticed that the phone was unplugged, the TV was unplugged, and the A/C unit was off, we should have checked the clock. We did get a good breakfast and were packed-up and on the road by 8:15.
As a result, our plan to beat rush-hour didn't quite work, so we navigated significant traffic through rough roads, with lots of potholes, drainage grates, gravel and other junk. Fortunately, the Virginia drivers were their wonderfully patient and friendly selves, and Andy did an amazing job navigating, and quasi paying attention to Kim's information reports from the back of the bike.
We crossed the Mayo Bridge in downtown Richmond, and snapped a picture of the hospital where Kim was born. We made a quick stop at McCafe for some oatmeal and smoothies, and then navigated lots of turns and traffic, and hills. On one very steep climb we actually kept up with a jogger and his dog. He had been a distance cyclist, too, but had changed to distance running. He wished us well, and we, breathlessly, wished him well, too.
To avoid traffic we took a small road parallel to the highway. This did have less traffic, but was very narrow, with no shoulder. We waved at the many people on their front porches, and they cheered us on. The “front porch sitting” is something that Kim has found very interesting. Similar to sitting on the back deck in Cali, but, mid-morning?
We rejoined the main road, divided highway 360, and were welcomed with about a 10 mph headwind, which lasted the rest of the ride, and found ourselves in more of a farming area. The wheat looked almost ready to harvest, and there was a huge John Deere dealership with plenty of combines for sale. We also found many more hills. Not quite as steep as previous days, but certainly noticeable, especially since we thought we'd be in lovely, flat, tidal area by now.
We stopped for lunch at Burger King and found our MVP, Tiara. She was at the BK counter, and had excellent information about the road ahead, and directions to our hotel for the night. After about 15 more miles, we crossed the Tappahannock Bridge, which goes past the Rappahannock National Wildlife Refuge. It was a narrow, two-lane bridge, and, by far, the longest water-crossing of the trip. In between groups of cars and trucks passing us, Kim even took a movie as we rode along.
After the bridge, it was about 7 more miles to the metropolis, complete with mini-mart and a couple of retail establishments, including the (apparently) mandatory tattoo parlor. We're down to three short pedal-days, with one including two ferry rides to get us across Chesapeake Bay - first stop Tangier Island, and second and stop Crisfield, MD. Almost there.
Day 5 - 6/13/12 (71 miles)
Fortunately, we awoke to a beautiful, nearly cloudless, day with greatly reduced humidity and a slight breeze. Lovely! After a yummy oatmeal breakfast we were back on the road by about 8:00. The section of highway was full of commuters, but with double-lanes and friendly drivers it wasn't too bad. Actually, this is a great time to mention that the residents of Virginia are giving the Kansans a challenge for “friendliest folks”! Everyone we've met, no matter where it's been, has been kind, helpful, and willing to go the extra mile.
After more rolling hills we shed some weight by mailing items back home from the Farmville Post Office. The postal reps and other patrons were very interested in hearing about our trip, and one rep is planning a drive up the Al-Can highway as soon as he retires. Back on the road and navigating traffic (“car back, infinity”) while climbing hill after hill and never actually changing our elevation, we pedaled about 15 miles to our first mini-mart stop of the day.
After a quick trip around the store saying, “I'll take one of these, and one of those, and one of these”, etc, we were offered a comfy table and chairs to kick back and relax for a while. We also got to chat with another customer who'd passed us on his way out of Farmville, and was now on his way back, and he wanted to hear about the biking adventure. As we rested, we noticed the interesting inventory available for purchase including a radial arm saw, miscellaneous office chairs, and a full set of legal reference books ($3.95 each).
The next section of highway was more of the same, traffic-wise, but with less-steep hills. This was great since the slight breeze had become a pretty strong headwind. About 23 miles later, after Kim's only Turtle-Spotting of the trip (alive, well, and in the grass by the side of the road, and, most importantly, moving away from the road) we arrived at the “360 Git-and-Go” mini-mart.
With a nice table and chairs on an AstroTurf carpet outside the front door, we enjoyed our stay. As we were preparing to depart, the manager came out to take our picture, and told us that we would be featured on the “celebrity wall” of her BBQ trailer, and that the next time we're there, dinner would be free. As a result, she was named MVP of the day, and Andy snapped this photo of she and Kim. (Kim is the one with less-than-perfect hair)
After about 10 more miles, the road grew to 4 lanes wide, in each direction, and full of traffic as we re-entered civilization on the outskirts of Richmond. When we spotted a hotel with an Applebee's nearby, we knew we'd reached our destination for the day. The Applebee's server was one of the best we've ever had, and the cookie sundae was very tasty.
With the last few days charted, rooms reserved, and bike shop located, we're just beginning to see the finish line ahead in the distance. Amazing!
Day 4 - 6/12/12 (32 miles)
After a comfy night at the Holiday Inn, we stood the tandem on its back wheel and turned the front wheel way to the side, and headed back to the lobby in the elevator, just a reverse of what we'd done last night, with offers of assistance from hotel staff. We'd waited for the last of the overnight rain to end, and yet tried to time the full course of the ride to finish before the forecasted afternoon thundershowers.
With some vague directions, and a map which showed a street which didn't quite exist, we ended-up in a rock quarry seeking directions from the gate attendant. He said he'd be glad to give directions as soon as we provided Ben & Jerry's ice cream. Yet another reference to our matching jerseys (thanks, Roz!), and another thought of “why didn't we get these guys to sponsor us?” We eventually convinced him that we'd eaten all the ice cream, and that's why we were out riding, and he gave us revised directions - over a weird causeway, through the sewage treatment plant, past the landfill, and up a staggeringly-steep hill - to get us on our route.
It turned out that the first hill was simply a preview of all the steep hills to come on this short, but demanding day. It was one after another, after another, after another of 5% - 7% grades. We spent many of the 32 miles in our lowest gear, cranking along at a blistering 5-mile-an-hour pace. It felt like mini-Nevada. Oh, and did we mention that it was almost 100% humidity?
As we climbed yet another hill, we believe we saw the entrance to Hugh Hefner's Virginia estate, at least if the “We have Bunnies & Chicks” sign is to be believed. Just down the road from the Appomatoxx Court House (where the South surrendered to the North to end the Civil War) we pulled into McDonalds for some much needed fuel. After a great, air conditioned, break, which involved using lots of napkins to try and dry ourselves off at least a little bit, we pedaled the last 11 miles to our friend, Betty's house.
She was a wonderful hostess. We got to do laundry, enjoy yummy home grown squash, and even got to go bowling and have ice cream. On our way home from these adventures, we experienced one of the biggest thunderstorms either of us had ever seen. The rain was torrential and the almost-continuous lightning with bolts going sideways in addition to up and down was amazing. We were sooooo glad not to be riding! We actually heard an emergency broadcast signal on the radio, not just the “if this had been an actual emergency” check. For our hostess, it was just another rain storm. Go figure! Then it was off to bed to get ready for a big day tomorrow.
Day 3 - 6/11/12 (89 miles)
It turns out that “finger-crossing” isn't a very effective way to ensure a less hilly day. After a great night's rest and a very basic breakfast, we headed out into what we soon realizedwas Christianburg's rush hour. On the four-lane divided highway that parallels I-81, we enjoyed a great downhill, for almost 2 miles, and then about 5 miles through a lovely valley area. This feels excellent, until you realize that what goes down, will go back up. And, there was plenty of up!
As we came through the valley, we saw a bike ahead. We caught-up with Jerrod Leland, and chatted as we continued to ride. He was commuting to work from Blacksgburg, (25 miles there, and 25 miles back) so he stays in pretty good shape! We talked for a few miles, until his turn-off for work, and he gave us some tips and info on the road ahead. He also volunteered to be our emergency contact for maintenance issues, etc, thus becoming MVP #1 for today.
The one thing Jerrod didn't mention was the construction zone we were just about to run into. It was at least 3 miles long, with no shoulder and bumper-to-bumper traffic. We were mostly able to stay on the white line and pedal along, keeping up with the motorists, except for one really narrow, gravelly section which we had to walk. Finally, we “escaped” to a section of the road which was completed, but still blocked-off from regular traffic.
As we wound our way through the neighborhoods of Roanoke, and then as we made our way through downtown, we met another commuter biker, who confirmed that we were headed in the correct direction. He asked us about our trip, and told us of his planned, “unplanned” car journey he's about to undertake - driving all over the country with just his dog, and no schedule.
Then, the real climbing began as we headed towards the Blue Ridge Parkway, which should be the highest elevation for this chapter of the journey. It was a beautifully smooth road with a nice, wide shoulder... and, best of all, no rumble strips. The scenery and greenery has changed. We're back to lovely, green, rolling hills (ok, steep, but beautiful hills), and gazillions of lilies next to the road. We've also spotted numerous furry brown creatures by the side of the road, which we learned were Groundhogs.
After still more climbing we pulled into a mini-mart, Elei's Grocery Store. As we were checking out some odd chain noise, the owner, Zouhir Safar, came out to ask if we needed to borrow any of his tools. He asked about our ride, and then told us the Gatorade was on him! As he and Andy were reviewing the map, he gave Andy a pair of biking sunglasses with reader lenses built into them - which are excellent! He was a wonderful host. He moved to the US from Syria about 6 years ago and started his business. He now has two locations. After a great rest, we departed, but not before naming Zouhir MVP #2.
As we turned onto the last highway of the day, we saw a sign prohibiting bikes, walking, etc. So we did a U-turn to review our options. We noticed the Bedford, VA visitors' center, with free wi-fi! As we talked with the attendant, it started to rain, kind of hard, for a few minutes. After reviewing the updated route, and the weather forecast, we decided to try to make it to Lynchburg, about 25 additional miles. It had been a pretty misty, humid day already, and we were wishing we'd actually invented the automatic wipers for glasses.
Back on the bike we wound our way through Bedford, with lots of traffic navigation, and Kim taking Mark Casey's recommendation to just say “car back, infinity”. After winding through the suburbs of Lynchburg, and a San-Francisco-steep decline on 7th Street, we arrived at the Holiday Inn, had a ok dinner, and tried to get everything mostly dry to be ready to pedal tomorrow.
Day 2 - 6/10/12 (58 miles)
After a bit of a lazy start and solid breakfast at an outdoor table with a lovely view of Virginia hills covered by, yes, you guessed it, Kudzu, we started our second day of pedaling. It was a much more humid day, with lots of twists and turns, and significantly steeper hills. It was like being back in Missouri.
The scenery was beautiful, and we were fortunate to be on the shaded side of the road for most of the journey. There were lots of cows, and many dogs, which were fortunately on leashes. At one point, after a long climb up a narrow section of road, we pulled to the side to let a car pass. Just as we pulled over, we heard the meows of a tiny kitten from the opposite side of the road. Just as the car passed us, the kitten decided to come across and investigate. Fortunately, the car swerved perfectly, and the kitten made it safely. Whew! Almost a cat'tastrophy.
After many more miles of rolling hills, we saw a solo bike rider ahead. As we caught-up to him, we pulled over and talked for a while. A very experienced rider, Kirk, has pedaled all over Europe and is in the process of wrapping-up his own cross-country experience, which included a little, 1,100-mile, “side trip” down Florida to Key West. He's also an author, and Kim is going to check out his collection of sci-fi stories “Life in Continuum”.
A few miles later, we met Tom, another cross country rider, from Pennsylvania. After he reaches Seattle, he'd like his next trip to be a mountain bike ride along the Continental Divide.
We enjoyed a lovely ride along the New River, and saw some historic homes, from as early as 1814 in Newbern. The expanses of maintained yards were amazing, some with over three acres of mowed grass. As we passed by one house, Kim noticed a cute collection of deer yard statues, which, upon second look, each had a red X on their side, and were actually for target practice.
We left the Trans-Virginia trail today, which was very nice, well-marked, with well-maintained roads. The benefit was the discovery of Custard Corner, which has been serving frozen treats since 1955. The “Thickies”, which are like DQ Blizzards, were excellent, and the people-watching, as we rested on an outdoor bench, was even better.
After about 41/2 hours of pedal time, we reached our goal of Christianburg, had a solid dinner at the nearby Denny's (which was made-up like a 1950's diner). After interesting conversation with the manager, we headed back to the hotel to plan the rest of the trip, and keep our fingers crossed for a less-hilly day tomorrow.
Day 1 - 6/9/12 (57 miles)
We woke up early, in Chicago, after a conference yesterday, and took the 6:30 shuttle back to O'Hare. The first flight was a small jet to Charlotte, NC, and the second flight was a turbo-prop into Tri-Cities Airport in Tennessee, just south of the Virginia border. We were met, as promised by a Virginia Creeper Bike Trail shuttle driver, Steve.
Kim was a little worried since it was a small, two-person pick-up, but there was a middle seatbelt, and the 45-minute drive went well. Steve told us about his childhood in South and Central America while his dad was in diplomatic service for the US.
When we arrived at the Virginia Creeper Bike Shop, we found the tandem in great shape and all ready to go. All of the Kentucky coal grit had been removed and the whole bike cleaned, and very well kept. We spent a bit of time getting everything repacked and all the bags attached, and then, at about 3:00 we started pedaling towards our goal city of Wytheville. You might think the name is pronounced “Whyth-ville”, however, we learned that it's actually “With-ville”, which took us back to the alternative pronunciations of Nevada we experienced in Missouri.
It was about 90 degrees, with relatively low humidity, a light wind, and plenty of mini-marts. In short, a perfect day. The scenery was beautiful, with gorgeous trees, flowers, rolling green hills, and fluffy clouds. The cars that passed were full of waving, friendly people who were patient with passing us on the relatively busy roads.
At about 8:15, after 57 miles, with much gratitude for the long summer day, we arrived at our hotel before the sun actually set, and caught a bit of the Celtics/Heat game before turning-in to try to get on Eastern time.
The Prologue II
Day 5 - 3/23/12 (66 miles)
With rain in the forecast, we “traded” a Friday workday for Saturday, and drove ourselves to Carson City, NV on Thursday evening to pick-up where we left-off a couple of weeks ago. After a comfy overnight stay, we drove back to the Target parking lot, bundled-up in the chilly, but sunny, morning air and started to pedal.
Andy had scouted an alternate route to the Adventure Cycling map which helped us avoid downtown and all the traffic lights. We skirted around another correctional facility, and glided onto Highway 50 towards Fallon, NV. As we began, we realized, with great joy, that there was a pretty zesty tail wind. With a few more pedal strokes, we realized that Nevada was going to bid us farewell with A Blessed Tailwind!
We scooted along at 25+ mph, chatting easily with our 3rd pedal-assistant (aka “the wind”, Tami) propelling our journey. We climbed hills at 15 mph instead of 5, and we stayed in The Big Ring most of the day! We cruised 40 miles without stopping until we spotted a Shell mini-mart in Silver Springs. As usual, the clerks were very friendly and helpful, and the people-watching excellent. Refueled by a large Starbuck's Frappuccino we were ready to go for the last 26 miles.
With very little traffic, other than a few free-range cattle with quite long horns, we made excellent time. There was a bit of tricky pedaling when one section actually had double-rumble-strips, and some wind over the last 9 miles or so... reminding us who was really in charge.
After just 3 1/2 hours of pedaling, at our fastest average speed ever (20.3), we spotted our destination, Smedley's, in beautiful, downtown Fallon, where Matt had dropped us last spring for the official beginning. We collected a rock from the parking lot, as this also marked the conclusion of our travel across Nevada. Then with great help from the local Enterprise rental car office, we loaded the bike and all the gear into a Dodge Caravan, and drove the 66 miles back to Carson City to claim the Subaru.
So, Prologue II is completed, and we're ready to embark on the final days - Abingdon, VA to Ocean City, MD - in mid-June. Thanks so much for all the encouragement and support. We couldn't have done this without you!
Day 4 - 3/9/12 (87 miles)
After six months with no tandem rides, and no bike rides at all for Kim, we were picked-up by Excellent Chauffer, Preston, just before 6:00AM. Preston transported us, and our borrowed tandem (thanks Terry and Karen) to the school parking lot in Omo Ranch, CA, which is in the middle of nowhere, about 30 miles southeast of Placerville. This is where we had to stop last spring because of the record snow levels.
As we were preparing to start the challenging 45 mile ride to Carson Pass, we met the Superintendent/Principal of Omo Ranch School, Rusty, who is a mountain bike rider. He asked about our ride, and gave some preview info of the terrain ahead. And, he was totally correct. The first section was a beautiful 10 miles with virtually no traffic, no ice, and still some snow in the forest. Rusty mentioned that he helped another cross-country biker navigate this section of the road last spring, in May, because it was still covered in snow. If we had any problems he said to give him a call on Saturday, and he'd be glad to help; yet another example of the countless, exceptionally helpful people along the way.
We rode ten miles pretty quickly to Cook's Station where we stopped at a road-side diner with very friendly patrons and staff, and got some warnings to be careful on Highway 88 as there were no shoulders, but lots of fast trucks. This was also correct. It was a long journey, of about 35 miles with about 6,000 feet of climbing, to reach Carson Pass, CA. This was our highest point in California, and where Kim claimed her souvenir rock for the state.
The scenery of amazing mountain views, frozen lakes, spectacular rock formations, cloudless blue sky, and moderate temperatures made the trip more than worth it, and reminded us very much of our time riding in Colorado. Did we mention there was ZERO wind?
At the summit, we bundled up for the brisk descent, and covered 35 miles in the time it had taken us to climb the last 8. We wound our way through the valley floor toward Carson City, Nevada, crossing the state line, and passing some amazing mansions. We met a friendly local in Genoa who offered to feed us, and told us we were crazy, which we interpreted in the nicest way. Andy, completely covered in spandex, ventured into the “Oldest Bar in Nevada” to purchase the oldest drink in the world . . . water, to get us through the last 10 miles of the journey.
Finally, after 87 miles and 9.5 hours from Omo Ranch, we arrived at the Target parking lot and found a smiling, helpful Preston who joined us for dinner and then drove us back to the car we'd left in Truckee. Now, we have only the remaining 65-or-so (flat!) miles from Carson City to Fallon, and we'll be finished with Nevada.