TransAm Day 5—08April
Today I rested. I love the hotel that I’m in, right on the route. Breakfast was great, and I was able to get everything dried out. Randy and Leslie decided to drive up from Langley just to get away for the day. We went out to lunch, and then drove up to see Monticello, Jefferson’s home. I had passed Monticello en route to Charlottesville, but it was cold and snowing at the time, and all I desired was to get warm and dry. Sadly, photos were not allowed inside the house, so I was only able to preserve for posterity the exterior. The evening was spent packing up and getting ready for tomorrow’s ride. Once again, I went through everything that I was carrying, and eliminated another five or more pounds of goods, to be shipped back home. I read on hiker blogging pages that this exact same thing happens. Suddenly, many articles of clothing can be multi-tasked. There becomes a blur between bike clothes and street clothes. The only real distinction is that my bike pants have padding which is uncomfortable to just wear around as street clothing when trying to chill out. I decided that it is highly unlikely that I would do any serious cooking, and needed the stove only for coffee in the morning, if I’m camping that night. Granola bars take the place of pancakes, eggs, oatmeal, and all those other things I cherish at home.
Randy and Leslie with Tom Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson’s grave site in the family plot
TransAm Day 6—09April
Time to check out of a comfortable hotel. Looking at the ACA maps, they deviate to some very strange side roads. I have the strange mentality that if I wish to go from point A to point B, one goes in the most direct line possible, unless there are very good reasons to do otherwise. Most of the TransAm route in fairly direct, except for Virginia, which for unexplained reasons, the ACA course takes you all over the map. Thus, I will be making modifications as I go through Virginia. I am recording the route on my Garmin, but am not sure how to get it into this post through my iPad, so will leave that only to my Garmin friends, or if you particularly request to see my route.
The weather was cold and windy when I went for breakfast, but by 8 am, it started to snow. I thought I’d wait a bit, but it continued to snow until after 11am, and the temperature remained bitterly cold. I checked the weather reports, and tomorrow was supposed to be sunny, so it made sense to just wait out another day. If I don’t get riding soon, it will be impossible to get back in the saddle!
TransAm Day 7—10April
I started out the day with fog and wind. Some of my mojo seems to have come back, and it was not terribly challenging making it up to Rockfish Gap, though I will admit that I walked the bike a short distance past the cookie ladies’ house. The cookie lady was June Curry, who would bake cookies for the cyclists going by her house. It appeared to be a beautiful brick structure, that unfortunately had fallen into serious disrepair after her death in 2012. I arrived at Rockfish Gap much earlier than I expected, but it was bitterly cold, again chilling me to the bone, and making me lose my mojo. I had a hot dog at the King popcorn stand, and wanted nothing more than to get down out of the wind. So, I made executive decision #39 to forego riding the Blueridge Parkway, and to ride the Shenandoah valley instead. It was a little disappointing to me, but a good decision made on somewhat bad information. The elevation of Alton was shown at about 1000 ft on the ACA profile maps, and the top of the parkway at about 3000 ft, suggesting that I had only scratched the surface of the climb, when in reality, Rockfish Gap was over 1800 ft altitude per my Garmin. The Blueridge Parkway route would not have been as challenging as suggested by the ACA elevation profile. So, I dropped off of the ridge into the Shenandoah Valley. I stopped in a cheap hotel south of Waynesboro, but would be able to make up for a few lost days in the next few days by just following the Lee highway southward.
The cookie lady’s house
Popcorn stand at Rockfish Gap, a great place for a hotdog.
TransAm Day 8—11April
Today I wanted to make some distance. But, a woke up feeling absolutely miserable again. It is strange that I was sleeping better in tents than in hotel rooms. The very first night of my adventure, I took a hard fall to my left side getting up from a picnic table at the campground. I thought nothing of it at first but then realized that it was extreme pain not letting me sleep at night, and bothering me whenever I moved or lifted something. The pain and symptoms were most consistent with a rib fracture, something I’ve had before. Worse, the cold air was making me cough constantly, adding to the misery. But, the coldness was affecting me in a manner very strangely, as I felt frozen to my bones, and could not warm up. I’d have all my cycling clothes on, and warmth clothes on, be sweating profusely, and yet felt icy cold in the wind that seemed to mock defiantly my efforts for comfort. I had completely long any sense of ginger. So, I have my bags packed but the thought is overwhelming me whether or not I was enjoying my adventure, and when the course would turn that I would start enjoying things. My body wasn’t helping because all it could say was “pain”. It wasn’t tiredness, save for the tiredness that plagued a body feeling like crap. It didn’t help that the weather reports had been consistently more optimistic than reality, but still didn’t predict balmy spring weather, but rather, more storms. So, I called home to Betsy for advice. Her suggestion was to abort, and normally I’d be resistant to that. I’m not a quitter. I don’t do things like that. I’ve been thinking about doing this for years. But, for now, I decided to abort. Running through all the options, I decided to rent a car, and just drive home. It was the most expensive option, but the most convenient. I considered stopping for several days at Pete’s farm house in Kentucky (close to Berea) to see if I would bounce back, and then resume the ride in Kentucky, skipping only a short section. Anyway, I pushed the abort button, got a car that would fit my bike, and off I went. A car also made sense, because it would continue the adventure, driving through places I’ve never been, or re-discovering places I once was.
Peter’s new car, a 10 wheel drive vehicle
Pete at the wheel of his new car
Peter building his house by himself on his farm. The frame was to go up in two days.
The first day was driving through Virginia, West Virginia, and eastern Kentucky to Sanford, KY where Peter had his farm. Peter, by the way, was a good friend through surgical residency, the research years, and surgical oncology fellowship. We had done a number of rides together before, including several cycle tours together in Germany. He had just gotten married to Karma, and it was nice to see Karma again. The plan was to spend several days with Pete, see how I was feeling, and then take off either by car or bike from there. We drove Peters’ “new” Jeep around the farm, had a bbq and cigar, and chatted as old friends. That night I slept worse than ever with rib pain and coughing, felt like a low case of the flu, and just wanted to get home. So, I decided to run. The temperature when I left Virginia was 40 degrees, and it had warmed up to 50 in KY, but with the wind, I still felt frozen. I drove through KY, Indiana, southern Illinois, Missouri, and made it all the way to Selena, KS, where the temperature was up to 90 degrees. But, a storm was expected the next day, so I knew that the warmth would be short lived. Taking off early the next morning, the temperature started at 50 degrees and balmy, but dropped to 28 degrees with high winds in a blowing snowstorm by the time I reached Colorado. Pushing on, there were more snow flurries and much high winds in Wyoming, the weather finally becoming beautiful sun in northern Utah. I stopped in Burley, Idaho for the night. The next day remained a warm-feeling 50’ish degrees F, and a beautiful ride home, ending in a torrential rain as I arrived in Puyallup. It was raining so hard that the area was worried about landslides of an Oso proportion, which happened several years ago up by Arlington, WA, wiping out an entire community. Meanwhile, the next few days manifested horrible snowstorms in the Midwest, and Peter even noted that they were getting snow in Kentucky. I would have been struggling through at least a week or two more of inclement weather. It was just NOT the right year to start the TransAm in April!
So, how might I learn from this truncated adventure?
1. Riding alone is fun for a few days and I always have enjoyed occasional solo adventures, but for me, I hated the absence of a companion to ride with for prolonged periods. That’s me. I didn’t think that it would affect me so much, but the prospect of three months mostly alone began to torture me. I went on this ride to find myself, but it didn’t take three months, it took only a week to find myself. I learned that I like being around friends and people, and put a high value on that. That’s how I found myself.
2. Over-planning is always my biggest curse. But, I do that when not sure what to expect, and this abbreviated adventure gave me great insights into how to do it right in the future for “epic” bike tours. Don’t fret every possible contingency, pack light, and adapt to re-provisioning on the road.
3. Physical injury or illness can never be predicted, as well as inclement weather. Many variables affect an outcome, and the insight to change or abort must always be held. Surgical training has taught me that to persist in something that isn’t working is the epitome of foolishness. I don’t consider the “abort”decision as a sign of failure or giving up, but rather the need to adjust plans to best accommodate the current situation.
4. When tired, depressed, and overwhelmed with discomforts, personal hygiene seems to be neglected. I had learned in Air Force survival school as well as on backpack trips, of the importance of maintaining cleanliness. This is a small but important item that is often neglected by many, but as survival school taught, could make the difference between life and death.
So, what am I going to do from here? I intend to continue some sort of touring bike ride, but without the intention of riding the entire TransAm this season as a complete whole. I have several backpack trips planned for later this summer, including one in Mt. Rainier National Park for which I was able to obtain reservations for campsites, but more on that in another post. Russ wishes to do a long ride, so we will perhaps take the train to Newton, KS, and ride from there to Missoula, MT. Perhaps we’ll alter our plans an ride the Pacific Coast route to San Diego from my house. It doesn’t really matter too much to me as long as I can keep riding. And yes, I will keep posting.
I didn’t realize until I came home that the photos I the first TransAm post were not coming through correctly. I was taking the photos in RAW format on my mirrorless Canon M100, and they seemed to incorporate nicely into the WordPress app that I’m using on my iPad. Apparently, they are importing in too large of a format, and I’m unable to add captions to the photos. I will be correcting the former posts, and playing around a bit to see if I could fix the problem so that I can post while on the road.