Monday, August 26, 2013

Some Numbers from the trip

Bike Trip Recap 
We began riding on June 8th, and finished on July 31st, for a total duration of 54 days.  We rode the bikes for 50 of those days, with one “day off”, one zero day due to rain/road conditions, and two days off when we got to Berea.  Our shortest day was 40 miles, and our longest was 128 miles.
    Days over 100 miles (“Centuries”):  9
    90-100:  7
    80-90:  10
    70-80:  8
    60-70:  7
    50-60:  7
    40-50:  2

We did 39 days with at least a “metric century” (100 kilometers).
    We spent 4 nights in a motel (including one night in Berea), 10 nights in city parks, 7 nights in hostels, 19 nights in RV parks, 12 nights in state/national park campgrounds, and 2 nights at home in our own beds (when we took the weekend off in Berea).
    No falls, no injuries, no illness the entire trip.
    We saw the moon grow full twice on the trip, and saw the Milky Way as clear as can be from the high elevations out west.  We saw beautiful red rock canyons, awesome gorges cut into the canyon walls, lava fields, rushing streams of crystal clear water, and sunrises and sunsets so beautiful they make you shiver.
    We had what seemed to be an infinite number of variations of pasta for dinner in the evenings.  I don't know how Sue came up with all the different ideas, but I don't think there were ever any leftovers.
    When I look at all this, I just don't know how we did it.  How did we persevere?  How did we get up every day and get on the bikes?  Why didn't we quit when we got tired and discouraged and cranky?  It's pretty remarkable, really.   Somehow we were in a "zone", and when one of  us was weary the others gave encouragement.  And of course we are all pretty determined - some would say stubborn.   And of course we figure Mom was up there praying for us all the time to keep us safe.
    Good rides to all.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Post-Ride Reflections – “Gee But It’s Great to Be Back Home!” (Jerry's post)

    When we boldly began planning for this adventure last summer, none of us had a really clear idea of how it would all work.  We were pretty inexperienced, and just sort of trusted that it would all click.  We realized there would be a lot of working it out on the fly.  In particular, Sue’s role as our support person was a mystery.  But we just jumped in and trusted that we could problem solve our way along.  And that is in fact how it played out, mostly with success.
     Looking back, I would have to say that in many ways it “wasn’t what I thought it would be.”     The big surprise in the early going was the traffic.  We knew of course that the route would take us on regular highways, but the amount of traffic was a surprise.  We persevered through Oregon and most of Idaho, and talked to the Adventure Cycling folks in Missoula.  They told us that the roads would have less traffic as we got into Wyoming, and indeed that turned out to be true and we felt more comfortable on most of the roads afterwards.  But those first six or eight hundred miles were often terrifying.
     But the rides!  The rides were wonderful.  I just loved getting up and riding 60, 80, a hundred miles each day, and getting up the next day and doing it again.  The early morning has always been my favorite time to ride.  Vigorous exercise clears the mind and stimulates creative thought.  The mountain climbs out west were sometimes long and exhausting, but for the most part they were manageable.  And then when you got to the top , the descents were glorious.  It is hard to describe the feeling of exhilaration on a long descent from a high pass in the Rockies.  And it was of course made more enjoyable on the days when we found a nice café near the bottom, to get coffee and pancakes.   
    It took a while for me to get comfortable with my bike.  I had bought it just a few days before we left home, a last minute decision to replace my old bike that was having a few problems.  You might think all bikes are pretty much the same, but when you spend every day riding the way we do each little variation in how it shifts, or steers, or how it brakes makes you feel like you are bonded to the bike, committed to working together, like a partner on the road, trying to achieve a common goal, dependent on each other. 
    It was an almost spiritual experience, learning to use the gear train, feeling the connection through the shifter cables to the cassette and chainrings, fine tuning, tickling the shifters, going up a gear, or down a gear, trying to zero in on the sweet spot, to optimize the combinations to match the environmental factors – how much wind?  How steep the grade?  How fatigued the rider?  I became one with the bike, happy to work together to complete the climb. 
    Early on, we decided to get up early and try to beat the traffic.  That was necessary in Oregon along the coast, and on the busy highways we encountered.  Later on, it was good to beat the heat, too.  Mostly, we would start by six am.  Even though I am an early morning person, I would have liked to start a bit later, after a hot breakfast and a cup of coffee or hot chocolate.  And then, we would be finished with our ride by 1 or 2 pm, having covered maybe 80 or 90 miles.  That is a pretty good day’s ride, and we were tired.  But it often felt like too early to quit to me, even though we had done a lot of miles.  When hiking the Appalachian Trail, I would usually get up at first light, eat breakfast, hike until almost dark, trying to cover as many miles as I could.  But with the way we were riding, we had to identify a potential camping location each day and so many times we stopped due to the limitations of camping sites.  That’s one of the ways the experience “wasn’t what I thought it would be.”
    Just as on the AT hike, I loved the experience of being outdoors for days on end.  We camped virtually all the way.   The only time we slept indoors was one night in Missoula, one night in a camping cabin, a few nights in church hostels (and once a volunteer fire department), and two motels in Virginia near the end.  Camping is a lot of work, but the experience of being outdoors for me is wonderful.   We fortunately had good weather, very little rain, so that helped a lot.  Jeff and Jack expressed a few times that they didn’t enjoy the fact that every day they had to put up and take down their tent.  I was a bit luckier – usually Sue would stay in the sleeping bag until we were gone, so she took care of the tent.   But I was used to the daily routine from the AT experience.  Nevertheless, when waking up in the middle of the night, I frequently took a minute or two to figure out where I was.  Since being home, I am still a little bit uncertain of where I am when I awake during the night.  But it’s coming back to me.
    Another subtle pleasure I had along the way was color.  I get a feeling of pleasure at the vibrant colors of nature that surround me as I ride along.  A brilliant blue flash of a bird crossing the road in front of me, bright yellow sunflowers, streaks of red rock on the side of the road, purple flowers, white banks of snow, green fields of corn – each sensory delight I am blessed with brings joy to my heart as I ride along.  And there were thousands of such moments along the way as we cycled across the land.
    Near the beginning, I thought we would quit.  In fact, I was hoping that Jack and Jeff would bail out and say let’s go home.  The ride was hard, and traffic was abominable, and I was struggling to keep up the pace that Jack and Jeff were setting.  It “wasn’t what I thought it would be”, and I was willing to give it up.    But after a week or so, it was clear that Jeff was committed to continuing, in order to complete the commitment he had made to the MPS society to do the ride as a way to call attention to the childhood disease that his daughter Aly suffers from.  That motivation, I think, changed the way I perceived the ride, and motivated me to continue, to be an assistance to Jeff in completing the ride.  Without that motivation, I would have given up.  So, a big thank you to Jeff and Aly for keeping me on the bike. 
    One thing that struck me repeatedly, especially when we stopped for pancakes and coffee in the morning, was watching people headed off for work.  Here we were, riding across the country – me retired, Jeff and Jack both teachers spending most of their summer riding – and here were all these people dutifully headed off for work.  I spent most of my life working, going to work faithfully every day, but still I felt a bit guilty, like I was playing hooky from my responsibilities.  I am a very lucky fellow to have this opportunity.
    Early on, it was very cold.  We started many mornings off with temperatures in the thirties.  I have done many rides in the winter, but usually no more than an hour and a half.  Here we were spending the entire day riding in the cold.  Later on, of course, it was very hot.  In eastern Colorado and Kansas, and on into Illinois and Kentucky, it was often in the nineties and for a while it was over a hundred.  On such days, you can only imagine what a pleasure it was to be able to fill your water bottle with ice and water.  At several of the cafes we stopped at, clearly the waitresses were accustomed to having cyclists stop in, and they volunteered to take our water bottles and fill them with ice and water.  Those ladies will surely be blessed with a special place in heaven for their kindness.  Of course, it also had a bearing on the tip I left, too. 
    As noted, we often stopped for pancakes and coffee in the morning.  Especially out west, there always seemed to be a nice mom-and-pop café in the small towns that was the gathering place for the local folks.  It is difficult to put into words how good a cup of coffee can taste after riding thirty or forty miles, and pancakes with butter and syrup bring waves of pleasure to the taste buds.  It must be something about the physical exertion that heightens the senses to new levels of experience.  If you don’t know what I am talking about, you should try it – push yourself to the limits, and indulge in whatever culinary pleasure you like and see if it is not enhanced to the point of ecstasy. 
     When we came to hills, Jack was the one hammering his way to the top.  He seemed to just love the challenge of the climb.  He gloried in the pain.  Me, I pumped for a bit, but quickly gave in to the temptation to reach down into my lower gears and crawl my way to the top.  Especially after it got hotter, I was sweating up a river. The sweat would just pour off of me, running in little rivulets down off my nose onto the handlebars.  I could watch the accumulation as I struggled up the hill.  On one day in Kansas, on the day I suggested we go beyond our 65 mile planned target and go another 40 to Landen, and it meant turning south into what surely was 35 or 40 mph headwinds for about 18 miles, I dropped way behind Jack and Jeff.   Sue came and rescued me by enabling me to refill my water bottles.  I inched my way against that wind, watching my odometer drop to 6 mph, then 5, sometimes stopping every mile to rest, my head hanging on the handlebars, dripping sweat.  I finally pulled into Landen long after they had arrived, but I was exhilarated by the fact that I had made it successfully.   I will never forget the winds of Kansas.
     In the beginning, we rode mostly together, in a pace line.  Riders in a pace line can conserve their energy, drafting off the person in front, resting a bit, waiting for their turn in front when they have to set the pace.  This actually worked fairly well, although I was always the weakest rider, and they had to slow down for me at times.  But later on, we decided to ride our own pace.  Jack would always trudge ahead.  As time went on, Jeff became noticeably stronger, and he would pretty much keep up with Jack.  I was the slower one, and reluctantly resigned myself to the fact that I was going to ride alone and get into camp long after them.  Once we got into this routine, I was actually much happier, although it was sometimes lonely to ride alone most of the day.  But just like on the Appalachian Trail, you have to settle in to your own pace.  Hike your own hike, ride your own ride. 
    On the long climbs, and the long lonely rides after we started riding separately, I had a lot of time on my hands.  One of the reasons endurance events such as this and the AT appeal to me is it helps me to purge out the bad stuff – bad memories, guilt, anger, despair, bitterness.  And it seems that in such endeavors, I instinctively fall back on the template that I learned in my youth, and I pray.  Sometimes it is simple rote prayers such as the rosary – it took a lot of Hail Mary’s to climb some of those hills.  I also have used the format of morning prayer and evening prayer from the Prayer of Christians.  Even though I have in recent years become less and less bound by doctrine and dogma and ecclesiastical authority, nevertheless I still feel the hand of God in the world, and so I pray.  In morning prayer, there are two optional invocations.   One is “ Lord, open my lips and my mouth will proclaim your praise!”  The other is “Oh  God, come to my assistance, Lord, make haste to help me!”  Which one feels most appropriate on a given day depends on how hopeful and optimistic I feel, or how bad the traffic is, or how beautiful the surroundings.  But always, prayer helps me to center myself and put aside the negativity and try to do good.  And so I prayed as I pedaled.
    We met another east-bound rider in Kentucky named Lyle, from Hawaii.  He was a retired teacher, and had biked around Hawaii all his life.  Literally, a round Hawaii.  He would do a ride in a circle and always wind up where he had started.  The great thing about his ride for him was that he was seeing different stuff every day.  And we had the same experience.  Every day, every ride was something new to us, different around every bend.  It will be hard to adjust to doing the same rides over and over again.
    Would I do it again?  Probably not, although I would like to try some short unsupported overnights closer to home.   Would I recommend it to others?  I have some strong concerns about the route that we followed.  Some of the roads were, in my opinion, not suited for cycling.  I am sure there are some other routes that would be a bit safer to ride.  To anyone interested, I’d recommend looking into other routes.  Or at least be flexible enough to time your rides to take advantage of any low-traffic times that might be available on the roads in Oregon and Idaho. 
    And I cannot say “thank you” enough to Sue for her patience and perseverance in providing support to us on the trip.  Living with the three of us for two months like that in camping conditions was way beyond difficult. We could not have done this trip without her.  She had to endure a lot.
    And yes, it is truly great to be back home,

    If anyone has any questions about our experience, feel free to leave a comment and I am sure one of us will be happy to reply.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

A few photos...

July 31 - Yorktown!

July 31, 2013

In the infamous words of Reese Witherspoon in “Legally Blond”, we did it!!!!

We landed in Yorktown around 2:30.  Had our picture taken at the Yorktown sign, the Victory Monument, and at the water with our front wheels in the water, the customary/traditional way to end a trip across the country.  Not sure if it has really set   in yet.  Kind of a mixed bag.  Feelings of relief, happiness, and wow we did it.  We are still waiting for the band to show up with the confetti.

The day began around 6:15.  It ended up being another 100 mile day.  Two centuries in a row. Out of Ashland, we went through Mechanicsville, pop 36,000 (of course, there were auto mechanic shops all over the city), Elko, Glendale, Charles City, Williamsburg, and then into the city of Yorktown.  Our mecca.  We were to meet along a bike trail that paralled the main road for coffee and pancake;  but no go, not open.  So we never got our café stop on the last day.  Kind if random, but yesterday, saw a school with nickname, the Flucos.  High school today called Chickahominy High School. Gas station coffee.  Not many places for services along the way, so we were all very low on walter by the end of the day.  Trail took us along the Colonial Parkway which was like riding on cobblestones.  It is actually called aggregate.  Very rough riding the last 30 miles or so.  Fitting way to end the trip.   We would have rather had mountains.  Almost.  Trail through the last part and Williamsburg was very complicated and confusing.  Even Jerry got lost once.  First time in 3,900 miles and it happened on the last day.  The ironic thing was that I helped him get back on the right path/direction.  He was my guardian angel the entire trip.  He is the best map man ever.  Besides that, the award for the toughest rider also goes to Jerry.  He’ll probably hate me for saying this, but he will be 64 in August.  All I can say is how many 64 year olds do you know that could have done what he did.  When I’m  64 (isn’t that a Beatle’s tune?), I hope I remember what he did and if I could do it at that age.  Incredible.   He got up everyday and got it done.  Kudos to my brother.

So we are staying a church that has a house for bicyclists.  We have the entire house along with another cyclist who also finished today and a $500 a night view of the Bay in Yorktown.  Life is good.  We went out to dinner to celebrate our accomplishment.  Sue had plaques made for us.  We ate at the Yorktown Pub.  Draft beer finally.  Went to Ben/Jerry’s after dinner.  While sitting outside, this band of young people comes marching down a side street playing Revolutionary times music.  They marched through the downtown/waterfront area for about 30 minutes and then disappeared back up the hill.  Very bizarre.  Had a peanut butter/banana shake.  Best ever.  Got to get the Silver Grove Dari Bar in on this one.

This will be the last blog entry. It may be a little lengthy, but I have some people to thank and some things to say.   Some members of the family are meeting us in Virginia Beach at the  end of the week for our family vacation, but I’m sure you  don’t want to hear about my time there in the blog.  We are not sure what we will do after today.  We had talked about finding a route to ride to Virginia Beach, but we are not sure if we really want to ride tomorrow.  We are a little sore and washed out.  Jack flies out on Saturday morning to make his entrance back into normal life.  As we speak, he is up the street in Yorktown helping a lady who gave us walter before, weed her garden.  I’m not kidding you.  Fruits and nuts.  He weeded for about an hour and then she invites him in to talk more about Yorktown.  Jack got her name and number so we can call her for a tour some time next week.  She also gave Jack one of her keepsake books about the history of Yorktown so we can read about the city.  He does have the silver tongue.  I guess he also gets the Good Samaritan award of the day again.

We finished the trip in 54 days.  We began on June 8.  We finished about two-three days ahead of schedoole (schedule).

Back in my first line, I mentioned that “we did it”.  Well,we is only a two letter  word, but it is a huge word in relation to this trip. 

First of all we is myself, Jerry, Jack, and Sue.  We set out on this adventure and we saw  it through.  We overcame a lot of trials and tribulations.  The dynamics of the trip changed constantly.  You put four people together for 54 days, and it is not going to be without its trials.  But we persevered and now we are in Yorktown.  When we were in Missoula back in June, we almost quit.  The trip was not what we envisioned.  There was the traffic and the weather and the camping.  I think the trip became more of a mental  challenge than a physical challenge.  But here we are in Yorktown just like we hoped we would be.  The experience is one that we will never forget.

We is also all of you who were praying for our safety and offering encouragement.  I guess it helped.  No one got hurt or injured.  We had some ailments, but nothing a few ibuprofen, ice, or A and D ointment couldn’t fix.  Maybe that’s  TMI.  I know when I was home for the Berea weekend, and we had some friends over, their interest and enthusiasm was very encouraging to me to finish.

We is all of you who donated to the MPS Society.  Last I looked it was up close to $4,000.  I was a little discouraged in the beginning at the amount, but I had to remind myself of what my goals were.   And I realize these can be tough economic times for some people and you get bombarded with charities, so I tried to keep it all in perspective.   One of my goals was to give back to the MPS Society by raising money which we did, and secondly to create more awareness for the children  and families that deal with MPS diseases every day.  I passed out some cards across the country and those of you that have been reading  the blog, I hope you have checked out the web page for the MPS Society to maybe learn a little about these “special kids”.  So, I feel good about that.  The donation page was an encouragement for me to finish.  And if people were made more aware of the MPS Society, the trip was a huge success.

We is all the people who helped Mary while I was away.  I am not going to mention names in fear of forgetting someone.  But all the spa nights that were held, and the people who  picked up Aly or watched her for Mary.  Thank you.  In the  talks that I  give for the “Everybody Counts” Program, I always refer to Aly as a ”high maintenance babe”.  Usually Mary and I share the care, but Mary had  to assume my roles also.  She requires a lot of care, and we appreciate what you have done for us.  Without you, it doesn’t happen.

We is also my family, Nicki, Becky, and Tom who helped Mary with Aly.  And offering support to me  all along the way.  And handling the web site with MPS Society.  Nicki played a big part in the promotion of the trip. Thank you all.  Your encouragement spurred me on.  It was important to me that you were proud of your dad.  I didn’t want to let you down.

And finally we is my lovely bride and wife who made this trip possible.  When we were planning this trip almost a year ago, I kept saying I shouldn’t go, but Mary said, yes you should go, it is the chance of lifetime.  Not every spouse would have done that.  I am very lucky.  And I know paybacks are hell.   But the responsibility she  took on of taking care of Aly and working full time was very difficult.  I know. She also had the grass to cut and the pool to maintain.   I had the easy job.  I  got to ride my bike every day and see the country.  It was a chance of a lifetime and an experience I will never forget.  She had the hard job.  Every time I called and talked to Mary, she never let on how difficult things really were.  She was always positive and encouraging.  She never let me know how tough things were.  She is a real trooper.  Without her willingness to take all that on, the trip would have never happened.  Thanks Mare.I can never thank you enough.  Like I said before in an earlier blog, the only thing that would have made the trip better is if you were here with me to see all  the things I saw and got to meet all the people I got to meet.

I want to thank my brothers for doing this with me.  We saw things. We met so many people. Shared experiences. And got to spend time together.  Shared a lot of laughs. We rode together for 54 days.  We experienced and saw  things we can talk about forever.  And we accomplished something nobody can ever take away from us.  And without their strength and patience and perseverance, it never would have been possible for us to finish.  They taught me a lot about camping, which I may never do again the rest of my life.  They taught me about riding and bike maintenance.  And I’m sure I am missing something.  The trip wasn’t without its issues, but like I said before, you put 3-4 people together for 54 days, every day isn’t going to be peaches and cream.  I have eaten more pancakes with them than anybody else I know.  We had joked at one time that when we get to Yorktown, we may be tempted to throw our bikes  in the bay.  Well, it all worked out.  Bikes are still dry.

I also want t thank Sue for  putting up with us and taking care of us.  She always made sure we had plenty of supplies.  Jelly  and peanut butter for our sandwiches and my crackers.  Bananas and oranges and snacks.  And she cooked for us 40 times probably.  And there were very few repeats.  We had pasta every night and she found a way to make it different each time.  And she had to find places out in the middle of nowhere for  us to stay.  And she was alone a lot.  Her job was the toughest of the four of us.  And she had to sit there every night and hear us tell stories about the things we saw and did.  She is also a real trooper.  Maybe she is actually crazier than the three of us that did the riding. Not just anyone could have done what she did.

I want to wish safety and good luck to the dozens of cyclists we saw along the way.  Hope they all make it.  And safely like we did. 

And lastly, I want to thank all of you that have been following the blog and reading about our adventure.  I enjoyed doing it.  There wasn't one time that I didn’t want to do it.  Sometimes after those 100 mile days, I was a little washed out and I’m not sure how much sense I was making, but I really enjoyed the writing.  Hope I didn’t bore you to tears.

So, I guess this is the end.  Thanks for reading

If you ever plan on doing a trip like we  did, please talk to one of us.  We had no idea what we were in for or what it would be like.  Not that we are experts, but we could give you some sound advice.

Slater (see you later)

Jeff W. Von Handorf

July 30

July 30, 2013
Last night, we all explored the campus of the University of Virginia on our own.  Jerry and Sue went to eat at the Virginian and Jerry got the Virginia Burger.  Jack ate at Christian Pizza, and I ate at Trinity Pub.  I hit Happy Hour and steins of Shock Top were $4.  I also watched a little Sportscenter and bought a USA Today to begin my orientation and adjustment back to normal life.  I am going to move slowly.  I also watched a little more Sportscenter back at the room.  Jack found a bookstore finally and bought the book “Stumbling Upon Happiness”.  It is a book that came highly recommended by a motorcycle guy back in Montana (?).  The.   campus is really something.  Very Jeffersonian. The Rotunda was very cool and I also walked to the football stadium and tried to talk my way in to see the field.  No go.  There is a spot from the North end where you can see just about everything through a fence.  Cool place.  Campus is landlocked a lot like UC.  Lot of history in Charlottesville.  I also got a frozen yogurt on my way back to hotel.  Red Roof Inn gets a D-.  No ice machines working except on 7 and 8th floors. That’s ok but no signs on the broken machines.  No continental breakfast.  No fitness room.  And they charge you up front for a safe in your room. They refund the $1.50 when you check out.  Not impressed with Red Roof.  Could be my last visit to the Roof.  Put Charlottesville on your day trip list.  But don’t stay at the Red Roof.

We got off about 6:00-6:30.  The route went through town and past Monticello.  It was closed and could not get a look at it.  Jack had to return to town to have something done to his bike, so he got a late start.  Jerry and I had coffee in Palmyra.  We went through Cunningham but did not see Richie or Willie.  Kents Store, Tabscott, and then we had lunch at Mineral, pop 467.  Next town was, and I am not making this up, Bumpass.  We thought for sure there would be a souvenir stand in town selling t-shirts, coffee mugs, etc.  As Jerry commented, somebody is missing out on a huge marketing opportunity here.  I’m sure you get the picture.  Then it was onto Ashland, home of Randolph-Macon College.  Pop 7,225.  We are in an RV park.  It even has a fitness room.  Hear that Red Roof.  Has a pool and showers.  Right next to expressway.  Could be rough sleeping.  When I got into town, and this happens all the time, it seems that nobody knows where the campground is.  Or 3 out of 4 people you talk to “aren’t from here”.  Makes it difficult.

Rode about 100+ miles.  70 yesterday.  About 90 left for tomorrow into Yorktown.  Terrain had some hills in beginning, but flat thereafter for the most part.

Mailbox award goes to a mailbox painted like Old Glory.  Saw a couple deer and blue heron.  Jerry saw some pileated woodpeckers.  Think Woody Woodpecker.

Jerry has been leading a double life. Yesterday, Jack stopped by a produce place and bought a peach as I mentioned yesterday.  Apparently Jerry went to the same place, but instead of buying a peach, he just picked his own off a tree near the road.  And we all thought he was so honest.  Next time he visits, better watch him.  No cornfield is safe either.  He reminds me of OJ.

Into Yorktown tomorrow.  Hope the band is prepared.  Hope confetti has been cut.  And the champaign chilled.

 Hope you can handle one more blog.

Jeff, Jerry, Jack, andSue

Monday, July 29, 2013

July 29 - Jeff

Leftovers from yesterday.  Jack wins the Good Samaritan award of the day for yesterday.  On the way into Lexington, Jerry spotted Jack helping a little old lday.  He was pushing his bike and carrying her groceries.  He thought at one point he may have to carry her too.  Probably Stonewall Jackson’s wife.  Jack also saw a shepherd.  An honest to god shepherd with the turbine and leading sheep across a pasture.  I think Jack may be hallucinating.

We have had bad luck with campgrounds.  Now it could be that we turn in about 8-8:30 each night.  But we seem to have noise every time we camp. Last night it was a party at the campground followed by dogs barking endlessly into the night.  Then thunder and lightning started but I guess the rain gods were smiling on us because the rain never did appear.

We all got off between 6 and 6:30 to attack the last mountain.  On the way toward Vesuvius, the daily mailbox winner appeared.  A beautiful brick pillared mailbox with a huge concrete turkey on top.  One thing missing, no house.  It sat next to a creek and we looked around and saw no evidence of a residence.  Also on the way, you know how we have talked about the dawgs.  Well, this German shepherd suddenly appeared next to me.  And he ran with me for about 3 miles.  Just accompanying me along the road.  Kind of strange.  He’d sprint ahead, stop at a tree, catch up to me, stop for a poop, and catch up again.  He moved at a good clip.    Lost him on a downhill.

The mountain was much ado about nothing.  Not nearly as bad as we anticipated.  Jack and Jerry didn’t even stop on the way up.  I stopped twice. Even used my granny gear.  I guess I get the pink tutu.  I just felt, why kill myself.  After the “climb”, we went along the Blue Ridge Parkway.  Very nice.  Highly recommend riding along this road in a car or on a bike.  Great scenery if you like mountains.  We could even see the ultimate, flat land below.    We went through Reeds gap, Rockfish Gap, and then into Afton which was our tentative destination.  Well, we got there about 10:30 and Afton was no more than a post office.  We decided to head for Charlottesville. We went through Greenwood and White Hall.  Jack stopped for a fresh peach.  Hard as a rock.  Jack was not happy.  But he was happier before when we stopped at the Rockfish Gap Country Store.  Popcorn.  Jack was in hog heaven.  Jerry and I got coffee that came out of a one cup dispenser.  Not the same or as good as gas station coffee.

After a lot of confusion, we ended up in a Red Roof Inn for lack of a place to stay.  Charlottesville is the home of the University of Virginia.  I didn’t realize that until we entered the city.  Looks like the college is the entire town.

Tomorrow, we head out hoping to be able to finish the trip in two days.  We are on flat land!!

Jeff, Jerry, Jack, and Sue

July 28 - Jeff

Left around 7:00 this morning. Hotel had a continental breakfast.  Pretty weak.  No bananas.   On the way out going back toward the trail, went past Lord Tortboute High School.  Looked like it rained during the night a little, but it did not rain the entire day.  Sunshine as we speak.  Little humid at times.

Went through Troutville, pop 431, Buchanan, pop 1,178, and into Lexington, pop7,042.  Stopped at the Mountain View Grill just outside of Buchanan just  across the James River.  Had pancakes and a bonus, fresh fruit.  Had no choice. All breakfast had a number.  Ours was number 3.  Talked to a couple from DC in there.  Very interested in our trip.  Nice people.  Her husband was an avid watcher of the Tour De France.  Last Monday at dinner, when Joan and Dave and Jay ere with us we talked about there being no Tour for the women.  This guy said there is one in the planning stages.

Went past a church with a slogan.  It said, “Lifeguard on duty”.  We thought great, Kylie Von Handorf came to join our trip.  It wet on to say, “see John 3:16”.  Lexington was a cool town.  Lot of history there.  Could see Stonewall Jackson’s tomb from the road.  Was talking to a guy at a church.  Took me in to show me where Stonewall actually sat in the church.  So I can say I was in the church that Stonewall Jackson attended.  What a claim to fame.  We stopped in quaint little restaurant called Macado.  Lot of character and they had Shock Top on tap.  We could not participate because we had 8 more mils to go.  Lexington is the home of VMI and several other colleges.  Went by a football stadium.  Very small.  They may not have a football team or there could be another stadium somewhere.  I hope so because it was pretty dismal.

We ended up in a place outside of Lexington called Mallard Duck Campground.  Showers and restrooms.  Jack and I got lost on the way.  Did a few extra miles. Drying out our tents and shtuff.   Jack also did extra miles earlier.  Rode up a mountain to the  Blue Ridge Parkway.  Jerry and I declined to participate.  He is an animal.

Mailbox award today goes to the Swartz’s in Virginia.  Not really different, but there were about 10 mailboxes.  It appeared that the entire family lived back on this land, everybody had their own house.  I can see the Von Handorf’s doing that.

Early in the trip, Jerry and Sue’s stove suffered a painful death.  Had to be replaced.  Jerry and Sue bought a new Coleman stove at a Kroger type place.  It began falling apart soon thereafter.  Screws would appear beneath the stove after a use.  Duct tape became our friend to keep the stove together.  Jerry e-mailed Coleman about the problem.  Last week, Coleman mailed a new stove to Jerry at his old address on Monroe Street.  Kudos to Coleman. 

Tomorrow, we head over the mountain to flatter land.

Jeff, Jerry, Jack, and Sue