Week #2 – Friends and Furry Fiends

Week #2 – Friends and Furry Fiends

Day #8 – May 18, 2019

Miles – 85.9
Catawba, VA -> Wytheville, VA

Overnight, an Evangelist showed up to the hostel. He was keen to speak with all the other guests about his beliefs over breakfast, so I got an early start. I rolled out around 7:45AM. Unfortunately, in my haste, I left my nice rain jacket hanging beside the hostel. I hope it blesses a soggy hiker with some much needed Trail Magic.

The day was long and hard. By noon, temperatures were pushing 80 and eventually got to 85. I finished the first map in the ACA map set. 

After many breaks alongside the road for shade and to say hello to cows and horses, I got into Wytheville around 5:30PM. After checking in with the Parks and Rec department, I camped in the city park. 

Day #9 – May 19, 2019

Miles – 57.8
Wytheville, VA -> Damascus, VA

I got on the road around 9:30AM. This ride was particularly memorable as it went through a national forest beside Mt. George. The climbs were tough, but the last section was a long, gradual decline along a river. The scenery was gorgeous, and the slow decline was enjoyable. 

I stayed at Crazy Larry’s Hostel in Damascus. Larry wasn’t all that crazy, but he did have an interesting life he liked to talk about in short bursts. The hostel was not as social as in Catawba, so I mostly spent the evening reading and went to bed early. 

Day #10 – May 20, 2019

Damascus, VA
Miles – 0/Rest day

I stayed in Damascus to take a rest day. I ran errands, did some stretching, and chilled on the hostel porch. I put together my first package of items to mail home. These are items deemed too frivolous to keep hauling over mountain passes. This package included my U-Lock (picked up much lighter cable lock), a second microfiber towel, extra glasses case, spare battery bank, and every grocery store rewards card in my wallet. No weight is too insignificant when you’re crossing the Appalachians on a bike. 

Most important rest day activity.

In the evening, I was walking around town to find dinner and to avoid a particularly unpleasant hostel guest. I came across Chris as he was riding a touring bike through town. He is also riding the TransAmerica Trail, and we made plans to ride out the next day together.

Day #11 – May 21, 2019

Damascus, VA -> Council, VA
Miles – 50.7

Chris and I were on the road by 8:30AM. We were joined by Jason, another TransAmmer, a couple miles out of town. Our first big challenge of the day was Hayter’s Gap, which is a switbacking climb that seemed to keep going on forever. A man pulled his Jeep over to the side while I was resting during the climb. He told me we were about halfway. He was either trying to motivate me or play a cruel joke because looking back, we were likely not even a quarter of the way up.

Jason on the final ascent of Hayter’s Gap.

We finished the day at Council, VA, a no traffic light town with perhaps the nicest town park in the country. We slept in the park, among the many baseball diamonds, multiple shelters with electricity and stages (?), locomotive car turned into a play set, a few wooden pirate ships, a couple model log cabins, and a pool. My only complaint was that the bright park lights were left on all night, but I suppose when your town park is a masterpiece, you want to show it off all night.

Day #12 – May 22, 2019

Council, VA -> Lookout, KY
Miles – 50.6

We left Council about 8:30AM. After about 30 miles we came to Breaks Interstate Park. The park is siutated on a river bend running through a canyon and is known as the “Grand Canyon of the South.” Someone should send a polite postcard to Virginia informing them Arizona is further south than them.

Shortly after Breaks, we crossed our first state line. We took the ceremonious photos in front of the Kentucky sign.

The day got hot again, but we came across a river entrance after a few miles in Kentucky. We spent about an hour swimming in the cold river water.

We made it to Lookout, KY, where we stayed the night in a Baptist church open to cyclists. Three other cyclists stayed the night there as well.

Chris, Jason, and Sue

Day #13 – May 23, 2019

Lookout, KY -> Hindman, KY
Miles – 51.7

It was another hot day with some pretty steep climbs. Kentucky roads are in noticeably rougher shape than Virginia. There are potholes, and at many points, the road is eroding on its edges. Even on curvy, hilly roads, the drivers have been courteous. They pass with care, and I can only recall one or two “buzzes.”

Loose dogs are everywhere in eastern Kentucky. Our first few miles out of Lookout felt like a war zone. Barking echoed up a long hill we were climbing, and it seemed like every other house we encountered a dog sprinting into the road to give chase. For the most part, they simply want to chase. A stern shout will typically deter them. We yelled “No!”, “Go home!”, and my personal favorite “GIT! GO ON, GIT!” frequently. If yelling is ineffective, a squirt of a water bottle in their direction has been 100% effective to this point.

We arrived at Hindman, KY, around 5PM. We stayed in the Hindman First Baptist’s cycling hostel. They have an awesome space with couches, foosball, arcade games, a kitchen, shower, and perhaps most exciting – a washing machine.  The dryer was broken, so our laundry became temporary adornments to the church’s facade.

Day #14 – May 24, 2019

Hindman, KY -> Booneville, KY
Miles – 67.8

Kentucky is in the midst of a heat wave, that much is for sure. Temperatures peaked around 94 degrees, and the sun rarely slipped behind a cloud. It was a beautiful, yet brutal day.

We left Hindman around 8:30AM. We made quick time through the relatively flat section past Hindman. We had covered nearly 35 miles by noon. We stopped for an ill-advised lunch of gas station fried chicken. It tasted fine but sat heavy in our stomachs for the remainder of the day. Immeditaely upon starting again, we encountered 3 steep peaks along Buckhorn Lake State Park. Even though the ascents were much shorter than a lot of previous days, the heat, the steepness of the grades, and the excess of greasy carbs in my stomach made for one of the most difficult days in the saddle thus far. As I watched sweat pool onto my handlebar bag (or was that grease dripping from my beard?), I contemplated why exactly I was putting myself through this. I didn’t come up with a good answer, but I knew I couldn’t imagine stopping. It’s been too fun.

As I climbed closer to Booneville, a dog came charging into the road after me. His barks gave me a start, and I returned with a barage of “GIT!” We stayed locked in a battle of noise for about 25 feet until he finally relented. I turned back to the road and noticed a startled and annoyed goat in the pasture beside me. His face seemed to say, “Can we all just chill?”

We camped behind the Booneville Presbyterian Church. This was the first night in Kentucky that we were not sleeping in a dry county. Yuengling never tasted so good.

Week #2 Mileage: 364.5
Total Trip Mileage: 711.9

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