Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Blue Ridge- 60 miles, about 300 total

Yesterday was pretty amazing. We woke up in Charlottesville and immediately got some tasty bagels at Bodo's bagels. From there we took 250 and shortcut the actual route by a little bit, saving our legs for the climbs ahead. We got slightly lost and pushed our bikes about 2 miles up a gravel state road, only to find out at the top that we were not where we were supposed to be. Luckily, a lady was leaving her mountain home up there and told us that if we continued straight we could cut through a .1 mile stretch of the Shenendoah national forest and be on Skyline drive, which connects to the Blue Ridge Parkway at Rockfish Gap. Apparently we actually saved ourselves a hell of a climb (to Afton) by pushing our bikes up 611, rather than riding up 691.
The parkway was challenging, but one of the most enjoyable stretches so far for me. It sure sucks to be cranking away up a hill for a couple of miles at a stretch and only be making a 4 or 5 mph pace, but the reward is some spectacular views and awesome downhill cruises. I think I hit about 35 miles per hour, but I know Jacob did more. The views could have been better; storms had made the valleys hazy and visibility poor (check out the photos for today at the end of this post).
Eventually we cruised down into Vesuvius, VA. The descent was sheer insanity. We dropped about 1800 feet in 3 miles down a VERY windy road. Jacob, being slightly insane, passed a truck at about 45 mph. Once down in Vesuvius we headed directly to a country store/deli known as Gertie's. These people were so extremely hospitable and made some excellent grub. We scarfed down some cheesesteak sandwiches and pitched camp in their backyard. An extreme rainstorm awoke me in the middle of the night, after which I had a hard time getting back to sleep and tossed and turned alot. Packing up in the morning was slow as our stuff dried.
Extremely hot today, so we're hanging around Lexington, VA for a bit and then taking an easy 30 miles over to Buchanan for the night. Lexington is real cool; Washington and Lee Uni. is here as well as the Virginia Military Institute. We saw Lee's tomb in a chapel on campus and had some good lunch at a local organic food market.
So far, so good. We should wrap up this, our first, map section tomorrow which is right on course. The next section is supposed to be one of the worst according to people we've spoken with. Hard terrain through the Alleghany mountains, bad truck traffic from coal and concrete plants and dogs. I'm so excited (sarcasm doesn't show in text, does it?).
Please check the pictures and drop me some notes...the highlight of my online visits is reading posts from you all! Much love!

Note: the pictures don't seem to want to upload right may have to wait until I find another library and have more time to finangle things. I'll edit this post with a link when I get them up.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

On hills and dogs

I'm writing to you from Charlottesville, VA where we have been lucky enough to stay at the Massaro household. Andrew is a friend of Rich and me; he lived with Rich back in sophmore year. Unfortunately, he is off in Illinois visiting a friend, but we still got to crash here and meet his awesome brother Mike and wonderful sister Courtney. A shower, no camp-pitching and clean laundry is always a highlight. In this case, the luxuries are extra appreciated because of how difficult our third day was. We awoke about 630 at Verbeeck's store and cranked out nearly 80 miles through the hills to reach Charlottesville. I would have liked to just take our victory and move on, saving the extra gain in mileage to help take it easy over the mountains. However, our legs dictate that we needed to stay here a day and gain strength before laying siege to Appalachia.
The 80 miles were certainly no joke; plenty of rolling hills and a few dog attacks. The route has been compared to a self-propelled rollercoaster ride. Here are a couple tricks I picked up yesterday: 1) Crank it down the hills and try to take that momentum up the next hill. 2) Just don't look at your bike computer; it will only discourage you 3) Don't look at the top of the hill for the same reason 4) Always, always, ALWAYS save some energy to outsprint scary dogs, like the rottweiler I saw yesterday.
Food and water are continually amazing me on this trip; I can drink and drink and drink all day and it just sweats out immediately. I also eat just about whatever I can/want to when I get to convience stores and country delis. Regardless of how much I eat I'm almost always hungry in just another hour or so.
I've uploaded all my pictures to the account here. Meanwhile, I'm off to fold my laundry and cook some dinner for our gracious hosts. Drop me an email, post on here or even try the cell ( I've managed to keep it charged thus far..signal is patchy however). Would love to hear from anyone, although I have faith that you are reading anyways!

P.S. My fortune cookie today reads: "You should be able to undertake and complete anything". That's encouraging!

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Day 2: 127 miles total

I'm here at Susan Verbeeck's Country Store and she has been kind enough to let me use her dial-up internet to update y'all on my progress. All the libraries I've come across have been closed. Yesterday was our first day and we rode from Yorktown to Glendale, VA. It was a pretty nice ride; great weather and great scenery. Plenty of history in this first stretch- saw historic Yorktown (Cornwallis surrendered to Washington here), Williamsburg (amazingly restored colonial town, the largest of its type...took about 40 years and 40 million dollars, thanks to John Rockefeller), Jamestown and plenty of plantations. One of the cooler plantations was the home of John Tyler, 9th president of US (if i'm not mistaken). His plantation home was 300 feet long, the largest frame house in America, and had a huge ballrom designated for doing the Virginia Reel. We also saw a few battlefields from the civil war, mostly from a series of battles known as the Seven Days Battles. Our day ended at a wonderful "hostel" which was actually just in the back of a Willis United Methodist Church. A night in the A/C with a kitchen and not having to setup/break camp was sooooo awesome.
The second day (today) has been a bit more challenging, totalling only a few more miles (67 as opposed to 63) but many more challenging hills. I look at them as training for the beast known as the Blue Ridge Mountains, but that doesn't make them much easier! I have a feeling I'll be walking the bike up those switchbacks to get over the mountains. Not nearly as much to see today in terms of historic sites...mostly rolling farmland and lots of horses. I'm very fortunate that Mrs. Verbeeck has been so kind; she is letting us camp out back, we have access to her hose and there are plenty of cool beverages on hand. Tomorrow we push onward, perhaps as far as Charlottesville, although I haven't looked at the maps to be certain. I just want to get a good lead on the mileage since the mountains will take their toll on our progress.
Keep checking back, when I get some broadband access I will post pictures. Miss you all already!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Shakedown ride

Rich and I took an overnight camping trip to Crosswinds Campground at Jordan lake as a shakedown ride. The ride wasn't as far as I had hoped, only about 30 miles round trip as opposed to 60. This is partly because we chose to go to Crosswinds rather than Poplar point, but I don't think poplar point would have added on more than 5 miles each way.
Regardless, the trip was very helpful. I think (thanks to my Dad's fishing scale) I have the weight about balanced where I want to. I could use a bit more weight up front and less in the back, but I'll have to wait to distribute communal gear before I can fine tune it anyways.

The most important aspect of the trip was to experience what a bike loaded with about 35 pounds of gear handles like. It is very stable at speed and actually seems to carry momentum better than just having me on the bike. Unfortunately, this also means that hauling the load uphill is harder than ever before...I was hitting speeds as low as 5 mph (and this is just the hills around here! I'm scared of Appalachia). Top speeds were around 29 mph, which makes my friend Ken's record of 50 seem completely insane.

I'm heading to Yorktown on Friday evening and plan to actually embark on Saturday morning. I may or may not come up with a reason to post between now and then, but I might stick one more up before I hit the ol' dusty trail.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Packing is difficult

Yesterday I attempted to pack up my belongings and move out. This is always much harder than it needs to be and to complicate matters further, I had to discriminate between what I'd be taking on the bike, what I needed between now and departure and what I needed to box up until August. I also tend to be a packrat, so I find myself getting upset over whether I should throw away that cool bottlecap I found or a funny chinese fortune I've saved. Silly.
Packing a bicycle for a cross country trek is a little more complex than I had imagined. I have to balance the weight on both sides and try to keep a 60/40 front to rear distribution. I think I'll pick up a fishing scale to help out...its either that or just trial and error. I'm also thinking I might be packing a few too many things, so later this evening I'm going to work on paring down the list a bit. Rich and I are going to do an overnight shakedown ride Tuesday and Wednesday. We'll probably just ride out to Jordan lake (about 30 miles), camp out and then ride back the next morning. A short ride is better than no ride! After the shakedown, there is Jacob's graduation/farewell party on Thursday and then I believe we'll be heading up to VA on Friday afternoon/evening (should probably call my father to confirm this, haha).
Keep reading, things should start to get interesting soon!

Friday, May 18, 2007

The Keys

Just got back from my scuba certification trip to Key Largo. We sure had a real blast down there. The first dive is so exciting that I thought I would run out of air in like 2 minutes for sure. I didn't, fortunately. The other dives were increasingly more fun as we became more comfortable underwater. My new mask was irking me though, the plastic frame presses really hard against the spot between my eyebrows when I am at depth. I wonder if I'll be able to do any diving in some cool lakes out west or something.
Speaking of out west, its about t-minus one week until departure. This boggles the mind and, quite frankly, scares me. I mean, this has been a goal of mine since last fall at some point, but it didn't really settle until I got home from the Keys and realized I would be gone in a week. The anxiety is almost overwhelming, but I'm going to persevere today and try to be productive. I need to get my front rack attached and start ziploc-ing gear and packing the panniers. Going to have to buckle down and do that soon, because my best friend from middle school is coming to visit. If anyone wants to see some face-melting guitar playing, stop by Isley street later tonight. In the meantime, I hope you all have a fantastic Friday. And please, if you are traveling, check your tire pressure, you know what I mean?

Sunday, May 13, 2007


I went to the final commencement ceremony today. Madeleine Albright's speech was really good and the overcast sky made the ceremony much more bearable. As soon as it was over the clouds broke; perfect for all the celebrations. I wasn't real big on the idea of the ceremony as I felt it was just a bunch of symbolic crap, seeing as how we didn't even recieve our diplomas. But, as much as I hate to admit it, that "symbolic crap" really did help the facts finally soak in on me; I am graduated, I am no longer a student, I must move on! How exciting though, to move on in such an epic way. I can't wait for this trip. Keep reading, only 12 days until departure. I'm off to go eat, drink and be merry....ciao!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

First Post!

Okay, so I'll be attempting to use this blog to keep all of you (my friends, family and new aquaintances) updated on my journey. I'll probably just keep a paper journal and post edited versions on here as I am able to in public libraries, etc. I may also attempt to call in journal entries to someone back home, let me know if you think you could help out with this responsibility. I'm also going to look into getting a digital camera so that you can see my smiling face as much as possible and share some of the sights. For now though, just spread the word to anyone you know who might be interested in keeping up with my trip. Much love!