Date: November 18, 2009
From: Buchanan,Virginia (pronounced Buck-an-an)
Route: Truck Ride to Whetstone Ridge where Hwy. 56 joins the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP) then a 28 mile ride up to the Northern End of the BRP at Rockfish Gap then Hwy. 250 - 4 miles into Waynesboro
Miles Today: 32 miles
TOTAL MILES: 3,550 miles
Top Speed on this trip: 54.1 mph
Weather: FOGGY, COLD, DAMP
License Plates Collected: 5 Montana, 8 Wyoming (2 motorcycle) and 1 Idaho (found in WY), 2 Colorado, 1 Kansas (Gifted from David of Baldwin City), 1 Missouri (To be sent to Grammy’s by our new buddy, Kansas City firefighter Shawn), 1 Illinois, 4 Kentucky (2 Gifted from Beth and Garry Feltus, one gifted from cousin John, one from Hwy. 127), 1 Virginia
Broken Spokes: 3
Cracked Rim: 1
"I feel like the Tin Man. I have hypothermia. The snot in my right nostril is frozen into an icicle and I need a pick to get it out!" shouted Mike as we made our final long descent down off the parkway. He turned his head and I could see the water dripping off the end of his nose… We were all in stitches and couldn't stop busting up laughing as we continued to fly down the mountain in fog as thick as pea soup.
I'm so thankful for John Mays of Twin River Outfitters canoe livery and the Historic James House who saved my knees by giving us a ride up to the Blue Ridge Parkway! It would have taken us two days to make this trek and we'd have been camping in the rain with no services. As it was the parkway was socked in with fog and it was a very eerie experience riding up there. At the worst our visibility was about 40 feet. It was like riding in a white out. All we could see was the blurred edges of the trees closest to us on the side of the road. We joked that we were going to create a coffee table book of the scenic overlooks on the Blue Ridge Parkway as seen on this day! We took pictures in front of a couple of the signs but that was as far as we could see. On a good day the views are supposedly spectacular. In the spring the flame azaleas, mountain laurel, purple catawba rhododendron, tulip trees and serviceberry show their blooms. "In the fall, leaves burst into color. Dogwood, sourwood, and blackgum turn deep red. Tulip trees and birches turn yellow, sassafras a vivid orange, and red maples add a multicolored brilliance. Berries of the mountain ash turn bright red and provide food for wintering birds. Oaks put on a dash of russet and maroon. Evergreens include Virginia pine, white pine, hemlock, spruce and fir." (National Park Service Brochure) We'll just have to come back again…
"The parkway follows the Appalachian Mountain chain and provides seemingly endless views of parallel ranges connected by cross ranges and scattered hills. From Shenandoah National Park the parkway follows the Blue Ridge, eastern rampart of the Appalachians, for 355 miles. Then, for the remaining 114 miles, it skirts the southern end of the massive Black Mountains, named for the dark green spruce and fir that cover them, weaves through the Craggies, the Pisgahs, the Balsams, and ends in the Great Smokies." (National Park Service Brochure)
All morning long we had to make a gazillion stops to wipe off glasses, make adjustments to gloves and clothing, etc. Mike blocks the worst of the wind and weather and we knew Mike's hands, not to mention his face had to be freezing on that last downhill. You see, not far into the morning and after several stops trying to get Gregory's hands warm, Mike remembered that we had a couple of sets of Toe Warmers in our red bag. We've been carrying these since Lander, Wyoming where our cycling friend Devon gave them to us as she ended her trip. Mike dug these out and Gregory and I had toasty hands from there on out. The heat seemed to increase the longer we had them on (they have a life of 8 hours) and at one point, when we were stopped and visiting with some park employees who were at the end of their morning of cutting down dead trees, Gregory commented, "My hands are on fire!" The first part of the day was tough on Gregory but once his hands were toasty he did awesome for the rest of the day despite the miserable cold and damp conditions. Though it wasn't raining the damp from the fog had us pretty wet. Frost formed on the front of our tights and Gregory's fleece pants and water dripped from our helmet visors and noses.
Just before John dropped us off on the parkway we stopped at a ranger station and you could tell that the ranger wasn't too keen on us being out in that fog. He mentioned that flashing lights can be seen better than a solid beam and we assured him that we had flashing lights on both the front and back of the bike as well as reflectors on our panniers and jackets. He mentioned that in the past he did have to stop a group of touring cyclists from continuing on the parkway due to fog and they were not happy about it. He said if anyone stopped in he would let them know we were out there and he let us be on our way so he must have felt with the light traffic we would be O.K. In fact we only had about 8 vehicles pass us in the entire 28 miles and I spotted or heard all but one of them before they were on our tail. There was one truck that snuck up on me but fortunately for us he saw us and slowed until we safely waved him around. The oncoming traffic seemed heavier for whatever reason but still wasn't more than a dozen cars.
We came off of our route to Waynesboro rather than trying to push on and ride to Charolettesville tonight. We also knew we wanted to stop in at Afton and spend some time with June Curry, aka "The Cookie Lady" who is a trail legend. After contacting her we found that she is no longer hosting cyclists this late in the season but said we could stop by and see all of the memorabilia in the bunkhouse. Back in the inaugural year of 1976 she put a hose out for cyclists and for years she has offered fresh baked cookies and lodging. Now she is getting on in years and offers store bought cookies but is still a bright spot to many TransAm riders. We will see her day after tomorrow as we have decided to take a day off. There is an 80 percent chance of rain and my knees need a break.
As we entered Waynesboro we were told to stop in at Rockfish Gap Outfitters which is a marvelous outdoor store. We were chilled to the bone and received a warm greeting both literally and figuratively when we entered the store. Rich, Manager/Buyer and Chuck, the Owner, gave us a hearty greeting and within minutes I was holding a warm cup of fresh brewed coffee. Bliss! We ended up spending a good amount of time there and left in the dark to ride the couple of miles into town for lodging. Again, not the brightest idea but we were enjoying the warmth, the company and the products! Before we left, employee Tom Garber gave us a list of Road Angels that offer volunteer transport from Waynesboro back up to Rockfish Gap (or vice versa for the Appalachian Trail Hikers). Tom also offered to give us a lift day after tomorrow when he comes to town to pick up his check. Hurray! Again, my knees are ever so thankful as the 4 miles to Waynesboro was a screaming downhill.