Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Day 73: Berryville, VA to FINISH LINE: Washington, DC

Today's Mileage: 69

The last day of my Big Bike Ride had arrived. I had mixed feelings as we left Berryville. I was excited to get to DC, but not looking forward to facing the "real world" again: job, rent, bills, ugh. Mostly, though, I was excited to finish the bike trip.

We rode in on the Washington & Old Dominion bike path from Purcellville, which was a nice change of pace from the highways we had been traveling. Laura had put up welcome signs along the way!

We crossed Key Bridge into Washington, DC and headed for the Thomspon Boat House on the Potomac River. But first -- the finish line!

I was really happy to see all kinds of friends and family had turned out to welcome me home.

Laura and baby Lionel were wearing special T-shirts for the event, including a map of my route and a list of cities I had toured through on the back!

I dipped my front tire in the Potomac, making my arrival by bike in DC official.

Ana Marisa carried our gear back to her house so the bikes were light for the final climb up Wisconsin Avenue to her house. It was a good thing I had all those balloons, because I didn't have a bike light!

The bike ride across the country was an amazing couple of months. I accomplished something big, and along the way pushed myself past my comfort zone more than a few times.

I was able to let go of a lot of frustration at the world and focus on the important things, like what kind of ice cream do I want right now? Being forced to live in a very physical realm, where my only real concerns were about shelter, food, body and bike performance allowed me unwind from the stress of my job and forget the sillier things that preoccupied me.

I got to see our beautiful country up-close at a slow speed. I already knew it was beautiful, but I feel that I know these places more intimately now: their roads, their roadkill, their hills.

Meeting great people along the way was one of the best things about the trip. Because we traveled mostly through small towns, we were always somewhat of a spectacle and people loved to stop and ask us questions. It will be strange being a "nobody" again after two months of virtual celebrity. The people we met were friendly and generous. Many times, we were fortunate to be offered food and lodging, and people were always helpful with information about the area.

Many thanks to all my companions on the trip: Wesley, Dave, Rosemary, Fox, Debbie, and Karin. You were always a ton of fun, and a source of inspiration and motivation when my legs didn't want to pedal anymore.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Day 72: Romney, WV to Berryville, VA

Today's Mileage: 53
Total Mileage: 3668

We woke up in Sherri's yurt and were treated to tarot card readings. It was a riot!

We headed out for a late breakfast, and didn't get on the road until 11 a.m.! There were a bunch of tough little hills, one after another, and the road curved dangerously with no shoulder. After a brief stop in Capon Bridge, we crossed into Virginia, the state where I went to college and lived on and off for a few years growing up. Getting closer and closer!

The rest of the ride into Winchester was easy, and the road opened up into a four-lane with a shoulder. We ate at a Thai restaurant and waited out the last of the afternoon heat in a coffee shop in historic downtown Winchester.

The evening ride into Berryville was beautiful, with rolling hills, the best kind that get you enough momentum to get back up the next one. The campground we had picked out ended up being further than we thought, and we wouldn't be able to get there before dark, so we decided to stay in town. The only lodging was the Battletown Inn, which was way out of our price range. The owner, James, was so impressed by our bike trip that he gave us a big discount and set us up in two adorable adjoining rooms. What a treat on the last night of the trip!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Day 71: Oakland, MD to Romney, WV

Today's Mileage: 49
Total Mileage: 3615

The morning was bright and clean on top of Backbone Mountain, and the air was cool. As we headed down, we ran into heavy, blinding fog as we re-entered West Virginia. Luckily, there was a restaurant open just on the other side of the state line, so we breakfasted there while the morning warmed up.

The first climb of the day was our last real big one in the Allegheny range, Mt. Storm. Because it was pretty easy, I wasn't sure if we had actually gotten to the top... but we were rewarded with a fun 5-mile downhill.

The rest of the day was a bunch of ups and downs through some of the prettiest country imaginable. The sun filtered through a leafy canopy over the road and the climbs were short, cutting between the hills instead of over them.

Once in Romney, we sat down for a late, well-deserved lunch at the only place open. The pizza was tasty, and we were exhausted. It was still somewhat early, and we considered riding further, but were discouraged to learn that there were no towns or places to camp for quite some distance East.

We decided to stay in Romney (which was our original plan anyway), and spent a couple hours resting in some grass by the gas station, hoping to meet a friendly local who would let us use their computer.

The computer was not to be, but we did meet Sherri and her dog Toby, who offered us a place to stay in their yurt. None of us had ever been inside a yurt before, so naturally, we accepted. The yurt was awesome - like being in a huge round tent, but homey and comfy like a house. Sherri had all kinds of neat stuff to look at and share with us.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Day 70: Belgium, WV to Oakland, MD

Today's Mileage: 49
Total Mileage: 3566

We woke up to the sound of rain beating down on Danny's tin roof and decided to sleep another half hour. Once on the road, we looked for a restaurant to have some warm breakfast, and ended up stopping at a little place where there was no food, but the people were friendly. Two ladies gave us coffee and lots of information about the road ahead. When a husband showed up with McDonald's, it turned out they had gotten some extra free food, so they offered it to us too. The ladies also gave a donation to the World Wildlife Fund, the organization Debbie and Karin have been raising money for.

We continued along Highway 50 in the cool morning air, enjoying the hills and the green forests surrounding us. Our first mountain was Thornton, which we climbed easily and in good spirits.
We stopped for lunch in Fellowsville, and got more tips from the waiter about what to expect ahead. After climbing Laurel Mountain (tougher than expected) we had an awesome, windy descent to the legendary Cool Springs, which we had been hearing about since the day before. Cool Springs boasted a park full of old rusty tractors, some burros, and a store FULL of tourist schtick.

Outside the store we met Carl, who we convinced to carry our gear up Cheat Mountain, the biggest climb of the day. He agreed to leave our panniers, etc. at the convenience store in Aurora, at the top of Cheat Mountain, and we headed out on our light, naked bikes. It was a long 9% grade on a road with no shoulder, but we conquered it easily.

Once in Aurora, we collected our gear and decided what to do. We learned of a cheap motel just a few miles up the road, and decided to go for it, since our camping option would have taken us several miles off-route.

Highway 50 took us into Maryland, and the last two miles were a climb to the top of Backbone Mountain, where the motel was. We laughed at how hard it had been to get up to 3095 feet, considering the huge mountains we had pedaled over in Colorado.

There was a bar across the street, and we chatted over beers with some of the locals before heading back to the room for showers.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Day 69: Mountwood Park, WV to Belgium, WV

Today's Mileage: 65
Total Mileage: 3517

The morning began gray and foggy, but we were in good spirits, because at least it wasn't raining. We set out from the Mountwood Park cabin in search of some breakfast at the reasonably early hour of 8:30. After a few miles we arrived in Ellenboro and ate omelets at the Log Cabin restaurant.

We stopped at every town that popped up along the way, which broke the ride up nicely. A few miles out of West Union, a car stopped to offer some cold drinks. We talked with Danny for a while, and learned that he had also done some cross-country bike touring. He was headed West, but gave us the key to his house so we could crash for the night.

We had a late lunch in Salem, then headed on to Clarksburg in search of a library. The sun had finally come out and the afternoon was considerably warmer than the morning. In Clarksburg, we found the Italian Festival, which had musical and dance performances, as well as tons of food and junk to buy.

After a quick trip to the library to use their computers, we decided to grab a bite to eat in Glen Elk, on the North end of town. We happened upon a cute little place, and ended up having a great meal with wine.

At that point, we left for Danny's house, but were annoyed to learn that bicycles were forbidden on that portion of Highway 50. We thumbed a ride to Bridgeport from Fred, Jason, and Dip. How we managed to fit all of our junk into Fred's Jeep was a miracle. In Bridgeport, we met Doug and Scott, who introduced us to their family and drove us the rest of the way to Danny's house. It was dark by the time we arrived, but we found our way in and were so happy to rest.

Danny's place was filled with his Indian crafts and artwork. Every inch of space was filled with something interesting, and we had the whole place to ourselves!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Day 68: Athens, OH to Mountwood Park, WV

Today's Mileage: 59
Total Mileage: 3452

We woke up at Scott's house to the smell of "garbage eggs," a delicious scramble he had whipped up. He took us to his workplace in Athens, a center that offers services for people dealing with mental illness. We had coffee and talked with some of the members of the Gathering Place before heading out on our way.

The day was as rainy as the day before, and we were thoroughly drenched by the time we reached Coolville for a snack. Luckily, there was a wide shoulder most of the way, so the riding was easy.

We crossed over the Ohio River into West Virginia! Our next stop was in Parkersburg for a (late) lunch. We were thrilled to find a Lebanese restaurant and ate heartily, much thanks to Rick, who comped our meal. Rick also called Roger, a reporter from the Parkersburg newspaper, who came to the restaurant and interviewed us about the ride. Even better, Roger gave us some good information about a cabin right on Route 50, so we didn't have to get off track and camp in the rain as we had planned.

See Roger's story at http://www.newsandsentinel.com/page/content.detail/id/508771.html

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Day 67: Chillicothe, OH to Athens, OH

Today's Mileage: 60
Total Mileage: 3393

Our host Lee started our day with a light breakfast, and we headed out in search of coffee. The day began a little late, and we had to travel in the rain to McArthur. It was slow going, and the bumpy shoulder didn't help matters.

In McArthur, we lunched at a pizza place and I warmed up with some hot tea. It was hard to get back on the bike, but within a mile I caught a second wind and sped into Athens. The rain continued, but at least there was a decent shoulder, making the riding a lot less stressful.

We hung around a coffee shop in Athens for a while, staying out of the rain and hoping to make friends with somebody who would let us crash at their house. As friendly as we made ourselves appear, we didn't score a place to sleep so we headed out to find some dinner.

The restaurant where we ate had great ingredients and a decent beer list, and we started chatting people up at the bar. Soon enough, a nice guy named Scott offered us a place to stay... it didn't take much convincing when he mentioned he had a hot tub. We also enjoyed some lively conversation and shooting darts with Scott's blow gun.