After a fantastic and scenic stay with Pat in Buena Vista, I headed out with high hopes to make it to Blacksburg in spite of the cloudy outlook.
I almost might have made it, but right at the beginning I was waylaid by a lost bike computer. It disappeared sometime while cruising down a (bumpy) descent into Lexington, and despite a double back, I wasn’t able to recover it. I suppose that in its four years on various bikes, it earned its value and if it had a choice, probably would have chosen to go the way it did. Luckily, downtown Lexington’s bike shop was a great place to stop for a replacement- they had almost an exact replacement, plus another spare tire for the trailer, plus a great wealth of bike-related information and conversation. (Did you know, for instance, that a 1.75 inch wide tire is not the same as a 1 ¾ inch tire? Now I do.)
Installation of the new computer took a bit of time, and by the time I left at around 11:00, the prospects of making it to Blacksburg were about as gray as the skies, which were now happily relieving themselves of a rainy burden. The mountains around the valley were beautiful, surrounded in a rainy mantle, and in spite of the damp conditions, I was pretty warm as long as I kept up pedaling.
Even after the sun went down, the roads remained clear enough that I figured I’d still give Blacksburg a shot. While stopped in Catawba to check directions, a very kind man named Bob stopped by with “four tips for ya, and one of the might be useful.” It turned out that as I headed west, I was entered Appalachian Trail territory, and that means many adventurers and, to lodge them, many hostels. So I ended up at the 4 Pines Hostel, an excellent place comprised of a giant garage, assorted cots, couches, and beds, a stove and wood stove complete with clothes lines, and a shoe dryer. And also many Appalachian Trail through hikers, who aren’t so different from cross country cyclists because we’re all crazy. We played some cards, I got to listen to the first music I’d heard since leaving Rhode Island, and talked to 4 Pine’s cats, Black Cat and Fat Cat, who were quick to snipe any sleeping spot not occupied by a person.
It’s great meeting up with other people who are hiking, biking, or spend a lot of time outside because almost everyone wakes up when it’s light and goes to sleep when it’s dark- and no one keeps anyone else awake or wakes them up, either. What I’m saying is that despite sharing a bedroom with 8 people, I slept very well and even better, was greeted by the sun when I woke up. After a rigorous cleanup session (Note: you can stay at 4 Pines as long as you want, but the longer you’re there, the more you’re on the hook for everything out of place) and taking some time to figure out what to leave in the take/leave box, I headed out into increasing sunshine. Along the way, I was greeted by a toad on a diving board, and also signs of resistance to oil- a few residents had “No Pipeline” boards put up- which along with the sun, helped make the riding very enjoyable indeed.
I’m glad I stopped in Catawba, because Blacksburg is on top of a very tall hill- I might even call it a very small mountain- that would have been bordering on impossible in the dark. One of the benefits of its location, though, was a very fine view of the mountains, which now we’re pretty much all around me and remain to be crossed before I’m in the flats again. Pushing onwards, I made it to Draper’s Valley before night fell, and once again saw a fantastic sunset over the mountains (a recurring motif of this trip).