Headed south from Sterling to Charlottesville, there is some beautiful country. Lots of hills and farm animals for each hill. The landscape is quite lush and reminds me of a slightly more rugged version of central Pennsylvania, having become intimately in touch with the drive from Philly to Pittsburgh throughout my college career.
Day 12: 61 miles
Left the Boutchers around 9:30 am and exited the densely populated northern Virginia area. Even on a Sunday there was a decent amount of traffic. Very happy the speaker holder worked flawlessly as music tends to provide additional motivation along the trail.
Many of the roads had little to no shoulder, which made the ride more “exciting” and probably attributed to my 4:30 pm finish. Maybe it was fresh legs I found that my favorite type of rest stop is a port-o-pot in construction areas as they allow a brief pause without the need to lock belongings. As I waited for traffic to pass to get back on the road three cyclists on road bikes went on by.
I eventually caught up to them on a Red Hill Road (not sure what town, and most towns have a Red Hill). It was two Spaniards and an American. We chatted as we pedaled. One gentlemen had done the Gran Fondo in New York to Bear Creek, but was upset he didn’t see much of the city. I told him about the unofficial marathon race that one can do by bike. My GPS took me off in another direction in a roundabout, we all waved as we went our separate ways.
The remainder of this leg was rolling hills, passing a mix of baseball/soccer fields, woods and new developments. Once I reached Waynesboro, it became a farming landscape. I stopped at a Wawa for a hoagie, how could I pass that up?! Called my host for the evening to confirm my ETA and responded to another host for the next night.
Pushing on, I spend another 9 miles on 229 headed south where there is a limited shoulder. “Owning the road” or taking up part of a lane to ensure people don’t try to squeeze by you, I make it to Rixelyville with “ease”. The town has a general store and post office. Could not believe a 24-hour Duane Reade was not in sight!!
Monumental Road leads me to my host. My directions were a bit off with distance and elevation changes. I road anticipating some big climbs in a 3 mile distance. To my surprise, most of it was downhill. I turn into a beautiful farm where Kathy and Oslow, the friendly beagle, greet me.
She opens a garage door for me to park the bike then opems the door to her home for me to use as my own. A brief introduction is provided to the layout and history of this 19th century farm house. Her ancestors were German Lutheran’s whom built the home in 1845. The place is gorgeous both inside and out. I shower and come down with laundry. Kathy assists with the washer then treats me to some snacks on the front porch with iced tea. This is some Southern Hospitality!
At this point I get to meet the other half of the equation, Robert. Equally as friendly, we introduce ourselves then discuss how I got into cycling and their interest in hosting. Kathy and Robert’s son and daughter in law spent two years cycling from Alaska to the tip of South America. Needless to say I picked up a few stories from them. We had a delightful dinner and ice cream to fill in the cracks. Robert help me with planning to Charlottesville the following day, allowing me to avoid high speed and high traffic roads. We chatted for a bit on the porch before retiring for the evening.
Day 13: Cheat day – 50+ miles
Kathy treated me to a breakfast of eggs, biscuits, yogurt, fruit and jam. We chatted about literature and rural America before I finish packing. We snap a few quick photos as Robert helps load my gear into his truck and takes me south of Culpeper. I unload, say my good byes. Robert notices I don’t have a safety vest and kindly provided me with one. Likely saving my life at some point in this trip.
I haven’t really stretched, but take off on a large descent with a large incline at the bottom. Upcoming hills look much more daunting as you ride towards them as when you actually begin your ascent. I begin to notice my knee again. It is a little raining as well, so I stop to stretch and throw on some booties.
The ride was pretty quiet. I moo’d, nay’d and baaa’d at all cows, horses and goats, I passed. Toss up between the cows and goats as to which was the most inquisitive. My bike seemed to drag as I pulled into a small town. I popped into McDonald’s for some health food. I notice my second rear flat as I lock up my bike. Tired, I figured it could wait to be fixed.
I ate and charged my phone. The sun started to break out, with the sky turning blue and the clouds becoming puffy. As I fixed my flat, I put away all my rain gear. A small back brake pad adjustment had to be made. I also broke out the speaker so I could have some tunes for the second half of the journey. With the turn of the weather and the best of the music, the second half didn’t seem so daunting.
I followed route 20 south for roughly 20 miles. I popped into Montpelier to check the grounds out and fill up on water. I stopped at spoke to some women sight seeing and offered to take their photo with a statue out front of the visitors center. I then pop back on the bike and get moving.
Next stop is a gas station in for the restroom, a cold drink and, as it turns out, a Snickers ice cream bar. I take refuge under a huge tent structure over a picnic table. I charge various devices, apply sunscreen and snack. The reminder of the trip gets beautiful and difficult. I find l Stony Point Road and rip through tree covered S curves at over 30 miles an hour for what seems like a mile. I then found that I must go back up. This was less exciting and continued for the next 9 miles or so in the day’s warmest temps.
I evetually reach Charlottesville city limits and stop for more water. It happens to be at a McDonald’s. I treated myself to some cookies and a grilled chicken sandwich. I was going healthy this time. I weave my way through the ciry, uphill to David and Joann’s home. I greatd by Joann and faithful dog, Rachel. We say hi and I get a tour of the space. Fortunately for all I am shown the shower and take advantage of it.
After I dress, dinner is ready and I share a meal with Joann and David with Rachel underfoot. The meal was simple but delicious, a buffalo burger with beans and a kale dish straight from the garden. This was followed by a homemade rhubarb and strawberry pie. David and Joann explain to me their families interest in all this outdoors, with with a focus on his recent cross country experience.
David then helps me plan my route through the Blue Ridge Parkway. He even puts me in contact with a friend who lives halfway up the mountain to put me up for a night (more on that to come). He offers to let me boorrow the maps to get out of Virginia, to mail them once I am done. We chat a bit more and play with the dog before bed.
With two more back to back Warm Showers experiences in the books, I am constantly amazed at people’s genuine curiosity and generosity in opening their home to a stranger. It is part of the reason I am slow to post, as I feel I am short changing myself or may come off as rude, if I do not truly engage these wonderful people.