Three miles out of Damascus I have two spokes go out on my rear tire. Ugh. Back to Damascus and getting replacements. Norm, (Retired Air Force, NASA, Colonel, Eagle Scout) our most serious and accomplished biker, took me under his wing and rode back to Damascus with me and then helped me make the inevitable decision that I need a thirty-two spoke rear wheel - not the twenty four spoke wheel with which I was supplied.
Frustrating because a guy my size should have been told/pushed to getting the 32 spoke wheel. Norm just knows all of this because he bikes almost every day. He did the Ironman twice (2.4 miles swim, 112 mile biking and a 26.2 mile run) so anything he has to say on the subject I'll go with.
Norm got us squared away and we left Damascus shortly after 11:30AM but I wasn't too worried because we have only 32 miles to go and - most heartening - the massive hill climb after Hayter's Gap doesn't terrify me.
In our mini pantheon of a group, Norm quickly set himself apart in a few ways. He is, by far, the strongest and best biker in our whole group. No one can keep up with him. He rides constantly, and right before our tour he did a Natchez Trace ride of 500 miles or so.
He is infectiously happy and curious. Because he typically gets to our stop for the day an hour of more before anyone else - he has time to explore and then he'll pass on the tidbits or recommendations. For example in Wytheville he found the new Woodrow Wilson Hotel and their fabulous roof-top bar area which they promptly opened up just for us. (I couldn't go - I was getting a spoke repaired.
Despite all the problems I feel really good about this ride. My behind didn't really hurt - a testament to all of the lubes, and creams and glides - I am sure. After all of my showers I have been amazed that I am not screaming in agony any time I set down on that seat.
This is gorgeous country filled with ups and downs, the hollows and hilltops of Appalachian hill country. Most of the time we see cows, redolently grazing on green fields and hills. One farm was filled with donkeys and goats, and we see at the entrance it is called Little Ass Acres.
Apparently when one is close to Kentucky, the Colonel Kentucky Fried Chicken is not the end-all and be-all in the fried chicken business.
The Harvest Table Restaurant
Wow. What an unexpected find in this town of a thousand people. The one slightly disorienting aspect of doing this ride, and the tour is that we keep away - for the most part - large cities so it tends to be a string of small little burgs and hamlets after another.
Occasionally we come close to an Interstate Highway. Travel parallel to it, cross them, over and under. So the town of Meadowview just would have been one of those sleepy little burgs where all the action is on the interstate, except in the middle of their downtown Norm pulled over and found the Harvest Table Restaurant.
It was - relatively - inexpensive and the chicken sandwich, the salad with the local goat cheese was excellent. Just an incredible find that had me scratching my head. They offer "neo-Appalachian" cooking. The chicken was so good.
Near Saltville, Virginia
After Hayter's Gap (pronounced Highter not HATER) the road turns up and stays going up but there was this great mailbox set up and as I was taking a picture a bird flew out of the left mailbox.
When I turned on Highway 80, the road crew had blocked it as closed, but they let the cyclists go through. When you get to the truck, you'll need to walk around it, he told me.
I thought it was road repair, but it wasn't. A truck carrying asphalt had taken a turn too sharply, and the rear wheels slid down, turning the asphalt container on it's side. Major clean up.
Elk Garden United Methodist Church Bike Hostel.
Came in quick this afternoon - all things considering. This extraordinarily peaceful and serene church just popped up around the bend and here I was. I saw the Bike Hostel Sign, our van and trailer, and knew I was - for tonight at least - home.
Tonight hot dogs, chili dogs. Comfort food. I set up the hammock outside. It's so much more comfortable than sleeping on the ground with the air pad.
32 Miles for a total of 507 Miles.