So so excited to wake up knowing we were heading to the (in)famous trail town of Damascus. The crossroads of the Transamerica Trail, The Appalachian Trail, and the Virginia Creeper Trail. Mike and I have read so many hiking books and we feel we have an inkling of an idea of what this town must mean to hikers of the AT.
We started with a short 25 mile ride in the most beautiful weather. The ride wasn’t taxing, just so fun.
We were deep in bear country, and a driver stopped to tell us of a bear and cub sighted ahead of us, we both wanted to see it and didn’t want to see it (we didn’t) We were almost disappointed the town came so quick, it was such a nice day.
Damascus is a small town that was hopping due to a long distance foot race being held that day 8n town. Fifty miles! So inspiring being around all the athletes, the hikers, the mountain bikers. The small town has three outfitters and three bicycle shops.
We found an inexpensive B and B right in the middle of town, cleaned up and headed out to explore and be amongst the adventurers and athletes.
Dinner brought us to the Damascus Brewery where the racers were meeting after completing the race.
Music, good food and listening to the racers was such fun.
After catching up on wash and errands in Wytheville we rode out on a very windy morning.
We kept checking the map to assure ourselves we would be having the wind to our backs soon but no such luck. We can’t complain about the weather, it is just weather, but the conditions can certainly change our ride.
It was another day of slow steady climbing and for some reason the day was especially difficult for both of us.
We found a great Amish bakery to help fortify ourselves but it still was such a push all day.
Just as the rain opened up on us we enjoyed a great downhill to the very small “town” of Troutville, where a Baptist church had a hostel for hikers and bikers.
It was very, very nice, a clean building set high on a hill with showers and bunks. It was also very scary quiet. There was a middle aged man who seemed to have made the hostel his permanent residence. He claimed to be hiking the AT, but we saw little evidence of it. Just us and him, like a movie.
It just poured rain that night so hard we were glad once again to have shelter. We were also glad to skeedaddle in the morning.
We headed out climbing again after a quick oatmeal in our hotel room. Just ten miles into the day we came to a most unusual old house turned into a coffee shop and restaurant.
What a gift! It wasn’t in a town (that we could tell) but our bikes just swerved automatically into the parking lot. This is why we ride. This little place roasts their own coffee and bakes their own cupcakes…but we were there for the coffee.
We weren’t there ten minutes before a few bike tourists came in, then a few more..15 in all. They were a group of supported riders (vans carrying their supplies and organizing food and sleeping arrangements) It was fun talking to them, many amazed we went unsupported.
Mike and I amazed someone would pay to tell them where to sleep and eat. That’s why we are self employed.😁Actually, there are many ways to tour and we support supported tours!
We climbed again for the rest of the day, passing through no towns, just very rural and beautiful countryside.
My Surly Disc Trucker is proving to be wonderful on the hills and I don’t know how I went across the Rockies without it. Good equipment make it so pleasant.
A big pull into the town of Whytheville, another cheap hotel, as my daughter says if the bed is uncomfortable, it is because you didn’t ride (or hike) hard enough.
I wished we had thought to take a picture of the Ginko trees that lined the downtown streets of Blacksburg, they were so pretty as we made our way out of town on a very well kept and well used bike trail.
The trail took us through the Virginia Tech campus, all the way to the town of Christianburg with coal history exhibits along the way, just a great way to start the day.
We soon were abruptly dumped behind a Walmart where we had to pick our way through traffic to find the backroads again. We passed many small traditional churches, and houses proudly displaying the confederate flags with chained dogs protecting whatever.
We are a complicated people!
It was such a muggy day again, we were glad when a downpour just rinsed us off, both of us getting moldy. Lots of climbing and hard work, we were happy the gross, rundown hotel in Newbern had working air, and the mexican restaurant next door could saute some veggies for us.
Once again a wrong turn out of the hotel in the morning, which turned out to be an omen for the day. Our route took us zigzagging all through the country roads and before long we were two tracking it far away from civilization.
After getting ourselves straightened out we had a pleasant ride again through the country.
So so lost
Lots of hills again today as we are still in the Appalachian Mountains.
Our maps had us headed to Christianburg, but we knew Blacksburg is the home of Virginia Tech and others had told us how nice it was so we headed that way. Boy, were they right! Tidy town with bookstores and coffee shops and good food! We certainly had to work for it though. A climb into town on a narrow road made our little Inn seem even nicer than it was. And it was super nice.
Nicest Blacksburg Inn!
The clerk suggested a Farm to Table restaurant outside of town so after cleaning up an Uber driver took us out there. Raining again.
I hesitate to write about all the breweries we visit as I fear some may think poorly of us, but then, I write about them anyways as we love to visit local breweries and we are nice people. So, there is that.
This brewery and restaurant were almost perfect. Long tables encouraging conversation, firepits, live mountain music and food grown on site. Truly worth riding 50 miles for. It was a quiet monday night there, but very enjoyable. Really nice town.
Happy to get on our bikes again to head towards Daleville. A bit of climbing and lots of rollers and following the freeway.
Virginia is just so beautful. The honeysuckles line the roads we are on, the dogwoods and rhododendrons are in full bloom, and we have yet to ride on a flat or straight road.
We both feel stronger every day and I know I have to ride at least 2.4 miles an hour to keep my surly upright on the uphills.
We rode in drizzle most of the day and the roads got more and more remote before the skies finally just opened up and dumped on us. We arrived at our hotel soaked and tired and thankful.
A little rest and a quick shower gave us a second breath and we were eager to meet up with Lee, a fellow bike tourist who lives in the area and who met us for dinner. It is so fun to plan future tours together and discuss bikes and gear with a great guy!
Daleville is a hiker town, as it is just off the Appalachian trail.
We talked to many hikers (and we all fought for the bananas at the breakfast buffet in the hotel). Daleville is also home to Ballast Point Breweries east coast operation, their Brewery here much like a large Walmart. It was interesting to visit, but they need to visit Founders for lessons. Still like my Sculpin, just not as much now😊
We have plenty of time before we have to be home and so much to see, we decided to ride off our planned route and spend some time at Natural Bridge State Park. We headed out of Lexington towards a KOA campground near the Bridge. After setting up our tent, we rode the four miles to Natural Bridge, so glad we decided to visit!
It was breathtaking! A two mile hike through an Indian exhibit,
waterfalls, nice paths and lots of snakes.
Quite amazing. The park was surrounded by remnants of the 50’s, old dinasour parks and creepy zoos. Spooky.
A nice ride back to the KOA, a stop at the brewery by the campground with lots of great conversation with the locals. Dinner and bed.
The next morning was so sunny, the campground and pool looked so nice, we decided to stay one more night. We read and sat by the pool all day. Had fun talking to other campers, one more trip to the beautiful brewery before bed.
Max left us early in the morning to continue on, but Mike and I were eager to explore Lexington. We have plenty of time to finish our journey and we hate to miss an opportunity to explore, an advantage that isn’t lost on us.
We rode into the historic downtown area of Lexington, a small town that is home to both Washington and Lee University and the HUGE Virginia Military Institute.
It was Baccalaureate day at the University so the town was filled with women in big hats and sundresses, men dressed in Brooks Brothers. We zipped (illegally I suspect with our bikes on the pristine sidewalks) around the gorgeous campus and the Military Institute next door. A whole new world to us northerners.
We toured Stonewall Jacksons home, I had a long visit with the ladies at the yarn store before we went to clean up and head to Devils Backbone Brewery for dinner.
What an absolutely beautiful day to be riding the last part of the Blue Ridge Parkway. The bit of fog quickly burned off and it was sunny and beautiful.
We had a bit of climbing before we knew we could enjoy lots of downhills.
We ran into Jean, a French cyclist who rode from San Francisco on a bike he purchased on Craigs list. He was headed to New York where he would resell the bike before heading home.
He carried his gear mainly in an ikea Frakta bag strapped to his back luggage rack. So funny all the thinking we do about our gear and this young guy just jumps on a bike and goes!
Getting off the Parkway was quite the adventure. Straight downhill on a narrow road, poorly paved and dark. I pulled over often letting my brakepads cool, as even alternating brakes on the way down wasn’t enough. We had heard stories of Transamerica bike riders ending their tours early crashing on this downhill.
Our scenery changed almost immediatly on this side of the parkway. Gone were the estates and grand houses and plantations. This was looking a little more like Appalachian Country we read about. Small houses and trailers, poor roads and barking dogs.
We started to hear thunder in the distance, that always hurries us along. We rode miles following a stream on a very rural road, met up with Max and together we beat the rain as we rode into Lexington and found a room at a cheap motel.
Before leaving Waynesboro we stopped at a large outfitter store as this is a big Appalachian Trail town. We had talked to several hikers and they all spoke of the rain and cold on the trail, record numbers of hikers leaving. Like bike touring, hiking is really a mental game more then just physical, and many who start out just cannot adjust.
Mike had his bike derailleur adjusted at the outfitters and then off we went to enter the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Being a Monday and before Memorial day we were alone and quite tickled at having the Park to ourselves. The hills were relentless but it was sunny and gorgeous.
We stopped at every turn off and took our time getting to the Cabin we had reserved for the night. As I type this I just remember the beauty, so quick we are to forget the effort!
As usual, we were beat by the end of the day and were delighted at the little cabin that had rented for so cheap!
Just as we settled in we heard a knock on the door, another bike tourist, Max was camping just down the road. After trading tales of woe, we were in bed by 8, and the huge storm hit shortly after. Poor Max was able to stay dry in his hammock, but we were glad we weren’t in a tent. It was actually pretty cozy.
We woke to heavy fog, but Max, who started out before us, texted to assure safe riding conditions.