Saturday, August 30, 2008

Ashland to Williamsburg

Thursday morning we awoke to pouring rain. We had ridden Wednesday in a light rain all day and had thoroughly dried off Wednesday night. Now the forecast was for significant rainfall for the next couple of days. We decided to push on since we had confirmed with a church in Glendale that we could stay inside and we had a fairly short mileage to complete if it kept raining. Into the pouring rain we rode and kept on following the Trans-am signs (see above) that we had seen at every intersection since we entered Virginia. The 76 stands for 1976 the first year the route was ridden in celebration of the bicentennial. Well we were thoroughly drenched before we reached Mechanicsville on one of the small county roads. We stopped for lunch as the rain let up for the rest of the day.
The route had us skirting Richmond to the northeast and we soon came upon the signs marking the Civil War battlefields and recounting the battles that occurred before the fall of Richmond. One of the battlefields we passed was Cold Harbour where 17,000 were killed. There were 7 days of battles around Richmond and it was clear that the North had surrounded Richmond by the location of the battlefields. This house served as a battle headquarters and the church we stayed in had served as a field hospital for the Confederate army. Friday morning we headed east from Glendale and joined Hwy 5 headed for Williamsburg. The riding was incredibly easy; the coastal plain of Virginia is flatter than Kansas! Along the James River we passed the old plantations from the early days (1726 +) and soon reached Williamsburg. We're resting today and taking care of business at the post office. Tomorrow we go to Yorktown, site of the final battle of the Revolutionary War in 1781.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Charlottesville to Ashland

Bob and Donna sent us on our way Tuesday morning near Tom Jefferson's house with fond farewells under an overcast sky. After a steep descent we rode through gently rolling countryside. The overcast kept temperatures cool and it was a good day for riding. As we rode along we couldn't help noticing the brown grass and dying corn fields due to lack of rain. The last signifacant rain was on July 4th. The rain we will get this week will be too late for many of the farmers of Virginia.

As we rode the small back roads we thought that, except for the road pavement, it would be hard to tell just what century we were in. We passed old plantation houses and a log cabin. The Piedmont of Virginia is a beautiful and historic place. We ended the day in Mineral, where we kept dry from the overnight rain thanks to the hospitality of the firefighters of the Mineral Fire Station.

We left Mineral in a light rain which persisted all day. We wound past Lake Anna as we turned south towards Ashland. Just outside of Coatesville we passed the historic home of Patrick Henry. We reached Ashland at about three o'clock and were very glad to get a motel room and get out of the rain.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Afton to Charlottesville

We left the Cookie Lady on Sunday with our thanks and rode from Afton to Charlottesville on a rolling Hwy. 250. Once in town we called Bob from the University of Virginia and he came to pick us up. After a wonderful dinner with Bob and Donna, we had a great conversation late into the wee hours, solving most of the world's problems.

Thanks to the wonderful hospitality of Bob and Donna, we have stayed over a day to see Monticello. Thomas Jefferson was truly a great thinker and that fact is reflected in the home he built.

We have four days of riding to reach Williamsburg where we will headquarter for sightseeing and an unloaded daytrip on the bikes the last 13 miles to Yorktown. Yes we can almost smell that sea air now!

Vesuvius to Afton

Saturday morning Buck, who owns Gertie's Store, offered to give us a lift up the infamous four mile long Vesuvius Hill. We were glad for the lift because we had heard that there were pitches of 23% slope on this hill. We didn't think we could even push the trailer up these steep pitches. Four miles later Buck deposited us on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

We rode along this scenic wonder for 27 miles with views like this of the Shenandoah Valley. On the Parkway a couple, Bob and Donna, on a motorcycle stopped to talk to us. It turns out that Bob rode a recumbent bicycle across the Trans-Am trail a couple of years ago. Well ,they invited us to stay at their house in Charlottesville when we got there on Sunday.

At Rockfish Gap we turned east and dropped steeply off the Blue Ridge Parkway. We rode on Hwy. 750 to the small town of Afton, where resides June Curry, the Cookie Lady. We visited with June for about two hours before taking up residence in her Bike House Hostel. June is 87 years old, and for the past 32 years she has given water, food, and shelter to bicyclists crossing the country like us. The Bike House is filled with mementos and cards of bicyclists honoring her generosity. June is much beloved by bikers around the world.

Buchanan to Vesuvius

Friday morning we left Buchanan later than we wanted because the restaurant didn't open on time. As it was our only chance at to get breakfast we had to wait. After a good breakfast we rode along Hwy. 11 to Lexington where we saw Stonewall Jackson's grave and had a great lunch at an Irish Pub. Leaving Lexington we climbed over a big ridge and then rode up the beautiful valley of the South River to Vesuvius. In Vesuvius we camped behind Gertie's Store and had huge club sandwiches for dinner in the store. The owners are really nice and made us feel like we had been regulars for years. Also camping with us was a young couple, Liz and Brendan, traveling west, who quickly became Jack's latest victims, er.. ball throwin' buddies.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Catawba to Buchanan

Well, we left Bill and Annie's this morning much refreshed. Their hospitality was unrivaled and we are grateful for that and for the chance to make new friends. Flash was used when taking the above picture so that explains why Jack looks demonic (although Bill and Annie's cats may believe that Belinda was holding a demon). On the bikes we had a good start with seven miles of downhill and an overcast sky to keep the temperature down. We noticed this mailbox early as we made our way down Bradshaw Rd.

We zigzaged our way out to Hwy. 11 which was gently rolling all the way to our destination, Buchanan. Our motel for the night is about two miles northeast of town and has the following view just outside our door. When we got to Buchanan, the sun was out and it was hot enough to take a swim, so we did. We usually just jump in with our cycling shorts on, giving them a rinse at the same time as refreshing ourselves.

Tomorrow we go to Vesuvius and from there (on Saturday) cross over the Eastern Divide and will stay at the famous "Cookie Lady's" Biker Hostel in Afton. June Curry, aka "The Cookie Lady", started by giving water to hot cyclists passing by her house in the early days of the Bike Centennial and is much renowned amongst touring cyclists.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Rest Day at Bill and Annies

Our total mileage for Monday and Tuesday was 116 miles and we jumped at the invitation for a rest day with Bill and Annie. Their home is just outside Salem and very near to Roanoke. Annie took us sightseeing in Roanoke and to the top of Mill Mountain to see panorama of the Roanoke River Valley.

On the top of Mill Mountain is the largest star in the world. It was erected in 1949 and can be seen from 60 miles away on a clear night.

We headed downtown for lunch in the Old Market Place. There were many great shops, restaurants, and a daily farmer's market in the downtown. Roanoke has many amenities and seems like a much larger city. We drove through Roanoke College where Bill was at work and admired the historic buildings. Tomorrow we continue on with approx. 340 miles to Yorktown.

Newbern to Catawba

From Newbern we got on the Wilderness Road (County Rd 611) to Radford. We were soon parallel to the New River and had to cross it on Hwy 11. We have ridden over 44 miles on Hwy 11 and will continue to ride on it in strategic spots. It is the old highway and is very well graded and lightly travelled. We passed through Radford and by a variety of county roads (including lucky number 666) got to Christiansburg around noon. We had some business at the post office since we had decided to forward the 15 lbs. of gear we sent from Hindman on to Williamsburg. After this was done we headed out of town into a 3 mile descent to Ellett via county road 723.

Just before Ellett we saw this unusual bridge and have heard that it is part of an experimental highway to test new technologies. We turned east on 785 (Old Blacksburg Rd.) and had a beautiful ride through many old ranches along the north fork of the Roanoke River.

When we got to the store in Catawba we were bushed and called our host for the night, Bill. We were introduced to Bill and Annie via email through Carolee, a good friend in Salinas. Bill's directions had indicated a serious climb to get to their house and when we called he said he would come meet us at the store. He pulled up in a pickup truck and we were saved! It took two trips and we soon were sipping on cold beers and looking forward to a home cooked meal.

Marion to Newbern

Monday we left Marion continuing on Hwy 11 on our deviation from the official Transamerica route. We kept looking to the right and watching the mountains with a 3000 ft. climb pass by. However, we soon reached Rural Retreat and were back on the official route. We continued on to Wytheville to get to a bike shop for a replacement trailer tire. We replaced one trailer tire in Marshfield, Missouri and needed a new spare. Wytheville had many large, beautiful antebellum homes on the Main St. We headed out of town into rolling terrain with larger hills than the last two days. We took a variety of local roads parallel to Interstate 81 and soon saw one of the most creative mailboxes on the trip; enlarge to see the great details.

Soon we crossed over I-81 and were soon in some beautiful country. The Blue Ridge mountains started to show in the distance. We were still parallel to I-81 when we ended the day in Newbern.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Rosedale to Marion

Saturday morning Jack was ready to go before we were. We pulled out onto Hwy 19 into a light fog around 8:30 knowing the sun would burn off the fog by 9:00. Only a few miles down the road we headed east again on Hwy 80 for the final climb over the "young" Appalachians. Eastern Kentucky and western Virginia contain the eastern half of the Appalachians which is geologically younger than the older range in central Virginia which contains the Blue Ridge Parkway. One of our observations in eastern Kentucky and western Virginia is the placement of the county lines at the top of the ridges. In fact this was important to us since it signalled that we had finally made it to the top. Below you can see the approach to the climb over Clinch Mountain and through Hayter's Gap.

The climb was tough and the descent was very steep and we had to stop to adjust our brakes. At the bottom of the descent we headed north from Meadowview on Hwy 11. This road was originally known as "the Wilderness Road", then became "the Great Road" and finally Lee Hwy (Hwy 11). It heads northeast through the Shenandoah Valley which separates the two ranges of the Appalachians.

Throughout Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky and now in Virginia we have seen the small lavender Chicory flower above in abundance on the roadside. It has been in full flower since July and brightens the roadsides. Today we have rested in Marion after cycling 389 miles in the last 9 days in the mountains. Tomorrow we continue northeast over flat to rolling terrain, hurray!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Hindman,KY to Rosedale,VA

On Wednesday morning we left the Knott County Historical Society B&B with our bellies full of David's great coffee and a good breakfast. We had a long day ahead of us with 68 miles on a variety of small local roads to the Breaks Interstate National Park on Hwy 80 with five big climbs. David told us five climbs unless you are an athlete then only three. Well we counted five, but towing the dog cart may count as an automatic upgrade! We noticed that some of the road cuts ( there are road cuts unlike in Missouri) had these black seams of coal. Coal trucks are a big part of the traffic mix throughout the Appalachia and, despite warnings from other riders we found the coal truck drivers to be professional and polite.

The Breaks is considered the Grand Canyon of the South. The gorge that the Pound River runs through is around 600 ft. deep.

We arrived at the Breaks and crossed the State line into Virginia quite late and very tired after over seven hours in the saddle.

The next day (Thursday) we started with another climb to cross the Breaks . It was soon obvious how much fatigue was left in our legs from the day before. We decided to cut our day short (with only three big climbs) in Council where we camped in a beautiful city park. The citizens of Council can really be proud of their park! Today after leaving Council, we climbed over Big A Mountain (not making this up!) As we descended the east side of Big A Mountain the country really opened up and we got vistas like we haven't had since western Kentucky.
Tomorrow continuing east on Hwy 80 from Rosedale we will make a very big climb through Hayter's Gap and descend to Meadowview where we will take another deviation from the Adventure Cycling route and take Hwy 11 east to Marion, avoiding going far to the south and a 3000 ft. climb.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Hazard to Hindman

We slept in this morning until 8:30 since we only had 23 miles to go. We had a short day today due to distance between accomodations and will have a long day tomorrow (68 miles). We went north east from Hazard on Hwy 80 which was a huge four lane highway with major coal truck traffic. There were lumps of coal on the shoulder which was very wide. We turned off at the Dwarf exit (the name of a town) and headed south to Hwy 550 east. Again we rode along a beautiful creek with mountains rising up steeply on either side. When we reached Hindman we looked for the sign for the Knott Co. Historical Society. We found the sign opposite the courthouse and rode up to the bottom of a terribly steep hill that had a sign pointing up for the historical society. The hill was so steep we made Jack get out and walk while we pushed the bikes and trailer. When we reached the top, there was Dave (the proprietor) with glasses of ice cold ice tea. They sure tasted good.

Dave provides accomodations to cyclists, bird watchers, and hikers. Dave's grandfather built the house of native stone quarried on the property. Jack has had little time to pay attention to the ball since there are at least 5 cats in residence at the historical society.
In anticipation of more climbing in the Appalachians, we went to the post office and mailed 15 lbs. of gear ahead to Christiansburg, VA. Tomorrow we enter Virginia!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Berea to Hazard

Sunday we left Berea on Hwy 21 and headed into the Appalachians. The roads follow the drainages (creeks or rivers) and then cross a ridge to the next drainage. The top of each drainage has a view of the ridges all around. The grades of the roads are much better than in Missouri; the climb at the end of each drainage has switchbacks and levels out several times during the climb. We went east on 594, 1209, 587, and 30 before reaching Linda's Victorian Rose B&B outside of Booneville. Linda was waiting for us on the gravel drive with flaming red hair and an unstoppable laugh. We stayed in the second residence (her old house) on the property and had a wonderful night.

Today we headed out at 8:00 and had to stop at the post office in Booneville due to the fog. The fog lies in the drainages in the early morning and can make cycling dangerous due the lack of visibility on windy roads with no shoulder. As the fog cleared we continued on Hwy 28 towards Buckhorn. We had a great lunch in Buckhorn next to the log cathedral pictured below which has a full pipe organ imported from Europe early in the 20th century.

It seems as if eastern Kentucky is very different than western Kentucky. Western Kentucky is rolling grassland and is true to the Indian word for that terrain, Ken-ta-ke. Eastern Kentucky is full of isolated, rural mountain communities. Belinda made an error reading the map between Berea and Booneville and we were soon on a very small road. We saw two men crossing the road ahead of us and decided to ask for directions. They were hunting for herbs and did not know the name of the road. They were friendly and their toothless grins seemed to indicate they had not left the hollow too many times. We had some difficulty understanding their speech which continued today with several of the people we talked with. The country is fairly populated and we pass many houses with hound dogs baying in kennels. From Booneville, we followed Hwy 28 east until the intersection with Hwy 15 where we saw the truck pictured below. If you click on the picture it will enlarge and show you some very interesting details.

We went south on Hwy 15 with a deluge of traffic at 4:00 pm. Luckily there was a large shoulder and we got to Hazard without any problems.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Bardstown to Berea

Friday morning there was a coolness in the air when we left Bardstown. We are lucky to have a large cold front moving through the area and dropping the daily high temperatures into the 80's. That morning sure felt like the beginning of fall. We headed north on Hwy 62 and soon reached Springfield after many changes of course on county roads. Since we were heading into the weekend we called ahead about accomodations in Harrodsburg. Well it was a good thing we called since the largest yard sale in the world was happening in Harrodsburg over the weekend. We got one of the last 4 motel rooms available in Harrodsburg for that night. From Springfield we headed to Harrodsburg on Hwy 152. The traffic was amazing when we reached Harrodsburg; the yard sale is conducted along Hwy 127 and people were starting to lay out their stuff by the side of the road. In the parking lot at the motel there were license plates from North Carolina, Arkansas, Ohio and Illinois; people come from 100's of miles away for this event.

Well on Saturday morning we were glad to get away before things got any crazier. We continued east on Hwy 152 and were soon going up and down over rolling hills. Western Kentucky is beautiful with vistas over rolling meadows and woodlands along creeks.

One of the interesting things we've seen in Kentucky has been black barns. The barns in Missouri were all painted red, In Kentucky they are painted black and we have often seen a quilt like motif painted under the peak. They are quite striking.

Tomorrow we enter the western approach to the Appalachians. Posting may be delayed so keep checking back.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Bourbon Capital of the World

We had a great day that started with a tour at the Bourbon Heritage Center. We knew something about Bourbon but it was neat to learn more of the details of Bourbon production. The large warehouse (7 stories) in the background stores 20,000 barrels of Bourbon that are aged at the ambient environmental temperatures. The barrels expand and shrink every year with the natural temperature fluctuations and the Bourbon absorbs the flavors from the barrel during the aging. Different parts of the warehouse create different conditions and different qualities of Bourbon. After a Bourbon tasting, we headed back into town to visit "My Old Kentucky Home."

This home was the inspiration for the Stephen Foster song, My Old Kentucky Home. It is furnished with almost all the original furnishings from the Rowan family and has recently been renovated to restore the original paint colors and wallpaper patterns. It is a beautiful home and a great example of classic Georgian architecture combined with Federal.

At the end of the day we headed downtown to see the historic buildings. This tavern was the original stage stop and is currently a tavern, restaurant, and bed and breakfast. We also visited the Museum of Whiskey History and learned more about all the local families and distilleries.

Lincoln's Birthplace to Bardstown

The picture above is the scene as we prepared to leave Lincoln's Birthplace on Wednesday. We left early and rode on Hwy 61 to Buffalo where we had breakfast. Breakfast was at a convienence store and wasn't much more than a sausage egg'o muffin and coffee, but that was all there was available and it got us kick started. In route we realized that if we detoured from the Trans-Am route on Hwy 31E we would save 10 hilly miles. The decision was made easier by the fact that Hwy 31E would take us past the Abraham Lincoln Boyhood National Historic Site at Knob Creek. The Knob Creek farm was the earliest place Abe remembered.

This region is known locally as The Knobs. It is characterized by rich bottom lands surrounded by steep hills which look like..well like knobs.

We rode into Bardstown 10 hilly miles early. Bardstown we soon found out is the Bourbon Capital of the World. We were intrigued! There are several famous distilleries, a Bourbon Heritage Center, and the Whiskey Museum. Bardstown is also the second oldest town in Kentucky, founded in the 1780's, and many old buildings inhabit the downtown. We decided to stay a day to sightsee and sample the unique flavors of the area.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Falls of Rough to Lincoln's Birthplace

Today we were on the road by seven in the morning and it felt nice and cool. We wound along Rough River Reservoir on Hwy. 79 for a while and then climbed to higher, more open country. The going was fairly easy, and we stopped about every two hours for a snack as is our habit. We really like getting out the door early these days to beat the heat, but also we find we enjoy arriving at our destination a little earlier.Today our destination was Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Site on Hwy 31E. We have a rustic cabin just adjacent to the park at the Nancy Lincoln Inn (built in 1926 and named for Abe's mother). It is really a beautiful place and Jack has plenty of room to run.
The park features a neo-classical Memorial Building which contains what is accepted to be the original log cabin that Abe Lincoln was born in. There are 56 steps to the Memorial Building, one for each year of Lincoln's life. After we had finished sightseeing we headed into town for dinner at the Hodgenville Grill. We took a table next to a man seated alone and struck a great conversation. His name was Jim Keith and when he had finished dinner he picked up our check and treated us to dinner. We have found Kentuckians to be very friendly and interested in our trip.