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Day 10

Sorry for the lack of a Day 9 post, but Troutdale, VA is not one of the places that appears on Verizon's red map of coverage that they tout.  It's probably for the best; the only positive I can say about yesterday is that it is in the past.

I'm sitting on the back porch of a Methodist Church in Rosedale, VA that has taken in cyclists on the Trans America trail since the trail's inception in 1976.  As I look around, I'm not too sure how much of this property has changed since then.  It's very well taken care of, but it still has that old school American charm.  My clothes are drying on a clothesline, there's a boarded up log cabin in the background, and every car that passes by is made in America.  

We had a long day to get to this quaint back porch, though.  We left Troutdale around 6:30 and continued yesterday's journey of climbing through Jefferson National Park.  After a few miles, we got our reward: going down the mountain.  Ordinarily I don't think the downhills are as rewarding as the uphills are challenging.  The downhills are also frustrating because you know there's just going to be a bigger uphill on the other side, but I'm hoping that's just a Virginia thing.  Today was different.  With the aid of going down, we were able to do 25 miles by 8:30am.  We rolled past a pack of dogs (why do they hate bikers so much? Do we have some kind of feud that I'm unaware of?) and into the town of Damascus.  

I was going to continue this post about the best breakfast I've had and how it was $6 in Damascus, the Canadian motorcycle couple we met that rode with their daschund on the back of the wife's bike, and the bike shop owner we met that continuously kept saying what a long day we had ahead of us (thanks for the heads up, pal), but a South Korean named Yum just walked in to the hostel that we are staying in and he is far more interesting.

Because of the influence that America has on South Korean media, Yum decided he wanted to see America first hand.  He flew out to LAX and has been biking across the country since May.  He has a flight booked in August at JFK, so Chris and I have been giving him tips for the city while he gives us advice on the western end of our trip.   

We've been talking for a while and there are too many great things to share, so I'm going to list them out: 

- He was once cleaning his bike because it was covered in mud and removed his brakes to make sure they were clean enough to work.  He finished up and began to bike downhill before he realized he had forgotten to attach them (don't worry- he's ok).

- A westbound cyclist had warned Yum about dogs in the streets of Kentucky and equipped him with what sounds like a police baton.  

- He said the trip has only been getting harder as he goes East, so that bodes well for Chris and me as we go to San Francisco. 

- When we asked if it has been hard doing this trip on his own, he said the hardest part was in Kansas because "it's just so boring." 

- We're talking about American pop culture and he asked: "Is Kim Kardashian a symbol of beauty? What is she famous for?"  Neither of us had a solid response. 

- Although he was expecting everyone to be carrying one, Yum has seen 2 guns in his time here.  The first gun he saw was on a cop in LAX and the second was when he was staying with a 70 year old man who wanted to show Yum a gun up close; in is words: "it was awesome."  

- We asked what the best thing he's eaten so far has been and he quickly announced "pie."  Apparently American media features pies often and American pie ingredients are not easily found in South Korea.  His first pie experience was from Walmart and he was left disappointed.  With this trip as a testament to Yum's perseverance, though, he went on to a cafe in the next town and ordered one slice of each pie that they had on the menu.  He happily recalled that being the best meal he's had.  White Castle also came up, but I don't think he saw what Harold and Kumar were fussing about. 

- We asked what kind of music he listens to and "Tyler the Creator" was one of the first artists he mentioned.  I was not expecting that. 

- The Simpsons are the main reason he wanted to visit America and primarily how he learned (fluent) English.

We were planning on going to bed early to get a good start tomorrow, but talking to Yum has been better time spent. 

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Day 7

And on the seventh day, we rested.  The weather was on and off since the cliche rooster woke us up this morning, so we hung around and did a lot of nothing.  Chris and I played chess about 3 times every hour and we ate everything we could.  I just turned around and saw him eating the remains of a party sized bag of Doritos with a spoon.  Today was a good day. 

The most interesting part of the day was getting to know the hikers on the Appalachian trail.  The hostel we are staying at is open to cyclists, but its primary guests are hikers.  A reason for that is that the founder/owner of this place was a hiker on the trail himself.  He's a tree sized guy with a gray beard and hair that would rival Zeus'.  

The hikers come and go, but they all seem to know each other from the trail.  They're all friendly enough and primarily keep to themselves.  It's obvious that they're all looking for something in the mountains, but I guess that's not too far off from my trip.  I know that after I get to San Francisco, I will be getting back to New York for good; the hikers seem like nomads for the most part.  

I'm sure living traveling the mountains changes you a tremendous amount, but I didn't expect that it would also change your name.  I don't know any of their birth names, but I've met Earthling, Hardcore, Scavenger, City Slicker, and my favorite- Sir Duke Smellington.  I was half expecting someone to introduce themselves as Pony Boy or Sodapop.  It comes with the trail I suppose. 

Tommorow we move on to the town of Draper, Virginia as we start our second week.

 

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Day 5

Yesterday's successful ride warranted a late alarm clock today of 8:00am.  After doing one last sweep through the Cookie Lady's house, we got back on our bikes and pedaled up the mountain.

The misty morning made for a surreal beginning. We were high enough that there should have been a view from the road, but the mist blocked out anything more than 10 feet away in each direction. The sides surrounding the road looked as though an artist painted the trees and bushes but left the rest of the canvas completely blank.

After a few hours, we found ourselves descending into the town of Vesuvius.  There was one small food spot in town, but when we walked in they announced that they were closed.  Noticing our helmets in hand, they asked if we were biking across the country.  When we said yes, they offered us either a ham and cheese or barbecue.  I was curious what ordering generic "barbecue" would entail, so I went with that.  It turns out that it was incredible pulled pork and that that may not have been the best decision while still biking. 

We continued on into Lexington, VA and decided to treat ourselves to a motel room on this Fourth of July.  I'm not sure if this is actually the nicest motel 6 in existence or if I'm just blindly ecstatic about the shower, bed, pillow, TV, AC, sink... You get the point. 

Tomorrow we continue to roll on and get another day closer to leaving Virginia.  It's been real, VA, but I'm ready to get onto the next state. 

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Day 4

Today was an uphill battle, but it was extremely rewarding. We left the "census designated place" of Palmrya (I guess you can't be considered a town if you have only 104 residents) around 6:15 today. The hills blend together, but I do recall seeing Thomas Jefferson's home of Monticello.  

When we arrived to Charlottesville, we had our best meal of the trip so far- breakfast at Fox's Cafe. We biked around in the city for a little and did a quick pass through of UVA's campus. I do wish we had more time to explore the city, but the 1-2 hours spent there were enough to entice me to go back.

We biked for a while longer heading to Afton, a small town a little above the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The plan was no stops until we got to Afton, but a peach orchard changed that. After a quick "dondae" (peach ice cream over an apple cinnamon doughnut with fresh peaches and whipped cream), we got back on the road.   

When we finally got up a bit on the mountain and arrived in Afton, we stopped in to the post office to see if there were any places to grab food.  The post office employee told us that the closest option would be an antique store at the bottom of the mountain (no shot we were biking down there again) that sold soda and candy.  To our amazement, she offered us the use of her car to pick up dinner from a brewery that was a few miles away. This woman didn't even know our names, but she was kind enough to let us borrow her car to get food.  I can't really picture something like that happening in New York.

After we picked up dinner, we arrived at our lodging for the night: the Cookie Lady's house.  The Cookie Lady was a woman that took in bikers from the Trans American trail for decades.  She was so well known that her house is listed on our trail's map as a destination for housing.  Although she passed away several years ago, her family decided to keep the house open for cyclists on the trail.  

Walking into the house was very overwhelming.  The first things you see are old bike jerseys with notes on them, newspaper clippings, old tires, and a journal signed by everyone that has stayed there.  The entire downstairs of the house is covered wall to wall with thousands of different things left behind by bikers that have passed through.  My first thought was "if only these walls could talk," but then I realized that they could.  There are Polaroids of guests, newspaper clippings about people that have stayed here, post cards from every end of the world, and even a guitar.  The main decoration is a thank you note to the Cookie Lady; there are an incredible amount of poems, cartoon drawings, and other well deserved thank you notes addressed to the Cookie Lady.  Although she was not here to let us in, we are thankful that her door remained open for us.

Tomorrow we bike to the top of the montain.  I did notice a telephone number on the fridge for someone that will tow your bike and give you a ride to the other side of the mountain, but that wouldn't be as good of a story to tell. 

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Day 3

You would think that a full day of biking would allow you to think more and gather your thoughts for writing a post like this.  As I think back on the day, though, I've realized that the days are already blending together.  I am fairly positive everything I write after this happened today.  

The day began at 5:30 on the dot. We cut down on the time that it took to break down our campsite by 15 minutes, but I still don't know how it took us 45 today.  The misty morning we set out into lasted the whole ride, which made the heat much more bearable.  We experienced the hills of Virginia today, which brought the best views so far but also the toughest riding. We should be crossing the mountains in two days, so I guess I shouldn't complain. I'm still waiting for that biker's high that I've heard about, but I'll settle for the sense of accomplishment for now. 

Our campgrounds for tonight are behind a supermarket in a town that is so small that its DMV is literally situated inside of said supermarket. 

It's 7 right now, so I guess it's my bedtime. Tomorrow we will be passing through Charlottesville, which will be the biggest city we've passed through so far. We've ridden about 160 miles so far, but still have a few thousand to go. 

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Day 2

We had planned to start the trip today, July 1st, all along. Anticipation and some upcoming fearful weather guided us to start yesterday, though. Now, 100 miles in, it's like we did a century on the first day; that's not a bad start at all. We are waking up at 5:30 am, so I'll just leave some scattered thoughts from the road:  

- You may not be able to find food, water, or gas for a long time, but there will always be a church every few minutes. 

- Virginia has more museums and memorials on random streets dedicated to the Civil War than days fought in the war.

- We slept through the wildest storm last night. I don't think I've ever been closer to lightening; my entire tent would become illuminated like someone kept flicking a switch on every few minutes 

- It seems like everyone that has done the Trans American trail has stories about witnessing human kindness and being taken in. Two days in and we already have our first story. We stopped into a bike shop just a few minutes off the trail to pick up a few things. While talking to the owner, he invited us to camp out back of his store. That was nice, but him letting us take showers at the shop was even better. 

- We are passing a town named Bumpass tomorrow.  There are only two ways I can think to pronounce it and I'm not sure which would be worse. 

Day 2 is in the books.

 

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