Monday, 24 May 2010

Assault on Hayters Gap & Big A Mountain

It was a slow start today, after breaking camp from the garden at “The Place” in Damascus, we cycled round to the trendy coffee shop in town and consumed breakfast whilst making use of their fast internet connection.
Bruce went off to find a Laundromat and said he’d catch us at the next camp site. After copious emailing, face booking, twittering and trying to find out the meaning of the term “boxing day”, we headed out for some retail therapy.
Tony tracked down some new gloves and I picked up a thin merino full sleeve top, to try and stop me from burning my arms!
We eventually got on the road around 11.30 and quickly got up to speed through the lush green Virginia countryside. I made a few stops to adjust my seat and bar ends and now thanks to Tony’s knowledge of bike setup I think I’ve got it dialled in perfectly. Hopefully the sore bum and tingly little fingers will now be a thing of the past!

We crossed the Middle Fork and the South Fork Holston Rivers and then diverted onto a slightly longer Scenic route (aka we got lost!). I think the Hillbillies had been using the road signs for shooting practice!

Eventually we got back on the 76 and made it into Meadowview VA for a lovely late lunch at the Harvest Table Restaurant. The owner was chatting to us about the ride and other cyclists who had been in. I told her to put a sign up on the road offering a Trans Am bikers lunch deal, she seemed keen on the idea.

My scrummy meat loaf was sitting heavy as we headed towards Haytors Gap a wooded switchback climb of 1600 ft in 4 miles. As we reached the village at the base of the climb I was a few hundred metres ahead of Tony and out of the corner of my eye  I caught site of something shadowing me 20 ft into the woods. On first glance I thought it was a stray dog, then thought Wolf, but quickly realised it was a Coyote. I gesticulated frantically at Tony but he was to busy looking for a suitable wee stop! The Coyote turned and headed into the woods as I upped my pace, unsure as to where I stood in the food chain!

We reached the Haytors Gap Library and popped in, the ladies were very chatty and we signed the guest book, I asked about the Coyote and was told the had been reintroduced around the area but I was still lucky to see one. The librarian gave us a quick lecture on the perils of poison ivy and showed us her rather nasty looking arm rash. A lady sat using the free internet offered her folks house to stay at if we didn’t want to take on the Gap that night. We politely declined and within a few minutes we were pedalling up to the first of the switchbacks.

The switchbacks seemed endless and when I eventually summated from the quiet tree lined route I stopped for 10 minutes to refuel with a power bar and ring my sweat filled top out. That hill really took it out of me and the massive down hill the other side seemed like just reward.

10 miles on I stopped for my daily Gatorade at a service station; a local preacher approached us and offered a room behind his Church, it was a known cyclist stop and he was a nice chap but we were keen to continue to Council VA. He looked at the sky and at his watch and asked us if we really wanted to tackle “Big A Mountain” this late in the day. “Of course” I regrettably replied!

As soon as we hit State Highway 80 the hard shoulder was covered in debris and the cars raced past with little room to spare we pushed on through Honaker and then the next big climb of the day appeared, “Big A Hill”. This was a slightly lesser hill than Hayters Gap but with light starting to fade and six hours in the saddle it felt just as hard. The down hill into Council VA ended a tough but rewarding day.

We cooked up some dehydrated chicken noodle meals and waited for the park warden to turn up so we could find out exactly where to camp. The old gentlemen turned up at 9 and I wandered over to speak to him, on seeing me he jumped into his pickup and locked himself in. “Stay bayk, wudya wan” he yelled through the 1” gap in his windscreen, “we’d like to camp in the park tonight”, he looked blankly at me, not understanding a word I had said. I tried again in my best Queen’s English.

As I was dressed in black wearing a flaming bandanna I probably did look a bit intimidating, but eventually the lovely old chap realised we weren’t a threat and let us camp under a big pavilion and use the bathrooms.
I drifted off to sleep to a huge frog chorus, an epic day of hill climbing was over but the Appalachians hadn’t finished with us yet…….

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1 comment:

  1. red arms, white legs - top combo. Loving the read big stu, hope yr having fun


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