Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Following the Appalachian Valleys

Being a country of extremes America has now decided to throw some rain our way, so we've gone from 90 degrees to 60 in 24 hours. To be honest the more English like temperatures are far more comfortable to cycle in than 90 degrees with humidity. We're expecting the temperatures to start rising again by Thursday so I'm going to make the most of this while it lasts!

The riding has been great, after breaking camp from Love up on the Ridgeway, we spent Sunday morning hurtling down out of the mountains finishing with 4 miles of switch backs that made our brake blocks smoke and hands ache from tugging on the levers. It's amazing the speed a fully loaded touring bike can hit, my speedo maxed at 40mph, not a speed you want to wipe out at on a gravel corner.

Having broke camp early due to the "stealth" location, we ended up doing 15 miles on no breakfast. Arriving at Gerties Cafe in the small town of Vesuvius we pulled up outside desperate for some grub. The door label said closed and we we're gutted and had to resort to a bottle of Pepsi from the vending machine outside.

Luckily Gertie was driving by and spotted us stood outside looking lost and hungry, she pulled in and offered to fire up the grill for us. 20 minutes later we were feasting on a great breakfast and looking at photos of a huge black bear climbing into the back of a pick up truck down the road from the cafe.

I had felt quite relaxed about Black Bears on the mountain roads as Tony had told me it wasn't bear season yet. Gertie's assistant overheard me mention this and in her deep southern drawl told me that Tony was telling me fibbs and she had recently had to get the park rangers in to get rid of a bear that was emptying bird feeders in her garden. Tony admitted his porkies were to try and stop the Brit from jumping out of his skin when anything rustled in the woods....

We finished our breakfast and signed the ceiling at Gerties Cafe. Every Trans Am cyclists who has passed by since the 70's has signed and there are names of people from all over the world and it's now hard to find a gap!

The following few days have been spent following river valleys below the Appalachian mountains. Although generally flatter the route still has tortuous climbs that zap your strength, although I'm certainly feeling much stronger than I was on my first day on the Trans Am.

We splashed out on Sunday night and got a $40 Motel next to the Pink Cadillac Elvis Diner at Natural Bridge VA. A group of old school mates were meeting up in the diner for a fishing holiday. The custom t shirts they had made read, "Paddle Faster... I hear Banjo Music!". I can feel a variation of that coming on!

After consuming half a chicken and lots of root beer I was keen on catching up on some sleep.

Having a bed to sleep in is such a luxury and I was out like a light, only to wake the next morning to the sound of pouring rain! Cycling in the rain doesn't worry me to much and there is almost a child like amusement to be had from cycling through puddles!

We put in a wet 50 miles + day to get to the town of Catawaba (pop 50 ish!). The town is also a resupply and stop off point for those walking the Appalachian Trail . Turning up at the store the owner pointed to a shed and a piece of grass, camp or cabin it's 3 bucks each. We went for the floor of the cabin and an Israeli girl joined us who was hiking the trail, she had great stories of encounters with bears, rattlers and copper head snakes on the trail.... needless to say I'll be staying on the roads and not venturing in the woods!

Tuesday was our zero day or rest day, but we ended up doing 20 miles to get to Blacksburg VA where we were met for lunch by Mason Cavell and his lovely lady Leonna and a few of their friends. Mason runs and helps organise . The two of them being Trans Amers we were keen to get tips and notes from them and they were really helpful with info for the onward journey.

Even though Mason and Leanna were packing that evening to go on holiday they were more than happy to put us up, so after an afternoon of sitting in the laundromat we are now in another lovely American house with great hosts.

More photos on Flickr and updated map here .

Tomorrow we finish our first map of the trans am route.... only 11 to go!


  1. It's so nice to wake up in the morning and read your Blog Stu, I finished off my Root Beer supply last night, have some A&W for me.

  2. chopper here (flash back or what) lovin checking out your adventure every morning Freya (My 3 yr old) loves the pics !! Thanks for the mail glad to hear your tucking in to the local fayre got to keep up your strength ;-) keep up the good work Stu safe riding

  3. Hey Stu, just sat through your pics on flikr - really enjoying following your journey and glad all is going well for you. I'm bloody proud of you matey!!

  4. Stu,
    So cool to hear about all your adventures on the road. The pictures on Flickr are awesome!
    Be safe and happy trail to ya!
    Peace :)

  5. Glad to hear your having a fab time and not missing us one bit.. Good job the cycling is keeping you fit cos by the look of size of those food portions you'd be huge!! - And the french bloke who commented on your size obviously doesn't know what a well toned english bloke looks like... Luvs ya lots take care Mandy B

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