Watch Out for That Black Cat

By David Hardy

Hazard to Wise - 68 miles

Part One.  


It took is a long time to get to this sign.  

It took is a long time to get to this sign.  


A restful night in the Presbyterian Church cottage did wonders for everyone, and a few minutes after sunrise we were leaving Hazard and our fantastic hosts for what proved to be a really tough day.

By now, you may have heard that the scouts are extremely superstitious. They constantly knock on wood and see omens around every corner.
And I don't blame them. Today was a good example.
David Margolies saw a BLACK CAT!
If he had only shared that news with me and Ed, things might have been better!
We decided to take our chances on HWY 21 to make good time with a direct route. But we had problems almost immediately. First, Andrew noticed that his rear tire was low. No, it was flat. 
Understandable since the shoulder we were on was full of debris. Max and Benjamin, our new German friend, took care of it quickly. But ten minutes later, he flatted again! This time we switched tube and tire and Benjamin really showed his triathlon background by speedily fixing things.
Two tough climbs followed.
We then decided to take a secondary road. That was when David M's pannier came off. Fixed it and decided to eat an early lunch.
Back on the road, another pannier problem.
We finally started making good time when we hit a road crew. They had emptied out a chasm that we were not going to be able to cross. They said a dirt truck was coming, and once they packed it, we could cross. Twenty minutes later we carried the bikes across. 
Then we were really making good time when I heard a sound. 
"Mr. Hardy, your tent fell."
I swung back but didn't see it! Crap, was it back at the construction site? I rode all the way back there-at least 5 miles- and it wasn't there. So I rode all the way back to where the scouts were waiting. No tent. 
"Just keep going,"I said. "I'll buy Karl another damn tent."
And then Andrew found it right where I dropped it in the first place. Another hour lost. My bad.
By then, we still had another thirty miles to go. But we simply had to make it to Wise, Virginia so we kept humping it. We had to get back on the major highway and take our chances with the wide shoulder and better visibility.
Around ten miles later, we hit the hardest climb since the Ozarks. The road seemed to go straight up, and by then, the afternoon sunwas baking.
We climbed for at least a half hour, and it was much harder than Hoosier Pass in Colorado. Believe me, I was there for both.
Finally, at the crest of the hill was a Marathon Gas Station. 
We limped into its air-conditioned environs and pillaged it BikeLoud style.
I looked out the window of the gas station and saw a sign welcoming us to Virginia. We were getting close.
Then I asked Ed where we were staying that night. 
"Good question," he answered. 
We both grabbed our phones and started finger pecking. It was 4:15 in the afternoon.
On a whim, I decided to call the Wise County Tourism Office. Best decision of the day.
A new saint emerged on the BikeLoud venture: Michael Wampler, Director of Tourism and Marketing for the county.
I blathered on about who we were and what we needed.
"I'll call you back in a half hour," Michael said. "Start pedaling towards Wise. You've got one more big hill."
Rejuvenated, we dashed to the Virginia sign and took a photo. 
Max came up to me, "We are now in a state that borders the Atlantic," he pointed out with a big grin.