Note: The final miles through Virginia and North Carolina had us hitting our sleeping pads very late, and we lacked cell coverage. It was no soft pedal home. The final posts will account how we got to "done". Here's part 1:
Wise Guys, continued...
Wise VA to Abongdon VA - 57 miles
by David Hardy
Michael was right. There was one more big, screaming, tough hill to get to the town of Wise.
When we crested it, I looked back at the boys. "Please tell me that was hard for you, too," I pleaded.
They nodded politely.
It was now 5:15.
I checked my phone and hooked up with Michael. He was waiting for us at the turn into Wise.
He led us into town and we re-grouped at the Inn at Wise- a beautifully restored inn. We got better acquainted and learned about Wise.
Since the collapse of coal, the job loss in Wise has hit 74%! This beautiful little Virginia mountain town was struggling just like Hazard, KY and other coal towns. "Its the new normal," Michael said."
But if anyone can get things turned around in that town, its Michael.
We followed him to a nearby church camp--Camp Bethel Ministries--that was closed for the season. The manager met us there and gave us a tour: bath house, showers, all the essentials.
And when it came time to pay, Michael paid the bill. More BikeLoud magic.
By then it was close to 6:30 pm. We rode back into town and stuffed ourselves at an Italian restaurant and then rode back to camp for showers and sleep.
Most of the boys camped cowboy style. Nothing phases them anymore. For me, the screech owl kept me up most of the night!
The next morning we met Michael at the Inn for a free, delicious breakfast, David Margolies threw salt over his shoulder to get rid of the black cat juju and Michael sent us on our way.
Fifty miles to go. Destination Abingdon.
We had a great descent leaving town--a perfect way to start the ride.
Basically, it was an uneventful ride--made possible by David Margolies' salt trick.
We covered fifty miles in about four hours, and rolled into Abingdon about 2pm.
There we met Max's Grandfather who treated us all to lunch at a delicious barbecue restaurant and then we rolled into the Muster Grounds.
The Muster Grounds were where the men of this region gathered to battle General Cornwalis during the American Revolution. Cornwalis threatened to lay waste to the area if the settlers didn't join the Loyalists. These men, mainly Scotch and Irish, weren't about to join the King's army. So, they took the battle to Cornwalis. They marched down to King's Mountain and wiped out a third of his army. Done and done.
Friends of Ed's church who live in Abingdon soon arrived and set up a massive feast for the boys.
Steve Rothwell met me here, we switched bikes and I headed home, leaving the boys in good shape with four hard days of riding to go.
Warning: Dog Crossing!
Abingdon VA to Wilkesboro NC - 90 miles.
By Steve Rothwell
I'm back! For two days that is. Arrived on Friday to ride through Sunday from Abingdon, VA to Denton, NC. We will probably cover around 165 miles.
So what did I see when I arrived? They were dirty, long-haired, bearded, their gear is road worn, and their XC red shirts just a little more loose as they have been hand washed dozens of times. They looked great! They are a tight group!
I can't wait to ride with them.
I climbed into the tent after dark on Friday night expecting heavy rain. We watched the flashes of lightning over the mountains to the south... our route for Saturday. Fortunately, the clouds moved on without issue. The stars were visible by the time I settled in to sleep.
By 5:30am I was awake and drinking tea while Ed enjoyed a coffee. Amazing how I stepped back into the old routine. By 6:30 the guys were awake and by 7:00 we were rolling out for breakfast complete with Caroline & Benja on their tandem.
Breakfast was at McDonalds. Then we did some get-on-gettin'-on. We rolled through sleepy Abingdon with Damascus as our short term goal. Abingdon is an endpoint on the VA Creeper Trail but we chose to stay on main roads to get to Damascus. Damascus, also on the Creeper Trail is a through point on the Appalachian Trail.
We stopped in Damascus' only hiking store and learned about some Blue Heelers up the road and were told to avoid them at all cost. These especially vicious farm dogs liked to attack anything that moved and have been know to tear panniers off moving bikes.
We decided that 5 miles on the Creeper Trail would be wise. The surface was general good but it did ultimately cause a broken spoke on the tandem about 15 miles up the road on a fast descent.
After the repair we rolled unceremoniously into North Carolina. Five miles in we realized our achievement and we were surprised that there was no Welcome to North Carolina sign. I'm sure the welcome to come will make the disappointment go away.
The route ahead included some good climbs and wicked 6 mile long, 8% grade descents. Fortunately any rain clouds produced their output before we arrived. We had wet roads in some places but generally dry.
Once near Wilkesboro the search for a place to stay started in earnest. We considered a hotel until Benja found a "Warm Shower" (think couch surfing for bikes) place to stay.
Steve, our host, is fantastic! He is a retired corporate pilot who just got back from 9 weeks of bike touring in the Northeast. He opened his to house to us, let use true wheels in his workshop, and joined us for dinner at a great local restaurant. He'll ride out of town with us tomorrow.
For now... Sleep.