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Days 13 & 14: Looking, Learning, & Growing Lighter

On the 13th day, we rested. On 14 we ventured into adding miles back, and we did pretty well. But before the highlights, here's some stuff that's struck us after two weeks (more-or-less) on the trail. For instance:

"Road Closed" really means "Road Closed to Cars."


  • Mountains can serve as a free lesson on the fact that the shortest distance between two points is not always a straight line.

  • Trust your legs, not your eyes. —yes, it looks like you're going downhill. But your legs are telling you to stay in that climbing gear, and ignoring your legs just leads to frustration.

  • Go as slow as you can go and keep moving. —the best way we've found to get over the big hills. You can only push for so long.

It says our turn is right here?
  • Know the forecast, but also check it often. —we've been hit by sudden rainstorms a bunch! They somehow wait till you've hit the campsite but don't have the rainfly up, and then... wet. Everything wet.

  • You can't always trust the map! Google has led us down many blocked roads, as well as to an intersection that didn't exist (down a broken concrete road that nearly shook our limbs off, to a tunnel where we could look up at the trail we wanted, but couldn't make it through the brush).

  • If you're the lead bike, and you're moving fast, don't spit. Sorry!

Enough trail wisdom for now... We spent Day 13 in Blacksburg, VA, mostly catching up on the blog (editing and posting things we’d written w/o sufficient ‘net to upload pics, which we've realized will be how this works — posting stuff late because that's when we can) and sipping beers and appreciating what it feels like to bike up a hill without hauling a bunch of weight. It felt so good we took on another round of slimming down — Beau said goodbye to his superannuated DSLR (the Nikon’s pics weren’t coming out great, meanwhile the phone was occasionally showing off), and we sent home the spare chain, some clothes, and other things. We're riding lighter now, though neither of us can quite promise they feel the difference.

Drinking thematically.

Day 14 we set out for 54 miles — small fry by some TransAm standards, but still a little of a push for us at the moment, especially since Virginia’s hills do not quit, ya’ll. Beau’s knee nearly gave out at the end, and then the entrance to the RV camp where we’re staying had a series of unnecessarily large gravel inclines that nearly broke our spirits. But we made it. And we’ve kind of learned that we will make it, most of the time — we can usually push through a low or two and still find ourselves happily at the point we set out to reach. But if we don’t, that’s okay too.

Our Warm Showers hosts biked with us a little ways out of Blacksburg, to show us the best route (which we would not have found), and then we followed the picturesque Huckleberry Trail down to Christiansburg, from which we headed west toward Radford, where there's actually a legit coffee shop, as well as this cool tunnel.

After Radford we endured a few moderate climbs towards Draper, VA, during which we pulled over at one point and a nearby dog came running along the fence-line and barking at us. Next thing we knew the old man who lived in the house was outside. We waved and smiled at the man, and he asked if we wanted water or Gatorade. He brought us out a Gatorade, a cold water bottle, and two frozen bottles of water. His name was Alvin Dalton. Thanks, Alvin.

After crossing a closed bridge (sliding past an indifferent construction crew), and then taking a Google-inspired bad detour, we made it to the Draper Mercantile just before closing, where we stocked up on calories for the rest of the ride. And the Merc is excellent — highly recommended for any future TransAmers. Have you ever had a grilled pimento cheese and bacon sandwich? Life-changing.

Also at the Merc, we met a fellow cyclist from Virginia Beach. Oscar was out west on work and was changing into his cycling gear to spend a couple hours on the New River Trail (and awesome-looking trail that goes all the way down to Galax, though we only got to spend a few miles on it). We told Oscar that his hometown is where we started, and he told us there's a better route than the one we took — one that leads north along the coast for a while and has great bike lines. So, pro-tip for anyone looking to take that extra day in the future. Thanks, Oscar.

Only 12 miles left to our stop for the night, the Pioneer Village RV Park. Coming in, we biked past a big long lot of RVs, none more than fifteen feet apart, a few of which had wooden porches built up along them, and grills, and other signs that this wasn't a short stop for some residents. For a moment we thought we were getting shown to one of the open lots between two big RVs, but instead we were taken down past the lot to a big meadow alongside a creek. The owners brought down a plastic picnic table — the old woman held it proped up against the back of a golf cart with one hand (!) — and there was a nearby gazebo with plugs to charge our lights and phones. We took a bath and washed our clothes in the creek, stretched, read some Watership Down, and then the unforecasted rain hit. Our wet clothes stayed wet, but the rest is good. We'll hit a laundromat in the morning. It was overall a good day.

Day 14 stats: Blacksburg to Max Meadows, VA, 55.9 miles, 3450' of elevation, two killer sammies,

All for now.

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