Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive

This past week, and nearly 500 miles, I've been within National Park Service lands riding the ridge line of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The views have been fabulous and the riding tough. I'll admit that I'm all right being done with mountains for a little while-at least me body sure needs the break.

The Acton Family I stayed with in Asheville (Don, Joanie, Gunnar, and McKenzie). Can you tell they're a big bike family?

Although the weather's been great, it's still early season here, meaning light traffic but in an area with already few services, most all are still closed. That meant I had to be sure and have lots of food and plan water carefully ( I do have a filter if I need it, but facets are just so much easier!). Some sections of the Blue Ridge Parkway are still closed due to rock slides or down trees. North Carolina had a particularly harsh winter and the amount of trees down is overwhelming. Crews were working on one closed section which I was able to get through, but another hadn't yet been touched. Seeing the number of down trees I'd have to climb over just at the beginning I opted for the detour.

My favorite section of this stretch was in North Carolina around Lineville-Grandfather Mt. area. The scenery was truly spectacular with rocky peaks and stunning views. Many other areas are also quite nice, just didn't stand out as much. I've managed a few little hikes to falls and up peaks. Each time I'm on the trails I get comments as to why I'd hike when already biking; I tell people the views are to good to miss.

My second day riding out of Asheville my rear tire blew out. I'd expected that one to get me to New York City so was disappointed-it was toast. Fortunately I had an old tire, though it was worn near to threads (I won't throw away a tire unless I have a spare-just for cases like this). I still had 150 miles and 2.5 day to the next town. Those were a nervous few days, unsure if I'd make it and preparing to hitchhike. With just two flats and two patches to the tire I made it to Roanoke, Virginia for a new tire. It was a huge relief, especially not to have to worry about a tire blowing out down these long hills!

Views from the Blue Ridge Parkway:

Lineville Falls

Road closure

The Viaduct around Grandfather Mt.

The dogwoods and redbuds are out in full color and just gorgeous!

During this trip I've gained a much greater appreciation for my body as I constantly test just what it can do. Having competed in athletics my whole life, I did have some of this before; but this is different, being pure endurance and so long-running. On numerous days I've ridden myself beyond exhaustion either to try and reach a goal for the day or to find a camping spot. Somehow my body has always held out and I've been able to ride again the next day.
However, there are times like these past few days where I wake up exhausted, take a long time to get moving, and then struggle through the day not knowing if my body can take another. Once my body goes my mind soon follows. Each uphill became too long, the downhills too cold, my back hurt, feet ached, the drivers made dangerous passes or came too close, and I questioned whether I should leave the mountains and retreat to the flats; it got hard to enjoy the riding. On days like that it becomes a mind game to keep myself moving forward. I get through it by constantly setting little goals throughout the day: telling myself to just get around that corner, up that hill, or to the next mile post, then the next, mile after mile. I ride slower, take more breaks, and may not get me usual miles, but I manage to keep plugging on.
At times like that I know it's past time to give my body a rest. However, resting is one of those things I just can't do well on this trip. It's hard to stop, and when I do I'm usually moving-hiking, riding, walking, eager to explore a new area. Even on these past days when I've been so tried, if I stopped riding before 7pm, I couldn't just rest, I'd go out on little runs and when I couldn't run any more I'd walk. It got to the point one evening where I was limping around a lake. It's hard to stay still and relax.

Views from Shenandoah National Park (Skyline Drive):

I'm in Front Royal now, having left Shenandoah and headed for D.C. My sister is going to be there for a White House visit with the Olympic Team and staying a little longer. That's one of the reasons I've been rushing this time around-in order to catch her. After pushing hard this past week I can take it a little easy to get to DC so should recover a bit.
So, it's not been over 7 months on the road (a week ago), but I haven't done stats in a long time so here are my 7 month stats:
Miles: 8808.3
Flats: 36
Tubes: 15
Tires: 5
Jars of PB: 25
Nights under a roof: 67
Warmshowers/Couchsurfing hosts: 13
States: 17
National Parks: 26
Bike-free days: 29
100+ miles days: 7
Rain: 31
Riding in Rain: 17
Riding with a companion: 6
Books: 13
Ferries: 4
Fuel: 2.5 gal

1 comment:

  1. I just found your blog last nigth while reading a journal of another cyclo-tourist that met you. I've read all your posts and am amazed that you are doing this by yourself. I can tell that the road is starting to wear on you. Take a break and gather your thoughts about why you set out to do this and regroup. You are a huge inspiration to me and many others. Keep up the good work!