Bike Tour 2012: Victory!!
Bike Tour 2012: Victory!!
After 70 days, 4,415 miles, and countless moments of joy and suffering, Don and I made it to our finish line in Yorktown, Virginia. The final week of biking was comprised of so many emotions that there would be no way of fully expressing it all in a blog. We have been enjoying a wonderful weekend of celebration and relaxation in Yorktown, which has served as a perfect outlet for reflection on what we’ve accomplished. For this blog post, I plan on summarizing our final week, including our last day of riding, but without much commentary on what this trip has meant to us or on all of the ways we’ve been changed by this experience. I’m saving those thoughts, along with more details about our time in this charming East Coast town, for next week’s blog.
When we woke up in Troutdale on Sunday morning, Don was, quite unsurprisingly, beginning to feel the onset of a cold. We biked our first 30 miles over rolling hills to the town of Wytheville, where we stopped in to a Travel Center for lunch and wifi. A nice gentleman showed a lot of interest in our trip and even asked to take our photo in front of our bikes before randomly handing us $20 because he “felt we deserved it.” It was an incredible gesture of kindness and helped turn our moods around for the rest of the day. Our next destination was the town of Radford, where we biked along a beautiful river, through the town park, and up a very short, steep hill that brought us right back to our days in the Ozarks. By the time we reached our destination in the town of Christiansburg, we had biked 89 miles and the sun had fully set. We were grateful to be spending the night in a motel, where hopefully both of us could kick our colds. To celebrate the opening of our final map out of our set of 12, we went out for some tasty Chinese food before calling it a night.
Our next day was mostly uneventful, with 74 more miles of rolling hills, blue skies, another nice stranger, and a cold night of stealth camping. We began our morning with our final grocery shopping trip (Dollar General Markets are the best), and ate our lunch in a sunny spot behind a Subway in Daleville. We then continued onto some wonderfully flat frontage roads that paralleled railroad tracks and crossed them multiple times. Unfortunately the tracks were being ripped up and worked on, but fortunately a railway worker took pity on us and helped us get our bikes over the tracks TWICE so that we could stay on route and get to the town of Natural Bridge. We were planning on finding a spot to camp alongside the road, but when we saw how inviting the on-route gas station looked, we went inside to see if camping behind it was a possibility. We were given permission, which also meant we had running water and bathrooms. Score! That night the temperature got down to a chilly 24 degrees, and the next morning our early start was quite uncomfortable.
Although we only had 70 miles to get to the “Cookie Lady’s” house in Afton, we were facing our final climb of our route, and the day never really warmed up. We stopped for coffee in the quaint town of Lexington, where we enjoyed our first espresso in months. From there we biked to Vesuvius, the foot of our big climb, and stopped for a roadside lunch break. We got ourselves pumped up for the next 4 miles, and then began the long switch-backed journey up to the Blue Ridge Parkway. We felt surprisingly strong when we got to the top and we celebrated the fact that everything we had left was supposed to be easier. As it turned out, we had underestimated the Parkway itself. The next 20 or so miles included more steep, long climbs and descents and our frozen bodies had just about had enough. The only thing to save the day and get us out of the Appalacians was the incredible sunset that served as an inspiration and distraction. We pulled into our destination, a home that had been open to cyclists ever since 1976, after dark, and spent the rest of the night looking through old biker memorabilia and watching the elections.
After we left Afton, but before reaching the college-town of Charlottesville, we came across a wonderful peach orchard that was serving up hot apple cider, cider donuts, and some wonderful Autumn ambience. It was exactly what Don and I had been looking for since we started our trip, and it had come just in time. I had woken up in the morning with a very sore left knee, and was pretty disappointed that after over a month of pain-free riding, I would be finishing this trip with the same irritating ache as when I started. A few donuts and some Aleve helped me continue on with a smile. We biked into Charlottesville, where we delighted in the crowds of students, streets full of restaurants and shops, and road signs indicating that we had full use of the road. One of my closest friends had gone to school at the University of Virginia so I had always heard wonderful things about the town, and it didn’t disappoint. We had lunch at a gourmet burger bar and both of us left satisfied after enjoying a beer and a milkshake. We ended our day in the very small, non-descript town of Kent’s Store. When we first showed up there was no one in sight, so we decided to stealth camp behind the local Masonic Lodge. When we saw a person pull into the volunteer fire station across the street, we went to investigate, and that’s how we were offered an evening of showers, laundry, wonderful conversation, and even a tour of the fire engines! We went to bed warm, happy, and excited for our final 2 days of riding.
We planned to get in at least 75 miles after leaving Kent’s Store, but we knew that the longer we made this day, the shorter our final day would be. We ended up taking advantage of nice weather and flatter terrain by biking a long 90 miles, past the busy towns of Ashland and Mechanicsville. We planned on stealth camping, but had failed to take into consideration just how populated the land outside of a 50,000-person town would be. It began to get dark when we realized that most of the forest we could see either had No Trespassing signs or was part of a National Park battlefield. We finally found a spot along the side of the road and settled in for our last night in our tent. Don was still getting over his cold and my knee was still in pain so we went to bed early and dreamed about biking into Yorktown the next afternoon.
Our final day of riding was absolutely perfect. We could not have asked for a better finish to such a long and ambitious journey. When we woke up in the morning, we were greeted by a couple who saw us camping (in their front yard it turned out) and wanted to see what we were up to. With daylight we could see the nearby house, and immediately felt bad for accidentally sleeping right on their property without permission. Of course, true to the nature of almost every stranger we’ve met, Chad introduced himself and without further ado, invited us into his home for coffee. We had to decline because we were way too excited to get on the road and finish off our final 77 miles, but we were grateful for his understanding and kindness.
For our final day, the weather was perfect, blue skies and temps in the 60’s, and the terrain had finally flattened out enough for us to push our speeds and stop only for a short lunch at a gas station near Sherwood Forest. We got to spend about 20 miles of the day on a bike path, which meant we could ride side-by-side and share some our excitement and joy with one another. By the time we reached the “Historical Triangle” of Jamestown and Williamsburg, we were fully enjoying what we were calling our “Victory Lap.” Our route took us right past loads of school children at the Jamestown settlement, through the fully restored Colonial Williamsburg, and along the Colonial Parkway to our destination. We were riding along the York River (where we would be dipping our tires) for the last 5 miles, and both Don and I were speechless the entire time. After one missed turn, we managed to follow our route into the small village of Yorktown, along the beach, and up to our route’s ending point, the Yorktown Victory Monument. We stared up at this huge pillar with joy, excitement, and immense pride in what we had just accomplished. After some shedding of tears and picture-taking, we biked back down to the beach for the important “wheel dipping.” We also broke open our wine that we had purchased for this moment and sat on the beach, toasting our achievement while staring out at the Atlantic Ocean and our dearly beloved bikes.
After soaking up all that we could from our moment of victory, we headed over to the church hostel that was on our map. Not only did it turn out to be some of the most beautiful beach-front accommodations Don and I have ever stayed in, but we were greeted by our British friends whom we had followed all the way from Eugene, Oregon and whom had finished the day before. We spent the rest of the evening celebrating, sharing stories, and bonding with Matt and Alex over the unique journey that is the TransAmerica trail. There is of course so much more to say about the rest of our weekend and our trip overall, including a review of statistics and numbers, but I’m saving that for future blogs. Thank you all so much for your support over the last 10 weeks….we could not have done this without you. We made it!!
The amazing Grace Church bicyclist house and our British friends, Matt and Alex