Unattractive indeed, but alive, yes.
We took off from Charlottesville on Sunday and made a minor detour to Crozet for an annual craft fair. It was a beautiful sunny day and we took our time munching kettle corn and listening to some local bango music. Then we continued on to find the legendary cookie lady in little Afton VA. Our host Hal in C-ville had clued us in on her. She is an 89 year old woman who has been hosting cyclers en route since 1976! June Curry. We weren't sure quite where she was or what to expect, we had just heard that she offers travelers cookies, and that perhaps we could even camp there. After a long uphill that locals had warned us about, we came across an old brick house with a sign in the front yard, "Cookie Lady". We made it! We followed the signs around back to her stoop and there she was, no taller than 5' , waiting for us at the door with a polaroid camara and key in hand.
Margaret, June, and Emily
She sat us down, took our photo to log in her guest binder, and then invited us in and ended up chatting for 2 hours. She regaled us with stories about Afton in the "olden days", and showed us her homemade model of the town from the '2o's. Finally we went next door to what she called the 'bike house'. It was one floor several room abode, with the walls plastered in postcards and newspaper articles that past biking guests had sent her. The title for this post is borrowed from someone elses tour name - the Unattractive but Alive girls of 2008. It perfectly describes how we feel, when unshowered for several days, but but our hearts pumping and wind in our hair! The whole house was a sight for soar eyes. The kitchen was stocked with goodies and pans for our use, and there were couches and blankets. She surely is a trail angel, as she has been deemed by the cycling community. What a highlight of our trip! (google her- the cookie lady, it's worth checking out!)
Over 11,000 cyclists have stayed at the "bike house" since 1976
Then the next morining was our climb up to the blueridge parkway. It was beautiful, but as cold and dreary as we'd experienced on the trip so far. We tried psyching ourselves up with some candy treats (bull's eyes have become our new fave). Also, we loaded up on layers (hats, gloves, smartwool etc) so that we wouldnt freeze on the 30 mph way down, but it made for some swampy 4 mph uphills! We went about 40 miles that day and camped off the side of the road by Irish gap and quickly crawled in our sleeping bags after dinner to stay toasty. Later that night, we were awokened by a pack of coyotes calling back to each other in the nearby woods. Kind of haunting, and very cool.
Guerilla camping on the Blue Ridge
For as sobering as Monday was, Tuesday was equally lighthearted. As we packed up camp the sun came out and we stripped to shorts and a t-shirt. Then we experienced about 20 miles of downhill amidst clear sunny views of blue ridges and flaming reds and orange leaves. How spectacular! We dropped from about 2,300 ft to about 600 ft, the lowest point on the parkway.
Beautiful view from the ridge
We saw a sign for the Natural Bridge, just 15 miles off the parkway and figured since we were so low, it wouldn't be a big ordeal to get back on it after. So off we went, assuming that it would be a lovely natural feature for us to stumble upon and stroll through. Little did we know that a large, commercial gift shop and visitor center demanded $18.00 of each of us to be allowed to walk to it! What?! So instead we took a cheaper, and much cooler tour of nearby caverns. They were the deepest on the east coast, 34 stories down. Then luckly we were able to pitch our tent in the picnic area nearby. Another free nights stay.
Hooray for caves!
The next day was our most challenging; not physically, but moral-wise. It was cold when we woke up and started raining soon thereafter. We spoke with some locals to get opinions about getting back on the Blue Ridge, but the resounding response was, "No, it's a steep climb and it's gonna rain." We took Route 11 in the valley instead. Good thing we did! We ended up taking refuge at gas stations and sipping warm drinks along the way. After biking for about 4 hours in cold rain, we were soaked through, but at least no one could call us wimps, and we took an odd self rightous pleausre in it all! We got lots of disbelieving stares along the road. At one point in the afternoon, we could both feel our blood sugar crashing and we started to find everything hilarious. We had our heads down, rain dripping from our noses, just chugging along silently, when we were enveloped by the overwhelming smell of donuts at one point on the road, Emily looked up and yelled, "Where the HELL is that DoNUT?"
After a few extra miles in the wrong direction, we arrived at a host we'd found through Warmshowers.com. Our warm showers were truly glorious. After a dinner of delicious cereal, we went to see an excellent French film called Seraphine with our host, River Laker and his friend John. We also both had our first Waffle House experience after! And still later, we went to the Car Less Brit Museum, which is basically documentation of River's 9+ month experiment of life in Roanoke without a car. Check it out at http://carlessbrit.tumblr.com/. It was the perfect end to an evening to pedal around on modified tricycles inside!
Circus Bear Margaret rides a baby bike
Again, because of our host connections, (River works in the Promotions Department at the local library), we were able to get another insider opportunity! This morning we headed to Jes Gearings house, a vegan who is being featured by the Roanoke library for her Vegan Thanksgiving menu. We got to witness and sample some butternut squash with a mustard maple glaze! Yum. She also has a food blog that you can visit at http://cupcakepunk.wordpress.com/. Check it out, it looks divine!
Today is a regrouping day. We're running errands and restocking what we need, doing laundry, etc while waiting out the rain.