This time, the visit to see our buddy Linda in Virginia, is bittersweet. We’ve been to Blacksburg and had great times with Linda many, many times over the last decade. We stopped here in 2004 near the end of our Trans-America tour. We’ve done Linda’s club’s big ride, the Mountains of Misery three times. We’ve hiked and paddled, and even explored the area by motorcycle. And we started out Linda’s front door when we tackled Adventure Cycling’s Allegheny Mountains Loop.
But Linda is moving on soon, leaving Blacksburg and the wild and wonderful mountains behind. We will miss biking and all the fun in the area, but no Linda … we will not let YOU go. We will happily follow along wherever your adventures take you.
Saturday, June 28th
The trip to Virginia started with a country drive from Rochester to Fallingwater … the world famous home built for the Kaufman family by Frank Lloyd Wright.
Daring the twisty mountain roads and nasty weather, we arrived in time to catch one of the late afternoon tours. After the tour and a food stop next to the river in Ohiopyle, we snatched evening shelter in Oakland Maryland.
Sunday, June 29th
Crazy day. We had planned to arrive in Blacksburg early enough to go see a talk by a cyclist who did a Trans-Am and says it changed his life. Imagine that.
(A note about change at the end of this entry.)
Well, it didn’t work out quite like that. We were hours late getting to Linda’s due to miscalculations, chance meet-ups, and unplanned adventures, like a stop in coal-town-turned-bike-friendly-art-mecca, Thomas West Virginia.
The miscalculations were just that. 200 miles on the freeway and 200 miles in the backcountry roads of West Virginia are worlds apart in character and time required to cover. Then, we meet-up with the “Meet-Up”. The Rochester Sport Motorcycling and Touring (RSMaT) gang of which I’m a member was touring West Virginia this weekend and darned if we don’t run into them while they are taking a break at Seneca Rocks! What are the odds of that?
Hugs, shakes, and raucous laugher break out before we all pile into a local deli for lunch together. After we all continue on our separate ways, the antagonist of this blog (me) talked the protagonist in my life (Karen) into a little hike.
I visited Seneca Rocks decades ago with an old and dearly missed friend (Tim) while in WV for a mountain bike race we did in nearby Davis. We climbed to the top of the rocks via a primitive route that has since been closed. Hoping that Karen could catch a glimpse similar to what Tim and I found, we took a nicely developed trail to an overlook that disappointed, but was close to a sign warning of dangers and death counts of those who risked the rocks.
In a fit of adventure, Karen led the way past the signs to witness the fine views of the immense and beautiful Seneca Rocks from the proper viewpoint … The Top.
We scurried down off the mountain just in time to miss a horrendous downpour that certainly DID hit many other late coming hikers, as well as the technical climbers we could see on the rock faces. Those guys and gals are my kind of heroes.
Leaving the Rocks later than expected, we learned that there’s no point in trying to lead-foot through the mountains to get anywhere quickly. The twists and turns that make West Virginia a (bike or motor) cyclist’s heaven make for slow going on 4 wheels. We got to Blacksburg late, but Linda, being Linda, cared not. Friends were together again!
Monday, June 30th
The first three days in town, we fended for ourselves as Linda had to work through Wednesday. We explored, and shopped for food!
The 1st day exploring was across town to the opposite end of the Huckleberry Trail where we found historic remnants of an abandoned coal mining settlement and a great hiking trail all around it.
We noted that the trail would be great mountain bike training should Linda care to ramp up her expertise for a future planned “Great D Adventure”. Our part of being guests at Linda involves cooking dinner, so we hit the store before heading back in. The first of several grocery store visits this week!
Tuesday, July 1st
Having hiked a tiny bit of the Huckleberry, our next bit was to cycle it. After a bit of wandering around town and the gorgeous Virginia Tech campus, we latched on and followed the trail into Christiansburg … A town we fondly remember from our 2004 Trans-Am. A craft coffee and cookie revive even on hot days, and it’s off out of town on a stretch of the TA trail towards Blacksburg.
I still get misty-eyed when we touch parts of the trail that was once our home for two months. All too soon, we reach the hill leading off the trail and up up up to downtown Blacksburg, and back to home base. Thirty two miles of mostly gentle riding. A warm up for more to come.
Good buddy Kathy “The Escort” joined us later for one of Karen’s great salmon dinners.
Wednesday, July 2nd
I’m the early bird in the house who rarely is able to sleep past 5am. That worked in my favor today as the plan was to get an early start on “the assault” before the heat and humidity of the day assaults me. Knowing the route all too well, I hopped on the bike at 6:30am, rode to Newport, and screamed down to the New River. The death march begins at river level. It ends several thousand feet higher at Mountain Lake Lodge, famous as the site of the filming of “Dirty Dancing” yet more recently famous as the finish line of the “Mountains of Misery” ride hosted by Linda’s local club. It’s a killer ride in a beautiful setting and the Lodge has an additional memory for us as a layover on a stormy night while doing ACA’s loop.
Just as I was about to descend the mountain, I got a text from Karen … Meet me in Newport! She drove out and I arrived at the Newport ball field just seconds after her, after flying down “the front side” of the mountain. After chugging a badly needed cold drink of choice that my sweetie so thoughtfully produced, we mounted up and climbed up into Clover Hollow … a serene loop road in some back woods and hills that’s also part of “MOM”.
Sweet, sweet riding up in there. It’s a place the modern world seems to have passed by, and not just because of the rusted antique farm implements scattered around. The roads are narrow like a driveway, and any people you see will wave without provocation.
I wrapped up the ride with 44 miles and 4400′ of climbing …. most of the climbing in an eleven mile stretch just from the river to Mountain Lake. Wow.
Dinner was Karen’s sausage-zucchini boats and we had ice cream again …. Mint Chocolate, Cherry Garcia (my Great Divide favorite!) and … Get this … Denali Extreme Maximum Fudge Moose Tracks! Really!
Thursday, July 3rd
Today, Linda is off work and will be till Monday. So we’re going biking and Linda has great suggestions. We headed down to Newport road and eventually out to RT311 where we turned back toward town on yet another section of the Trans-America Trail … Aka Route 76.
History lesson for non-bikers … The Trans-Am trail was developed to celebrate America’s BiCentennial in 1976 by having hundred of cyclists cross the country. Hence: Route 76.
So we get back to the Blacksburg area and climb back up into town by another new, extremely steep route. Once elevated, we hopped on the Huckleberry Trail to avoid the main drag (traffic) and got back home after 54 miles and 4300′ of climbing. Deceptive … a lot of rolling around here even in the valleys between mountain ridges.
Dinner out!! PASTA! Because tomorrow will be a big riding day.
And the ice cream still in the freezer is calling my name! Life is good!
Friday, 4th of July
No 5am wake-ups today … we slept in till after 7! Was that because yesterday was too much fun, or because we were subconsciously delaying the start of today’s plan to tackle Potts Mountain and “The Wall” on the back end of the MOM double-metric loop?
No complaints though … The weather was PERFECT for doing the loop. We drove out and started at a gravel pull-off on Rt 311 just east of Peaceful Valley Road. The first order of business was getting to the Paint Bank General Store, only twelve miles away to grab a few snacks and a drink. Problem was, Potts Mountain stood between us and the store.
Potts mountain is a long long climb, but it isn’t terribly steep since Rt311 does gave to accommodate truck traffic. We hit the top in reasonable time, but got back down the other side to the store in unreasonably quick time. It’s a wide clear road with little traffic, not that it matters since we fly down at auto-highway speeds. In fact, a car pulled over to let Karen fly past and chased her down the hill taking pictures as they went. We met the owners at the store and they promised to email the photos.
After our stop at the coolest general store in Virginia,
we started up Rt18 toward the north end of the loop. The route eventually turns off into narrow back-country roads and the real fun starts. We weave through the woods in both left-right and up-down axes making most any theme park roller coaster seem lame. And this is more fun anyway.
We stopped at the bottom of the wall to snack up. Good thing … It goes over two miles of nearly uninterrupted granny gearing.
Another snack stop at the top and it’s payback time … Seventeen miles of nearly uninterrupted yet gentle downhill through the forest and along Barber Creek! Linda spotted rhododendrons, I spotted two hawks, and Karen watched for bear.
Didn’t see any. Sorry.
It’s July 4th, so dinner at home, then party and fireworks in downtown Blacksburg tonight!
Saturday, July 5th
Taking a more leisurely day, we met Kathy and Iain at the Newport Ball Field at 9am for a ride around Clover Hollow. Yes, we’ve already been there this week but it really is so beautiful in there that I could do it a hundred times and not get tired of it. So much so, we ended up doing three loops in there for a total of thirty miles today.
Lunch back at home, then grocery shopping once again for tonight’s dinner with Kathy and Iain and the balance of the afternoon “resting” before dinner. A good idea since Linda has a bigger riding day planned for us tomorrow.
Sunday, July 6th
The best for last perhaps?
Today’s ride, our last of the vacation, headed a new direction toward the south of Christiansburg and into Floyd County not far from The Blue Ridge. We started at the gas station at the corner of Rt177 and Mud Pike Road, which looked strangely familiar. I was sure I’ve been here before, but with all our rides around the area over the years, I couldn’t quite place when.
Whatever … off we go … just Karen and Linda and I … and immediately start twisting and turning and rolling up and down. Linda’s route had us do essentially a figure eight through a lot of back country roads with little traffic.
We took a break at a store in Willis and as I was wearing a T-shirt from Deal’s Gap we did a couple years ago on the beast, I was approached by a Harley biker who asked if I rode my bicycle on the Tail of the Dragon. No, just our big bike, but I’d LOVE to someday! We chatted about all the great rides down near Deal’s Gap, and about his riding up through the Finger Lakes in western New York a couple years ago. I was impressed that he had heard of OUR stomping grounds. A bicyclist and a motorcyclist … we share the spirit. We bid each other a safe ride.
On the return, we got to an intersection where I peeled off at Linda’s suggestion and did a hillier, twisty way back to the car.
It was great, and when I arrived back at the highway, it hit me … I was back on the “76″ … the Trans-America trail again and that’s why I remembered the store!
Not too surprising, as I pulled into the station, I saw a Co-Motion Divide and a Salsa Vaya, fully loaded and leaning against the wall. Gee … I wonder where THOSE bikers are going! I walked into the store to find Karen and Linda chatting with Tor, one of the riders. We shared tips and stories and congratulations inside, and met his riding partner Victor outside.
They are eastbound and almost done with their adventure. Tor shared with me the same sentiment I felt … sad about finishing, and wondering how one could possibly return to “normal” life after an adventure like a Trans-Am.
Or a Great Divide.
I think we agree; life for us will be forever changed.