Saturday, August 27, 2016

126: 6000 miles - but who's counting?

Today we hit another major milestone - 6,000 miles on this journey!  I had hoped that we'd get there yesterday, but we came up just a few miles short. So somewhere in the first couple of miles today, we passed the mark. Yippee!  Only 3 or 4 thousand left to go . . .

It's gotten hot and humid again. We hoped for a thunderstorm yesterday to clear the air, but it never materialized. So now we are climbing, looking for shade on the route when we can find it, and looking skyward for clouds to give us some relief from the sun. Man, when it hits you full on, it is HOT! In the shade, you can almost convince yourself that it's cool - tolerable at the very least.
The woods looked cool and shady - but not the roads!

The cicadas are keeping us company on our ride today. Since we headed into Virginia, they have been whirring and clattering in the trees day (and night, sometimes). It's a very familiar sound to me, coming from Houston. I actually enjoy their song, although not at night and right outside our hotel room. They can be quite loud, especially when they are attached to a metal light post and the reverb is shattering! We have also enjoyed seeing quite a few different species of butterflies. I wish I knew enough to name them, but I can just say we are seeing lovely black and yellow ones, dark ones with iridescent blue and purple spots, yellow ones, and some great brown and gold ones.

The parts of (w)estern Virginia we've been riding through are also cattle country, so we are seeing beef cattle here and there in addition to some dairy operations. Once upon a time, it was a big chicken production area also, and there are still many chicken farms along the country roads. Fortunately, they have all been set well back from the road, so we haven't noticed any smell. And today I saw the first pigs of the trip. Seems odd, given all the agricultural areas we've been through, but there you go. There were two of them in an open field. They actually grunted as we rode by - Roger thought they might be wild but they were inside a fence so I'd say no.

We're certainly into the Appalachian region now. Actually, our hosts a few days back said everything west of the Blue Ridge Mountains is considered Appalachia: come down them to the east and it's "old Virginia" but come down on the west and it's Appalachia.  So technically we've been here for days. We have met so many people who are not from here originally, it took a while to get the flavor of the region. But the locals we chat with in the convenience stores - they are the real deal. I love the accent! It's musical, almost - and slow. No one is in a hurry here. And everyone is unfailingly polite. Everyone says, "yes, ma'am" all the time. Many people are quite interested in our trip, and they have great expressions of disbelief and surprise when we say we have come from southern California on our bike. My favorite was the young man at the hotel in Salem who kept saying, "Stop." I don't know why that tickled me so, but it did.

You can't really capture the sense of the climbs in a photo
Our ride today was really two completely different experiences.  In the morning, we had a long, relatively modest climb up about 800 feet and then DOWN! Honest-to-goodness DOWN for a good long time. We were basically descending for about eight miles, with just small bumps up now and then. This was great! Almost like the climbs back home - it was just wonderful!  Even if you are not a cyclist, you can click the link to today's route at the bottom of this post and appreciate the symmetry and duration of this up-and-down portion of the ride. And then, there was the second half . . . this was the much more prevalent choppy chop-chop stuff that we've been doing for the past week or so, and there were some brutally steep sections of road. We're talking 18% - and that's when the Garmin lost it. Who knows what it finally got to be? Add to this the fact that it's coming at the end of the day and it's hot and whoa - even at this short distance, it was all we could handle today.

By the way - that hot weather had us worried. We were about out of water, with no clear option in sight for refilling the bottles. We stopped to eat a bar, and I said, "we'll just have to stop and ask someone if we can use the hose."  It was a rural area, but not uninhabited, so it's not like there were no houses on the road. And just as we got back on the road, we came upon a church, and I suggested they might have a hose bib somewhere. They didn't - but they did have a pump! So, thank you to the good folks at the Methodist Church for providing water in the wilderness.
God did provide!

The day's report:  Salem to Christianburg, 38.1 miles/6036 to date

Here's the route:  Up and down on the Excellent Adventure

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