July 24,Tuesday (Richmond to McKenney):
At home we make a point of trying to avoid riding in the rain. It isn’t especially comfortable, the road conditions are compromised, visibility may be reduced and cars just seem a bit scarier. I have the same mentality here but there is a difference. To get to where I want to go, I have to get on my bike even if it is raining. Although my mind is telling me I don’t want to, the thought of skipping days is even less appealing. So, at least so far, I get on and start pedaling even though the thought of riding in the truck has a strong allure. I suppose that Ale telling me how it is a short ride – less than 70 miles – and that I can do it undermines all of the excuses I am coming up with for not riding. As I have said before, a ride like this is as much mental as physical and at present the physical is not my weak point.
Oh, I have repeatedly forgotten to follow up on a comment I made a number of days ago about using Bag Balm to deal with raw spots I was raising from the constant contact with my saddle. Well, I used it at the end of the ride and by the next morning they no longer hurt and scabs had formed. With repeated applications I can say that I haven’t had the problem again and those raw spots did not blister as I am sure they would have if I hadn’t used the Bag Balm.
Now if it were equally effective in dealing with the rashes I am getting on the top inside of my thighs. Maybe too much sweat, I don’t know, They don’t hurt but they do itch. The Bag Balm helps but it hasn’t magically made the rashes go away.
And no, I am not a Bag Balm salesman. Or even shareholder. But I wouldn’t leave home for a ride of this sort without it.
Today, 67 miles and 2,139 feet of climb. I didn’t feel as strong as I would have liked and often thought about how much faster my regular riding group would have been going. Oh, well.
Ale says I need some rest but we decided to skip the R&R Day I had scheduled for Richmond. No, not because I am a masochist. Actually, quite the contrary. I have decided to use that day and the day we saved riding into Richmond to spread the miles between Richmond and Charleston over 9 riding days instead of the 7 I had scheduled. I like the idea of reducing the daily mileage.
About 35 miles into the ride Ale caught me and I rested in the truck, drank some cold beverages and Ale put ice in my bottles. She asked if I was wet and I replied that I was soaking, both from rain and from the humidity. Thankfully I followed Ale’s suggestion and changed into a dry T-shirt and jersey so I wouldn’t get chilled from the wet clothes. The change felt great but I was again drenched by the end of my ride. Even without rain I got constant drops of moisture falling from my helmet.
Oh, about liking dogs. Well, I really do. But there were 2 today I could have done without. While on a country road I stopped to take a picture of a horse pasture, in large part because it was one of the few times I could take my phone out and not have it get rained on. What I hadn’t noticed were 2 unfenced dogs, one that looked like a German Shepherd that was off to my right and another that looked like a hound – say the size of a Weimaraner – that was also on my right but farther up the road. The shepherd spotted me and started barking in a much less than friendly way. But at least he was at a good distance and didn’t have the angle on me. The other dog seemed to be ignoring me while he was sniffing a number of trees. So I got on and started slowly riding, hoping not to provoke him. Well then he wasn’t so oblivious of me and instead started to charge me, Since there was no way I could get by him without being intercepted, I stopped, got off my bike and faced him, being very careful to keep my bike between us.
He stopped but kept barking. When I stepped towards him he would run a short distance away but would stop and come back toward me. This went on for a while with me talking to him and telling him to go home. I really hoped that someone would come out of the house to call him home. That was just wishful thinking.
After a few minutes of this his interest seemed to diminish as he wandered farther away. So I got on my bike and started to slowly leave only to have him turn and charge at me. That was reason enough to turn my slow start into a much more frantic escape. I started pedaling like crazy but was in the small chain ring – hence a low gear – because I had been climbing before I stopped for the photo and I wasn’t making the progress I wanted. I was too busy to look back but I am sure he was gaining on me. I finally shifted to a higher gear and picked up speed. I don’t know how close he got before I started pulling away but I was half expecting he would catch me. Literally. But, thankfully, he didn’t and I for the first time on this trip actually sprinted for a bit.
By the way, I didn’t just refer to the dog as him arbitrarily. He got close enough so that there was no doubt about that.
Dinner was at an Italian Restaurant that appeared to be the only option any place close. Ale had lasagne and tiramisu, I had calzone and we both had so-called Caesar salad. The dinners were fine, the salad was crisp and Ale liked the dessert because it wasn’t too sweet..
I can’t post this tonight because we don’t have Wi-Fi so it will have to wait until tomorrow.
July 25, Wednesday (McKellen to Littleton, North Carolina):
The departure was without rain. It still didn’t take long for me to be soaking wet from the humidity. Not to be outdone, a number of cloud bursts also took their turns drenching me. Including one 4 miles from the end when Ale caught me and gave me a bit of a reprieve in the truck. I suppose that the thought of finishing the last few miles in the truck crossed through my mind as I watched the rain pour down but being so close to the end, how could I not finish on my bike? Though it did feel a bit crazy to climb on and start pedaling away in a down pour. I will say, however, that the rain didn’t last all the way until the end. Why should it given that I was already as wet as I could be? Not cold, though, thankfully, at least after the first couple of minutes when I warmed up.
However, when I had stopped at a store a few minutes earlier with the thought of getting something to eat, I only stepped inside for a few seconds because although the air conditioning felt good, it immediately started chilling me with all of my wet clothes.
Yep, we crossed into yet another state today, going from Virginia into North Carolina. We are now well past the halfway point as far as the number of states we will be in is concerned. Only South Carolina, Georgia (where Ale said she couldn’t have driven because unlike any place we have been, it requires an international driver’s license) and finally Florida. That compares to Canada, Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Delaware, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina that we have already ridden in.
Today was a mix of 4 lane highways with no shoulders at all and 2 lane country roads with no shoulders. Although the cars and trucks on the highways all kept out of the right lane which I had to claim as my own, I preferred the country roads because their cars weren’t as fast and they didn’t have 18 wheelers, though I have to say that the big rig drivers have been uniformly considerate about giving me plenty of space.
Speaking of big rig drivers. I met Cassius, a big rig driver, who lives in Virginia Beach but was in this area dealing with a business matter. He was waiting for a ride because he has a broken foot that has kept him from working for a while. I spent more time at that stop than I otherwise would have because I enjoyed talking to him. He said he would follow along after I gave him a card and I hope to see his name pop up among the Comments. Nice to have met you, Cassius. And as you said, we may yet pass on the road sometime in the future though I truly expect this to be my last ride on the East Coast. Not that it hasn’t been beautiful, but I did promise Sandi, and my grandkids, that I will be home next July 4 which will be the first time in 4 years.
The country side was again pretty with much of it being very pastoral. Sometimes with crops near the road with tree covered hills in the background, sometimes with untended forest along the road and other times with houses with huge green yards. Actually, today the yards were typically much more impressive than the houses which often looked similar to mobile homes but without the mobility. I know, however, that most of us in the Bay Area would love to have similar yards where we live. Many of which are no doubt measured in terms of acres.
We finished up by going over the Roanoke River. Very impressive. However, between the rain and the lack of a shoulder, I wasn’t inclined to stop for a photo.
The ride is definitely flattening out. Today only 1,690 feet over 49 miles. Thanks to Google, this morning I rode the first 3 miles and literally ended up where I started. I started on the bike route which started off in the opposite direction than we wanted to go. Why? So I could take what I assume was some kind of a dirt, gravel and sand trail, though it certainly wasn’t one I would ride on this bike. Especially not with all the rain. So I switched to car, no highways and got sent back in the direction from which I had come. 3 extra miles is no big thing but I will admit to a certain amount of frustration when I have to repeat stretches that I have already ridden.
The relative lack of climbing showed up in my 16 mph average speed, door to door. Assuming decent roads and no increase in the slight headwinds I have already encountered, I hope that number goes up as the rides become flatter yet and hopefully the rain lets up. (It can’t rain forever, can it?) Though this IS NOT A RACE, I keep saying to console myself about my slow speeds, especially as I see the messages from those I ride with at home about how fast they are riding. However, longer rides may help hold the average speed down; today’s was definitely on the short side.
Well, for the 2nd day in a row we are in a tiny town. Tonight we have WiFi but no phone service (AT&T). We haven’t looked up our culinary options for dinner yet.
Thank you for the additional donations. And thank you always for the messages and comments. It really does feel better to see that there are people who are actually following along with us.
PS, By the way, Sandi is periodically posting on Facebook at Laura’s Ride North. Though I suspect that far more of you read that than this.