Thursday, 16 June 2011

Day 13: Hating Hayters gap

Day 13
Damascus to Council 52 miles

Woke up ealy in my dorm room, and packed to leave. Wanted an early start as I knew today was likely to be one of the toughest days riding so far. A head of me was a huge, steep climb, as well as a couple of smaller but still nasty looking ones.
However, the early start didnt go as planned! As soon as I started pedalling, I heard a worrying noise. Quick inspection of the bike showed that one of my back spokes had broken. This was not good, as I didnt have any spares with me. I think it might have been caused by an errant strap from my rucksack getting caught in the wheels.

Luckily, for such a small town, Damascus has about 4 bike shops! This is because they all do bike rental for people to cycle the Virginia Creeper trail I mentioned yesterday. Yet again, my misfortune happened at a fortunate time!The bad news is that they use mountain bikes, which have smaller wheels than the racing wheel size on Whiskey!

I was recommended a guy called Louis, who was apparently an expert bike mechanic. And thankfully he did have one 700 size spoke! He fitted it and righted my wheel for me. So I was off, but by this point it was nearer 10am, rather than the 8am start I was hoping for.

Weather was nice and cool again today, and the first 13mile to Meadowview was a nice gently ride up and down a few hills, but nothing too tough.

Decided to stop for a late breakfast/early lunch and found a nice looking restaurant which was just opening (was now just before 11am). Despite being the only customer, they somehow managed to forget to cook my order – apparently the two chefs both thought the other once was doing it! By way of an apology I was offered a free dessert! I wasnt planning on having one (honestly), but the prospect of a free strawberry and cream cake was too good to pass up. It was delicious!
The best things in life are free!
The next section was all downhill to Hayters Gap. And this was the bit I wasnt looking forward to. The climb up from the bottom of Hayters Gap was around 1500ft in elevation gain. By way of comparison, the climb up the Blue Ridge Parkway (my current bench mark for tough climbs) was a little over 2000ft. However, todays climb was so much steeper. The road was very winding, so you could never be sure exactly what was around the next corner (although a good guess was even more uphill road!). At least the weather was playing its part, by now it was cloudy with even a few spots of rain. The road seemed to go on forever. Sometimes I had to stop every quarter of a mile to catch my breath as it was so hard going.

When I was chatting to one of the Appalachian Trail hikers last night, we agreed that uphills are ok when they reward you. Today's climb had none of the visual rewards of the Blue Ridge climb. One side of the road was rock, the other thick trees. I imagine the views would have been spectacular it I could have seen them!
Up and up and up and up...

After what seemed like hours, I got to the top and at least had the prospect of the descent. This one was another rim-cooking descent with occasional stops to let the wheels cool down. I've realised I can actually feel the heat from the rims on my legs – so when I get that feeling its time to stop for a while!

Made it to Rosedale and stopped for a quick snack and a Gatorade. Also met a female Dutch cyclist coming the other way. She was doing a half-TransAm, and had started in Kansas somewhere and heading to Yorktown.

Soon after, the rain started coming down quite heavily. Wasnt cold, but I was getting a bit of a drenching. After Rosedale, had a huge downhill section – managed to achieve what I think is a new highest speed of over 39mph!

Sadly the last part of the ride was a real killer. Another steep uphill section with around 1000ft of climbing. If this section had been at the start of the day, it might not have been too bad. But coming right at the end, it was tough. But at least I had a nice quick downhill section to my finishing point.

Tonight camping in a small town called Council, and using their local park. Its free (second night in a row of not paying), but basic. There are no showers, so had to do a 'gentlemans' wash at the sink in the restroom. There is also nowhere nearby to buy food! All I have are some ritz crackers for tonight!

On the plus side, I have lots of swings and climbing frames to play on!
Thankfully Noah's ark wasnt needed

My knee was hurting a bit today, not sure it likes all the climbing!

Tomorrow is a much shorter, flatter day though, of around 32miles. But it should be a very important 32miles as I will make the crossing into Kentucky. The plan is to cycle to Elkhorn City over the state line and stay there. There is a small motel, spoke to them earlier and they think they will have space as likely to get some cancellations. If not, I'll camp at Breaks Interstate park which, as the name suggests, is on border about 2miles short of Elkhorn. Even if I dont stay at Breaks I'll spend sometime there during the day as hopefully tomorrows riding should only take 3-4hrs.

Definitely the toughest day in the saddle yet. Still got some steep climbs to come, but the elevation is generally much lower – by the looks of it theres nothing over 2000ft until I hit Colorado!

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