Three: No Outlet (Mineral to Charlottesville)
Got an early start today — on the road by 7:30 a.m. — getting faster at this whole camping routine. The morning ride out of Mineral was gorgeous, some straight-up Ann-of-Green-Gables shit. That, coupled with a slight breeze, had me feeling pretty good. Many more dogs today, including a sheepdog who tried to herd me, a pair of Pitt mixes who tried to eat me, and a dachshund out (literally) smelling flowers who couldn’t be bothered to notice me. Theory: The more decaying cars scattered through the yard, the greater the odds a ball of fur and teeth comes flying at me.
Closer to Charlottesville I went past Ash Lawn, the home of fifth president James Monroe, and a neighbor of Thomas Jefferson. It’s operated by the College of William and Mary, Monroe’s alma mater. But I didn’t stop — I was keen on seeing Jefferson’s digs just a couple miles up the hill. Before Monticello I found lunch and respite from the midday sun at a somewhat pretentious, but ultimately delicious, deli.
I climbed the hill to Monticello where a Saturday-sized crowd greeted me. Tickets were $25 and it was 1.5 hours till the next tour, so I passed on seeing his house, but took advantage of a couple nicely presented — and air conditioned — exhibits in the visitor center which centered on the mansion’s construction and evolution. Down near the parking area is Monticello’s slave graveyard which holds the remains of more than 40 enslaved laborers (nearly 400 in bondage between 1770 and 1827) as well as a reminder of the separation between free and slave.
Just a few miles down the road’s Charlottesville, home of Jefferson’s University of Virginia and one of the larger cities I’ll pass through in the Commonwealth. School’s out, but plenty of folks were hanging around town. I spent time at the public library writing, managing pictures, and finding directions to the evening’s campsite before adjourning to Three-Notch’d Brewing Company for my first pint along the TransAm.
My home for the night is Warmshowers host Keith, who lives just a few miles out of the city. The directions I grabbed took me into the suburbs and then into a new subdivision, very much under construction, where the road came to an abrupt, full stop.
Eking a bit of service from my phone, I found a message from Keith advising against Google’s bicycle directions, as they depend on a logging road that hasn’t been around for close to a century. So, back down the big hill, up and over another, where I made the Maupin homestead just as the last smudge of sun slipped behind the mountains. I met Nora and Rue (their dog) first, as Keith’d gone looking for me. Big thanks to them for putting up with my late arrival — I should have confirmed the road went through. Keith led me to his camp area, down the hill in a clearing where his does his gardening and some landscaping work.
A great place for the night: solar-charging station, nearby creek and a fire ring. Keith joked I was doing him a favor as sentry, keeping the critters out of the vegetables. While I set up camp and made dinner, he told me about his tours, including the first, at 19, between Charlottesville and Boston, as well as some time spent out west. He mentioned taking a tour with Nora between Pittsburgh and D.C. and I hope they do.
What should have been about 65 miles turned into 84, but all in good humor. Tomorrow, an honestly shorter day to Afton, at the top of the first serious climb and the Cookie Lady’s TransAm lodgings/trail museum.