Seven: Highway to Hell (Blacksburg to Wythville)
The thing about spending the night outside’s that you’ve really got to work to sleep in. This time of year, it’s twilight by 5:30 a.m. Hard to escape in a tent, but easy to do inside like I was this morning, comfortable with the shades down at Kwabena’s apartment, I slept right till my alarm went off at 7:30 a.m. With little to pack up, I said goodbye and pedaled through campus to Gillie’s, a local vegetarian restaurant, run by industrious hippies, it’s been around for decades and turns out a mean breakfast. I ordered a plate with eggs, potatoes and a biscuit, and tacked on French toast for good measure. The waitstaff was impressed/disgusted that I put it all away.
I finished my first map in the TransAm collection today. It took me six days to go from Yorktown to Christiansburg. The next set’ll take me to Berea, Kentucky. I wandered through a few of my old campus haunts while my breakfast settled, then it was time to get back on track. Rather than retrace my steps (though it would be fun to bomb down Draper, fully loaded), I went out of town on the Huckleberry Trail, a 5.75-mile paved commuter trail that links Blacksburg to Christiansburg. I picked up some groceries, as well as a second hi-viz vest. They’re dorky as all hell, but cars treat you a little better with one on. Plus, you have an easy icebreaker when stopped at roadworks (“Hey, nice vest.”). I left mine in Charlottesville in Keith’s pickup. Probably right after he asked me, “Are you sure you’ve got everything?” to which our hero said, “Yup,” rather fallaciously. Anyway, $11 later and embodying the latest in Day-Glo, I’m on the road.
It takes a little work to get back on route, but about 12 miles from Tech, I’m headed west on County 666. In Radford, I cross the New River (actually, at 320 million years, only the Nile’s older) into Pulaski County. Originally, I’d planned to stop off in Troutdale (what would have been a 100-plus mile day) at a Baptist cyclist/hiker hostel, and land my second fish in three nights, but I didn’t have the hot hand, just the heat. Along with the heat, I noticed the wind working against me for the first time since leaving Pittsburgh May 27. A Snickers bar gave me strength, and the rain (the first rain since leaving Yorktown! A big weather day, no doubt) cooled me off, but I called it a night in Wytheville, where cyclists may camp in Elizabeth Brown Memorial Park. The park’s all mine, so I put my tent (no rainfly — just to keep the bugs out) up under the covered band stage.