April 23, 2001

4/23/01 Natural Bridge, VA

59.8 miles

Oops...almost forgot that I met a group of about 20 bicycle riders from New Hampshire who are in the Parakway area for a week. They were the White Mountain Velo Club and also with them was a Cannondale rep who told me to contact him if I needed anything out on the road. They were all excited about my trip and gave me lots of encouragement.

Boy, what a day!

This morning, after being woken by 5 roosters, assorted goat bells, and the occasional dog bark, Rusty decided to cook pancakes. He is famous for them, using over 900 lbs of pancake mix every year to feed the hikers. It's special because I didn't get any when I was here in 1998.

My 'crazy' friend Rusty

"Tell every cyclist you meet that if they're not into poetry and Beethoven, but instead like James Brown and gettin' naked, Rusty's is the place." I believe it's this FUN that keeps him young. He even gave me a bear hug as I left. This place will forever have good memories for me.

As I rode the Parkway that winds around his hollow, Rusty hit the siren and loudspeaker, "Have a good trip, Dragon's Breath!"

I had promised myself that I'd keep the road descriptions short. Here goes -- 7 miles of almost completely up with the occasional downhill (max speed 38 mph), followed by 2 miles of straight down. An afternoon of flat with a steep uphill into Lexington, followed by regular ups and downs.

The kicker to all this is that the area is in the midst of a heat wave. I know, very cold last week, very hot this week. The weather gods are laughing.

I would have hated to climb that 2 miles of downhill. As it was, I kept stopping to let my brakes and rims cool off. I actually burned my fingers on the wheel rim it was so hot! I was afraid the temperature might melt one of my tires.

In town, I stopped at the Lexington Bicycle Shop and talked with owner Andy. He said Mike and George had just left this morning. When I checked my email next door at the library, a message from Mike said his knee was really bothering him. No wonder -- he did all the climbing in one day that I did in three. I may catch them yet.

I decided to walk about town a bit. Saw the Campbell House (1844), Stonewall Jackson House (1848), and the Alexander-Withrow House (1789). But the jewel of the day was the Lee Chapel (1867) on the campus of Washington and Lee University. The most striking feature to me was the wrap-around balcony. Robert E. Lee is buried downstairs in the museum. I also stopped off at the Stonewall Jackson Cemetery.

Wrap-around balcony of the Lee Chapel

Made a quick stop into Healthy Foods Market on Washington to buy some baked tofu. Besides the protein, I think my body needs large quantities of ice cream next. I must keep my eyes open for that elusive beast!

The ride out of town was a lot easier than the ride in; less traffic. I'm proud to say I'm mastering the very low gears and spinning. But this afternoon's heat was killing me. That sunscreen that the girls at work gave me sure came in handy. I even saw a few other cyclists out for a training ride.

I didn't reach Natural Bridge until after five o'clock. I decided to go see it now, to give me more time tomorrow. What an impressive geological wonder! But what shame to build a purely commercial enterprise around it. Things that god created should be free to look at and be enjoyed by everyone.

It was getting late and I had to drive off route to find a campground. The first on the map isn't there anymore, so I had to ride 6 miles off route to get to an expensive KOA.

By the time I finished camp chores, it was 9 P.M. And I'm exhausted. Another 60 mile day, but hopefully a free B&B at the end tomorrow.