Mountain Grinding & High Speed Coasting

Yesterday was an extremely long day of hills, hills, and more hills for 67 miles. We doubled our average daily milage on some of the most challenging terrain thus far. Today’s ride was to be much shorter in distance but we would need to cross over the Blue Ridge to get to our final destination of Waynesboro. For reference we started at 667ft in elevation and would be crossing Rockfish Gap at 2000ft. The ride from there to Waynesboro is almost all downhill to 1300ft.

Our night at the Acorn Inn with Kathy and Martin was a blessing and provided much needed rest for today’s challenge.  Our day started with homemade bread, muffins, and cobbler compliments of our great Innkeepers. We also loaded up on coffee and jams to spike our sugar and caffeine levels, hoping that would fuel us up the mountain.

We got our directions from Martin and said our goodbyes leaving the Inn coasting downhill to Nellysford. We turned on Rt. 151 and quickly learned that it was a truck route and we needed to find an alternative.  Armed with Martins VADOT map of the county we found a hillier, but safer alternate route. We pedaled on knowing what was in store for us ahead. My bike felt sluggish and was not inspiring much confidence when we pulled into a country store at the bottom of the mountain. Adding 35psi to the rear tire brought it back up to the 60psi we usually ride at and added a bit of life to the bike again. Amanda chatting with smartphone wielding Mennonites while I tinkered with the bike.

We had a short debate on traffic and a more gradual ascent or quieter scenic roads and a more extreme climb. Our debate was settled when we noticed the US Bike Route 76 sign pointing to the quieter Old Turnpike Road. We would have scenery and we would have switchbacks.

The ride up was a grueling combination of granny gear mashing and water breaks on the side of steep single lane roads. We crossed train tracks at the edge of Afton and the sight of a post office left me in awe of what USPS accomplishes despite the terrain. Minds completely blank we made the final push up the familiar Route 6. With Amanda leading the climb we merged onto Route 250, a four lane highway with a 6-inch shoulder. Luckily we only had a mile of insanity to compete with the traffic for space on the road. “Share the Road” signs are a comical sight on a 55mph road up a mountain.

The entrance sign for the Blue Ridge Parkway, Skyline Drive, and the Appalachian Trail let us know we were officially at the crest, and downhill was on the other side of the Blue Ridge Tunnel. Averaging just under 5mph on our climb up to the Parkway, we reveled hitting 32mph coasting down the other side for several miles. We can say with resounding confidence, mountains are worth the climb and hills suck.

We pulled into our warm showers host, Francine’s house just as the sun faded from the sky. She made us a meal loaded with veggies and homemade pumpkin pie! We love meeting and especially eating with all of our friends along the way. We talked about her recent trip our west in her camper and her bike tour in the 70’s. Full of great food we fell asleep. Tired from two days of serious climbing.

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