Today was a new day, the weather had cleared up overnight and the day should be a nice fall day. We packed our wet tent and made our way to the public bathroom hoping it was open. Last night while hunting for a campsite in the rain, I took note of a hot air hand dryer and thought that would help us dry our things and take the chill out of our bones.
Warmer and drier we were shocked at how quickly the day was warming up from its frozen state. We made our way out of the park and back into Galax to find a coffee. Dismayed yet again, there was no coffee shop so the decision was made to grab something quick at Aunt Bea’s. Only a half-mile away I was forced to stop half way and address a slow leak that I noticed earlier. More air, I finally caught up to Amanda and we had egg sandwiches and coffee. The mental wound from yesterdays ride was still fresh and much time was spent that morning finding any possible route around the main roads and off the beaten path.
With our route planned we set off quickly turning off the much hated US-221, following the older roads adjacent to the New River. Off the busy road we pulled over taking an opportunity to lube our clean and lube our chains. They were in need of some TLC after the monstrous amount of rain and road grime from <<yesterdays ride>>.
As planned our ride was peaceful with few cars and a nice view of the New River. A little more than an hour after attending to the chains I noticed my tire pressure was low once again. Having already filled it this morning, it was quiet clear there was a leak. It’s never fun to topple a 90lbs. bike, but my options were limited.
Our back road eventually dumped us in Independence on US-221/58. We had planned to stay off this road for fear it would be as busy as yesterday. Much to our surprise the traffic was light and the road straighter. We caught a glimpse of a Christmas tree farm on the side of a steep bank. The road quickly changed weaving gently through fairy-tale like valleys as we made our way back to the New River.
We had planned to make it to the start of the Virginia Creeper Trail, as the sun started to drop in the sky we knew we were not making. Looking ahead on our road map the next town was Mouth of Wilson. The GPS beeped indicating we had arrived at the Mouth of Wilson. We were sitting in the dirt run out between the road and an old white building that looked as though it would fall over with a strong wind.
Across the street was a chimney whose owner was demolished years prior. The Christmas tree farm, however steep seemed to be the only option for sleeping tonight. We could hear voices inside the old white building, so we figured we would ask if we could pitch our tent. Slowly opening the huge barn style doors we were greeted with the smell of Christmas, a dozen Hispanics making wreaths, and Leslie overseeing the operation.
After explaining our situation Leslie told us that she was hired help and could not answer yes or no to sleeping on the farm, but redirected us a few miles down the road to find the owner John or Juanito. Back on the bikes we made our way following our directions and crossed the NC-VA state line. A few hundred yards into North Carolina we found ourselves in the loading yard of a Christmas tree farm talking to the office workers in a building that looked like it belonged in the North Pole.
Eventually after telling our story a few more times we met John the owner and were given the option to camp by the post office or sleep in a house above his office. The decision was an easy one.
The next day we took advantage of having a shower and kitchen and got ready to leave at a snails pace. Eventually we made our way to the bikes but were intercepted by John and his brother Regis. They had looked at the weather forecast and advised us to wait a while before leaving, the rain was very heavy and there was a bit of lightning as well. The decision was made to stay another night.
The rainy day kept John and Regis inside, where they told us a bit about the tree business and the struggles with keeping up with demand despite the weather. In an effort to further grown the retail side of the business John intended to open a mall kiosk in Florida and offered to have us work the stand selling table top trees, wreaths, and other greenery. We strongly considered the idea, but lodging would have been an issue as well as it would force us to skip Western North Carolina.
Having passed on the idea of flying to Southeast Florida and working the kiosk, the alternative option of staying at the farm and working in the loading yard. They needed help managing inventory and counting the loads on the semi’s. Interested in earning a bit of money and learning more about agriculture were the motivation behind our decision to stay. For the next few weeks we would be living in the spare house, earning $10 an hour, working with and as/with Mexican labor on Hart-T-Tree Farm. But first we needed to finish our exploration of Virginia.