Our original route took us west on the Virginia Creeper Trail from Whitetop through Abingdon, however our commitment to work on the tree farm for three weeks changed our timeline and also our route. Prior to agreeing to work we made arrangements to stay with Steve from Warmshowers; the farm was less than a days ride and although not our original plan we wanted to squeeze one more destination before our work commitment began. The shortness of our ride with the promise of a warm bed and shower at the end allowed us to lighten our bike considerably, repacking a minimum of supplies and riding only with rear panniers.
From Hart-T-Tree Farm we followed John’s directions and rode on the older and flatter route following Grassy Creek. We were riding against the flow so what started out as a flat ride along bottom land corn farms became steeper and was quickly covered once again in Fraser firs.
Our ride wound its way up and down the hilly country side onto US-58 were we started our first climb up to Grayson Highlands State Park. A few switch-backs and sore legs and we were at the park entrance and the top of this section of our ride. On the other side of the crest we were met with another creek, this time following the water down the mountain-side. The white water creek had widened considerably as it merged with other smaller creeks. We descended to the roads lowest spot and immediately began climbing this time to the town of Whitetop.
We reached the town of Whitetop earlier than expected and were only a few miles from our hosts house. The town was nothing more than a post office, general store and library/community center. Hungry from our ride we purchased a couple of snacks from the general store and ate them in the library.
A while later we decided it was time to go and descended down the road following the GPS to what we thought was our hosts street. The paved road ended quickly, morphing from a rock studded dirt path to two parallel ruts following a bold creek. As we arrived at what was clearly the end of the road I double checked the GPS, it insisted we continue straight. The man sitting on his porch and steel gate were clear indicators that we would be finding an alternate route.
A bit of navigating through the valley, riding by the yards of the hoarders and being chased by a dog of three we arrived at intersection that bewildered us. Much iPhone and GPS research left us still confused, until a few minutes later we were called by none other than Steve, our warmshowers host. He gave us directions up his driveway, which we were sitting at the bottom of. After parking his car, he met us as we pushed our bikes up his steep rock driveway.
We settled the bike in and brought our bags into our room before we made our rounds saying hello to all of the animals. Expanding their farm little by little Steve and Tanya already have mules, chickens, guinea hens running around their sizable garden. We shared a quick bite of made from-scratch pizza and cold beers as we played twenty questions. Us asking Steve about their unique house, farm, and wood-fired heater; Steve peppered us with questions about our trip.
Over dinner Steve invited us to join him for Trivia Night at Boondocks Pub in West Jefferson! Trivia wasn’t for a few hours and the sun was still out so we all hopped in the car and headed back the way we biked in to drive to the top of Whitetop. Being a bald mountain with a road leading up it, it offered us spectacular views of the Appalachains and the valleys below. While enjoying the views we talked more about our trip and wanting to see Damascus and Abingdon. Steve said he didn’t have firm plans for the next day and would drive us to see the towns.
Back into the car we made the drive through downtown Lancing to West Jefferson. The ride in a car was remarkably quick compared to biking nearly the same route. We got settled in a few minutes after the game started and were quickly laughing with our tablemates hitting it off, yet not getting many questions correct. The table was divided with men on one side and women on the other and while the men laughed about a little bit of everything, Amanda and Ann Rose hit it off. Ann is the local whole animal butcher having moved her shop from her town of Lancing to West Jefferson. She was talking about her little off grid cabin and sizeable farm, she was talking about her desire to have someone live on the farm and manage it so she could focus more energy on growing the butcher shop.
After the game wrapped up, we said our goodbyes and exchanged contact info. Steve had hoped successfully that we would have the opportunity to meet Ann and we are grateful for him inviting us along. We left that night with the feeling that we would see Ann & Steve in the future.