Day 7: Surprise! Mountain
Mike and I collected ourselves from Sam’s floor in Blacksburg with surprising alacrity; we were out the door in under an hour and a disheveled (and probably not entirely awake) Sam waving us out of his neighborhood by 8AM.
The initial ride was easy, and I quickly found my mind drifting from our immediate surroundings. At the send-off party, Danny Shiner remarked that one of the coolest aspects of the bike trip would be the ability to inspect my normal life and behavior from the outside. I’ve found this to be true, and when introspection is brought on by the monotony of flat terrain and a constant pedal stroke, I always welcome and enjoy it.
Early in the ride, Mike rescued a turtle from the perils of route 11; the dumb, reptilian bastard was halfway into the right lane when we pulled up and did a Hollywood-heist-style delivery that had Michaelangelo back into his natural habitat in record time.
We passed through a small town called Pulaski, which was quaint but strange. The town itself seemed deserted. Midtown, the only people in sight were a few old black women perched outside of a dilapidated brick tenement. They were waiting for, as far as I could tell, the sun to turn blue.
Pulaski was situated on a river, which meant there was a dip in elevation going into it. Of course, that indicated to us that there’d be climbing coming out, but we didn’t know how much.
Then, I began to think I was having mid-cycling fever dreams hearkening back to the Blue Ridge Parkway. I kept pedaling, then realized that we had climbed another mountain. Aw shucks.
We hit the peak bewildered and panting. We snapped some pictures, then started on the descent. On the way out, we waved at a slightly overweight but sage-looking dude with a flowing mane who was ostensibly there only to enjoy pre-storm weather at a high elevation.
Then, our first rain of the trip started. We donned rain gear and kept riding, but the rain began to feel more like hail, so we ducked into a truck stop called The Apple House after tethering our bikes to, I kid you not, a gas pump.
Being a kid from NoVA, I see a diner and I think $10 plus tip. In good ‘ol rural America, this ain’t the case at all; Mike got a huge plate of biscuits, sausage gravy, and eggs for $4.34, I got a hot turkey sandwhich fissured by a bucketfull of mashed potatoes and gravy for $5.99. We must’ve consumed more calories in that one meal than Marisa Tomei does in a year.
Post-gorge, we fussed around for a while with our cellphones, managing our various CouchSurfing prospects and scrutinizing weather reports. After a few minutes, we noticed that the rain had died down, so we squared at the register and retrieved our bikes from the makeshift stable. Some guy in a utility van was pumping gas two feet away and pretended not to notice us.
We then made the trek to Wytheville, VA, where Mike’s uncle Bob has a house. Bob had generously offered (or had been talked into offering) to put us up for the night. We let ourselves in and investigated the house. I was struck by the stark, minimalist decorating, pleased by the view, and even more pleased to find a Cato periodical casually resting on a coffee-table. A Libertarian, eh?
Mike and I found our room and discovered that Bob had laid out towels and washcloths for us. The shower I took was one of the finest hygienic experiences of my life. While raiding the fridge, we helped ourselves to a Coors Light each.
Dazed from the beer, soap, and hot water, we loafed around until Bob came home. We greeted with Bob and he offered us dinner. We responded in babbling unison with answers that translate to an emphatic “yes,” so we made tracks for the local Ruby Tuesdays, chatting with Bob on the way.
Bob is an engineer who has moved to management; he’s very fiesty, historically fluent, and, in his own words, he’ll “give you a three-dollar answer to a ten-cent question.” My kind of guy. We talked mostly politics at dinner.
Around seven we returned and now Mike and I are lounging on the couch, planning, writing, and digesting.