It was a chilly night. My gear is rated for 40 F and, even wearing all my cold weather cycling gear to bed wasn't quite enough to keep me comfortable. I ended up adding my GoreTex rain jacket and putting a little more air into my thermarest in the middle of the night. I was wearing a skull cap and a warm headband and, three layers of socks on, and only my nose sticking out of my lightweight mummy bag. I was OK, but would have been more comfortable if the temperature had been a little higher.
I got up about 7:30 - the sun hadn't hit my campsite yet, but the light was beautiful on the side of the hill west of me. I cleaned up, took down my tent, hung it on the food hook - this is bear country - to clean off the bottom, and packed all my camping gear into my camping pannier by stuffing rather than folding it neatly. It was cold, I was hungry, and breakfast was two miles up the Parkway. I was on the Parkway about 8:15 and reached the restaurant about 8:30
Breakfast was excellent and it was nice to warm up with lots of food and coffee. I left my bike, with camera mounted on the handlebar, leaning against a railing in front of the restaurant. Half a dozen people stopped to look at it and talk about and a couple of them went to their cars and came back with fancy cameras to take pictures of my camera setup. That was fun to watch but, when I went to ride on, I found my cycle computer - mounted right behind the camera - was crashed. I think some one zapped it with a static discharge when they were pointing at the camera. I had to do a hard reset which meant I lost all the settings and, without the instructions I couldn't properly reset them. I rode on with kph and m instead of mph and ft and with the default tire size setting. I did reset the altimeter to the right height in meters so that it would measure todays climbing correctly.
After the long descent from Doughton Park, the Parkway settles down to rolling hills though a mix of open country and forested hills. I stopped at the Trading Center at Glendale Springs where I bought a loaf of homemade sourdough raisin bread that I thought would be all the food I'd get till Blowing Rock. I sat in the sun outside the Trading Post and enjoyed my good bread and a cup of coffee. It was comfortable in the sun and out of the wind, but the temperature was probably around 40 F. I rode on and stopped again for lunch less than five miles later. Despite the fact that I had stopped there on both my my previous tours on the Parkway, I had forgotten the restaurant and motel where NC 16 crosses the Parkway. Lunch was not as big as yesterday, but it was good and I really appreciated getting another hot meal today.
The Parkway was pretty, but not as pretty as it had been further north, and riding was OK, if hilly ;-}, until I crossed US 421 which goes into Boone. From there on, traffic was bad and got worse as I rode further south. at first I thought it was just commuter traffic associated with Boone, but then I realized that I'd run into Leaf Season on the Parkway. I normally do not ride the Parkway during leaf season. There is simply too much traffic and too many jerks who are upset that, because there is too much traffic, they can't go 45 mph. It is an unpleasant and dangerous time to be on the Parkway on a bicycle.
I was tired, annoyed by rude drivers, and no longer able to enjoy being on the Parkway. I cranked on down the road toward Blowing Rock, but now I was just looking forward to being able to get off the Parkway. Traffic was bad on 221 which goes under the Parkway a few miles from Boone and drivers on the Parkway were showing signs of road rage. This is the only time I've seen drivers blowing horns in anger on the Parkway.
As I cranked on up the long hill before Mose Cone Park, I came upon a road closed sign. The Parkway was closed just after Moses Cone and traffic was redirected onto 221 till south of Julian Price Park. I took 221 down into Blowing Rock, hoping to find a place to stay, but knowing that was unlikely in Leaf Season. I could camp at Julian Price, which is what I had planned to do, but the forecast was for freezing temperatures and, after last night, I knew my camping gear wouldn't keep me warm enough below freezing.
When I got to Blowing Rock, I stopped at a motel. They had one room left: $180 for the night. I declined and asked where I could find a pay phone. The woman gave me directions and I rode down main street looking for that phone. Main street was a zoo. I couldn't find a phone. I decided I would go to Julian Price and shiver a lot. But first I would have a another hot meal.
Blowing Rock is mostly cutsey tourist trap stuff, but there are some good places and good folks there, even on Main street. I was riding by Sonny's Grill when I decided to stop. That was lucky break for me. I went in - it was very unpretentious - and Sonny said hello. The Waitress told me the special was chilli, so I asked for chilli and coffee. Then when she brought it, we visited about bicycling - she was a bicyclist - and I explained my situation and asked if there was a phone nearby that I could use with a calling card. She gave me the restaurants phone and said use it as long as I needed to.
I had told my friend Don Patterson that I would be at his house on Friday night. That was a mistake since I knew it would take me five days to ride from Charlottesville to his house and I didn't start that ride till Tuesday. I'd been looking for a phone to call him on since I realized my mistake on Thursday, but hadn't seen one. I called him from Sonny's so he wouldn't be worrying about me when I didn't show. However, when I got him on the phone and explained my situation, I decided to ask him to come get me in Blowing Rock. Don is the kind of friend who you can ask to do hard things and he will. He saved me from a very cold night and an unpleasant day of riding in in cold, windy, conditions with dangerous Leaf Season traffic.
The folks at Sonny's Dinner had never seen me before, but they went out of their way to be helpful. It isn't an easy or fast drive getting from Don's house to Blowing Rock. I called about 5 PM and Don got there at about 7:45 PM. Sonny's closed at 6:30 PM, but they let me stay there till Don came. It was quite chilly and windy outside and warm and comfortable - both physically and psychological - inside. Good people.
60 miles with 5500 feet of climbing in six hours.
Don and I went to the restaurant on Mt Mitchell for Lunch on Saturday and then he drove me to Craggy Dome and I rode home from there. It is mostly downhill from Craggy to Asheville, so it is an easy ride, but the headwinds were bad so it was pretty slow. Thee traffic coming north was much worse than the traffic going south, but I still needed to get off the road twice to let long strings of cars that had piled up behind me, pass. I was averaging about 25 mph and the other Parkway traffic wasn't much faster.
I rode into Asheville using Town Mountain Road and Old Toll Road because my front brake wasn't working - one of the pads had worn out. It hadn't been working for three days, but, given light traffic and relatively gentle hills, I was OK without it. When I eat with Don at Mt Mitchell, I usually ride down 128 the Parkway, but the was no way I was going to do that with out a front brake. Similarly, I usually ride back into Asheville on Elk Mountain Scenic Highway which would be suicidal without a front brake. Even my route from Old Toll to my home had to be modified to avoid Insbrook which has a 15% grade.