As you can perhaps tell from the amount of climbing, I left route 11 again today in order to avoid riding through Roanoke. If I had stayed on 11, except for the 117 bypass to avoid the middle of Roanoke, I would have saved an hour or so of riding and a thousand or so feet of climbing. Instead, I followed the Bike Centennial route and had a much nicer, if longer and hillier ride. I also ended up in Blacksburg instead of Christiansburg or Radford because I, after over 8 hours of riding, went off the 76 Bike route to get to a place to stay before sundown.
Todays effective temps were even higher than yesterday (well over 100 F), but the heat didn't bother me as much. The forecast for cooler weather today didn't work out. Now there is a line of big storms west of here and they should move through during the night (yes!) leading to greatly improved riding conditions tomorrow. It is a little strange to be touring when the TV news folks are telling people not to exert themselves in the heat. Some of us just gotta do it. I'm not going to sit around waiting for cooler temperatures in which to ride. Most bicyclist were apparently; I saw my first adult bicyclist at 7:50 PM this evening as I ground up the 500 foot hill leading to Blacksburg. He flew by me a 40 mph or so heading downhill. I saw two other cyclists at the top of that hill. No tourists, of course.
Breakfast was superb at the B+B this morning. Just great food, and lots of it, elegantly presented. A perfect yuppie place, and I really enjoyed it. Since Steeles Tavern is a two day ride (with at least two good routes to choose from so you could make a nice 4 day loop) or since this is one of the prettiest sections of the valley with lots of good day rides starting there, I suggest you Washington folks consider stopping at the Steeles Tavern Manor on some of your rides. If they'll give you the $70 rate (mention me!), it is a hell of a deal. Note that you won't be able to stop there on weekends for that rate nor (on weekends) for less than two nights with advanced (I suspect quite advanced) reservations. During the week you may be as fortunate as I was.
Leaving Steeles Tavern I rode, mostly downhill, to Lexington. This was nice in terms of easy riding, but it also meant higher heat factors as I dropped from 1500 feet to 700 feet in altitude. It did feel a lot muggier at Lexington. It also meant a hot climb out of the valley. I stopped for my first lunch 25 miles into the ride at Fancy Gap. I like the restaurant there, so, even with a 30 mile or more breakfast, I stopped for lunch. It was good, but I did have to force myself to eat all of it. Then I rode on, uphill mostly, past the commercialism of Natural Bridge and on into Buchanan. I rode on the south side of 81 even though Bike 76 goes much of the way on a smaller road on the north side, until I was forced to cross over before Buchanan. It is a nice road with very little traffic.
After Buchanan, where I stopped for some sports drink and a candy bar, I took 76 Bike's 640 instead of staying on 11. That was a mistake. 640 is rather bumpy, quite rural, and surfaced with small gravel over tar. The tar was melting in the heat. The tar melted, got on my tires and then the loose small gravel stuck to the tires and showered the bike and me. I had to stop at one point to empty the gravel out of my socks. Not fun and it would have been much worse if I didn't have full fenders. I'll go back to riding 11 next time.
After getting back on 11, I debated whether to ride through Roanoke or to try the 76 Bike route. I also stopped for a second, soup and sandwich, lunch. I have ridden through Roanoke before and it is doable, but not a lot of fun. I figured the heat would make it even less fun. I had ridden part, but not all, of the 76 route around Roanoke so I wasn't sure what I'd be getting into. I knew it would mean more miles and more hills, but less traffic and a lot prettier ride. It also could mean getting lost, which is what happen the last time I tired that section without the Adventure Cycling naps. In the end I decided to chance it.
It was long and hilly and hot, but the ride on 779 was really quite nice once it turned south. Of course it must have taken 45 minutes of riding in the 'wrong' direction before it headed back the way I wanted to go. It took almost 2 Hrs and 1200 feet of climbing to get to Catawba on 779 which starts at route 11 and ends at Catawba. the last hour or so was down the Catawba Valley which is simply beautiful, but, I must admit, seemed to go on forever.
At Catawba there is a general store right where 779 ends. If you ride straight off the end of 779, you end up at the store. It is the only store of any kind for 25 miles in either direction on the 76 Bike route. I stopped, had a liter of Coke, a very good ham and cheese sandwich made to order, and a visit with the lady who runs the store. They get a lot of hikers from the Appalachian Trail which runs about a mile or so from the store. They even have a guest book for hikers with names and dates for literally hundreds of hikers each summer. She said "we don't see many bicyclists." This is a store that essentially every rider doing the Bike Centennial route would stop at and they don't see many cyclists. Me either.
After Catawba, the 76 Bike route continues along valley to near Blacksburg. This part of ride is really quite nice, although neither as hilly nor as pretty as the other end of the valley. After 20 miles or so of pleasant riding, you can either follow the 76 Bike route south to Christiansburg or head towards Blacksburg. If you go south, you face a really hard climb into Christiansburg after half a dozen miles of gentle hills. If you head for Blacksburg, you get the climb immediately. It is a hard climb at the end of a long, hot, day.
I asked one of those two cyclists who were at the top of the hill where I could find a cheap motel. He directed me to go into town and then go south on Main St. There are two motels across the street from each other. I took the one that didn't have a pool. $32 for the night and pretty nice. Last time I rode through this area I got stuck with paying almost twice as much for a fancy, but noisy, room in Radford.