Day 49
It was the best riding day I've had in this pass through Virginia. A sort of cloudy/hazy with temperatures in the 80s. Not great for looking at the scenery, but nice for riding. It took me 8.25 hours of riding to do a bit over 108 miles with almost a mile of climbing. I could not have done that in the heat and humidity of the last few days. I also met three tourists, two german and one from the USA.

The german couple are headed across the USA to LA where they will catch a plane to New Zealand for more riding. I'm jealous, but not of their chosen route. They are planing on riding 'the southern route' to LA. I think they will get cooked alive if they do that in August and September. Of course they probably will be done in the LA valley, if they get that far, as they try to ride to LAX! I met a german fellow in Nova Scotia who was planning to ride the most remote part of Nfld on a bike he had just bought a month before. He, unlike this couple, wasn't even an experienced bicyclist. Some folks got lots of chutzpah and little sense. I hope they also have good luck and good people to help them along their way.

The other tourist was a woman who had ridden from Seattle and was headed for Boston. Now this lady had her act together, or, in other words, she was my kind of tourist. We spent half an hour or so discussing routing beside the frontage road on I-81 east of Wytheville. I think I talked her into leaving the Adventure Cycling route (actually we met off that route where a better route is obvious and we both had enough sense to use the better route) and riding mostly on 11 up to New York before heading east to Boston. I think it will save her time and give her better riding that the AC route over to Richmond and up through Washington, etc.

Speaking of better routes, I have now ridden south down the Shenandoa Valley 'on 11' three times and have done slightly different routes on todays section each time. I think I got it right, except for one AC part which I won't do again, this time. My route started heading south from Blacksburg towards Christiansburg on 640, but then I headed west on 114. Roughly a dozen miles later 114 ends at route 11, and I headed 'north' (actually back east) on 11 towards Radford. Less than a mile later, 11 crosses a big river and the Bike 76 route, heading west, goes south down the river just before that bridge. So, 640 south to 114 west to 11 north to the AC route (I think it is 625, but it is the road heading south just before the bridge). You can see the 76 Bike sign on the bridge and, coming the other way on 11 (which I did last year), you can see the 76 bike sign telling you to turn after the bridge.

If you follow the AC route down to Christiansburg and then (because the 76 road is closed or at least it was last year) take 11 to Radford and find and follow the 76 route again, you will, at least, do 5 extra miles relative to the route I took today. Worst case (my route last year!) would be about 10 extra miles. Moreover 114 is a much better road for bicycling than 11 between Christiansburg and Radford.

After Radford, you could stay on 11 to Pulaski. I did that two years ago. The problem is that there is a big ridge between Pulaski and I-81. You have to climb over it (it took me over half an hour of climbing, so it must approach 1000 feet - big hill) and then you can ride down the frontage road on the other side of I-81 till (a few miles) it intersects the 76 Bike route. Not bad except for the climb, but the 76 Bike route is really better, at least if you leave it for the frontage roads ASAP. I did that last year. This year I rode it all the way to where it leaves on 121. I think that cost me a few miles and at least 500 feet of climbing. It was quieter and prettier than the more direct route, but hillier and longer. I won't do the part after Draper again.

Here is my suggested route:

When the road along the river (a really nice road!) Ts into 611, a road that runs roughly parallel to I-81 and just north of it, you'll see a 76 Bike sign. Follow those signs (some of them now have a 20th Anniversary sign underneath) till you get to Draper. At Draper, don't follow the 76 Bike sign, but ride on a few hundred yards and take the frontage road on the south side of I-81. When the frontage road is crossed by 654, turn right on 654 and cross I-81. You'll see the 76 Bike signs as soon as you turn and if you don't turn you'll run out of road shortly and have to come back. Been there, done that. When 76 Bike leaves the frontage road on 121, don't take it, but instead continue on the frontage road till the Lovers Lane (I kid you not..) crosses I-81 just before Wytheville. Cross over, ride to the first intersection, turn right for a block, then turn left on 11 heading south through Wytheville. Ride 11 the rest of the way through Virginia.

Route 11 south of Wytheville does not, usually, have shoulders. It is sometime 4 lanes but mostly two lanes, and it is quite good riding. I think my average speed for the last 50 miles today (that section) was over 14 mph. By comparison, I averaged about 12 mph on the part before Wytheville. That would have been nearer 13 if I had not followed the 76 Bike section after Draper. Still, the riding is much faster after Wytheville and quite pleasant despite the lack of shoulders. The drivers in this part of Virginia are almost as polite as the drivers in Nova Scotia!

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