Day 51 Harrisonburg to Lexington VA
A short day - I quit at 3:30 after covering 63 miles in five and a half hours of actual riding. I was hot and humid (effective temp of 105 when I quit) and hilly (this is a hilly part of 11) and I had a light to moderate headwind all day. Despite all of the above it was a more enjoyable ride than yesterdays and not as hot as the last time I rode this way. That headwind really helped keep me 'cool.'
I was planning to ride only another ten miles, and I quit because of threatening weather. The sky was black and thunder was almost continuous as I rode into Lexington so I took the safe option of quitting early. The thunder continued for almost an hour, but it never rained. It did cool down a bit. Tomorrow I won't have the option of quitting early: I'll be following the Bike '76 route around Roanoke and it has a 15 mile stretch with no service, then there is a general store, then another 25 miles with no services. I'll leave Bike '76 to climb (a big climb at the end of the day) into Blacksburg. I just hope it isn't raining too hard then - a little rain could be quite nice! The last time I biked this way had the same scenario ( effective temps were 110+) and it stormed the night I stayed in Blacksburg. Unfortunately the temperature drop from that front wasn't as big as predicted. I hope this one drops the temperatures more.
This morning didn't feel as hot as yesterday morning, although I suspect the temperature and humidity was pretty much the same. It was even hazier than yesterday (yucky views all day...) and there was a cloud bank blocking the sun for much of the morning. I rode south west into a southwest wind essentially all day. The wind was gentler than yesterdays wind which was mostly a cross wind out of the west. I felt lousy and decided that this would be short riding day.
After riding through Harrisonburg, I stopped at The Omega for some great pancakes. It is amazing how many bad pancake I have been served on this tour and too bad that a place that served some of the best ones won't be open for breakfast after today! I did luck out on that one. They are located next to Mark's Bikeshop, which I've never been in, but I have noticed, because of its name, on each ride through Harrisonburg. After my good breakfast I felt better. Two cups of coffee helped.
Once out of town, riding wasn't bad, just hot, humid, and hilly with a headwind. One can adapt and, as I mentioned earlier, it really wasn't as hot as it had been on my last ride through here at almost the same date, two years ago. I wish the haze would go away since it really spoils the beauty of this valley. It is the same haze that spoils the views in Asheville every summer. Haze was a rare event in Asheville ten years ago and now it is rare when it doesn't cover the eastern US on a summer day. Progress? Yuck!
US11 is good riding because it is a wide road with low traffic levels, except in or near cities, that runs through pretty (when you can see it..) country. It sometimes is two lanes with shoulders, but more often is three lanes without much shoulder. I noticed these two variants don't have different width, just different markings. The three lane variant is has several sub-variations; Center turn lane, center passing lane, and two lanes in one direction and one in the other. Sometimes there are simply two lanes with no marked shoulder. It doesn't really matter very much as the road is more than wide enough for two cars and a bicycle. There are very few large trucks on the road but even two big trucks and a bicycle would fit safely.
I stopped near Weyer's Cave at the top of a big climb (I still remember how hot I felt doing that climb two years ago!) to buy and drink a quart of powerade. I stopped again in Verona (love that name) to check distances on my map and determine what I needed to do today to have a shot at getting to North Carolina in three days. Basically I needed to get to Lexington. I stopped again on the 'strip' in Staunton for lunch (and a nice talk with a woman who was clearing tables) and at a grocery store in Greenville to buy half a gallon of powerade and some snack puddings. I stopped at that grocery store the first time I rode US 11. I was coming home from Arlington VA and taht store sheltered me from an intense thunderstorm.
I stopped again near Steeles Tavern to photograph the first Bike '76 sign on US 11. Bike '76 is only on US 11 very briefly there and again nearer Roanoke. I don't understand why since the section US 11 from near Greenville to near Lexington is one of my favorite parts. It is mostly divided four lane with rolling hills, nice views, and light traffic. I stopped again at a service station in Fairfield to use the restroom and get a snack. I didn't need to urinate much today; sweating took care of 90% of my water intake. I noticed that there is now a grocery store in Fairfield and well as two service stations. When I left Fairfield I also noticed the dark sky to the west and to the north of me. A few miles later I was hearing thunder. Around the time 11 crosses under I-81 five miles or so before Lexington, I was beginning to wonder if I was going to beat the rain to Lexington.
Cows sensibly standing in the shade while I climb a hill
I did ( the rain didn't come) and I would have beaten it to where I planned to stay as well. So it goes. At least I'll get to do the fairly substantial climb out of Lexington in the, very relative, cool of the morning rather than at the peak of the days heat. I also got to go shopping at a huge Wall Mart where half a gallon of gatorade costs $1.66 and a half dozen day old bagels cost 90 cents. No wonder the local stores close. By the way, I'm typing this in my room at a new Super 8 motel located right across US11 from a recently defunct local motel. I, hopefully, will also get some much needed rest.