Day 52 Lexington to Blacksburg VA
Well, I got my wish from yesterday: I rode the last 25 miles of today's ride in the rain. It was nice to be cool again! I also had the (hopefully) only crash (very minor) of this tour and a generally nice day of riding.
Leaving Lexington this morning involved some hot hill climbing. It was 80 F at 7:30 AM and very humid. I left about 8:15. When I stopped for breakfast at Fancy Hill Restaurant a dozen miles later, every item I was wearing, except my shoes and socks, was soaking wet. Fancy Hill was my planned stop yesterday. Fancy Hill itself is a neat old house whose name has become the name for the area. Just down the road and across I-81 from the house are Fancy Hill Motel and Restaurant. I had a good breakfast to complement the simpler breakfast I had had in my room.
Going south on 11 from Fancy Hill, it is four miles to Natural Bridge. The tourist stuff isn't interesting to me, but it sure is pretty country around there. It is also quite hilly. I used my lowest granny gear on the hill after Natural Bridge. I have a bunch of 'granny' gears well spaced from about 17 inches, my 4 mph gear, to 35 inches, my 8 mph gear. Whenever I see a discussion of granny gearing, it always focuses on the lowest gear, but not on having a set of gears that cover the low speed range. Having gone to a very small little ring, I find the biggest gain is that I now have many more choices of low gearing. I used all of them today.
The road to the left is what you want, to the right is all I-81
When 11 joins I-81, Bike-76 and I head on down the frontage roads. Bike- 76 switches over to the frontage road on the west side at, what else?, Overpass Rd. I usually stay on the east side till I have to switch over at the I-81 exit just before the Buchanan exit. Either side is very nice riding and quite a bit less hilly that US 11 between Lexington and Natural Bridge.
Frontage Road 054
I stopped in Buchanan to get some iced tea from a coke machine and then rode on towards the grocery store on the south side of town. I wasn't sure it would be open since I was riding on a Sunday morning. Some where near the south end of town, I was riding in the parking lane and not paying enough attention to parked cars. I looked up to find a car parked a few feet in front of me. I swerved and my wheel missed the car, but my right front pannier didn't. My bike and I went down in the street which didn't have much traffic on it. No big deal, but it turned out that the fall broke the mounting for my left front rack. I stopped at the grocery store and 'patched' the mount using a hose clamp I'd brought along as a 'bailing wire' replacement. It worked fine and, after replacing my torn rain covers (AKA plastic grocery bags) I proceeded south on 11.
The repair delay meant that it was now just after noon on Sunday and 11 was filled with folks heading somewhere after church. I like, and am very involved with. organized religion, but if you judge Christianity by the driving behavior of the after church crowd, it doesn't look like its message is getting through! I decide to go 'the back way' which is VA 640 and on Bike-76. The last time I was on that road, the tar was melting and sticking to my tires as were thousands of little rocks from the road. I had to stop midway and empty rock from my shoes! Today I didn't have that problem and 640 was simply very nice bicycling.
Shortly after 640 ends and Bike-76 is, briefly, on 11 again, there is a good place to eat lunch; The Greenwood Restaurant. It was so busy today that I had to sit at a lunch counter. After lunch I rode through Troutville on 11 (Bike-76 goes off on backroads) and then rejoined Bike- 76 as it headed west on Valley Dr. This is a very hilly (low granny gear) and pretty short road over to Daleville. At Daleville, Bike-76 jogs north to head out of town on Catawba Rd. This starts suburban and ends up mountainous, but it is the best way I've found to get around Roanoke. Lots of climbing (thousands of feet) much of it quite steep. Pretty, but it does get old after a dozen miles or so. It took me about an hour and fortyfive minutes to ride the 16 or 17 miles to Catawba. Abut half way through this section I started hearing thunder and the sky was threatening by the time I got to Catawba.
Catawba Rd rural
Catawba, for bicycling purposes, consists of a general store. It is located right on Bike-76 and a short distance from the Appalachian Trail and serves a lot of people hiking the trail as well as few bicyclists on Bike-76. I had a sandwich (they make good sandwiches!) and gatorade while I watched the storm that had been forming behind me, rage (well, downpour anyway) outside and visited with the owners and a guy who had hiked the trail from Georgia. It was a very pleasant time. I recommend stopping here if you pass this way.
After the storm passed, I headed on towards Blacksburg on Blacksburg Rd, SSR 785. Nice, and not as hilly as Catawba Rd. I also crossed the Appalachian trail again, but I only got a mile or two before I ran into rain. I quickly took my camera of the handlebars and packed it in my electronics pannier, then I rode on in the rain. It never got very heavy and it was wonderful! I was cool! I could power up hills without overheating! My average speed jumped several miles an hour and I really enjoyed riding till I reached Lusters Gate. Then I climbed the single biggest hill of the day (maybe 500 feet vertical?) which I can't claim to have enjoyed, and found the cheap ($35) motel I stayed at last time I rode through Blacksburg. A good day's ride.
By the way, there is no way to avoid that climb; the land simply has a big ledge off going south west to north east and all the roads into Blacksburg and Christainsburg have to climb up it. If you follow Bike-76 down to Christainsburg, you simply postpone the climb. I've done it that way as well as on US 11. It is best to climb into Blacksburg because the route out, and back to Bike-76, is better from Blacksburg. More on that tomorrow as I head down to Abingdon VA.