Day 31: 127 miles
I slept great in the hotel until about 4am when I woke up with an upset stomach. My plan was to leave early, but I wasn’t able to set out because of my stomach. It was still nice to take my time instead of rushing out. But it got hot super quick this morning. By 10am, my GPS read 99 degrees. Earlier in the morning, I had stopped to pee when I heard a dog panting behind me. There have been quite a few dogs that chased me so far, so I quickly grabbed my pepper spray in case he was mean. As he got closer, he started wagging his tail like crazy and apparently just wanted to pee on my rear wheel. I just had to laugh it off especially since most of my dog encounters do not end like that. I ended up riding into the afternoon heat and took a short break before heading back out. There was a restaraunt at mile 104 that I wanted to stop at before their kitchen closed at 8pm. I made it there and took a longer break before heading back out. Once I did, it was ridiculously humid. It must have rained an hour before I got there, and there was fog and humidity everywhere. I rode into the dark getting absolutely soaked in 2 hours. I ended up outrunning 3 big dogs before making it to town, and I sprinted away every time I heard barking. Getting chased by dogs is scary, but it’s 10x scarier at night when you can hardly see them. I was pretty shook up by the time I made it into town, but I got there 5 minutes before the convenience store closed. I grabbed some snacks before settling into the post office for the night.
Sleeping location: post office
Day 32: 65 miles
Another tough one mentally. I slept less than 6 hours which is very little sleep for me. When I got up, I was physically exhausted and mentally drained from outrunning the dogs in the dark. I got started early since there was a chance for storms all day. I cross the Ohio River on a ferry and climbed up into Kentucky. I stopped for a break for a while since it was already crazy hot and humid. There was a church in town that hosts cyclists and it was tempting to go take a nap there. I decided to just ride through the heat for the day and finish early since I was out of it mentally I ended the day at a church hostel that was incredibly nice. It was better than the majority of the motels I’ve stayed at. There was a full kitchen, shower, laundry, couches, tv, and rooms. Bob showed me in and got me situated, and I was incredibly grateful for a relaxing place for the evening. When I was out getting food, Bob found me and invited me to drive with them to go see some fireworks. I wasn’t able to go since I went to bed at 7:30, planning to wake up early.
Sleeping location: church hostel (resort)
Day 33: 110 miles
I slept fantastic in the hostel with a full 8 hours of sleep, but I dealt with an upset stomach all morning getting ready. I left I little later than I had hoped, but I set out in the humidity as it had stormed overnight. Fortunately, I had a bunch of convenience stores close together for a little so I could stop and snack a little and drink Gatorade. Later in the morning, I came to a part of the route that said the road was closed. I asked a local why it was closed, and they said they were working on a bridge. Now, I’ve never not been able to cross a bridge under construction. There’s always some pavement for me to walk on either through or around the construction. So I ignored the sign only to find the bridge 4 miles down the road had been completely removed. All that was there was mud and loose stone. Reluctant to backtrack, I somehow got myself and my bike through the mess. Once I got into the afternoon, I found myself outrunning a nasty thunderstorm. I was riding at a pretty fast pace for an hour, and it paid off since I got to my next town 2 minutes before the downpour. I waited for about 3 hours for everything to pass until I set out for my last 29 miles to the fire station a few towns down that hosts cyclists. On my way, there were a couple dogs in one yard that saw me coming from a quarter mile away, and they sounded pretty angry. I turned around and flagged down a man named Billy Joe who let me put my bike in the pick up truck and drove me past the dogs. There’s been a lot of angry dogs out here in Kentucky, and I did not want to deal with these guys.
Sleeping location: fire station
Day 34: 108 miles
I got another later start since I had switched time zones on my way into town last night. It was crazy foggy and mucky in the morning, but the coolness was kind of nice. I picked up some food and two more cans of pepper spray for the dogs. I had a stretch of 41 miles earlier in the day with no services. I have to carry an extra Gatorade or two with me on these longer stretches since I often lose my appetite when I’m in the heat for hours on end. The weight is annoying, but it’s much easier to stomach these calories. Earlier into this stretch, a bee flew into neck and stung me as soon as he landed. Definitely was not a highlight of the trip. By 2pm, I had ridden 59 miles with not many breaks. I took a 2.25 hour break in the subway inside Walmart to relax, eat, and cool off before heading back out. I set out for another 44 miles with no services. The first hour was still super hot, but it started to feel nicer later. The temperature was 83 (feels 90), but it was a big difference from how it’s been the last few days. I took my time getting into town where I loaded up on more subway, an Arby’s roast beef sandwich, and electrolyte tablets from Walmart. I got a hotel since I really wanted a nice mattress and a cool shower.
Sleeping location: hotel
Day 35: 100 miles
Slept like a rock, but no amount of sleep seems to shake the tiredness at this point. My once again upset stomach forced me to take my time getting ready causing another start later than anticipated. The morning was nice. It was cloudy that the sun was barely on me for the first hour. After that, it got pretty hot again. Not as hot as before, but still hit 90 degree I believe. Before I was 40 miles in, a dot watcher named Paul had been waiting for me at the top of a hill. He gave me a cold Gatorade and water and a couple snacks before moving on. It was really encouraging to have him there with those item after another hot, muggy morning. I pushed on to my next town where I once again sat down in a subway for two hours. This was my third time getting subway in a 24 hour time period. I found a church another 49 miles away that has a pavilion, shower, and toilet for cyclists. On my way there, I ran into so many dogs. In one 8 mile stretch of road, there were 12 dogs that met me on the pavement. I really hate these encounters and can’t wait for them to end. I took a small detour from the route to avoid passing by more homes. I may have added a few tenths of a mile, but it was well worth it to avoid more dogs. Once I got to the church, I ate my dinner and got myself set up for the night. Fortunately, they put a fan inside of the pavilion which I used to cool off for a little while watching a thunderstorm roll by just a few miles north.
Sleeping location: church pavilion
Day 36: 64 miles
This morning was a tough start. I had a lot of climbing in right off the bat, but fortunately most of the dogs were sleepy this morning. I was able to sneak by a few houses with dogs on the porch without waking them up. Right around mile 10, I spotted some pretty dark clouds up north, but there was nothing around my area. When I was going up a steep mountain, that changed in an instant. It sounded like a dam broke as the rain started pouring down without warning. I threw my phone in one of my bags and kept riding thinking it was just a rainstorm. But a couple minutes into it, lighting light up the trees and road in front of me, and I heard the loudest crack of thunder I’ve ever heard in my life right above my head. This happened 2 more times before it seemed to pass over me. I crawled into my next town at mile 31, soaked and feeling defeated. The descent was actually pretty scary as I had to worry about hydroplaning and skidding out with all of the water covering the switchbacks. I found a church that hosts cyclists in a town 33 miles down the road, and I decided to go there to reset myself physically and mentally. Although it was a short ride, I got some good hills out of the way for the next few days of riding. I took my time getting there as my legs were tired and my mind is exhausted from these crazy dogs. On my way there, I met someone who told me he used to chew up poison ivy and spit at his cousin so now he’s immune to it. This is a strange place! Once I got into town, I got some food, got a shower, washed my clothes, and laid down earlier to get a good night of sleep. I took some time to plan out the rest of the trip. I looked at my maps and all my towns along the route to figure out how far I can ride each day to the finish. Hopefully I’ll be able to stick with it!
Sleeping location: church hostel
Day 37: 112 miles
I slept great and felt pretty decent after waking up. I rolled out before 7am, hoping I ride past some sleepy dogs since it was my last 65 miles in Kentucky. I had a couple bark at me, but the only one that met me on the road seemed to be friendly. Or at least he wasn’t mean. I rode up some nasty climbs in the morning hoping that it wouldn’t be like that the rest of the day. In my last Kentucky town, I stopped for lunch at Subway before pushing on in the heat to cross the border. What a relief! As soon as I crossed into Virginia, my mood immediately changed. In my last state, I got really excited to know that I was getting so close to home. The hills that greeted me in Virginia were not my friends, but it got beautiful very quick. I had a dog chase me for about a quarter mile, but he also didn’t seem mean. I think he just wanted to play and hadn’t had a good run all day. I kept riding until I got to a church hostel that hosts cyclists. I was the only one there which was nice to relax and go to bed early. Today was my biggest day of climbing I’ve ever done. I gained almost 9,000 feet of elevation in 112 miles. Man I was tired.
Sleeping location: church hostel
Day 38: 97 miles
I didn’t feel the greatest this morning. I got super nauseous and had to lay down on a table for 10 minutes just to calm down my stomach. My stomach still felt twisted as I started out, but the cool air felt nice. Someone told me that there were 2 dogs down the road that were chasing cars. I got my pepper spray ready, but they just watched my ride by when I approached them. I had a pretty tough climb in the morning, but the temperature was still in the low 70s and I was shaded by a nice canopy of trees. I once again stopped at a subway early on the fuel up. In my next town, I found a bike shop that helped me get a box to send my tent home. I decided that losing the extra weight will help me to stick to my plan where I don’t plan to do any more camping. And for lunch, you’ll never guess what I got. Subway. 7 times in 5 days! Right after I left town, I had a really big, long climb that felt much more manageable without having the weight of the tent. It was still tough, but I think I was able to climb a little faster without it. Once I got to the top, I enjoyed minimal pedaling the rest of the day. There were still some uphill parts that were annoying, but I was able to cruise at a faster pace for most of it into my last town. I entered Wytheville which is a bigger town in Virginia. I treated myself to Applebee’s and a hotel after some tough riding the past few days.
Day 39: 101 miles
I didn’t sleep well as I was I was up at 4am, and I felt more nauseous than normal. As I was getting ready, I took my time eating until I found myself throwing up again. I was able to eat a banana and drink some water after this, but I immediately got a headache. I decided to just start riding and try to power through. But it didn’t really work too well. I made several stops at convenience stores where I found myself struggling to eat from feeling so nauseous. After a little bit of riding, the heat really cranked up, making me lose my appetite even more. Pretty early into the afternoon, I ran into a sign telling me the road was close 1.6 miles down the road. Larry Walsh told me beforehand that I wouldn’t be able to make it across as there was big machinery near the bridge with a big body of water underneath. This lead to an unexpected 5 mile, very hilly detour. It wasn’t a huge detour, but it was an extra 25 minutes of riding that I didn’t care to complete with not feeling well. I pushed on until I was about 18 miles from my last down. I couldn’t stomach anything but skittles at this point. I was feeling pretty shaky and very weak since I had probably eaten around 1,000 calories. I laid down in a post office floor for 20 minutes trying to regain myself. When I got to the hotel, I felt so sick. I sat down for about 15 minutes before making any movement. I got a personal pizza and breadsticks hoping that the carbs would help my stomach. Before I swallowed my second bite of the breadstick, I was throwing up again. Before falling asleep, I ate two more breadsticks that fortunately stayed down.
Sleeping location: hotel
Day 40: 48 miles
I woke up still feeling very sick and without energy. I was able to sleep a much needed 9.5 hours before I started to take small bites. I had no appetite, but I needed calories. I finished my personal pizza along with 2 small muffins from the hotel. I checked out at 11am, but started riding at 11:30am. I took my time getting to the next convenience store down the road 20 miles where I took a several hour break to avoid bad thunderstorms. I took some time to eat and drink slowly. Around 5:30pm, I set out for Lexington in the rain. There was still a chance of thunderstorms, but I wanted to get there. I picked up Applebee’s again. I threw my laundry in the wash for the last time this trip, and took my time eating my dinner before bed. I finally started to feel normal although still a little slow from trying to recover.
Day 41: 108 miles
I woke up early again expecting a long day of riding. I left at 5:35am, wanting to tackle Vesuvius and the Blue Ridge Parkway before the heat of the day. It was incredibly foggy and humid again. I took my glasses off just 10 minutes into the ride since the water had them covered. The ride to the base of Vesuvius was a little more challenging than expected. But I was able to keep down some food in the morning and early ride, making me feel ready for the challenge. I stopped for a couple minutes outside of a post office to stretch before heading up. On my way up Vesuvius, I broke down the climb into a few mini climbs. I first did 500 feet then stopped to catch my breath. Climbed another 250 then stopped. Another 250. And then the last 600! I felt accomplished as I hopped onto the parkway to keep climbing. As I was going, trail angel Dan pulled up alongside me and told me I was making really good time! He stopped up ahead and got me loaded up on food and drink. He was incredibly generous as he continued to leap frog me for the next 30 some miles until I got off the parkway. Several times, he took pictures of me riding past, and gave me many opportunities to break and fuel up in the back of his car. He told me that most riders spend more time on the parkway than I did, but it was only because of how much he helped me get through the challenging section. He took me all the way to the Cookie Lady’s House where we took some time to look at all of the memorabilia from over the years. I set back out on my own in the heat and pushed to Charlottesville where I got lunch. On my way out of town, I noticed that my front fork was completely loose. One of the trek specific parts had completely worked itself loose, and I knew it was not safe to ride on. I called all of the bike shops in town and fortunately found a trek dealership. I rode over to them, extremely worried about my bike. But the mechanic was incredibly knowledgeable and efficient, and had the entire fork and headset removed, found the problem, and reinstalled everything in an hour. Unfortunately, I was now two hours behind schedule. I called a church hostel in the town 28 miles before I expected to finish for the night, and found out that 4 of the people from the hostel in Oregon that welcomed me in were planning on staying in the church in Virginia. Turns out, they flew out to the east coast to drive the Trans Am trail back. It was incredible to see them and get to talk to them on both sides of the country. Although my intentions were to ride more, it was too good to be with them.
Sleeping location: church hostel