Journal April 13-May 8--Virginia & Washington DC
April 13 Chincoteague, VA to Assateague, VA
Today a longtime dream of Ellie's was realized. We rode to Assateague Island, a wildlife refuge, and hiked back to where the wild ponies were to be found. By moving slowly and quietly, we were able to get quite close, and Ellie was even able to approach a few and touch them. We rode around the island, and enjoyed a beautiful beach for a while. The bike felt quite frisky without the usual load, and we returned to the motel where Patti prepared a meal that made us think of home for the first time since we started.
April 14 Assateague, VA to Tangier Island, VA
We rode hard into a headwind to make the 5:00 boat to Tangier Island, in the middle of Chesapeake Bay. This tiny community is isolated enough that the inhabitants, mostly fishermen and their families, have a distinct accent descended from Elizabethan English. Tiny streets and tidy houses, front docks stacked with crab traps. Our stay with Grace at the Sunset B&B was too brief, and the sunset memorable. Ellie and Henry made friends quickly, and so did Mom & Dad.
April 15 Tangier Island, VA to Westmoreland, VA
Up at 4:30 to catch a ride with a Mr. Charney, a fisherman, to Reedville on the western shore, the 6:30 sunrise was welcome warmth during the chilly crossing. At Reedville we detoured to enjoy a magnificent country breakfast at Margurite Slaughter's estate at Fleeton. Such hospitality is rare. Some rain only spiced up the nice ride to the State Park at Westmoreland, 45 miles, where we camped for the night and made some friends. Thanks to the crew at Nino's in Callao for a great lunch!
April 16 Westmoreland, VA to Fredricksburg, VA
The welcome and care we received from Susie and Bill at Advance Chiropractic was the reward for the effort of pushing against a headwind to get to Fredricksburg. This is History Land, where many presidents were born, signers of the Declaration of Independence lived, and important historic events took place. Beautiful country, friendly people.
April 17 Fredricksburg, VA to Washington, DC
A tailwind helped us to Mt. Vernon, where a bike path led into Washington, DC. What a beautiful 20-mile ride along the Potomac! Some sprinkles of rain hurried us along to Lucy Norman's home in the Northwest part of the city. We are pleased to be spending a few days in one spot for a change. We like this city. Ellie and Henry were full of questions as we passed one famous landmark after another. Sometimes they were full of answers, too; Henry told me all about the Bureau of Engraving as we passed the huge building housing it.
April 18 Washington, DC
With a whole day to sightsee and visit friends, we rode into downtown Washington early. Todd and Lynn and Meaghan from Falls Church and Patti's cousin, Patti Napolitano (who also kept an eye on our quad while we toured DC) met us at a cafe, and Aaron from Vermont was there, too. We went to the Air and Space Museum, and afterward, out on the Mall, the local NBC TV crew interviewed and filmed us. Janet Reno, the Attorney General, was out walking and came over to speak to us. We watched ourselves on the11:00 news.
April 19 Washington, DC
While the rest of the family went to see the sights in Washington DC, Billy stayed at Lucy's to get the computer straightened out and do some writing. This city is lovely, with all the huge buildings and monuments and parks. A short way from downtown, many of the neighborhoods are in poor condition and the streets are not free of drugs and crime. It isn't a cycling-friendly town, but we like it just the same. Since Timmy visited the Air and Space Museum, when we put him in his helmet and seat belt, he pretends he is a "SPACE MAN!" Our hostess Lucy Norman really knows how to treat guests. We felt both pampered and at home during this, our longest stay of the trip.
April 20 Washington, DC to Fredricksburg, VA
Today's ride from Washington to Mount Vernon along the bike path was slow but pleasant. From there to Fredericksburg was hilly and long. We got a ride the last few miles from a roofer with a truck, in order to avoid riding in the dark. Susie at Advance Chiropractic made sure we had a room and a meal. The roads here lack shoulders for the most part, and the traffic has been dense. We are looking forward to some back roads and the Blue Ridge Parkway.
April 21 Fredricksburg, VA to Richmond, VA
We spoke with a fellow at breakfast for a few minutes before realizing that it was Randy Zaretski, a high school classmate of Billy's from Troy, NY, on his way back from a Florida vacation. Hi, Randy!
Rain on the road from Fredericksburg to Lynchburg persuaded us to hitch a ride with Preston, an interesting man with a big heart. We don't like the IDEA of accepting rides in trucks, but the actual RIDING is not bad! Today it put us at our destination in time to enjoy the company of the Winyard family, David & Traci & David Charles & Audrey. Billy met them through the Internet, and they are the only other folks we know with a Quad. They are homeschoolers who made us feel right at home, helped us with the computer, and provided great food and conversation. The kids hit it off and were like old friends in a minute. Their Santana Quad is new and beautiful.
April 22 Richmond, VA to Crozier, VA
A big day. We got two whole families out onto two Quads by 9:15, and rolled down the road toward Dr. Mike Wild's chiropractic office. It was 24 miles through the neighborhoods and downtown of Richmond. David and Traci knew a lot about the local history, which is mostly Civil War history, and showed us the old battlefield hospital and some other spots. We rode down Monument Avenue, with its huge statues of Robert E. Lee, "Stonewall Jackson, Jefferson Davis, and J.E.B. Stuart. Jackson and Stuart, both battlefield casualties, face north, while Lee faces his beloved South.
After a great adjustment and hydro-massage at Dr. Wild's, and a TV interview, we pedaled off into the hottest day yet; it was to reach 90 degrees with high humidity. By 5:00 PM I was spent and we were in a country store gathering provisions for camping, when Betty Martin and her husband Thaxton insisted that we spend the night with them. We met their whole family (which is to say, most of Crozier, Virginia), and enjoyed their country hospitality and food out on the verandah overlooking brother George's cattle pastures. We talked until late and really got to know this wonderful family.
April 23 Crozier, VA to Lynchburg, VA
After a hearty country breakfast, the next stop was Appomatox Court House, a nice restoration/reconstruction of the town where Lee surrendered to Grant to end the Civil War. Ellie was thrilled because the last book she read before leaving Vermont was about the little girl who lived here in the house where the two great men met. We all learned a lot more than we knew about the war that took so many lives right here on our home soil. Evening brought us to the chiropractic office of Dr. Ed Bouchou, just in time to escape a thundershower. Later at dinner a real storm came up, and as we peered through the restaurant window at its power, we were happy that we were to stay in a warm bed at Dr. Bouchou's this night.
April 24 Lynchburg, VA to Peaks of Otter, VA
Today's ride brought us up to the Blue Ridge Parkway, a motorist's and bicyclist's paradise following the ridge of the mountains for miles through Virginia. We camped at Peaks of Otter in a not-yet-open campground, where we built a fire to chase the chill. Henry and I stayed up late to warm our shins by the fire and count stars through the tree branches, which were just now budding out at this elevation, about 2,000 feet. No highway sound reached up here, and the wind-free night was the quietest I can remember.
April 25 On the Blue Ridge Mountain Parkway, VA
Breakfast was at a lodge not a mile away, an old fashioned mountain resort built by the CCC in the thirties. I did some bike maintenance and brake tuning in the morning sun, and we headed south. Although several folks had told us it was all downhill to Roanoke, we found plenty of climbing to do between descents. It was the best, most beautiful riding so far. Incredible vistas left and right. The traffic is nil, and the speeds are slow, and no commercial vehicles are allowed. We found no food or water once we left Peaks of Otter, however, and were reduced to begging for crumbs from picnic leftovers. Some nice folks fed us in the early afternoon and we made it to Roanoke Mountain before dark. Just before finding the campground, we met Mike, a Roanoke City firefighter who adopted us and brought Patti to the grocery store while Henry and I set up camp. Mike stayed for the evening and we got to know him some.
April 26 Roanoke, VA
Mike returned in the morning, insisting that it was too hilly and too far to ride into Roanoke for errands. He was right. He drove us to Dr. Garrett Thompson's for an adjustment, and to the health food co-op, where we ate and met some very nice people, and to the bike shop for a pump, ours having been broken accidentally a few days before. Roanoke is a fine town. The errands took so long that we began to think of camping again at Roanoke Mountain, and the afternoon rain decided it. A TV crew visited us at the campsite and we rode the bike around for them in the drizzle.
April 27 Blue Ridge Mountain Parkway, VA
Our soggy morning packing was done with company; Mike returned with a reporter and photographer from the Roanoke Times. They were nice and followed us for a few miles to get pictures. The rain let up just before we left. Out on the Blue Ridge Parkway, we set a personal speed record of 48.3 on a long, smooth downhill. We also set a record for climbing. A six-mile grade had us in our lowest gears for hours. We ran out of daylight at a scenic overlook whose beauty I can hardly describe. We set up camp and ate at 3100 feet elevation while watching the lights flicker on in the farmsteads below.
April 28 Blue Ridge Mountain Parkway to Floyd, VA
Wind and rain last night, and temperatures in the thirties. Raining and too foggy to ride until around noon, so we slept late and ate breakfast twice! Riding in the 40 degree rain was difficult, and Henry never warmed up. Ellie had trouble, too. So, we reluctantly left the Blue Ridge Parkway for Floyd, Virginia, a tiny town with friendly people. Winona at the furniture store ran out to flag us down. She had the Roanoke Times article, the best article about us yet, with a great picture, and she invited us in from the rain. She found us a room at the Pine Tavern Lodge, and drove us to the laundromat and to the Blue Ridge Diner, where her in-laws, Verne and Lou, treated us to dinner.
April 29 Floyd, VA
The cold rain is beating against the window of this nice warm kitchenette at the Pine Lodge Tavern, where I am catching up on writing and e-mail amid the tent and sleeping bags spread out all around me to dry. We decided to stay an extra day here, rather than ride in the rain and cold. The rest of the family is at a local private school giving a presentation to the children about our trip. I brought the bike inside and did some maintenance. We really needed this day of rest after the climbing we have been doing, and we are making the most of it by re-organizing our gear. We have sent some back, but we are still seriously over-loaded. This tiny town has a health food store (YEAH!) and plenty of friendly people. We will cook a feast tonight and ride into the expected rain tomorrow.
April 30 Floyd, VA to Galax, VA
Kathleen Ingham refused to let us pay for the second night in the room, and we got a relatively early start, 9:00 a.m. The hills were long and challenging on Route 221 from Floyd southwest towards Galax (our destination), but we all felt good and we had a good tailwind. We stopped at a school in Willis, VA, to give a presentation and shared lunch with the kids. At this point our rear wheel, already old when we started, failed. Broken down with miles to go, we found ourselves riding in the truck of a minister and in the squad car of his daughter, the local Sheriff. Soon we were at the chiropractic office of Dr. Bill Hughs in Galax. Bill McReady at Santana agreed to build us a wheel and send it express, and we settled into an apartment provided by Dr. Hughs.
Dr. Wild, Richmond, VA
Dr. Thompson, Fredericksburg
Dr. Hughs, Galax, VA
Dr. Ed Bouchou, Lynchburg
May 1 Galax, VA
Patti and Ellie and Timmy went horseback riding on the New River Trail, Ellie's first riding since March. It seems that word travels fast in this town. Wherever we went, we met nice people who already knew our story. Henry and I worked on the bike, and took a trip to the health food store, Rainbow's End, where we found kindred spirits in owners Bill and Linda. We went to dinner with Wanda Urbanska and her husband Frank levering and their cute kid Henry. Wanda, who has a cherry orchard nearby, wrote Christmas on Jane Street with me. We really enjoyed our evening.
The wheel didn't come, because we are out of the reach of UPS and FedEx Saturday delivery, so we are Galax residents for a couple of more days.
May 2 Galax, VA
We were invited to an Anglican Church service, and afterward to lunch at the minister's home way back in the hills. The children enjoyed playing with his children and their goats and other pets. Back in town Henry was thrilled to find a skateboard park; Dr. Hughs' son was there to share his skateboard with him, and Ellie tried out some skates. Dinner at Dr. Hughs' house completed a very enjoyable rest day in Galax.
May 3 Galax, VA to New River, VA
Although our wheel arrived at 10:00 AM, we got a late start on the road to Independence, VA. The folks in Galax were so nice to us; it was hard to leave. The Chamber of Commerce presented us with T-shirts and shopping bags and locally bottled water, and we posed for pictures for the newspaper. Our campsite tonight is by the New River, where the kids waded out to an island while Patti and I cooked dinner and spoke with a local family, the Nichols.
May 4 New River, VA to Volney, VA
A glorious sun woke us, and unzipping the tent door brought us a beautiful river scene, with mist rising and Canadian Geese wading. Some hilly riding brought us to Volney, where Ellie met a little girl who brought her across the road from our restaurant to ride her horse in the fields there. The towns are tiny and agricultural here in the Appalachians, and the people are friendly and open. And the hills are steep!!
May 5 Volney, VA to Damascus, VA
A day to remember. We got an early start, because we faced the most challenging climb of our trip, up over the spine of the Appalachians. After a breakfast of biscuits in a tiny diner, we climbed for four hours to Whitetop, 3700 feet above sea level, where we wrote postcards at a truly tiny post office there. We felt so happy to be at the top of our biggest challenge, and the cool, rainy weather made it more of a triumph. From there we picked up the Virginia Creeper Trail, an old railroad grade that provided us with the best ride of the trip so far. It was 17 miles of unpaved downhill through wilderness, farm and village, over high trestles with beautiful streams below, and past old train stations, some restored and some abandoned. We will never forget those hours of gliding through the woods and fields of beautiful Virginia. It brought us to Damascus, where we stayed in a hostel full of Appalachian Trail through hikers.
May 6 Damascus, VA to Abingdon, VA
Rain and pleasant breakfast companions made it hard to get an early start, but once we got going, we had 17 more miles of the Virginia Creeper Trail to reward us. This time it was flat and slightly uphill, and we felt strong all the way to Abingdon where we were happy to find my sister Chrissy and her son William who had come down from Connecticut to spend a few days with us. Abingdon is a beautiful old town, and our motel had an alpine vista that stretched for miles.
May 7 Abingdon, VA to Gate City, VA
Another memorable ride. Thundershowers forced us to seek shelter in the garage of 85 year old Earl Denton, tobacco farmer, where we spent an enjoyable half hour learning about his life and getting a preview of the afternoon's ride. The route happened to take us through some of the most beautiful valleys imaginable in their light green early summer colors. It also happened to be almost all downhill for twenty-five miles. The rainy weather made for wet roads and cool temperatures, but we avoided direct rain until around six o'clock when we found shelter from a downpour in a garden shop shed full of flowers. We left our bike in the greenhouse there and rode in Chrissy's car to a motel nearby.
May 8 Gate City, VA to Pennington Gap, VA
This morning's ride was great on the still-wet roads of rural Virginia, and we were eating lunch under a big maple tree when Dr. Steve Below and his family arrived. Steve's organization, Preferred Chiropractic Doctor, is our main sponsor, and they had driven all the way from Alabama to join us for a few days. With them was Dr. Robert Haynes, our host in the Pennington Gap area. Dr. Haynes' big truck provided us with a much-needed lift to London, Kentucky, to put us back on schedule, after a much-needed chiropractic adjustment at his office. We all had dinner in London, and the kids swam in the pool at the motel. It was wonderful to finally meet Steve, his wife Gina, and their kids Casey, Josie, Buck and Talon. We talked the night away.