torsdag 14. august 2014

Day 61: The Finale

96.3 km

In order to arrive at the final destination on time, I woke up at 3:00 am and started biking at 4:00 am. At this time of day, it was pitch black outside and there were no street lights anywhere so I put on my head lamp to be able to make out the road ahead. When I first started biking down the road, I realized that the traffic wasn't as calm as I had expected it to be during these hours so I figured that the danger of not being seen by fast passing cars from behind was greater than not seeing where I was going. I made a quick stop a couple of hundred meters after starting and put my head lamp in epilepsy mode and mounted it on the back rack of my bike. 

I had planned on staying on highway 1 all the way to Washington Monument and I was displeased to learn that the road had no street lights, four lanes most of the time and was mostly shoulderless. Although it was nice to ride in the early morning, the day's riding was in the most stressful and dangerous conditions I have ever ridden in. Having trouble to see the road ahead was particularly dangerous on the descents and I was unable to adjust my eyes to the darkness thanks to being blinded by the bright lights from oncoming traffic. Even after the sun rose over the horizon and the traffic increased considerably until it was heavily trafficked, the riding was bad with about 20 cm of space to the right of the white line and aggressive drivers who often honked and came dangerously close to me, even though bikes was allowed on the road and I hugged the edge of the pavement as tightly as I could. 

After making a few short stops to calm myself down, I knew I was very close as I passed by the Pentagon and got my first glimpse of the monument, towering on the other side of the river. Once I got over the river I had to make a left turn over 3 lanes with a constant flow of high speed traffic, but I gave it up and went for the next exit to the right instead. After improvising by going through a tunnel, I found my way to Washington Monument at around 10:00 am, where I met a familiar face. My girlfriend had flown in from Norway and was there waiting in the shadows of the trees in the park with the mighty monument in the background. The feeling of reaching my goal after having been on the road for two months and having someone to share the moment with, was such an amazing feeling that i struggle hard to find words to describe this feeling. It was unlike anything I had experienced in my life. It was still surreal to me that I had in two months crossed the width of the continent on my bicycle, seen so many, so different places and met so many wonderful people. It was hard to grasp the full magnitude of the moment, but I expect it to be a process over the next few days, or even weeks. 

After receiving a Trans America cycling jersey and taking pictures, we made our way to the nice hotel a few blocks up the street from the White House. We spent the rest of the day catching up on the last two months of being apart and went out for dinner later.

søndag 10. august 2014

Day 60: Off Route

107.4 km

By 9:00 I had packed up and checked out, ready to head off the ACA mapped route so I had to rely on the intel I had been gathering through Google Maps at the hotel. I had a general idea of where to go but the details had to be studied further and memorized. The plan was to reach Fredericksburg, VA today so that I would have slightly less than 100 km on my last day. Not having the luxury of following a mapped cycling-route, I found my way out by the main roads through town and I had to take some dangerous maneuvers such as taking a left turn crossing 5 lanes of high speed traffic.

The riding was nice and quiet with gently rolling hills and partially clouded weather. Riding today was very emotional as it started to dawn upon me what I was about to complete. Over the last two months I have invested so much time, effort and emotion in getting myself from one end of the country to the other on my own, far away from home. The sense of accomplishment have gradually increased along with the sense of commitment to completing, as the days have passed and I was now getting a very strong empowering feeling. 

After a while, I got to the city of Orange where I stopped for lunch before continuing down the road again. As I got closer to Fredericksburg, traffic increased gradually and when I got to the major road into town, the road was so heavily trafficked, on a shoulderless four lane road, that there were some serious close call encounters with passing traffic.

I decided to find a place to sleep as soon as I got to Fredericksburg, without taking location into consideration as I hoped it would be better to get through town at a less busy hour. The plan was to arrive at the final destination tomorrow morning at 9:30, which meant I would have to start cycling at night, so I got to bed at a Super 8 fairly early. 

Day 59: Rest Day in Charlottesville

Most of the day was spent at the hotel, organizing my stuff, talking with my family and watching TV. I also rode my bike to the historic part of downtown where I sat down at a café and wrote a couple of blog entries. 

lørdag 9. august 2014

Day 58: Closing in

49.2 km

Knowing I was in no rush to get the day's short mileage done, so I hung back in Waynesboro before setting off into the big hill I had come down yesterday. After riding over gently rolling hills, I stopped at an orchard where I bought some homemade frozen yoghurt. I sat there for quite some time, pondering upon the epic journey I have had so far. It is still surreal for me that it was just two months ago I was on the other side of the country, struggling to find my way on my own over the Cascades. It seems like it was in another lifetime. Although it seems long ago, the days have gone by very fast with so many new experiences every day. 

After a lengthy stop, I headed out on the road again towards Charlottesville. Reaching Charlottesville, was a milestone of its own since this is the place I will be dropping the TransAm trail mapped by the Adventure Cycling Association and finding my own way to Washington D.C. I had planned on using two days from Charlottesville to the official endpoint of this trip at Washington Monument, so I had one day to spare that I decided on spending in Charlottesville. I found a room, checked in for two nights and kicked back after a hot and short day. 

torsdag 7. august 2014

Day 57: The Blue Ridge Parkway

90.0 km

Packed up and checked out, I headed out for breakfast down the road. I knew today was going to be very tough with a highly anticipated climb up to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Elliot from day 43 had warned me about this serious climb I would get that obviously was a desdcent from a westbounder's perspective, as he had experienced serious overheating of his rims due to the intense breaking down the steep hillsides. 

After 30 km, I pulled off to the ringt, soon to see the road winding itself upward with a terrifying grade. The climb could easily be omitted by taking some off-route roads, but I had expected this climb for weeks and knew it was going to be taking me up to the last of the mountains for this trip. To be honest, this was probably the steepest climb of the trip and the combination with the distance through which it continued made for an exhausting ride. Once I got to the top, I rode onto the Blue Ridge Parkway - a highway following the Blue Ridge. The ride on top of the ridge offered some breathtaking views on both righ and left side with several vista points to stop at. The ride also included some tough climbs as well as joyful descents before the final major descent from the last of considerable mountains of this trip. 

The 40-50 km on top of the ridge offered no services and I had finished all my bottles and was starting to get increasingly hungry. Luckily, I passed a visitor center on the way down and got to refill my bottles before the urge got too great. Few minutes later I arrived at an junction with some other major roads connecting to some larger cities in the area where I grabbed the opportunity for a meal from a hot dog truck parked by the road. I sat down with a hiker, doing the famous Appalachian Trail hike from Maine to Georgia. He gave me some advice on where to spend the nice. He suggested I roll down a big hill to Waynesboro, a nice little town where I got a motel room for the night. 

onsdag 6. august 2014

Day 56: Natural Wonder of the World

69.9 km

The day started with a small breakfast before heading out at 9:00. From the start I knew it was going to be a hot day as temperatures were working their way up. The first part of the riding was along a ridge towards Natural Bridge that offered wonderful views of the Appalachians. After stopping for some more food, I continued in good spirits.

After another few km I reached a town slightly off route, named after one of the seven natural wonders of the world located there - Natural Bridge. The 500 million year old rock - Natural Bridge is 65.6 m high and was bought (along with the surrounding land) by Thomas Jefferson from King George III of England for 20 shillings which today is about 2.4 dollars. Standing under this enormous structure made a strong impression of the sheer grandeur that Nature is capable of. I took my photos and sat there for a while before heading out again. As I started pedaling towards Lexington, out of nowhere a car slowed down beside me, rolled down the window and the lady in the passenger seat wished me a good ride.

As I got closer to Lexington, it really started to pour down so when I arrived in the beautiful town, I got changed and sat down at a bar and ordered a burger and a beer. I later walked around the historic town before finding my way to a motel for the night. 

Day 55: Troubling Thirst

93.5 km

I got off to a late start at 11:00 with the sun shining and the temperatures rising. The first part of the day went by very fast going through narrow and windy country roads and rolling hills. After the first 70 km I made a stop in just past Catawba where I sat under the shade of a bush for a late lunch. I didn't pass any store that seemed to be open in the small town and as I made my way further, I realized a little too late that I had passed the whole town in hope of finding a source of water. With temperatures getting close to 40 centigrade, about a quarter of a bottle of water left and 30 km to the next town. I was sweating like crazy and the rate at which the fluids seeped through the pores of my skin was alarming, considering that I had used up all my water.

Feeling lightheaded, I walked into a gas station 30 km later to ask if I could fill up my bottles somehow. The cashier told me that due to the nearby roadwork, they had to close up the water supply so for the first time of the trip I think, I had to pay for water, but man it was good!

Later, I stopped by a pizza place and downed a large one before giving up on finding a camp spot and went for a motel in Daleville instead. 

mandag 4. august 2014

Day 54: King Size

52.4 km

Not very eager to get up early, I finally dragged myself out of the tent at 10:00. Th sun was shining and it was a beautiful day, as most days had been. I sat at the nearby table trying to figure out where to end the day, and by 12:30 I was on the bike. I cruised lightly along the narrow backroads recommended by the maps before I ended up in Radford. The heat had been significantly higher today than the previous days, so it felt good to step inside in the A/C at a Mexican restaurant.

After a hearty meal, I rolled right across the street to a motel to check the prices. The extremely friendly and helpful Indian man at the lobby was sorry to inform me of the lack of available rooms, but directed me to a similar motel on the other side of town that he was the owner of. He wrote down directions for me and called the receptionist and told him to give me a king size bed for about 20% off. I biked over there, stopping only for groceries and spent the evening doing some writing.

Day 53: One Big Rest Stop

68.3 km

When I first started biking at 9:30, I felt incredibly strong and rested. I don't remember ever having such a feeling of being able to cycle any distance, loaded or not. The first 50 km went by incredibly fast and I was feeling very motivated. When I thought of the fact that it was no need for me to bike very far for the rest of the trip, it dealt a kind of demoralizing blow to my motivation. Because I had prior to the departure for Seattle set a fixed date for my flight home - paid and everything- I had always had this small bit of pressure to do the daily mileage or more, so that I can relax if an accident was to occur or if I needed rest days or even just to relax at the end. Now that I am at the end, without any accidents to make up for and have had more rest days than ever planned, I find myself in a position where I actually want to bike for a considerable amount of hours a day. I have gotten so used to the routine that I felt restless, even 50 km into the day. 

When I reached Max Meadows - a small town with a convenience store and a railroad cutting through, I spotted a pavilion under which I probably could chill out for some time. I went over to the store and got a cold drink and sat down in the shade, studying my maps. I was trying to decide wether I should push for Yorktown (the official endpoint of the Trans America Bicycle Trail), an option which included I would have to backtrack 150 km and be a little stressful, or just take my time, aiming for D.C. the whole time. 

After spending about 6 hours (!) on the same bench, reading a book and taking nap, I decided it was time to go. It didn't take me long to get to the next campground and after passing it to get a delicious meal at an Italian restaurant, I headed back about 2 km to the campground. I got there as little late due to basically the whole day being spent in procrastination, but I managed to get a sweet spot by the river just as the sun set behind the rugged Appalachians. 

Day 52: Layover in Marion

I realized I had a couple of days to spare so I decided upon waking up that this was a decent place to take a rest day. I spent the day biking into town to take a look around. I also bought some food, talked to home and generally relaxed in my  room. Not too much else to report from this day. 

fredag 1. august 2014

Day 51: Another Day in The Appalachians

99.4 km 

Starting the day at the quiet park was a good way to prepare for those coming steep climbs. Within the first kilometer I arrived at what would be the biggest climb of the day, but gradients were slightly more humane than some of the other hills I had to traverse. Climbing up, I got a glimpse of the valley I had come through over my shoulder of the tree-covered mountainous terrain, with its lush beauty glimmering under the partially clouded sky. The descent from these climbs had been so much fun with winding roads and sharp corners to test your technical abilities on the bike. I had also heard stories of horrible accidents coming down from these hills as the excessive clutching of the breaks can generate intense heat. 

After a quick stop in Honaker where I made something to eat, I met a female, lone westbound cyclist warning me about some steep grades and shoulderless roads with heavy truck traffic. I returned the favor by giving her some information on the route ahead. 

I knew the day was going to be hard with several steep climbs of over 300 vertical meters followed by an immediate equal drop in elevation and after making my way through some really beautiful countryside, I arrived in Meadowview. Here I stopped for a lunch at a restaurant that appeared to be a little too high class for a sweaty, spandex-covered cyclist, but at least the food was awesome. 

The ride from Meadowview to Marion took place on a parallel road to the interstate and the intense headwind and the presence of fatigue from the strenuous effort over the days mountains, made me longing for the end of the day. I managed to find a dirt cheap motel at the east end of town after going to the supermarket to make sure I had enough fruit, bake goods and snacks to indulge in for the rest of the month. I spent the rest of the evening taking a shower, writing and doing some laundry.