There's a different mindset that goes with being familiar with the terrain I'm about to ride through, as opposed to not knowing in advance whether it will be hilly or flat, open or wooded. I've travelled between Wytheville and Blacksburg a lot in years past. The countryside has a certain charm to it, but it also has I81 and traffic-stressed urban & suburban Radford and Christiansburg. Plus a lot of hills. It's a ride I need to do, but I'm not all that psyched up about it as I pack up my schtuff.
towers on Draper Mt...am I going there?
The geology of this area is a complicated mix of banged up carbonate rocks on the Pulaski thrust sheet, among inliers and outliers of older and younger sandstone and shale. Crystalline metamorphic rocks are not far to the east. This makes for unsettled topography, even the interstate and Route 11 have a hard time maintain straight lines and even grades.
The plan is to ride to Blacksburg and lay over for a day visiting my friend Llyn. There's been discussion of my family driving down from Charlottesville and joining us, it's unclear whether that will pan out. I have navigtional challenge: see if I can figure out how to hook into the Huckleberry Trail bike trail on the Christiansburg end, and ride that over to Blacksburg rather and go into Blacksburg than going down into the Ellett Valley on the ACA route and then climbing back up the big hill to Blacksburg. Been there done that.
Fueled with big pancakes at the local breakfast spot I headed north. The ride out to Max Meadows rolled through countryside enshrouded in haze that the sun hadn't yet burned off. I81 was off somewhere to the east, the noise of the never-ending stream of trucks superimposed on sounds of lawnmowers, weed wackers, a corn harvesting operation, and the occasional rooster. Climbing over the ridge & descending to Ft. Chiswell I greet the I81 beast head-on.
Trucks, cars, more trucks, truck stops, fast food, all the stuff I've been missing out on riding all these funky back roads. I commit photodocumentation and head up the frontage road.
I81 interchange, not lovely cycling
The ride through Draper over to Radford takes me down a little country road with a few killer ups & screamer downs. At Draper I pause at an access point to the New River bike trail system. This has been taken on by the State as a linear park (a la KATY trail in Missouri). On the posted map it doesn't seem to be headed where I need to go, so I press on up the paved road. Something to explore another time.
New River at Radford in the haze, folks floating
At Radford I stop at the bike shop on Main Street because, well, it's a shop with a bunch of bikes outside & I'm ready for a break. I jaw a bit with owner Dave, we look at maps and he helps plot a course to the Huckleberry trailhead in Christiansburg. Climbing out of Radford I realize I'd forgotten to eat within recent history, I do the peanut butter and bagels under a big shade tree on The Radford U campus.
In Christiansburg the goal was to find my way to the back of a shopping center located at the intersection of 2 major highways. I navigate the side streets as best I can, but in the end there's a gap of about half a mile that forces me onto US460. The GPS map says If I can somehow get through this cloverleaf intersection I'll be almost there.....I cruise the shoulders up and around, using gaps in traffic to get where I need to be. And there, in the backwaters of a bunch of big box stores, is a yellow gate and some yellow signs with bicycles on them. There are a couple of local cyclists hanging out, we chat, and then I head west on the asphalt trail.
The Huckleberry began its life hauling coal out of mines on nearby Price Mountain, later hauling cadets and mail to Virginia Tech. The trail is both serene and scenic, very well constructed and maintained, with centerlines and signage. Around 4:30 I roll through the streets of Blacksburg & pull up into Llyn's front yard.
I'm beat, done a lot of riding with little down time since Carbondale. Turns out my family had prior commitments and stayed in Charlottesville. Llyn & I visited and ate Mexican, I'm going to hit the hay early. Tomorrow there's going to be canoe adventure of some sort, that always goes with the territory when you visit Llyn. And I probably won't go anywhere on the bike.