Nick on the bike 2005: Oregon to Virginia
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Day 61:Camp Bethel to the Blue Ridge crest above St. Marys Wildeness
September 13, 2005, 6:40 PM
Where am I now: (37.91196N by 79.08675W at 3297 ft.)
Today's distance: 68 miles

I was riding north on the Blue Ridge Parkway a mile or so north of Whetstone Ridge around 4:30 this afternoon. Spinning along in a low gear trying to recover from the ascent up Irish Creek. I heard the bike before I saw it, BMW twin by the sound of it. The motorcycle rounds the corner and pulls up along side. My friend & motorcycle riding buddy Alex Dudley has ridden up from Charlottesville bringing barbercue, balcava and beer! What a treat on the final evening of my trip! We ride our respective steeds to a campsite overlooking the Saint Marys wilderness. Then I enjoy good eats and a great visit with an old friend. This was very cool.

I think I'm actually almost home. At least the lat long numbers say I am. And this road up here is somehow familiar. Alex tells me I have about one more day of good weather before Charlottesville falls under the influence of the latest hurricane. That should about do it, I figure I'm about 50 or 60 miles out from Burnley Station.

Today was yet another spectacular day to be riding a bicycle in Virginia. Or a motorcycle for that matter. Last night I camped about 10 miles below the town of Buchanan. The James River flows through Buchanan, and there was thick fog in the river valley this morning.

I ate a leisurely breakfast at the Corner Cafe in town waiting for the fog to burn off, complete with engaging conversation with locals about all the cyclists and AT hikers that seem to show up all the time. The sun was just burning through as I rode the RT11 bridge across the James and headed up the road toward Lexington.

For about 10 miles the ACA route follows frontage roads in close proximity to I81world. Which gets a little tiresome. But then the route takes off to the west of the interstate onto a wonderful set of country roads through rural Rockbridge County, a great ride up to Lexington.

more Ordovician gray rocks....

I rolled right on down Main Street and through the Virginia Military Institute campus without stopping.

Lexington's a great place to stop and visit, but the town is not new to me. My sites are on the Blue Ridge, and the day is no longer young.

I stop at the grocery at the foot of South River Road for supplies. I've been here for lunch stuff more than once, back when I was doing field work for the Rockbridge County geologic map.

Table Mountain west of Lexington

the Blue Ridge east of Lexington

South River Road headed for Irish Creek (center)

A few miles up South River, I head east up Iriah Creek Road.

This is a kinder, gentler, and in some ways more scenic route up to the Blue Ridge Parkway than Rt56 out of Vesuvius, but there're a couple of miles of unpaved road at the top of the climb. I stopped a few miles in for bagels & peanut butter.

lunch venue on Irish Creek

The unpaved portion was more gnarly than when I last rode it in the Spring. There's a logging operation going on, and it looks like they recently put down a bunch of gravel for the big trucks. I did a lot of bouncin and sliding around in places, could have gotten mad and acursin'. But hey, as I told Alex, at this point it really doesn't matter. I just run the bike up and down whatever's there. Maybe I'm in high gear going fast, maybe I'm in low gear going slow, the enery output's the same. Food intake's the same. Sometimes it's fun, sometimes it's work, sometimes it's a bitch. But it's what I do. At least for the next day or so.

At Whetstone Ridge on the Parkway I fill my empty water tanks for dry camping. The Park Service keeps the restrooms open and the water on at the rest area there, even though for years now there has been no private-sector vendor willing to take on running the restaurant and campground, sort of a shame. There's a cyclist at Whetstone who's ridden up the Parkway from the James River, this is his turn-around point. That's a tough ride, buddy, get down the road the sun is getting low.

one of my favorite views off the Blue Ridge Parkway

me about beat

& Alex, what a treat!

Tomorrow: I'm goin' home!