Monday, May 21, 1984
Natural Bridge to Christiansburg, Va.
I’m reprinting day-to-day journal entries here from a cross-country bicycle tour my friend Bruce and I took in 1984. Read more at TransAmerica Tour 1984.
Hills, dogs, tar and lots of miles. What an exhausting day.
We left the campground at 7 a.m. and followed Route 11 — known locally as the Valley Pike — right through to the TransAmerica Route in Buchanan and beyond. The roadway is like a trip out of the ’50s — the highway is cement and weathered roadside barns sport advertisements for chewing tobacco and stores in Roanoke.
We turned off 11 and followed some low-country roads along the Norfolk-Western RR. Many dogs here. At one house, two dogs raced out of the yard chasing Bruce’s bike. One mean-looking mongrel actually bit into the rear of his pannier and tried to drag him to a stop. Bruce laughed, but looked shocked. I sprinted past the dog as he stood at the edge of the road after failing to pull Bruce over.
We ate lunch at Troutville, near where Anne Tyler wrote “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.” Leaving we followed an ever climbing road that cut between Tinker and Catawba mountain on one side and Gravely and Sandstone ridges on the other. With rising temperatures and flagging energy we stopped at Catawba store. I bought a healthy bottle of OJ, Bruce got 16 oz. of Pepsi. Although it runs counter to all the health reports I’ve read in my cycling magazines, that Pepsi seemed to do more for Bruce than the OJ did for me.
Tar and chip hell
We ran across a major problem on this road — fresh tar and chip. The tar made the tires sticky so they picked up chipped gravel. It felt like we were riding across sticky flypaper, which we didn’t need on a hill. Small rocks stuck to our tires, under our fenders and our legs. After finally turning off this road, I was ready to call it quits when we reached Blacksburg, but there was nowhere to stay. We rode another 13 miles of hilly road into Christiansburg. I was suffering, and Bruce had to wait for me at the top of many short climbs.
We stopped at a Day’s Inn, and Bruce jokingly asked the guy at the desk about the “bikers’ discount.” He actually knocked a couple of bucks off the price. From the looks of the room after cleaning up our bikes, it’s probably the last “bikers’ discount” he’ll ever offer.
Headline: May 21, 1984 –
Time Magazine’s cover story is entitled
“Olympic Turmoil: Why the Soviets said Nyet”
Today we came about 75 miles through and around the rolling Shenandoahs. It was clear and 84 degrees. I took my shirt off for less than an hour in shaded forest and now, camped in a motel in Christiansburg, Va., my back is red and stinging.
We made Christiansburg by about 5:30 p.m. We looked for a boarding house or tourist room but found none. I’m watching a TV movie, “The First Olympics; Athens 1896.” It’s the first TV I’ve seen, I think, since we hit the road.
Our ride today was different, as usual. We encountered hot tar for the first time, and the bikes are still wearing it. We had probably four or five miles on this “tar and chip” road and the sun had heated the tar to bubbling. There were also wide strips of it throughout the road. There was no avoiding it, and we were going uphill most of the way. No fun there. Not only did it stick to the tires and get kicked up into the fenders, spokes, brakes and even water bottles, it actually slowed us down.
After that, we reached Catawba, about 15 miles from Troutville. I was so hot and thirsty, even after lots of water and a quick dip in a country stream, I inhaled a 16-ounce Pepsi at a country store against all my better judgment. The prevailing wisdom is that such a sugar high will pick you up temporarily, but when you crash, you will really crash. So much for prevailing wisdom. I felt tremendous the rest of the day.
I went down again today. Nothing serious; lost my balance on a steep hill. I was breathing hard and just lost it. I was really disgusted. But what could have been really serious was an earlier incident in which I was attacked by a dog–two, really, and one got hold of my rear pannier. It was in a valley near railroad tracks. The damn dog almost took me out. Bis was behind me and when he saw the scene, he prepared himself with his water bottle and squirted himself out of danger.
I’m in bed now thinking about flossing my teeth. I’ve been faithful so far, but this bed is so comfortable. Always responsibilities, even on vacation.
Day 8 — Natural Bridge seems so unnatural
Day 10 — Dickie Boyles, where are you?
View 1984 Bicycle Tour in a larger map