Sunday, May 20, 1984
Sugar Tree Hollow Campground to Natural Bridge, 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 journal entries at TransAmerica Tour 1984.
We bolted from the campground without breakfast, and coasted all the way down to the town of Vesuvius. This is one of the hardest climbs on the TransAmerica Route for eastbound riders; but going westbound, we weren’t even warmed up.
The guidebook says 200 people live here, but we didn’t see a soul. Vesuvius is bisected by the Norfolk Western RR, and it looks like both halves were the “wrong side” of the tracks — everything was boarded up. We ended up at a truck stop on I-81 for breakfast, our bicycles dwarfed by the giant 18-wheelers.
We headed south down the scenic Shenandoah Valley, stopping for lunch at Lexington, home of Washington and Lee University and the Virginia Military Institute. (The congestion at W&L led us to believe it was graduation weekend.)
After suffering over some rolling hills, we decided to take a detour from the TransAmerica Route and pay a visit to the Natural Bridge, one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World, as advertised from countless weathered barn roofs along the way.
The parking lot was filled with Winnebagos. We stashed our bikes behind some shrubbery (we weren’t concerned about the RV crowd ripping us off) and snaked our way through the sprawling gift shop to the entrance. Walking down several flights of rocky steps, we followed a crowded path that led us to a view of the Bridge — a big rock spanning Cedar Creek 214 feet below. Just like the pictures in my old textbooks. They say George Washington carved his initials someplace up there, and Thomas Jefferson once owned the property.
That’s it. Pay $3.50 and see the rock. The path along the creek is paved and rows of benches are available for the evening viewing of the “Dawn of Creation” show. We didn’t stay for it. Am I too jaded?
We were the only campers that night at the nearby Robineh’s Campground, illuminated by yellow bug lights.
Headline: May 20, 1984 —
Roger Clemens, a 21-year-old pitcher for the Boston Red Sox,
wins his first game …
Camped at Natural Bridge, Va., on U.S. Route 11 North (right on it, really) at Websters. The shower is good so we don’t care about the location.
It’s a long story, but I’m still having a slight problem. The only difficulty at Charlottesville was gastrointestinal. The night before we left, I spent more time than I would have liked in the bathroom. And, more or less, that situation has continued. This is almost the third day of it. My stomach feels a touch achy and I don’t have the appetite I should, considering we tackled Afton mountain and the Blue Ridge Parkway yesterday (60-some grueling miles) and 50 today to Natural Bridge. I am adjusting my diet, but this makes for a damned irritating time. I think, however, that the worst is over.
Last night we camped on Mount Vesuvius and I felt so lousy I didn’t have dinner. It was all I could do to take a shower. We had climbed roughly 3,000 feet that day, on steep switchbacks and gentle inclines that rose for 3 miles at a time. What gorgeous country. It was clear and sunny from the tops of the Shenandoahs to the valleys below. We took many pictures. The dogwoods were popping out everywhere, though they were not yet in their full glory.
But the day was taking its toll. So many uphill climbs; they say it’s the hardest stretch on the whole trip, including the Rockies. I can believe it. We have been out exactly a week now, and have covered roughly 300 miles. We are getting more efficient at camping and riding, taking less time to unpack and pack, and less lengthy stops on the bikes.
We are both anxious to be out of Virginia (where we have already laid our tires once before) and into new territory. Tennessee will see us in four or five days.
Today’s ride was especially difficult for me. I had little energy since I hadn’t eaten much (actually, couldn’t eat much) and my stomach was upset. And that effects your mood and makes you think distracting, negative thoughts that I can only label brain farts. They are of no use whatsoever.
Specifics? Well, whenever my front right pack began chirping, as it is determined to do, I wanted first to kick it in, and later, rip it to pieces and throw the frayed contents into the river. That’s what I mean by brain farts.
Luckily, we made the 50 miles to Natural Bridge by 2 p.m., and I didn’t have to listen to chirping anymore. Tomorrow morning I will try to fix it.
I wrote several postcards tonight. I want to let everyone know how we are doing, but it’s tedious to write essentially the same thing a half-dozen times.
One final word about my GI tract. I think it all started the night at Lake Anna when Bis cooked the “Cincinnati chili.” Tonight, we toned it down: noodles, a can of tuna and a can of Chunky Chicken soup, all mixed in one pot. I had only a small amount; also fresh asparagus, which was good.
The bugs are out in full force now, and the Cutter’s is mandatory.
I saw a sign today in front of a motel not far from here that said: “Legal drinks.” I have no idea what it meant.
Day 9 — Tired, tarred and dogged
About the pictures — Top, the town of Vesuvius; bottom, Bruce taking a picture of Natural Bridge
View 1984 Bicycle Tour in a larger map