1984 Bike Tour: Day 5 – Discovering gravity the hard way; And traffic volume then and now

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Thursday, May 17, 1984
Mineral to Charlottesville, Va.
57 miles

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.

Our Bikecentennial guidebook calls this the rolling Piedmont of Louisa and Hanover counties. Contemplating the issue of gravity on the porch of Kent’s Store, I decided I’m carrying too much stuff.

These might be called rollercoaster hills, but they aren’t as much fun as an amusement park. I speed downhill at top speed, cross a creek, then begin the uphill struggle. All that momentum is lost the moment the slope changes.

Even though I had installed a triple chainring, giving me 15 gears, I can’t downshift fast enough to sustain any speed. I’m either jamming the chain or dropping down to the lowest gears, spinning the pedals furiously to make any progress.

We took a lunch break at the old Kent’s Store. There’s a long wooden porch high off the ground, making a handy place to lean a bicycle, sit, and dangle weary legs. The snack bar inside provided sandwiches and cold drinks.

We met two older cross-country cyclists coming from the opposite direction, finishing their trip. They hadn’t started on the West Coast, not this year. They’ve been taking four weeks off each summer to ride it section-by-section. They expected to finish last year, but the husband developed a serious case of saddle sores.

This usually starts as a mere pimple on a person’s butt that becomes infected due to less than perfect hygiene … those wet, warm bicycling shorts are a rich environment to raise bacteria. Anyway, he was in great pain after crossing from Kentucky into Virginia, so a Methodist minister they met up in the Appalachians drove them to a hospital in Charlottesville where he was swabbed up and sent home.

After a year off, they’ve returned to finish their journey.

Charlottesville was our destination today. We arrived in the middle of the afternoon and dozed in the sun on the University of Virginia campus while we waited for the sister of one of Bruce’s friends to get off work so we could crash at her apartment.

We just about trashed that apartment. Not on purpose, but with our bicycles and gear strewn all over the place, there was hardly room to move around.

Headline: May 17, 1984 — Cincinnati Reds pitcher Mario Soto strikes out four batters in the 3rd inning (becomes only 11th NL pitcher to do so at that time).

(No Bruce’s Journal today)

Note: Something that I’ve wondered about is how much traffic levels have grown since Bruce and I took that bike trip.

I’ve moved around a lot during that time, so it’s hard to compare one location over time. I recall going back to Annapolis for some bike riding a few years ago, and being struck at how congested some of my old bike routes were. Bruce confirms that he avoids many of the old training routes we used to ride.

The Missouri Bicycle Federation in 2008 published a graphic from the Federal Highway Administration that shows the skyrocketing traffic volumes on US roads and highways since 1983.

The volume of traffic has nearly doubled since Bruce and I took this trip. The good news is that volume has leveled off and slightly decreased recently. Whether that trend will continue is unknown.

Update 2022: Actual vehicles miles has actually dropped since 2008, according to what I’ve read at the Federal Highway Administration. The estimated traffic volume actually fell slightly in 2021 to 2,966,396 million miles, down from 3,017,314 million miles in 2008. More information at FHA.


Day 6: Rest day; mailing gear back home

Permanent link to this article: https://www.bikingbis.com/2020/05/17/1984-bike-tour-day-5-discovering-gravity-the-hard-wayand-traffic-volume-then-and-now/

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