Tuesday, May 22, 1984
Christiansburg to Wytheville, Va.
Many cross-country bike tours have been cancelled because of the coronavirus in 2020. No such problem in 1984, when my friend and I took to the TransAmerica Trail. Read more journal entries at the weblog TransAmerica Tour 1984.
Today, our stupidity almost got the best of us.
After a late start, I had problems with my front derailleur and tried to fix it at a gas station. It was 10 a.m. before we got underway. We stopped for a bite at Newbern, where several log cabins appeared to be under restoration (20 years later, this is now the site of the Wilderness Road Regional Museum in Newbern).
We continued on along a road that had a beautiful sweeping vistas of wide green valleys backed by blue tinted mountain ridges (bottom photo).
This led us to the Draper Country Store, “18 and 90” it said above the door. Inside, a guy cut some longhorn cheese from a huge block he kept under glass. The old store had a pool table, a cast iron stove, some well-worn chairs, and lots of unusual items for sale. The postmistress — like many old stores we’ve seen, this one doubled as a post office — told me the history of the community and where everyone had gone off to. Basically, the Greyhound bus pulls up the day after high school graduation and everyone leaves.
After leaving ourselves, we made some good time whipping down a couple of hills and onto a gravel road. After a few miles, I had the awful realization that this was the wrong way, we’d have to go back uphill in the gravel, and it was about to rain. Actually, the rain was a good thing, because it kept down the choking dust from passing cars.
We got directions back to our TransAmerica Route and, checking our Bikecentennial trail directory, called Dickie Boyles at the Wytheville Rec Department to line up a place to stay that night. Whoever answered the phone said we’d have ride out to the baseball fields whenever we got to town because Boyles was working there.
Cycling on interstate
Since we had a deadline, we veered off the TransAmerica Route and rode along the I-81 frontage road in the rain. The frontage road merged onto the freeway. The lanes were narrow and the truck traffic was heavy. The shoulder was gravel, so we rode the white line. We passed roadside turnoffs marked “Nicotine City” and “DMSO.” After a spine-tingling ride, my back tingled with tension, we reached Wytheville in record time.
We found Dickie after asking around and traipsing around this large open park with several baseball diamonds. Dickie told us we had to sleep outside because the new park director didn’t like bike tourists sleeping inside the rec building overnight.
So here we are in the rain. We found the building, which was still open for basketball games. We took long hot showers. We pitched the tent in the back and secured our bicycles against a tree and covered them with plastic tarp. A tiny stream runs through the area and it is flowing pretty good. We walked across the street to a corner bar for a hamburger and beer. The bar TV says 60 percent chance of showers tomorrow. Looks like we’re going to get wet again.
Headline: May 22, 1984 —
Hewlett-Packard has released a portable computer
packed with 272K of RAM,
Lotus and MemoMaker software, and the game Zork.
HP is hoping the 110 ($2,995)
will unseat Radio Shack’s popular Model 100.
We got off to a late start since we had to clean all the tar off the bikes. I had a terrible headache that didn’t go away until I took two Bufferin.
That day’s ride (about 50-plus miles to Whythville–“withvul”) took us until nearly 8 p.m. We first hit mountains, then got lost; then got rained on–on top of a late start. It was beautiful country, though, so there was some consolation.
We stopped for lunch in a tiny hill town called Draper. The post office was attached to a store, though it really couldn’t decide what it was. There was a pool table in the back, some antiques and junk (nice old bottles) on the shelves and about the only thing for sale were smokes and sodas.
Bis and I talked to the woman postmaster and the fellow in the store while we sat on their porch and ate lunch. We had a great view of the rolling hills as we rested in the shade. We both liked the spot. Right after that we got lost and rained on. It was the first real rain we saw and our Gortex and other gear held its own.
We tracked down Dickie Bowles at the softball field in Wythville. He was listed on our maps as the man to see about hostel-type lodgings in town. He told us that we couldn’t stay “in” the community center but we could camp in the park in back of it.
We learned of Dickie’s whereabouts at the softball center after placing a call to his house from outside town. Bis lost several quarters trying to get through, which pissed him off no end. We also had to hop on the interstate for a few miles, which was lousy with rush-hour traffic.
We camped in back of the community center, and got rained on. But what a great night’s sleep inside the tent as the rain came down. It was peaceful. And wet the next morning.
Day 11 — Fellow travellers, different paths
View 1984 Bicycle Tour in a larger map