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1984 Bike Tour: Day 14 — A salute from King Coal

PIPPA PASSES, KY. — Last night's fear and loathing about spending the foreseeable future dodging coal trucks turned out to be a waste of time.

Coal is king in these parts, but even the king gives a holiday to his subjects over the Memorial Day weekend. No coal trucks confronted us today. We could see them parked in gravel parking lots behind chainlink fences, their trailer beds tilted up so they wouldn't collect rainwater. It was as if they were saluting our passage.

Although the coal trucks were absent, the grinding terrain still had to be dealt with. As we broke camp in the morning, an old camper who knew the area said our route would be “rough as a cob.” We didn't know how rough a cob was, but we soon found out. …

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.bikingbis.com/2020/05/26/1984-bike-tour-day-14-a-salute-from-king-coal/

1984 Bike Tour: Day 13 – That’s the Breaks

BREAKS INTERSTATE PARK, Va. — There's nothing like a big ol' country-style breakfast to start the day — if you plan to go right back to bed.

Bruce and I weren't napping, however. Rev. Chuck and his wife served us an extra helping of biscuits 'n' gravy, along with sausage, bacon and eggs this morning. He said we'd need that extra larder to get over “Big A” Mountain up the road. …

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.bikingbis.com/2020/05/25/1984-bike-tour-day-13-thats-the-breaks/

1984 Bike Tour: Day 12 – We meet the Rev at Elk Garden

ELK GARDEN, VA. — “Bikers. Take a Break. Good Cool Water. Welcome.”

After climbing in and out Appalachian hollers all day and seeing a sign like that, we didn't need to be told twice to stop for a while. That's where we met the Rev, another unforgettable person on our TransAmerica Tour. …

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.bikingbis.com/2020/05/24/1984-bike-tour-day-12-we-meet-the-rev-at-elk-garden/

1984 Bike Tour: Day 11 – Fellow travelers, different paths

GRINDSTONE CAMPGROUND, VA. — We hit it all today — headwinds, rain, steep hills, illness and an opposite direction bicycle tourist (he had a nice tailwind) who told us how great things were. That last was the hardest to take.

We broke camp at the Elizabeth Brown Memorial Park, packed our damp gear, and headed to the laundromat in town. I tried to fix my front derailleur while my shoes dried, broke the nut, cursed and threw things, then walked around town until I found an auto parts store where a guy replaced it for free.

Back on rolling Route 11 again, we came across a guy who was wrapping up his cross-country trip from San Francisco…

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.bikingbis.com/2020/05/23/1984-bike-tour-day-11-fellow-travelers-different-paths/

1984 Bike Tour: Day 10 – Dickie Boyles, where are you?

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 as 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

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…

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.bikingbis.com/2020/05/22/1984-bike-tour-day-10-dickie-boyles-where-are-you/

1984 Bike Tour: Day 9 – Tired, tarred and dogged

Hills, dogs, tar and lots of miles. What an exhausting day.

We left the campground on our bicycles 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 painted with faint ads dot the landscape.

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. …

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.bikingbis.com/2020/05/21/1984-bike-tour-day-9-tired-tarred-and-dogged/

1984 Bike Tour: Day 8 – Natural Bridge seems so unnatural

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 town — 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.) …

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.bikingbis.com/2020/05/20/1984-bike-tour-day-8-natural-bridge-seems-so-unnatural/

1984 Tour: Day 7 – Climb a mountain, meet the Cookie Lady

This is by far the most difficult day of the trip. We rode through rolling farmland, struggled up switchbacks to the Cookie Lady's Bike House, then discovered the Blue Ridge Parkway is not level.

This is the part of the trip we should have been training for all spring, but I don't think even that would have prepared us for this.

We enjoyed meeting the Cookie Lady, who shared some time with us. [We had no way of knowing that her helpfulness to bicycling passersby would later result in the Adventure Cycling Association's Trail Angel Award being named in her honor.] Later, however, we became distressed to learn that we had more climbing and farther to ride to reach our campground…

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.bikingbis.com/2020/05/19/1984-tour-day-7-climb-a-mountain-meet-the-cookie-lady/

1984 Bike Tour: Day 6 – Rest day and mailing gear back home; 1984’s Top 40

Six days into our TransAmerica bike tour, and we're already taking our first day off. The first five days have been a shakedown cruise — the last days of training and the first of our trip. I feel that our journey begins in earnest tomorrow.

After lolling around our hostess' apartment for a while, we boxed up some clothes to send back home. I sent back an extra sweater and other clothes that only filled space and added weight to my panniers.

Why did I pack so much crap? Maybe I can cheat gravity a little a we head into the Appalachians…

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.bikingbis.com/2020/05/18/1984-bike-tour-day-6-rest-day-mailing-gear-back-homethat-years-top-40/

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

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….

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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/