Saturday, September 26, 2015


Maybe I'm just lucky, but I don't recall ever having a bad visit in Virginia.  My first visit to the state came a few years after graduation to visit Shane who was in graduate school at Virginia Tech.  At the time, I was surprised to find the route 81 corridor between the mountains much more open fields and fewer trees than I expected of the state, but after meeting the people and getting further off the beaten highway, well, maybe I'm just lucky, but I've never had a bad Virginia visit.

My first full day (of roughly four) in the state greeted me with cloudy skies which soon gave way to rain, but given no particular rush, I had time to seek shelter as I could find it and wait out the hardest downpours.  I think I covered less than 50 miles the whole day in spurts, riding in bare feet and Crocs to keep my sneakers dry, and I'd say the relative rest did me good.  Of course, the halting pace meant I was still about 15 miles when dusk started to take hold and I discovered my rear light had dead batteries, so I opted for discretion over valor (or any sense of pride--I hear it proceedeth a fall anyway) and ducked under the rt33 bridge over the Shenandoah River where I found a large flat pad by the abutments as a bone dry place for the night.  Hobos know best!

NY doesn't get it,
PA doesn't get it,
but Virgina GETS IT!
This is what a bike route should look like.

But all wet weather must come to an end, and I woke in the morning to wonderfully dry, but overcast skies for perfect riding weather.  Headed for Lexington and a wonderful Warmshowers with Rebecca and Lee on their farm, I was treated to my best day of this tour thus far.  In particular, was the superlatively good rt 608, a quiet little byway running between a river and railroad tracks through a narrow valley.  With a car passing roughly ever 15 minutes, well, yes, this VA bike route is just what such a state recommendation should be.  After learning to avoid other state's routes like flesh eating bacteria, this was just such a treat.  Thank you Virginia!

After a relaxing night on the farm, the next day began with more of the same: good roads, good weather, and a sense of general well being, I even had a sentimental five year reunion with likely the coolest foot bridge I've ever met, although with the day's sunshine, I find the images from this go round a little less ethereal.  Still, I found the return to something familiar surprising touching.

 Five years later, still there,
and still wonderfully wonky.

All those praises said, however, there are still roads in VA that are best avoided, and I found one in the form of rt220 south out of Roanoke.  Egad, high speed winding road with little or no shoulder gave for a bit more excitement than I really needed, but with no other viable option through the mountain gap, I dug in a made as short work of the 10 miles as I could before a return to more peaceful back roads, and some time reflect and enjoy my continued existence in a three dimension state of non-roadkillness.

For years, my truest sign that I'd entered the south
was always the first sight of the eleven yellow squares of a Waffle House.
Guess I've managed some good routes:
I'd been south of the Mason-Dixon for four days
before passing this one to the south of Roanoke.

Still, alls well that ends well, and I was treated to good riding for the close of the day and my last night in the state, camped out near an Army Engineers dam with military aircraft making low altitude valley runs just overhead.  Impressively loud, daunting, and mercifully short lived (in my case) to allow for a good night's sleep, these jets must scar the bejeezus out of anyone who disagrees with the US foreign policy.  I cannot even fathom being in the sights of one.

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