Day 21: Wytheville to Damascus

Yesterday morning, I woke up at 6 AM. Soon, Tripp woke up too. We gathered up our things and then went to the cafe on Main Street, but I didn’t open until 8 AM. The place that opens the earliest is Skeeter’s at 7:30. So we rode two blocks and waited for 30 minutes for the restaurant to open.

We ate breakfast together. Nothing special, just fried eggs, sausage, and toast. It was the calories I needed. We bid farewell after breakfast since Tripp is going east and I’m going west.

I rode about 12 miles to Rural Retreat. At the Subway, I ordered a foot long turkey sub and ate half of it. The other half I carried on the road to eat later.

The town of Rural Retreat

Followed by cows

By the time I got to Sugar Grove it was noon. I ate the other half of the turkey sub while sitting by the Dollar General store. It was a beautiful day and I was glad to be riding. However, I didn’t expect to climb a mountain with my bicycle, which was what happened next. I rode uphill on Mount Rogers. It was so hot that I took off my shirt and was bare-chested. My phone said 71 degrees, but that was before it lost cell signal. It must have been 80 to 85 degrees.

Riding in the forest

As I rode in the forest, a Suburu came up behind me and the driver stopped to tell me it’s all downhill from here. I said, “really?” He said, “nope!” And drove away. I didn’t know people in Suburus are so funny.

As I came down the mountain, I stopped in Troutdale. Originally, I was going to stay there. But when I got to the hostel, which is a church, it was only 2:30 PM. After filling up my water bottles, I met the groundskeeper, Rick. He said the Dutch couple, Tom and Dineke, are staying here for two days. I’m glad they got a good place to stay. Rick offered me a shower even though I wasn’t staying there. I told him I want to get to Damascus so I still have to ride about 20 miles. After I left there, I took the wrong road. I went about a mile before realizing it, and the way back was all uphill.

The church hostel in Troutdale

Saw a few of these flags in Virginia

I got on Route 76 again and most of the ride to Damascus was downhill, except for one uphill. At parts the road was so curvy that I had to slow down. I made good timing due to the downhills and arrived at Mojo’s Trailside Cafe and Coffee restaurant in Damascus. I saw a lot of hikers, all of them doing the Appalachian Trail. This Canadian guy named Greg, trail name “Dreamer”, talked to me for a little while. He’s going north on the trail and hope to get back to Canada before his visa runs out. I was surprised the restaurant closed at 5 PM that day. I was 15 minutes late.

I had heard about The Place from Tripp, who stayed there a couple of nights ago. It’s a hostel and a church. It only hosts Appalachian Trail hikers and cross country bicyclists. When I got there, I thought I saw someone I met on my trip before, but it turns out he’s a different guy. This young fellow had a beard and his trail name is “Beagle”. His real name is Jake and he worked as a bicycle mechanic back in Los Angeles. He told me I’m riding my bike wrong, the gears are not supposed to be crossed since it puts too much strain on the drive train. I had no idea. He told me my chain is too dirty and he will help me clean it later.

The Place, hostel and church

Roy, the caretaker of The Place, showed me my bunk and I checked in. I walked over to the Damascus Old Mill Inn to have dinner. The restaurant is a little upscale. I ordered their signature burger with cole slaw and the total was close to $15, including tip. On the walk back, I bought an ice cream drumstick and had it as a dessert.

When I came back to The Place I took a shower and met up with Jake. He showed me how to clean the chain. Then I put lube on it after the chain was dried. I’m hoping the chain can last another 500 miles at least. I’ve ridden over 700 miles so far. Also the treads on my back tire is worn out. I’m thinking of replacing it or swap it with the front tire since the front tire is less worn.

Jake, with Roy in the background

I broke the 60 mile mark finally, having ridden for 61.9 miles. My max speed was 36.9 mph while going downhill. I didn’t think I was going to be able to ride that long distance but Tripp had said I can do it. Sometimes, I doubt myself.

I ended up going to bed at 9:30 PM last night. Little did I know, my upper back got sunburned since I didn’t put sunblock on it when I took off my shirt during my ride. I had to sleep sideways most of the night.

My allergies was better when I was riding. I hope it’ll go away soon because I only have about four days left of my allergy pills. My wrists still hurt from the fall on the Blue Ridge. I should continue taking the ibuprofen pills.

This morning, I took Jake out to breakfast at Mojo’s because of his help and advice about my bike. Jake is only 25 years old. Last year he rode across the country on his bicycle and this year he’s hiking the Appalachian Trail. What a guy! As I was leaving the restaurant, I briefly met another Dutch couple. They are from Amsterdam and riding on the TransAmerica Trail from Yorktown, VA, to Astoria, OR. Maybe I’ll see them again.

Before leaving Damascus, I want to take my bike to the local bike shop, Sundog Outfitter, to see if I need to replace the chain and buy a new tire. Also I might need to buy some pepper spray since Roy told me there will be dogs in Kentucky chasing me. I had dogs chase me before in Virginia but they were all caged in. I guess the law in Kentucky is different. I should be prepared.