July 26, Day 55: Mineral to Fredericksburg, VA (42 miles)


Our little shed at Mineral.



Going around Lake Anna.

We realized we didn’t have to go all the way to Ashland to head up the Atlantic Coast route, and that we could just take the 208 north straight to Fredericksburg and save 50 miles. 30 miles away we ran into a road cyclist named Stan and he invited us to stay at his house in Fredericksburg.



Okay, so he ended up having a lot to say that we didn’t agree with, including: the Muslim religion is evil (and Christianity is somehow perfect), there is no rape in Japan, girls get pregnant as teenagers to be popular, Asians treat life cheaply, hence all the prostitution in Thailand, and poverty has nothing to do with violence in America. All this and more aside he was a very interesting, complex character and we appreciated the sense of camaraderie he held toward us as fellow cyclists. We enjoyed his stories about flying airplanes for a living and cave diving very much.

He was really nice and drove us around downtown and to the market.

Can’t complain about steak for dinner.


July 25, Day 54: Happy Geburtstag — Free Union to Mineral Fire Station, VA (70 miles)

“This couldn’t have been a better birthday on or off the road.”

Breakfast at Phoebe’s.

Meet Rose. Awwweeeeee.

String cheese (how did she know we love string cheese?!), brownies, Cytomax, and directions to Charlottesville. So much love. We want Phoebe to be our auntie.

PBJ on Ezekiel bread! We had such similar tastes.

Phoebe does incredible work as an investigator for the Innocence Project at the University of Virginia School of Law. She offered to take our gear into town since she was going there anyway and we got to have a fun 10 mile birthday ride.


Dormitory area designed by Thomas Jefferson.


Bagel from Bodo’s.

Raiding free samples at a gourmet market.

I ordered a cake from Abermarle last night. “Umm, can you spell Krusher?”

Phoebe, Lily, and her friend Megan joined us for cake. It was an actual birthday party.

Bye to our new friends ­čśŽ

We didn’t leave Charlottesville until 3:30pm, and it was time well spent. After being lost for half an hour we started our 55 mile ride to Mineral.


Matt pretended to grab this old lady on a walk and then she turned around while I was holding the camera. It was hard not to laugh.


Matt playing softball with random people in the countryside.

Got to Mineral’s Volunteer Fire Station around 9 or 9:30pm. We took showers, used their kitchen, and watched music videos on the country channel. The firemen were bagging on each other all night. All we can say is there was some sort of sex act caught on tape and they were trying to find who was who.

We set up tent outside right next to the train tracks — we were so sleepy neither of us woke up once.

July 24, Day 53: Blue Ridge Parkway! Mallard Duck to Free Union, VA (68 miles)

Morning housekeeping at Mallard Duck.

Conversation upon leaving:

Camp host: Where’d you get all that water from?!
Me: (a chuckle — I wasn’t sure what he meant. I got the water from the water spigot right next to him.)
Camp host: D’ya speak English?
Matt: Uh, she was born here.
Camp host: Lots of people born here can’t speak English still, but they know what $5 means!

We didn’t have a chance to buy groceries last night so our plan was to restock in Vesuvius, about 9 miles away and before the climb up to the famous Blue Ridge Parkway. Once we got into town and heard church bells ringing we realized we had a problem: it was Sunday and stores were closed.

Gertie’s looked so promising. If you’re going to say there’s BBQ everyday, why not be open everyday?!

We asked people living next door if Gertie’s would open in the afternoon. After they said no we sort of begged for food. We seriously had nothing but some grain mix on us. They gave us two cucumbers, some hamburger buns, and mysterious ham. Beggars can’t be choosers.

At least there was a soda machine so we could get some sugar. Not our favorites so we mixed em. “Dr. Dew, or Mountain Pepper?”

Soon after we finished a roadie stopped and gave us two Powerbars and pickles. Score!
After a steep 4 mile climb up the 56 from Vesuvius we reached the Blue Ridge Parkway. Here we tried to figure out where we were going to camp in Charlottesville. We called a sports/bike store thinking they would know and got on the phone with a woman named Phoebe, and she ended up inviting us to stay at her house! She sounded extraordinarily sweet and we decided to go for it.
Refueling with pickles on a bun. Pretty damn good.

The parkway is a beautiful and for the most part smooth road to ride. Cars and motorcycles are rather accomodating to cyclists as well. The only downside was riding on it for about 30 miles without much food.

The visitor center at Humpback Rocks didn’t have anything to snack on except for a $5 chocolate bar.

Another round of cucumber sandwiches.

Right when we left the visitor center to start the descent to Afton it started raining like never before. Nevermind the previous post about rain–THIS was the most intense rain of the trip. There was so much water in my face I thought my contacts were going to fall out. The road was totally flooded and neither of our brakes worked very well, making the downhill not so fun.


Cars and motocyclists pulled over at the bottom of the parkway near the 250. Our maps said there was food here but everything had been abandoned some time ago.


Took shelter by the abandoned motel with other cyclists who had pulled over.

After the rain let up we bombed down the 250 and 6 (we blew past the Cookie Lady in Afton too — whoops. We heard she was sick anyway), entering sunny farmland.


Matt is starting to look like Yogi with that beard.

The best part of the day was saved for last. By some great alignment of the stars, Phoebe turned out to be the nicest person we’ve met on the trip that the both of us could really jive with. She even once wanted to do graduate work with my undergrad thesis advisor! Small world. We had a lovely pasta dinner with fresh mozzarella, bread with butter!, and her home-baked brownies and milk for dessert. Yes, in addition to her JD from Georgetown, Phoebe has her baking license. They were amazing. She and her daugher Lily really treated us like family and we are so happy to have met them on this trip.

July 23, Day 52: Catawba to Mallard Duck Campground, VA (73 miles)

This morning we said screw the alarm and “slept in” until about 7:30am.

Got fresh biscuits from the store and put the apple butter Perry had given us on it. So delicious.



The terrain wasn’t bad but we were so, so tired. At least we had very nice scenery.

After 20 miles we hit the small town of Troutville. We visited their farmers’ market of a couple stalls and got peaches. The park director was a nay sayer and told us we wouldn’t make it to Mallard Duck. Hey, we made it this far…


bikes on ground, describes how we felt pretty well.20110727-063730.jpg

A lot of people in Troutville recommended us to The Fountain in Buchanan. The malts were good but the food was so bland.




We got off our bikes to walk across the swaying bridge at the James River.

At a gas station near Natural Bridge. What is this?!
10/30 EDIT: Dobsonfly. Mystery finally solved.

Right when we were getting overheated it started raining. Lightning and thunder storming pouring frogs rain (I know what this means now. There were so many tiny frogs on the ground it looked like it was raining frogs). As the Harley gang at the gas station moaned about the rain, we put our gear on and headed out. It was the most rain of the trip so far. We were on mostly flat country roads so it wasn’t so scary.


Lexington. Stonewall Jackson’s grave.

Taken downtown while fixing my flat. Really cute town, too bad there was nowhere to camp.

We ended the day somewhere in the middle of the woods at Mallard Duck Campground. Those crazy bugs were swarming a light near our tent.

July 22, Day 51: Draper to Catawba, VA (57 miles)

Today we were woken up at 6:00am by a bunch of chickens clucking around our tent. Terry Jo came running out of the store and chased them away for us.

Perry gave us a jar of homemade apple butter for the road.

Packing up the tent. Lots of bugs in the grass.

Out front.

Terry Jo didn’t let me take a picture of him — “I’m too old and too red!” — but I snapped a shot of him making breakfast. A bunch of people were lined up for his biscuit sandwiches.

We had just enough money to buy two of these. Oh they were good.

Leaving Draper we felt super tired.


Here Matt realized he left his jacket back at the store. Luckily we chose the driveway with someone pulling out of it and he got a 5 minute ride back to retrieve it. Cars are so fast, woah.


Coming around Claytor Lake, where we were going to camp last night.

In Radford. This was the first major fast food chain we stopped at all trip. Man the chocolate and fresh banana malt hit the spot.

We couldn’t get ourselves to leave town but when we did we found wild blackberries.



Cucumber and gas station ranch, the perfect snack.


Stopped at a country store in Catawba and found the Gatorade we’ve been dreaming of. Why can’t these be everywhere?

Cyclist are allowed to camp behind the store so that’s what we decided to do instead of going 20 more miles to Troutville. There was another cyclist, Lucas, here from Switzerland who was traveling west.

The owner of the store gave Lucas all of the leftover sandwiches, which he then gave to us. We had one and decided to stick with making rice and beans.

July 21, Day 50: Abingdon to Draper, VA (86.5 miles)

After cooking oatmeal we had a not so good breakfast biscuit from a gas station off the 11. We are so tired of gas station fare. Our appetites were also soured by an older man we talked to outside of the store. When we told him we were heading toward Richmond he stood up, walked over to Matt, and whispered, “There’s just some places there you don’t go if you’re white — them niggers took it over.” Then a black man walked by and said hello to him like an old chum. Disgusting, racist pig. But anyway, he then proceeded to talk about Virginia’s wealth compared to California’s… Hello? Why are you blabbing like this to tourists? We remembered the words of David: you just can’t reason with the irrational.

Klean Kut. Next door we bought two tomatoes, some corn, a cucumber, and peaches all for $1.

Lunch stop in Marion. We found an Amish bakery (that wasn’t really Amish) and got the most disgusting pie ever. It was strawberry-rhubarb but we called it bandaid-possum pie. It had the texture of wet plastic bandaids and the appearance of a flattened possum.

More mediocre food at a place called Handsome Molly. Everyone here was drinking tea from plastic bottles and acting posh.

The owner of Dean’s Bikes is really into BMW motorcycles. Super cool guy to talk to.

Ft. Chiswell, riding along the freeway a lot today.

Finally a nice road.





After riding through rolling hills we came to the small town of Draper. We went into a tiny country store and talked to the owner, Terry Jo and his friend Perry for a bit. Terry said we could camp behind his store and Perry treated us to ice cream cones. They were both such sweethearts. Later, as we were setting up, Perry pulled up and invited us to shower at his house down the street! He had gone back to check with his wife first. We were so happy to have a hot shower, and we loved how Perry just kept laughing at the absurdity of our trip. “Glad it’s you and not me!”

Lastly, three views from one corner in Virginia 

July 20, Day 49: Breaks to a Stranger’s Condo in Abingdon (72 miles)

Breaks Interstate Park. Matt imitating a hillbilly that tried to give us directions, or whatever he was trying to give us. I can only imagine how much we must get made fun of.

We met a another couple touring here as well, but they were going west. This is their first tour and they have no idea what they’re doing — really bad gearing, no rain gear, and irrationally afraid of catching rabies. Matt gave them his pepper spray and a heads up on the dogs in Kentucky.

Foggy like nobody’s business. What we saw of the “Grand Canyon of the South” from the viewpoint in the morning. Not sure what we were thinking waiting until the morning, but we really didn’t feel like biking any more last night.

View from Mill Rock Point was kind of better.

Vines taking over everything on the 80.


The picture isn’t great but this was the most beautiful garden.


Stopped at a country market in Council to buy a cantaloupe.

The owner of the store had just been cheated out of $800 by one of this sellers. He warned us of the nasty hill out of Council.

No shoulder on this portion of the 80. Later there was one, but it was full of loose gravel. This was one of the most stressful parts of the TransAm, I have no idea why it’s part of the route. There were speeding coal trucks and cars once again.

After turning off by Rosedale we had a quiet road at last. We saw this sign outside of a church and went in to enjoy the A/C and play their piano. A Dutch couple was there as well.

On the road again… One hour later.




But let’s not talk about where we slaughtered all the Native Americans.


All of a sudden we started climbing Clinch Mountain. Ow. As we got higher and higher I wondered, where are the guardrails? It being a one-lane road was a bit sketchy but traffic was rather light.

At the top we met three roadies taking a breather from booking it up the other side. When we asked if there was a place to camp in Meadowview (16 miles away), one of them invited us to pitch our tent in his backyard.

After a really fast and curvy 3 mile descent we went through Hayters Gap and then turned off to a residential street to get to David’s house (we’ve been meeting so many nice people with that name) in Abingdon.

We’re here!


David was at dinner with his wife by the time we showed up, but we were greeted by a cat, a couple of French bulldogs, and a cooler of beer and water.

The view. Right before we were going to pitch out tent, David called and told us he was going to have us stay in one of his vacant company condos down below the house so we could shower and sleep in real bed. Amazing! We ate all of our emergency food (Top Ramen, bits of tortilla, fruit, and peanut butter) while we waited for their return.

Where are we? It felt so good to stay indoors in a clean house. We zoned out watching TV until midnight. Thanks David for helping us out!

Kentucky Barn Quilts

Throughout our ride in Kentucky we came across a barn every now and then with a large colorful painting on the front. I had no idea what they were at first, and wish I had started taking pictures of them earlier. Matt guessed they were quilt patterns, and that they were. These pieces of art comprise what is called the Kentucky Quilt Line Trail. Finding barn quilts was definitely one of the highlights of riding through the farmland of Kentucky.





I saw this one today in Virginia while on Highway 11:


July 19, Day 48: Hindman, KY to Breaks Interstate Park, VIRGINIA! (71.5 miles)


For breakfast David served up fruit, coffee cake, tea and coffee, strawberry shortcake, and cereal.

We left in morning traffic, sharing the road with numerous coal trucks as well.

Pippa Passes. Shout out to Robert Browning.

Kritter Kuts?! This tops Kampus Kuts in Murphysboro, IL.


Coal centers.



The roads in Appalachia are steep and winding. There are also tons of warning and no trespassing signs. I like the “someone is watching you” sign. David informed us it usually means they’re growing pot.


Matt decided to change his squeaking rear brake pads in Melvin. He ended up breaking something instead and so he went on with no real rear brake power.

As we were riding along a dirt bike with two dudes on it sped passed us and stopped just a bit up the road. It was an interesting scene when we caught up — one guy holding a chrome revolver walking toward a house with a purpose and the other a flask. We heard some gunshots later and that was that.

Okay, the Appalachians are no joke. Thought it wasn’t too long, the road to Lookout was the steepest, leg-busting, head-bursting climb of the trip. It was followed by a nearly vertical, winding descent down to Ashcamp before going up again.

Somewhere along the way there was a huge pit bull at the bottom of a cliff barking at us. “No way” we thought, and next thing we knew the damn thing was running up the cliff and on the road right behind us.



Ready to get out of Kentucky and getting closer to Virginia.

I can’t believe we biked here. We’re in a state that touches the ocean!

Goodbye Kentucky, but we hear the heatwave is going to follow us through Virginia.

last railroad tracks we’d see in Kentucky

Tonight we’re at Breaks Interstate Park, the “Grand Canyon of the East Coast.” Tons of mosquitoes and spiders. We made burritos with brown rice, refried beans, cheese, bell peppers and onions for dinner.