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.



  1. I had a cucumber sandwich for my lunch too, but the bottom was laced with juicy slices of BBQ pork and pepperoncini spread. Wonder if tasted as good as yours?

  2. Pingback: CHICAGO|芝加哥 | TAIWAN | 台灣 « THIS IS SO MUCH FOOD

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