It’s been awhile, friends. We promise you haven’t been forgotten.
To fill you all in from the last post, we came up from Savannah to Charleston to visit our friend Margaret. She’s our first tour acquaintance that we’ve been able to meet up with further down the road from when we originally met her. We had a fun time doing a lot of nothing and the relaxation, as always, was needed before we took off across South Carolina. You may have gathered that we enjoyed ourselves in this state, but to clarify, South Carolina was a state where we immediately felt welcomed by the locals and the feeling continued on throughout.
In Spartanburg we took another day off to spend with family, Justus and Amy. Justus had been anticipating our arrival and gathered some ideas for activities while we were there. We chose a hike through the forest to a hundred foot tall waterfall that was cascading icy cold water down on us. An active, but relieving day after all the riding we had been doing. The next morning we took photos and left on our last day in South Carolina.
Kyle Shillington, a friend living and working as an AmeriCorps in Charlotte, had been on the list for reunions during this trip since day one. Kyle was our host for two days while we continued to recharge and prepare for the rest of North Carolina and Virginia, a leg of the trip that was bound to be a lot of riding before we took another break in D.C.
He’s an excitable guy and can be a handful, but he’s a very good friend to have, especially if you need an enthusiastic tour guide. We were fortunate to receive a Shillington tour of the city both in his cramped Ford Ranger when we first arrived and on bikes our third day. He fed us, played us in fifteen games of pool and made constant jokes for three days straight. Kyle also provided us one of our new favorite quotes which originally came from his roommate, “Kyle, there are two kinds of people who can’t grow beards: women and children”. On our final day in Charlotte we shared reluctant good-byes with him and rode out from the new-South city.
From there, we had nothing other than small towns to go through before Richmond, Virginia, which left us no chance to stay with couch surfing hosts. Not usually a big problem, but the weather was consistently clear skies with temperatures reaching the mid to high eighties. An impulse to take a break at one of the several reservoirs we passed over became a fantasy and then an obsession.
We walked past a “No Swimming” sign and jumped off the dock. The water was cool and the day was saved with the simple break. Signs rarely seem to have much weight in directing our off-road choices. In this case, like others, it was no harm, no foul.
The long, hot days through the rest of North Carolina on in to Virginia weren’t dragging us down yet. We were even comfortably stranded in a small town called Kenbridge early on in our travels through Virginia, where Andrew luckily had enough spare parts and four loko to repair his broken chain. While the repairs were in full swing, we were offered a yard to camp in by a man named David that took enough of an interest to stop and ask us about our trip, but not enough of an interest to leave his car while he did it. We thanked him for the offer that we planned to take him up on.
The night was clear and the weather was predicted to be similar to our previous summery days so we spread out our tarp and slept in the open air. Unfortunately, fog rolled in that night and soaked everything that wasn’t under a waterproof cover, which happened to be our sleeping bags, clothes, and bodies. The next morning, we lost some time to a stop at a laundromat. Warm, dry clothing is something of a luxury for us on the scarce cold mornings we experience these days, and that morning we were living in it up at only the price of change we found in our bags, bum life.
The series of seventy mile days was now starting to take a toll, though. The discomforts of riding a bike cross-country compound when the weather and terrain are less than agreeable. North Carolina and Virginia are not flat states and riding up the steep hills through occasional head and side winds was tiring us out. The foggy day did clear for us and left us looking at a beautiful, Virginia countryside, but every part of our legs were sore and we had another seventy mile ride to complete before meeting a new pair of couch surfing hosts in Richmond. The wind was minimal for the day and the trees managed to save us from the Sun while we partially suffered and partially enjoyed the remaining miles to the confederate capital.
When we came across the bridge over the James River into Richmond we found ourselves stunned by how gorgeous the view was. It was our first large city since Charlotte and the differences were quickly obvious. Richmond is a place with more history than some entire states. Between the architecture and monuments we passed as we rode toward our hosts’ home the town’s past shown as an obvious point of pride.
That pride was shared by our hosts, AJ and Sarah. They were a mixture of quiet and charming that made us nothing, but comfortable. After our ritualistic greet then shower routine, they took us around town to demonstrate that pride and fill us in on what living in Richmond is like. We rode around town, drilling them with questions as we passed interesting looking building after interesting looking building. Sarah, our guide, stayed on top of the answers while AJ did the racecar-style driving.
Our time with them and their inquisitive cat, Theo, was only shorter than we would have wanted, but our final days of the long stretch of riding were coming to a close and we didn’t have enough reasons to delay it further. Gluten-free crepes were eaten, hugs were forced on our hosts, bikes were packed, and we started on another hot-ass day of riding.
A hundred mile day to Washington D.C. was the plan, but flat tire, after flat tire, after flat tire, made the objective impossible to accomplish by the end of the day. Our fifth and final night ended up being our second to last night before a break. We camped in plain sight under an overcast sky with the brightest moon of the year hidden somewhere behind the clouds. It wasn’t the finale we had been hoping for, but it was cool, dry air and our ever-present company for yet another night, which, for your weary travelers, happened to be plenty.