Date: August 02, 2010
From: Afton, VA
To: Lexington, VA
Distance: 52.98 miles
View Garmin Data >
If I don’t have legs that can jackhammer through asphalt by the end of this trip, I shall be seriously cheesed.
Yesterday, I went up and down, then up and down, then up, up, up, up, then down. Up, up, up, up, then down. Funny how the down never seemed to quite match the up but was much appreciated all the same. It was a day filled with equal parts jubilation and frustration.
I started out below the fog line on a very grey day. Late. Of course. I’m still getting the hang of packing Zimmerman’s bag properly and tried a new configuration. The lateness played a part in me creeping up to the Cookie Lady’s house and sliding the key (with note) under the mat. Creeping was necessary—she had a note on the door saying, “I’m up, please ring bell!” but I couldn’t risk losing an hour or so chatting to her so sneaky sneaky, catchy monkey, as they say.
About 10 minutes after being so stealthy, her caretaker came down to talk to me and ask me about the crash. She’d already heard all about it from said Cookie Lady but wanted to warn me of fog on the Blue Ridge Parkway and the descent at Vesuvius. Just so I didn’t crash again, presumably. She wasn’t the only person to warn me about this massive downhill either. Three people throughout the day warned of the dangerous switchbacks and sheer steepness of it. But for now, fog.
What a fog! I pushed off around 8am and immediately cranked up the steep arse switchback and into the soup. At that elevation though, it was only a light mist. As soon as I turned onto the parkway, blanket fog city. I lit myself up like a Christmas tree with flashing lights and an air of ‘yo yo, back off mofos!’ and began what would become a hell of a day.
The disappointing thing about the fog was that it cramped the style of all the overlooks. Precious and I would pull in, see the sign saying what we should be looking at, and I would snap a picture of the fog with the sign. I have a lot of photos like that. Later in the day, I did chance upon a few where the fog had cleared and managed to snap some classic vista malarkey, so not a total bust.
Good ol’ granny gear got a good workout. Once again, I don’t think I’ll ever regret getting the MTB gears put on Precious. I seriously doubt I would have been able to tough it out on those long ass climbs if I didn’t have those low, low gears.
It took a toll though—my legs are really being quite belligerent this morning and show no interest in participating in today’s activities. Of course, they have no choice. The other thing showing very little interest is my poor wrist. My biggest problem is not road surface or jarring, it’s braking, and on a day like yesterday, jam packed with technical and extreme descents, that’s not a good thing. I had to stop 3 times going down the mountain to Vesuvius to let Precious cool his heels. And by heels, I mean rims, which were about two nano-jiggers away from bursting into flames. We’re talking some steep downhills here.
I figured out that braking from the hoods can only to be used on calm descents where I’m picking up speed, but I’m cool with it. The problem with the hoods position is being able to apply enough pressure to stop completely. It’s more of a ‘slow down a little’ thing.
My second braking position uses the interrupter brakes. Much greater stopping power, but what you gain in that, you lose in perceived control of the bike itself. So, it’s a mid-level option. It’s also the one that hurts the most.
Steep descents have but one choice, which I only discovered about mid-way through the day. Get down on the drops and use the brakes from there. Although I’m not much of a get down in the drops person, it gave me so much stopping power I felt confident enough to use them on the steepest and fastest descents of the day. Also gives a lot of control, and for some reason makes the feel of the trailer disappear altogether. I’m thinking that’s because I’m leaning more forward and lower, which probably does something to load distribution. Some egg head out there can theorize on that.
Regardless of what braking solution I used, my wrist really started to arc up when I’d use it. I iced at the hotel – that helped. It seems ok now, but I’m glad today’s not such a mountainous leg. Hopefully it will get a good rest.
In closing—the Blue Ridge Parkway is no joke. Tough, tough day. All that time off the bike has done me no favors, but at this rate, it won’t be long until I’m fit again. As tough as it was, I had some great conversations, and was even filmed by a lady who was just so chuffed that I was doing something so crazy. Another guy took my picture. Somewhere, I’m going in someone’s album.
I wonder what they’ll say about me.
NEXT DAY > Day 7, The Tardy Day