Saturday, 19 May 2012

Breaks, VA

Summit of Clinch Mountain, elevation 954 m
I cycled a hilly double stage of 122 km to the edge of Virginia, climbing Clinch Mountain and Big A Mountain. Experienced my first dog chase and first puncture. Met the ACA group.


I had breakfast in this diner in Meadowview

It was an hour's pleasant ride from Chilhowie to Meadowview, where I rejoined the TransAm Trail and stopped for second breakfast. 'Are you Australian too?' was the first thing the woman behind the counter said when I entered her diner. She explained that a week ago, also on Saturday, two Australian cyclists had stopped by. She assumed that only Australians were daft enough to engage in bicycle touring. Neither she nor her other customers had heard of the TransAm Trail despite the Bike Route 76 road signs all over. I had coffee and a stack of pancakes with a side of bacon to fuel me for the climb ahead.

I was heading for Clinch Mountain. Before I reached it, there was a lovely wooded descent to the North Fork Holston River and a flattish section past Hayters Gap. The climb itself turned out to be not too bad: long but steady. I went up it in my second lowest gear. Halfway, I stopped to take a photograph and was caught by my newest biking buddy of the day, Heath. He is on his way from Baltimore to Indiana, stayed last night in Marion, and would be staying in Breaks tonight. We continued together to the summit, then he sped away as he likes fast descents and I don't.

Heath, cycling from Baltimore to Indiana
Towards the foot of the hill, I had my first dog chase. Two of them came at me from a property on the left. One danced around my front wheel, trying to head me off, the other gripped something on the back of my bike and tried to slow me down. All my plans to stop, dismount, stand on the far side of the bike, speak soothingly, avoid eye contact, use my ultrasonic zapper, vanished in the panic of the moment. I was on a downhill run and so was able to get away from the dogs. These chases will become more frequent as I enter Kentucky and I need to handle them better than this one.

Elk Garden UM Church, 5 km before Rosedale
Soon afterwards, I came to Elk Garden United Methodist Church, which, like the Willis Church I stayed at in Glendale on my first night, offers free lodging to cyclists only. I had planned to stay there tonight but it was only 11 o'clock in the morning and too early to stop. The weather was fine and I felt strong. I decided to do tomorrow's ride today. First, I checked the cyclist logbook inside the church in search of a record of the two Australians, who I have been told about several times now. I didn't see a plausible entry dating to a week ago.

At Rosedale, I found Heath. He had missed the dogs and the church. We bought drinks and energy bars, then continued together over a hill to Honaker, where we had lunch. Then we set off up Big A Mountain. Heath was faster and disappeared over the top. Big A was shorter than Clinch and mostly a gentler gradient but the descent on the other side was steeper. I had to ride the brakes more, the new pads squealing on the ceramic rims.

View descending Big A Mountain
The road was mostly downhill now for a long way, as far as Haysi. As I left that small town, my front tyre punctured. Conveniently, there was a building there with a bench outside where I could sit and change the tube safely and comfortably. I was engaged in this task when Heath appeared. He had been out of sight in Haysi when I came through. He found a possible hole in the tyre through which something sharp might have pierced the tube. Neither of us could find the hole in the tube.

Nearly there
Heath went on while I finished the job. I was quicker at it than I usually am. It helped that it was the front tyre. The last hour to Breaks was hilly. Heath was booked in to the second motel but I wanted to stay at the one with a restaurant so turned off there. I had to pay a $2 park entry fee and climb a last hill before I got there. After a shower, I went for a meal and immediately spotted the ACA self-contained TransAm group, which started on 5 May. I chatted to several of them and expect to see them again in the days ahead.

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