|The climb to Rockfish Gap|
|Turn-off to Blue Ridge Parkway|
The clinching factor in my eventual decision to stay on the main road and continue down the other side of the mountain to Waynesboro was the thought of descending the far end of the Blue Ridge to Vesuvius in these conditions. This descent is thought by many riders to be the scariest on the TransAm Trail – and that's when it's dry. Andrew, who I met in Williamsburg, is a member of the William & Mary College cycling team and lives near Vesuvius. He told me he loves that hill. He described it as not very steep, which it isn't for him: 8 percent with hairpin bends. Riding a loaded touring bike, you have to descend on the brakes and stop several times on the way down to let the wheel rims cool. Otherwise the overheated air in the tyre inner tubes may expand to the point of bursting them. The descent begins at 905 m above sea level and ends at 433 m. The road loses 472 m of height over a distance of 6 km.
As I dropped down the mountain to Waynesboro, I came out of the fog and was much relieved. I had lunch while I worked out my next move. The $4.99 Pizza and Powerade special cost me $5.53 or some such ridiculous total. In Australia I would have handed over $5 and that would have been that. Here I had to fish out a $1 note as well, wait while a handful of change was put together (including the ubiquitous 1 cent coins), and indicate wearily that it could go in the tip jar – which was maybe the point. In every country I can think of except America, retailers are required by law to include applicable taxes in displayed prices. Customers who want to know how much tax they paid can look at their printed receipt. This difference in practice probably has a lot to do with why Americans are so hostile to taxes. Every transaction reminds them they are paying extra to the government. It makes it hard to know the final price of anything too. Someone who was down to his last $5.50, say, could go into that diner and not know whether the $4.99 lunch special was affordable.
After consulting my map and notes and conferring with the proprietor, I decided to ride on to Lexington. When the main objectives of your day have been frustrated and it's still raining outside, there's not much constructive you can do except pedal on and get some distance under your belt. I headed south on US 340 and US 11 through the Shenandoah Valley. It was a gentle roller-coaster of a ride, easier than the Blue Ridge Parkway would have been. I occasionally saw the Ridge off to my left, wreathed in cloud. The rain, which had turned into a drizzle, grew much heavier. It was probably the heaviest rain I've cycled in since my Danube trip two years ago. At Fairfield, I stopped at a gas station for a hot chocolate (priced at 99 cents; I had to pay $1.01) and had a good conversation with the woman there. When I came out, the rain had eased again and I continued to Lexington without incident. Distance for the day, 103 km.