Friday, July 10, 2009

Day 10: Damascus, VA to Breaks, VA (78.5 Miles)

"There is an ecstasy that marks the summit of life, and beyond which life cannot rise. And such is the paradox of living, this ecstasy comes when one is most alive, and it comes as a complete forgetfulness that one is alive."
- Jack London

Today marked the most physically excruciating and painfully beautiful day of my trip. I had another night of semi-sleep after lulling myself to sleep on the back porch with a book. Dan, a 70-year old retiree, bunked in the same room as me and his sleeping sounds did not allow for me to have a solid night's rest. I slowly packed everything and headed out of town during sunrise. The morning fog started to give way to reveal picturesque views. I was feeling very weak and decided to pull into "Little Diner" in Meadowview, just outside of Hayters Gap. I met some really nice people there and the waitress told me 3 funny looking Brits came rolling through yesterday morning... I laughed and explained that I was going to ride with them for a while, but had an accident. After a hearty breakfast, I took off towards the pivotal climb of my journey.

Along the way, I ran into this puppy. He may look intimidating, but I assure you: he's a real sweetheart. I stopped and played with him for a bit and then took off, with my new friend in tow. He jogged along with me for about a half mile, staying within 2 feet of me the entire time. He then became interested in smelling a fence post and I bid my farewell to my travel companion. With this distraction, I then noticed I was already close to facing the climb out of Hayters Gap. I began my ascent around 10:00am and I slowly pushed upward around every steep bend. After 45 minutes of profusely sweating, I reached the summit. As I sped down the other side, I passed a few cyclists and reassured them that they were close to the top. I reached another steep climb outside of Honaker, and another outside of Council. In fact, I kept running into very steep climbs every hour or so. It really put a toll on my legs/soul. The topography in Western VA is not very cyclist-friendly, with many steep climbs that just appear out of nowhere!

As I finally came into a series of downhill miles that led into Haysi, I was then greeted with a downpour. I threw on my rain covers and jacket and booked it into town. After some close calls with a few deep puddles, I decided to pull under some shelter outside an abandoned grocery store (there are a lot of closed businesses out here). It was then when I was greeted by George Washington Jackson, who told me his life story and the story of the town. He warned me of the climb towards Breaks, with stories of his brother getting hit by a coal truck and other motor vehicle related accidents. Shaken, but not stirred, I decided to press on when the rain began to lighten up. My body started to give out on me again; however, I finally pushed myself upwards into Breaks Interstate Park... also known as the east coast's Grand Canyon. It features some amazing rock formations that are 200 million years in the making. That stuff takes patience.

Exhausted and smelly after riding my mobile torture device for 12 hours, I decided that I needed a long shower and a soft bed. I found a pretty cheap room at the lodge with an amazing view. After freshening up as best as I could, I biked down to the park restaurant for some delicious pasta and garlic bread. Biking without the panniers on makes the Bianchi feel like a stranger to me, as if the bike will fly out from under me. Sadly, Jonathan was unable to get down this evening and we're still finding the best way to meet tomorrow. I don't have any cellphone service down here and I'm hoping to hear from him before passing out. I might sleep in a little bit tomorrow... I think I deserve it. =)


Momma said...

Hey my Blakey boy!
I love all the pictures you have been taking. I also wait with great anticipation for each entry in your blog. Wish I could see the people,animals and scenery you have been witnessing but your explanation of all that you have been exposed to has been wonderful!! Good job,my son and God speed!! Be careful; I am praying for you always! Love and big hugs, Momma

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