Surprisingly, the climb up the first mountain was far more gradual and forgiving than I had envisioned. I spent a good amount of time last night studying the elevation charts, so I could try not to be disappointed by a surprise climb. I followed along the Blue Ridge Parkway and totaled about 7,000 feet in elevation in one day, in spite of the highest point being 3,300 feet above sea level. I was constantly biking up and down mountains, especially towards the end of the Parkway. The major problem came from the complete absence of diners/eateries/gas stations/anything offering food along the parkway. I was only sustained by granola bars for the entire day and never had a proper breakfast or lunch. I felt the ramifications of this later down the road, but I'll get to that soon enough.
I took several intermittent breaks during the climb through the mountains. There were several scenic overlooks and information centers scattered along the Parkway, so I could stop every hour or so and lay in the shade. Finally, when I reached the highest elevation point, I took a back road down into Vesuvius. This road was very small and steep, full of switchbacks. It was a blast to bike down; however, I felt sorry for the poor souls having to climb this road when heading east. By the end of the descent, my brake pads were smelling like a tire fire. It was, by far, the most exhilarating and fun thing I've done on a bike.
As I rode towards Lexington, my body started to give out on me. During one climb up a steep hill, I had to pull over and collapse for 15 minutes to regain some energy. It was a blessing to see the quaint town of Lexington (which reminds me of a smaller version of West Point). I finally pulled into a cheap motel run by a sweet Indian couple and unloaded my stuff into my cigarette-smelling room, took a quick shower, and headed downtown to the only diner open on the strip (fully equipped with a "Parking In Rear" sign). There I had a nice dinner at the bar and spoke with a retired professor of VMA. I talked with him about bikes and he sounded very interested in picking up the hobby. I was invited to go see a fireworks display at the sports field, but my eyes were becoming heavy and I rode back to the motel instead and get some sleep after updating this here blog from the lobby.