September 8, 2023

What a difference a day makes! Yesterday’s ride, 45 miles in length, featured 11 climbs of varying lengths and gradients. Today’s ride, 40 miles long had just three climbs, two short, less than 2 miles, and one doozy – 12.8 miles with absolutely no respite. For those in the Asheville area, a similar climb would be from the Folk Art Center to Craggy Gardens.

We started the day just outside Lexington, VA at the spot where Day 1’s ride ended. The weather was overcast which along with the shade cover on the Parkway made for joyful riding. The first 18 miles were a series of ups and downs and we knocked off this section in 1 hour. We stopped at the James River Visitors Center which chronicles the location where George Washington had a canal built, trying to link various Colonial time waterways. The railroad eventually made this endeavor obsolete but it made me think: the Founding Fathers could not envision a railroad. How many aspects of their wisdom have become obsolete due to the progress of time? We hold fast to the 2nd amendment, the right to bear arms. Our forefathers in their wildest imagination could never have considered AR15s and similar weapons. Food for thought as we began the arduous climb.

It started sprinkling on us as we crossed the James River. Only lasted for a few moments but the weather turned cloudy and it drizzled on and off. We intended to meet Mary Ann 6 or 7 miles up the climb and take a break, but once in our rhythm, we just kept going. Even without stopping, the climb, 3,301 feet of ascent with an average gradient of 5% and a max of 7.7%, took me an hour a 47 minutes. Rusty was a couple of hundred yards ahead of me and finished a bit faster. Following this climb, we enjoyed a rousing 8-mile downhill but cruelly, the route ended with a final 1.5-mile uphill that was a real challenge on tired legs.

We are staying at the Peaks of Otter State Park. Not the Ritz Carlton but a nice lodge-type facility with pleasant people and clean rooms. Tomorrow’s ride will take us to the outskirts of Roanoke, VA, where we will enjoy our first rest day on Saturday. I commented at the beginning of this journey that I thought we were taking a rest day too early in the ride, but after the first two days, I am eating my words. My legs are tired and after tomorrow, it will be good to take a break.

Thoughts of the day:

  • I experimented with riding at various speeds during the long climb. I found that I could average around 7 to 7.5 miles an hour at 5% but dropped to 6 to 6.5 mph at 6% gradient, and only around 5.5 mph at 7% gradient. Probably could have gone faster on a shorter climb, but this pace, and the mind games, helped me complete a tough climb.

  • A mystery of life occurred to me on the climb and descent. Why do roads such as the Parkway average 5 to 8 % on the uphill, but only 4% on the downhill? I know this is a silly thought but when pushing your bicycle pedals at 6 mph for almost two hours, your mind can wander in several directions.

  • I close with a final thought. We are blessed to live in a country like America and those of us on this trip are privileged to see sights such as this:


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