It’s Saturday, September 9, and we are taking a rest day in Roanoke, VA. We fulfilled one goal of this trip which was to visit the National D-Day Memorial, located in Bedford, VA. The “why” behind how this memorial came to be located in this small, out-of-the-way town is that on D-Day, 20 of the 36 soldiers from Bedford, VA were killed, making it the highest known per capita D-Day loss of any locale in our nation.
We walked around this large outdoor exhibit along with 8 busloads of cadets from the Virginia Military Institute, which is in Lexington, VA, our day 2 stopping point. One of the highlights I think for the cadets was to listen to one of the docents talk about his experience on D-Day. This gentleman, a Marine veteran with all sorts of medals wore his dress uniform and held the cadets in rapture for his 20-minute talk. He has to be pushing 100 but remains vigorous and eager to tell his story – as he should be. The first photo below is of the marine. The middle shot depicts the moment the front of the landing craft that put our soldiers on the beach facing enemy fire, and the third photo is a memorial to the brave warriors clawing their way up the rock face of the walls from which the Germans were firing down at the beach. Think of the opening scene of the movie Saving Private Ryan.
I could not help but reflect that while our bike ride on the Blue Ridge Parkway is certainly a physical and mental challenge, it is nothing compared to what Tom Brokaw, the TV news anchor referred to as the Greatest Generation faced on D-Day. This visit was a somber reminder of the sacrifice so many made to assure our freedom. I hope that in these tumultuous times, we do not forget these things.
Someone wise said that there are no easy days cycling the Blue Ridge Parkway but some days are less difficult than others. That saying proved true today. After the first two days threw 4,000 feet+ of climbing at us each day, today’s 2,500 feet was a joy. A huge thunderstorm blew threw last night. You could hear the wind howling and the rain beating against the window glass. It was perfect sleeping weather. The lodge dining room did not open until 7:30 so it was a bit later than usual when we pulled out of the Peaks of Otter Lodge. By 9:00 A.M., the weather had turned gorgeous. The lake was so calm it looked like a pane of glass. We rode along what is referred to as the spine of the Blue Ridge. In the east, you could see the Alleghany Mountains and in parts, it was a sheer drop off either side. In many sections, we were riding above the clouds – amazing scenery. There were 7 climbs today, the longest at 2.85 miles so combined with just 35 miles of cycling, made for a relatively stress-free ride. Today’s ride took us to the outskirts of Roanoke, VA. As we got closer to Roanoke, the traffic picked up and the road was a harsher ride, no doubt due to the heavier traffic. We are spending the night as well as a rest day tomorrow in Roanoke and I’m looking forward to exploring the city.
As the ride was only 35.75 miles, we finished before noon. Check-in time was not until 2:00 PM so we changed clothes on the side of the Parkway, headed to town, and found a terrific coffee shop. A nearby vegan food truck served up a terrific meatless burger that, along with a great cup of coffee, fixed me up. After a quick tour of downtown Roanoke, we headed to the hotel. I took advantage of our early check-in and did a load of laundry. I took three cycling kits on this trip; cycling bib shorts, jerseys, socks, etc. and they needed a good washing. Rusty experienced a flat tire in the last five miles. He pumped up the tire and raced to our stopping point before it went totally flat, necessitating a change. This means a visit to a local bike shop in the morning but if you are going to have a flat, this was a super convenient place to have one.
Thoughts for the day: 1. The fraternity to which I belonged during my undergrad days at Western KY. University is being honored tomorrow at half-time of Western’s football game. We have raised almost 400,000 dollars that we’ve given to the University to be used in several different ways. We suspect, that if the leaders of this fine institution when we were undergrads could somehow know how well our members turned out and the generosity we’ve shown, would roll over in their graves in disbelief. I wish I could be there for the festivities, but I made a commitment to this ride and I’m thrilled to be on this journey. I am thinking of my college friends this weekend. 2. I continue to rave about the Blue Ridge Parkway. The first photo offers just an inkling of the beauty of the American gem. The second photo is a profile shot that Mary Ann snapped of me on one of today’s climbs. Tomorrow, we hope to visit the World War II monument in Bedford, VA. More on that tomorrow. Best to everyone and thanks for your support.