Day 4 - Cross Country Velocipede Adventure - CycleBlaze

April 29, 2023

Day 4

Palmyra, VA to Afton, VA

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I didn’t sleep well at all last night. Weirdly, I had trouble falling asleep (which never happens), then once I turned the off all the lights in the room, I had the delight of realizing there was a gigantic, brightly lit, EXIT sign right next to my sleeping area. This was no ordinary exit sign. Once you turn off the room lights, this thing glows brighter than any EXIT sign I’ve ever seen. Even when I closed my eyes it was like someone shining a bright red light inches away from my eyelids. I felt like I was sleeping in a tanning bed! At this point I was too exhausted to find a different room to set up camp. I figured I’d doze off despite the light. I did - only to wake for the day at 5:00am. I fell asleep right around midnight, so this was definitely not enough sleep. Could be worse I guess.

We got a later start than we’d anticipated today. There are way too many amenities at this wonderful church to not take advantage of some of them. It takes a little time to eat the snacks! 

We’re heading to the famous “Cookie Lady’s House” today. More on her and the house in a minute. It’s a relatively short ride of 53 miles, but with around 5000 feet of elevation gain! That’s a LOT of uphill for a 53 mile ride. Her house is situated towards the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains which are notorious for being very steep. And steep these roads are. At times my bike computer was reading 14-15%! This is where I learned whether or not my gearing was appropriate for the trip. It was. I just settled in and climbed just fast enough to not tip over. Yusuf, on the other hand, struggled a bit and needed to walk many of the steeper portions. He’s relatively new to cycling and is still building his cycling strength. I’ve read that many, many touring cyclists walk the steeper bits of these mountains. No shame in that at all. 90-100 pound bikes with these grades are no joke.

Great stop for lunch outside of Charlottesville.
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Very nice ladies at the lunch stop. They gave us free cookies!
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Not bad, huh?
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Charming cottage.
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This is the “climbing” on my bike computer. Red means HARD!
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Now, about The “Cookie Lady’s House.” 

The Cookie Lady’s House
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In 1976, the inaugural year of “Bikecentennial,” Afton, VA was just a speck along the TransAmerica Bike Trail. As I’ve mentioned, these hills are steep and very unforgiving. Along the Blue Ridge Mountain portion there’s a natural resting point at the intersection of Routes 6 and 250. Legs burning and looking for a store, touring cyclists found a woman named June Curry.

“They would come in the evening and say ‘I just can’t make it any further. With no grocery store, nothing to eat, I’m hungry,’” June is quoted as saying in 2005.

“I decided it was cheaper to feed them than it was to put them up!”

June’s father, who ran a shop just down the road from their house, put up a sign that read “Water for Bikers.” June went to the kitchen and began baking, earning her nickname “The Cookie Lady,” becoming a trail angel to weary cyclists. The Currys eventually cleared out space in an adjacent building and turned it into a crash pad."

“I have hundreds of letters from people that have told me that this bike house was what gave them the initiative to go on,” June said.

June’s generosity grabbed the attention of CBS newsman Charles Kuralt. Though he was on vacation, his crew filmed June and her bikers for an On The Road segment. Exposure on national television introduced the Cookie Lady to a larger audience, inspiring more cyclists to tackle the rigorous Blue Ridge Mountain ascent, knowing that a nice lady would be nearby with a plate of cookies or snacks.

“I didn’t do this for publicity. I did it because I was getting a kick out of it,” June said.

The walls of the Bike House are plastered with post cards, pictures, clippings, mementos and bike memorabilia. 

June hosted over 60,000 cyclists from 1976 to the time of her passing in 2012.

Her property was purchased by a neighbor and she and her daughter continue to provide the house as a cyclist’s hostel.

This place is amazing and even though it’s getting a little funky in its old age (so am I), and there’s definitely an unsettling smell I can’t quite identify, I feel lucky to be a part of its history.

Hmm. What’s that smell? Me?
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Lots and lots of love for June Curry
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Today's ride: 53 miles (85 km)
Total: 229 miles (369 km)

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