Day 8: Stepping further into the hiker ecosystem - Chris Cross America - CycleBlaze

April 30, 2022

Day 8: Stepping further into the hiker ecosystem

Just south of Sugar Grove, a green mountain peak looms over the road ahead. The view of the mountain is framed by trees on either side.
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Day 8 stats

Starting point: Rural Retreat, Va.

Ending point: Damascus, VA.

The Daily Progress: 45.27 miles

Elevation gain: 2,648 feet

Lodging expenses: $50 (Lady Di's B&B and Hostel)

Food expenses: $25.30 ($3.50 at Dollar General + 19 dinner and beer at Damascus Dinner + 2.80 ice cream sandwich from gas station)

Day 8 highlights and ramblings

Chris, the trail angel who stopped me on the road last night and invited me to stay at his house, and his precocious seventh-grade son, Ryan, saw me off this morning just as it started to drizzle. 

Chris, son Ryan and I gather for a quick selfie before I hit the road.
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The town of Rural Retreat — and much of this region of Virginia — is surrounded by farms. As I petaled slowly down the road past one of these farms, an old man getting into a truck, which had an old woman in the other passenger seat and a cow in a pen in the back, looked at me — a cyclist in a big yellow rain jacket, to say nothing of the rain pants and shoe covers — and he said earnestly, "You're gonna get wet."

I guess it's a fine line sometimes between being helpful and just stating what is blatantly obvious. "Yeah, I know," I replied.

The road winds between farmland, with a field on the left that is dotted by cows. The skies are bright but gray with a wispy blanket of cloud. A blue-green ridgeline makes for a distant horizon.
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I almost titled this entry, "It's April 30. It's gonna be graaayyyyy." If you get the joke, maybe you're a super millennial. If you don't get it, you don't get it.

But I did not title this entry any version of "it's gonna be gray" because the gray skies actually cleared up. It was a beautiful afternoon and after I finally did make it past Troutdale, the ride was mostly downhill, which was a relief and a lot of fun at times. For much of the afternoon, I rode along streams cascading over mossy rocks. So peaceful.

The Troutdale Trading Post, a squat, run-down gray building that looks like one big room and a closet, sits, closed, at a corner as the road (and Bicycle Route 76) winds past it. I can't tell if it's closed permanently or just for the day, but my guess is permanently.
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A barn gleams in the sunlight in front of a mountain ridge and bright blue skies with clearing clouds. In the foreground is a green field and a wooden fence.
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It's always great to end the day with a downhill cruise because it leaves you feeling good about the ride and not dreading the next one. Well, it's supposed to thunderstorm tomorrow and I made it to Damascus, which seems like a great place to take a "zero day," so that is my plan tomorrow (I will stay in the same town, making zero progress down the trail). 

At the suggestion of Sligo (whom I spoke with, along with PT, over breakfast at the hostel in Catawba a few days ago), I landed today at Lady Di's B&B and Hostel. Having learned from my mistake yesterday, I called in advance to make sure they had room. Sligo (that's his trail name, in case it wasn't obvious) had told me Damascus is a big trail town, and someone else, maybe Chris, told me it was bike-friendly too and has the Virginia Creeper trail right outside town, so I was very interested to see it.

Next to a path of crushed stone stands a white sign that says: "Welcome to Damascus on the Virginia Creeper Trail." A paved road is off to the right. I followed the trail for maybe all of a tenth of a mile because I was in the road the whole time and didn't see how close the trail was until I was basically at the end.
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Upon arrival at the hostel, it was striking how much of a hiker hangout it was. One guy who goes by Yellowstone was either packing or unpacking some gear on the front porch. Am inflatable sleeping pad was hanging over the porch railing. Backpacks, trail runner shoes and hiking poles were strewn everywhere. Cool. I had stepped into the world of the Appalachian Trail again. 

Turns out, I'm the only cyclist staying here among maybe 10 hikers. While I know that Appalachian Trail is better known than the TransAmerica Bicycle Trail, I was surprised that most people I spoke to this evening had never heard of bike touring before. Considering how much it has in common with backpacking, that surprised me. One hiker named Marina had heard of it and said she'd been thinking of it, especially after all the backpacking she's been doing on the AT.

After I showered and dropped off my clothes for the free laundry service, a group of us — Crockett, Marina, Songbird, Yellowstone and Laurie and I — went to have dinner together. We settled at the Damascus Diner and compared bike touring and backpacking and I learned that it was fairly common to go without a stove and to cold-soak dehydrated food instead of rehydrating it with boiling water. I didn't think to ask them about deodorant, but it came up with one of my roommates, Billy Goat, who basically said hell no to deodorant — for hygiene, she carries a toothbrush, toothpaste, chapstick and eye drops (because of allergies) and that's it. Her pack is down to 12 pounds. In Catawba, the hikers were hauling at least 20 pounds, and often 25 or more.

Speaking of weight, I discovered at the hostel today that I could probably shed a couple of layers until I get to Colorado. Maybe I'll ship them out there so I don't have to carry them.

Today's ride: 45 miles (72 km)
Total: 423 miles (681 km)

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Keith AdamsBike Virginia visited Rural Retreat in 1993. If I remember correctly- a dicey proposition, nearly 30 years later- it described itself as "A Place of Contentment" or perhaps "A Place of Peace". In either case, they were right.
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