To Lexington - Up The Parkways - CycleBlaze

May 21, 2013

To Lexington

Where's my beer, scene 2

Today's ride was fairly leisurely.  Rather than backtrack directly up to the parkway (a 2500'climb, to be followed soon after by a stiff pull up Apple Mountain), we took the low road.  We started with a pretty, pastoral ride along the Big Island Highway as it peacefully skirted the eastern flank of the mountains, stopping in the booming intersection of Sedalia to pick up lunch at its modest deli.  Waiting for the parkway to come down to our level, we hooked up with it about midday where it crosses the James River.  As much as we had enjoyed the morning's ride, we felt guiltily like we'd been playing hookey - at 650', this is the lowest elevation on the parkway; and we bypassed Apple Mountain completely, whose 4000' summit is the highest point on the parkway in Virginia.

From here we had a fairly liesurely climb up to the 2000+ foot level before evening off again.  After another 10 miles or so we came to the junction with Highway 60 and our turnoff to the west for Lexington - another off-parkway stop needed because of the absence of overnight options on top.

Busy Highway 60 drops quite steeply, and we quickly raced down to Buena Vista at the bottom.  By now though the day had become decidedly hot and humid.  Even though Lexington was only 7 miles further down the road, we were easily seduced by a roadside ice cream stand and delighted to be invited to sit in its airconditioned interior for a doubly refreshing break from the elements.

Stepping out of our chilly shelter though was like stepping into a furnace, and we braced ourselves for what we thought would be a hot but leisurely riverside cruise to Lexington.  Wrong - as it happens, there are about 5 small ridges between the towns and we added almost 1500' of climbing to our day's total along this short stretch.

Lexington was one of my least favorite stops of the tour, because we were stuck in a motel on the highway a few miles east of the city center.  Even though I had looked for reservations almost 3 months ago, this was the best I could find - Lexington is the home of VMI (Virginia Military Institute) and surprisingly, the town books up months in advance during graduation week.  Even starting as early as i had it was impossible to find anything reasonable in the city proper.

After showering and cooling off we surveyed the unappealing options within walking distance and chose a shopping mall pizza joint a half mile further out of town and set off for a hot, noisy walk along the busy highway.  Pizza is always a safe choice though and it promised a cold beer or so; or so I thought.  The ad in the phone book promised beer, as did the storefront signs, banners hanging from the interior, and even the menus.  None of this mattered - through a devilish bit of bad timing, the store had elected to go dry the day before we got there.  Pretty remarkable - they were tearing down beverage advertisements as I looked on glumly, nursing my ice water.

The day was saved in the end though - the shift manager felt badly for me and was inspired to check out the final keg in the storeroom.  Finding there enough for a pair of flat pints, she brought them out triumphantly.  Made my day, really.

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The farmlands of western Virginia
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The James River, the low point on the Parkway
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Mountain stream with rhodies
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The only tunnel on the Parkway in Virginia
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The muddy Maury River, a small tributary of the James, flows past Buena Vista.
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Today's ride: 53 miles (85 km)
Total: 280 miles (451 km)

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