Day 15: Morrow Mountain State Park (Badin, NC) to HOME (Fort Mill, SC)! 72 Miles

15 riding days, 14 nights, 13 states, 12 Subway sandwiches, gallons of water, 1 flat tire, 2 epically curated cycling tan lines on my thighs (see rule #7 of “The Velominati), a ton of great memories, a few not-so-great memories, 1,352 miles and as fast as it started it is now over. Candidly, my head is spinning.  I still feel the need to hop back on the bike and ride to where I am headed next.

I spent a lot of my ride today summing up this journey. I haven’t had a clear answer when asked why I decided to do this and that bothered me a little. Here’s what I do know.

I tend to be nomadic by nature. I like to travel, especially point to point. I like to set a goal and see what it takes to accomplish it. I enjoyed the planning of this adventure almost as much as the adventure itself.  During this trip, sitting in one place too long always resulted in me getting back on my bike and riding.  That’s the way I liked it.

I love to ride my bike. While at times it was difficult and I was tired or sore or hangry or thirsty (or all of the aforementioned), I still enjoyed riding.  Coasting.  Spinning with cadence.  Grinding up a long hill in a small gear.  Rushing down steep hills with the wind in my face.  Hearing the noises around me.  Feeling that cool sensation of the wind cooling my sweat.  I love all of that.  I even like the spandex (especially the pockets in the back of my jerseys).

I believe doing stuff like this trip makes me live my daily life more fully.  I don’t do stuff like this because my life isn’t full or great.  I’m blessed.  My life is both full and great and I’m filled with gratitude because of it.  I’m cognizant that riding long distances on a bike isn’t quite normal and that’s part of what makes me like it too.

Traveling like this (cycling, hiking), where you carry what you need for the most part, helps me slow down and appreciate what a good life me and those around me are living. It helps me see the colors of my life more clearly.  I am reminded of the abundance in which I’m fortunate to live.  It also reminds me I need so much less stuff than I have (watch out kids, a huge purge is a comin’!).  This ability to slow down my life through low-speed activities like hiking and biking also helps me see parts of the country a little bit slower than I normally do. It’s a pretty great place.

I’ll admit it, there’s a part of me that does this in hopes that it makes my kids, Cindy and extended family proud of me. This is a feeling I’m not fully comfortable with as it shows the dependency I tend to have on needing the validation of others.  This can be as bad of a need as it is good.  Self-validation is something I’ve never been great at doing which leads to confidence issues I carry within me. Unfortunately, doing these things does not cure this but it does remind me I can do almost anything I put my mind too and when the going gets tough, I can persist (with only a mild amount of inner complaint).

Most of all, I’m hopeful that as my kids move toward their adult lives that they use these adventures an example, excuse or reminder to live life fully and possibly a little bit out of their comfort zone.

I’d be remiss to mention that good timing and a fortunate sequence of events helped make this trip possible. I’m grateful for this and excited to see what the next chapter in my working life allows me to experience.  Lastly, I may have found a new passion for wanting to influence the development of more bike friendly roads where I live. Bike-friendly roads are so good for bikes AND for cars when they are built with room for both.  Yet roads are so bad for both when they aren’t built this way. Charlotte has done some nice work with the roads I rode on today.  I’m excited to see that all but two to three miles of a seventeen mile commute from my house to Uptown Charlotte can be made on roads with dedicated bike lanes or large lane-wide shoulders. The rest of North Carolina and frankly the South from what I saw needs to catch up here with our neighbors to the North (with some exception given to the roads I saw in Maryland).

This ride reminded me to see more of my life – see it in the way I saw it while away from it.  With a strong desire to be in it – fully and with presence.  The ride made me want to be more involved in the direction of my life, not just reacting to it as it comes to me.  So, a single huge revelation?  Not really but definitely many small reminders.

Today?  Oh yeah, I rode 72 miles today.  It actually felt like a half day – probably because technically it was compared to yesterday’s debacle. I had a normal ride out of camp today at 7:40 and after a late night to bed I was feeling the effects of poor sleep this morning.  Much of the first two hours of the ride had me heading towards Concord, NC over some very hilly and sunny countryside. Granny-gear grinding. I took a small break in Locust, NC to feast on, you guessed it, another Subway meal.  This time a double egg and cheese sandwich on wheat flatbread. C’mon Subway…it’s time you opened up those electrical outlets to your customers and while you are at it, how about some wifi? You. Can. Do. It. After this quick stop at the 30-mile point, I pointed my bike towards Sycamore Brewery in Charlotte via a Mint Hill approach.  I crossed these 25 miles quickly in the heat of the morning and arrived at Sycamore at 12:35pm to be greeted by my Dad, Tim and Danielle.  It was really heartwarming to see them – a very fun way to be on the cusp of home.  We enjoyed a beer together, my first since Connecticut, and caught up on the trip alongside many pre-gaming Panther fans.  It was good to be back.  I should apologize to them for being a little out of it.  Fatigue, re-entry, some cramping all contributed to a weakened state.  I loved seeing you guys.  The stay was short (an hour or so) because my next stop was my family!   I enjoyed a tailwind on my last 20 miles or so and with one last state line to cross into Fort Mill.  I also got to ride alongside my good Baxter-long friend Catherine for the last half of this leg into the ‘hood.  All of this was a fun way to end my adventure.

Upon entering my house I was greeted by an awesome homemade sign and my oldest who had just returned home from being out with his friends (and subsequently and possibly falsely, claimed credit for the sign his brother and sister made).  Cindy, Stewart and Ruth (dog) were home a few minutes later after being at the dog park thinking I was still 30 minutes away (I made great time with the tailwind) and Charlie returned an hour after that from playing across the neighborhood with a close friend.  All of us back together again.  Bliss.  Cindy said it best.  Our family can handle people being away, but we are definitely at our best as a team of five, uh…ok, six.  You count too Ruth (I’ve come a long ways in a couple of months).

What lessons did I learn for a future ride (yes, there will be a future ride one day)? I’m so glad you asked.

  • Travel light again, but the next time on a touring frame with slightly fatter tires.
  • Ride with another cyclist next time.
  • One pair of evening clothes and one pair of riding clothes – nothing more.
  • Travel with a better (waterproof) tent.
  • Consider waterproof riding pants and waterproof shoe covers.
  • Tortillas FTW!
  • Seek out more State Parks – all of them were better than private campgrounds.
  • Take a day off at least every 8-10 days.
  • Visit more people – spending a short period of time with others was really fun and turned out to be one of the highlights of my trip.
  • Google Maps is good but trust your gut and go where you want to go not always where the Google blue line tells you too.
  • Seek out pedestrian only trails, greenways, etc – these are the future of cycling in cities and great ways to travel safely.
  • Traveling through big cities is fun for about 1/4 of the time you are doing it – the rest is a grind – pick your cities wisely and go around the others.
  • Buy the touring maps and guidebooks – I think I might have seen more stuff had I leveraged more of the experience of others before me.
  • Chamois Butter > Betwixt
  • Long distance riding doesn’t always offer the best experience of cities and towns. Especially if you are trying to limit hotel stays like I did. Having kids and obligations back at home doesn’t offer a ton of opportunity to stay a night or two extra in the great places. Next trip, post-kids-out-of-the-house, I’ll sightsee more. Maybe with Cindy?
  • Ride with shoes/cleats that double as walking shoes – click-clacking around in cycling shoes is annoying.
  • Eat every 90 minutes – no exception.  Drink a bottle an hour – no exception.
  • Lock or no lock?  While I used it twice in front of grocery stores and at most of the campgrounds, I wonder if it was really worth the weight.
  • Have a touristy item to accomplish each day – getting up and riding to your next spot is not what the journey was meant to be about.
  • There’s a lot of junk on the sides of roads – I need to help clean up litter more often than I do.
  • When driving, I will pass bikes as well as the best cars who passed me did – every time.  No excuse.  Slow down to ensure there’s room.  Left blinker to pass and right blinker to come back into the lane.  Give the bike AT LEAST 3-4 feet of clearance. Avoid gunning the engine – the bike is doing 20 mph at their fastest and in most cases much slower – it won’t take much speed to get by them and gunning the engine just makes the biker feel even worse about being in the way.

Until the next adventure.  I really appreciate those who read this and interacted me here, text or via social media along the course of these 1,352 miles. I’m happy to answer any questions people have about gear, planning or other parts of the experience here, live or via social media.  Peace.

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Day 14: Danville, VA to Morrow Mountain State Park (Badin, NC) – 140 miles

Have you ever had one of those days where everything just went your way?  I have been fortunate to have several, just not today. It started out on a great note with me teaching the Sleep Inn a lesson on how to crush a free breakfast. Then I literally rode out of the lobby at 7:05am with the sun just peaking over the horizon. One of my earliest starts. After a quick ten miles I crossed into NC, one of the few picture-worthy moments today. I even found my large chainring and wondered why I didn’t use it more on this trip. So far so good, right. Yep. I retired 60 miles of my planned 114 by 11:30 which felt great. After a brief stop in a McCafe just east of Greensboro, I was off again. 30-20-20 plan to break up my afternoon. Two breaks after 30 and 20. Simple, right?

Nope. I didn’t take the bird in the hand in Ashboro. This means, I kept thinking an even better option was coming up ahead. This idea rarely works out as you find yourself riding through town and then feeling like going back would be wasteful. I had tempo so I said let’s get 10 more and then break. I felt good. Until I realized I was 5 miles past a key turn. There are always multiple routes so GoogleMaps to the rescue. 28 more miles vs what would have been 22. Not a huge deal. I would still get to Badin Lake Campground earlyish. 

Then I passed the sign:  ‘You are entering Uwharrie’ and everything changed. I’ve been here before. I knew it would be hilly.  What I didn’t expect was the miles and miles of dirt roads I’d be riding on. Some well traveled with smooth tire tracks to ride in on my road bike and others not well traveled at all. My speed went from 10-15 mph to 6-8 mph. 

Still just keep pedaling. Early arrival ahead. After a few hours of work I was 3.5 miles from my target Campground. It was 5:50pm. All good. Until I hit the Badin Lake Campground Road a few turns later. Large, newly spread gravel rocks on a one lane road. I rode 300-400 yards on them and nearly fell multiple times. I would either have to walk my bike 3.5 miles in to camp (which meant walk it out the next morning), hitch a ride (not happening – I hadn’t seen a car in an hour) or form another plan. 

So I decided to push on. 111 miles into my day. Morrow Mountain State Park was 26 miles away. That’s where I’d go. Reluctantly. At this point I’m disappointed, tired, thirsty and hungry. Not a way to end the trip but not a lot of options. 

I rode 4.5 miles and came across a general store. There I buy food and drink and they tell me that two (actually it was over four) miles back the way I came was a small Campground call Whip-O-Will. I get excited pack up and head back. Big mistake. This place was rough and the front office guy rougher. Whip-o-Will was stuffed full of RV Campers that haven’t moved in 5-10 years. Guard dogs chasing me on the way in and local kids heckling me. This before the front office guy said “we don’t do tenters (boy).” It’s now closer to 7pm and I’m still 22 miles from Morrow Mountain. Off I go. This time I look like Dorothy riding her bike in the Wizard of Oz. 

Enough, you get the picture. I arrive at Morrow Mountain State Park at 8:50pm. I’m set up, showered and fed by 10:30pm. A lesson in humility firmly grasped. A reminder that being a one hour car ride from home doesn’t just mean the trip is simple or you can coast in – you still have to work for it. Tomorrow I’ll get up and treat the last 70 miles of this journey with the respect I know it deserves. 

What I loved today: Riding in the early AM on a Saturday (much less traffic). 

Oddity: Morrow Mountain Family Campground. Weird vibe compared to the other State Parks I’ve stayed at. 

Zen Moment: Crossing into NC!

Not-So-Zen Moment: Backtracking almost 5 miles to the Whip-O-Whill Campground only to get turned away. 

Who did I meet today? Mittie and Chuck at the Badin General Store

Food I Ate: two hard boiled eggs, a plate of scrambled eggs, a bowl of two cereals, a biscuit with honey, a muffin and coffee, a bar on the bike, biscuit, egg and cheese with a hash brown and a Dr Pepper (sodas taste really good to me out here), two more bars on the bike. Pistachios and my Nutella, Banana and almond butter wrap and a tub of jalapeño pimiento cheese on crackers with a Snickers to top it off. 

Pictures: 1) NC State Line, 2) Uwharrie’s dirt roads. 

Day 13: Holliday Lake State Park (Appomattox, VA) to Danville, VA – 95 miles

Hey Southern Virginia, a sidebar please. In 1,000 miles this activity did not occur a single time. I rode past hundreds of homes on quiet country roads and not a single time did I experience what I experienced today SEVEN different times. The experience you ask? Angry barking dogs chasing me as if I’m their dinner. On a country road my composure remains steady. I’m on a bike with wheels and gears and they are on four legs. No wheels. No gears. I also have room to move sideways in most cases. It’s the saliva-crazed dogs on the busy roads that worry me most. Either me, the dog or the drivers on these roads are at real risk. Less room to move and a lot more consequence to any error in movement. I’m not sure what changed as of this morning but you just might want to ask your neighbors anywhere north of say, Appomattox, VA just what they are doing to keep their beloved hounds under control. That is all. 

7:39am rollout from Holliday Lake and I have big thoughts of making Reidsville 120 miles away. What I’m realizing is how hard it is to ride over the 100 mile mark in a day. An early start is a must. Rest breaks must be efficient. Navigation tight. And of course your body has to be there. I had most of that today except the early start and a slight four mile re-route for a sketch trail that seemed like I’d be pushing the boundary on the “no trespassing” signage I spoke of in yesterday’s post. I rolled into Danville at 6:15pm after a solid push for the final 20 miles. A second wind of sorts after a hot and sunny (and hilly) day in the saddle. 

Decision time. Do I put in another 24-26 miles to get to Reidsville or stay put. An after dark arrival on fairly busy roads didn’t seem worth the extra miles so I called it a day. Right decision. Even more right as I was straddling my bike in decision mode right in front of a brand new Sleep Inn with a discount promotion. Welcome to my 2nd hotel stay of the trip. Ahhhh. And they had cookies upon check-in. 

The rolling acreage of today was fairly consistent. Hilltop farms with 200-400 acres for most of them offered really nice vistas all day. Also much more tolerable traffic levels today on the busier roads made for more peaceful riding. I’d love to know what 100 acres of land is worth up here. Very scenic views. Easy on the eyes. 

Tomorrow is tricky. Need to ride enough miles to make Sunday an easier day into home but also want to stay at a legitimate camping location.  The choices are slim. I’ve got a little more recon ahead of me. 

Also, thinking ahead to Sunday, if anyone is looking for an afternoon bike ride, I’d love the company. My intention would be only to have company for as far as you want to ride or can stand to ride with me. The pace is pretty slow (11-14 MPH) and I would not want this to be ceremonial by any means. Let me know if you want to meet. My path has me coming in from NoDa to Uptown and then out of town via the rail trail. I can flex my route to meet anywhere near the South Blvd corridor and you’d be welcome to ride with me all the way to Fort Mill if you’d like. The timing is likely in the noon-2pm when I’ll ride by Sycamore Brewery on the rail trail – I’ll plan a short break there. I can firm the exact time up on Sunday as I ride in. Also, I haven’t looked at the weather and don’t know if there’s a Panther’s home game or not. Anyways, just  let me know. 

What I loved today: Hilltop acreage. 

Oddity:  Mac and cheese mixed with mashed potatoes at lunch in a Brookneal gas station/local restaurant. 

Zen Moment: Meeting an ice delivery guy who has two friends who started a San Diego to St. Augustine trip the same day I left from Maine. 

Not-So-Zen Moment: Salivating dogs mistaking my calves for turkey legs. 

Who did I meet today? See my Zen moment above. 

Food I Ate: Nutella, banana, almond butter and tortilla (again), bar on the bike, Mac/cheese mixed with mashed potatoes, cheese wrapped in tortillas and a repeat of breakfast with pistachios at lunch number two under a Baptist Church’s pavilion, Gatorade and a SierraMist 20 miles before Danville. Dinner was more stuff put I a wrap, two cookies, pistachios and a Snickers bar. 

Pictures: 1) hillside acreage with cows. I did a lame job with pictures today. 

Day 12: Lake Anna State Park to Holliday Lake State Park (Appomattox, VA) – 90 miles

I pedaled. Sometimes with vigor and energy and sometimes as if I was Jack Tripper on the intro to Three’s Company. Through more corn and soy bean fields.  I pedaled past a pleasant view of Lake Anna as I departed early this morning around 7:30am. About 9:30 I decided to detour to the world’s busiest Hardee’s for a cup of coffee in Louisa, Va. The locals had kind of a cool thing going on with people of all walks of life just showing up at Hardee’s to socialize. The employees were even in on it. After the loud record scratch and the music stopping playing when I walked in, the place quickly went back to being downright loud. No one on their devices. Just talk of health (irony given the location noted), fishing, work and spouses from what I gathered. There were multiple spouses there but not sitting together but instead sitting with their group of friends. A funny little slice of life. 

I also crossed a bit of a milestone. A meaningless one but one nonetheless. My 1,000th mile. Carysbrook, Va is 1,000 miles from Bar Harbor, Maine. As a reward, my route allowed me to ride 27 miles from there on the world’s busiest logging highway, VA-15. Multiple logging company operations located on this road meant me and my little bike bracing each time one of those trucks raced by. Most moved over but the wind coming off those things was immense. That section was mentally draining.  Although I enjoyed the intoxicatingly pleasing smell when wood chip trucks went by carrying fresh cut wood chips. 

Someone asked me what do I do with my mind when I’m riding and I’ve been thinking more and more about that question. I meditate on the quiet roads. I pray on the louder ones. I count exhales going up large hills (150 breaths or more is a long pull uphill). I think about Cindy and the kids a lot. I wonder whether doing something this selfish will have a positive outcome for them. I believe my Dad’s indirect influence on me was even more resonating later in life than his direct guidance/influence. So hopefully the same holds true with my kids. I think about my parents and whether I am giving them enough support and spending enough quality time now that they are so nearby. I have also spent time thinking about my relationships with my friends. I’m a doer upon request but rarely someone who reaches out to others to make plans. I could probably step out of my comfort zone more here. I also think about communities. I’ve ridden through quite a few and they all have shared qualities. I’m fascinated by the smallest towns having a community center and the various ways those centers get used. The inequities of cities and towns seems to be also be a shared standard. What if more were done by community members to raise up those who have so little? I wonder how much of this is being done that we rarely see too. 

There are many more thoughts. Today’s most frequent wondering was trying to understand what makes people post “No Trespassing” signs all over their property – seen mostly outside of the town limits. Are people just wandering onto their property at such a rate that they just have to put a sign up? Seems odd that the first thing you see when turning into someone’s driveway is a sign basically saying stay out. I bet over 75% of the homes in the countryside of Virginia have these. 

Here’s the brief rundown: 

What I loved today: The state park shower. The days are certainly warmer than they were last week. 

Oddity: A beaver on the side of the road near this state park. That dude was large and scared me big time. 

Zen Moment: Hardee’s. Who would have thought it?

Not-So-Zen Moment: VA-15 – not for bikes. 

Who did I meet today? Food lion cart getter who told me a few days back a guy riding from GA to MI came in the store. Richard, the State Park manager at Holliday SP and his beagle Anastasia. 

Food I Ate:  Nutella, PB, banana wrap, Skratch drink mix, coffee and egg/cheese biscuit at Hardee’s, banana, powerbar and chipotle chickpeas at lunch, fish filet sandwich and an egg/cheese biscuit at McDonalds for lunch #2, apple on the bike, pepperjack cheese and pickle wrap (homemade – I had a craving while in Food Lion), more chickpeas and a scoop of Nutella for dinner. And…now I’m hungry again but the food bag is hung. 

Pictures: 1) Top – Lake Anna, 2) Flipping the Odometer, 3) Slow moving vehicles sign and 4) Holliday Lake SP. 

Here’s hoping for a dry night – it would be the first in a while. 


Day 11: Almost Mason’s Neck State Park to Lake Anna State Park (Spotsylvania, VA) – 86 miles

There is some Civil War History in these parts of the country. Today Manassas, Spotsylvania (can’t say it without thinking about Dracula for some reason) and The Battle of the Wilderness all in one day. Tomorrow, Appomattox. In fact, if I wasn’t between walls of cornfields and soybeans, I was likely on the Civil War trail. While a name like Civil War trail seems glamourous, it’s mostly speeding pickup and semi trucks. 

After what has become my favorite breakfast out here, wrap with banana, peanut butter and Nutella, I pushed off in a light rain this morning. Not so awesome. It wasn’t until 2 or so that the drizzle stopped and the sun emerged. In fact, right at the same time my only notable town on the day (Germanna) and a Subway emerged. Cue the angelic music. I quickly spread out all my wet stuff on a sunny grass space at work he strip mall, ignored some funny looks and headed to Subway to order a tuna footling. In hiking terms, Tom and I would have referred to this as giving the gear a full shakedown. 

Today I notice that I was either riding through peaceful farmland on lightly traveled roads somewhat longing for some commerce areas with roads filled with cars, noise and diesel fumes or I was in an area with lots of cars, noise and diesel fumes longing for a quiet country road. This juxtaposition might mimic life more than I’d care to admit. 

Speaking of weird. This State Park entrance road ran three miles before I sniffed of any Campground. If hiking, I would have never considered something so far off the trail. Biking, no problem. Until it is just annoying how far you have to ride after feeling the joy of having made it. State Park trickeration. 

What I loved today: The sun coming out. 

Oddity: Near empty lakefront Campground and my long shadow. 

Zen Moment: Riding from paved peaceful farm road to paved peaceful farm road. 

Not-So-Zen Moment: spending 4 miles on peaceful UNPAVED farm roads. Messy and bumpy. Google Maps (said with my fist firmly shaking in the air)!

Who did I meet today? Not a soul. Could have met the other three campgrounders but I wasn’t feeling it. 

Food I Ate: banana, pb and Nutella rap. 2 bars. 1/2 of a Subway footlong tuna, bar on the bike, second half of the sub, bag of chips, the last two cookies from Bill and Sue’s place. 

Pictures: 1) Top – Camp Of The Wilderness Graphic. Pretty interesting. 2) Me and my shadow. 

Day 10: Phoenix, MD to Almost Mason’s Neck State Park – 91 miles

Today I crossed over the 800 mile mark. Then I unceremoniously broke my bike. I kept hearing this weird squeak. At first I thought it was my seat. Then maybe my frame (?!). Then I thought it might be a cleat. It was one of those squeaks that you don’t want to hear. I knew that much and then wham! I slow to find my rack has let loose from the frame and rocked 90 degrees backwards and was dragging the ground.  Yep. Bad squeak. The really bad news was that on the way to the ground, all 25-ish pounds took out the rear derailleur. Broke the hanger right in half.  Dang. 

At first I thought rationally. Walk you bike to a bench (I was riding on a bike trail approaching D.C.) and figure it out. Then at the picnic table I went from rational to trip over. I texted Cindy. She said fix it and move on. Good advice. So I did. Check that, John at BicycleSpace in downtown D.C. fixed it. In about an hour. I was rolling again away from D.C. In less than 2 hours!  Shop there if you get to D.C.  Neal and John are really solid folks. 

All told I rode just over 90 miles with a short sideways freebie to the bike shop. 

There are some realities with this journey. The ride out of D.C. On the Mt. Vernon Trail was fun with all of the bike commuters leaving the city. US-1, even with a mega bike sidewalk, not as much fun. There are miles when you are on roads with smaller shoulders and semi truck after semi truck cruising by you. There are long straight stretches in the sun. There are those same stretches in the rain and in a strong headwind. There are big hills. Some with friendly cadence-affording grades and there are those hills that suck the will from you as you granny gear up them and wonder if you would have time to unclip before taking your last pedal (thankfully hasn’t happened). There are super helpful people (shouting you out again Mora at Camden Hills State Park in Maine). Tonight I arrived at my destination, the Mason’s Neck State Park around 7:30pm only to be greeted with the “anti-Mora” ranger. His first words to me were enough: “You know there’s no camping here, right (boy)?  You took a long ride just to have to go back (loser).”  Me: “I was hoping for a flat spot to pitch my tent and crawl in for the night. Any thoughts?”  Ranger: “Not here. Park closes at dusk.”  Me: “Thanks (jerky).” I ended up about two miles up the road at Pohicky Regional Park.  Once again, I stashed my bike on the back porch of a rental cabin and crawled in my tent about 10:10 after a quick Campground shower and just before the rain started. Long. Hard. Day.  

What I loved today: “trail magic” the guys at  BicycleSpace were amazing. 
Oddity: Saddle sores 10 days in. Huh.  Why now? While I’m at it, triceps. Sore. Ok and my Bib is possibly unsalvageable.
Zen Moment: BicycleSpace guys.
Not-So-Zen Moment: Rack Malfunction
Who did I meet today? Neal and John at…you guessed it BicycleSpace on K Street in D.C. 
Food I Ate: Seems like 20 bars and IHOP!! Crushed an omelet with a full order of pancakes and drank what may have been a two-liter of coffee. Oh yeah, and three different cereals combined at the Hellmer’s place. They could open a cereal buffet. Solid selections. 
Pictures: 1) Top – Resevior just outside of the Hellmers’ place. Really pretty. 2) Bike breakage. 3) D.C. – raced through ya. 

Day 9: Evansburg State Park to Phoenix, MD – 103 miles

Today had many looks.  At the start it had all of the makings of a long day. I probably stopped 10 times in the first two hours. Deer picture (above). Too cold. Too hot. Bathroom breaks. Wrong turns. Phone charge at a sports complex bathroom. Valley Forge visitor center.  But then came the best greenway ever. The Chester Valley Trail. 15-20 paved miles, flat and super well maintained. Fort Mill:  you are on notice. I’ve started planning how I can influence a better network of pedestrian-friendly trails.

 

I woke up this morning in my tent in a large pavilion at Evansburg SP and truly didn’t know where I was. I suppose this means I slept amazingly well. That State Park was a happening place until about 8:30pm. All kinds of people coming and going. So much so that I held off on putting up camp as it was difficult to predict where the later hang out spots were going to be. In the two hours I was there I saw a nasty breakup (he stood with his hands in his pants while she screamed at him – not a good scene), a newly dating couple of middle agers (he prepped a cooler picnic complete with fondue, they took a walk and did some smooching) and an 80 year old couple walking their tiny small white dog. Then there were lots of random folks slowly driving around. Barely a state park. But I still slept well. 

Riding after the greenway trail was largely marked by time on PA-10. Think picturesque corn and soybean fields on a winding hilly road…silos, barns, horses split by a road stacked full of farm-related 18-wheelers cruising through the countryside. After 10 miles of this I piled into a roadside stand run by two local Minunite families. For $6 I drank homemade blackberry lemonade, at two fresh apples, a homemade energy bar and a whoopie pie. Pretty good way to say goodbye to Pennsylvania. 

Hello to Maryland was a little more abrupt. After a momentary break under fruit trees at the state line it was down, down, down to ride over the top of the Susquehanna Dam – a small two lane road where the water was actually at eye level to my right. I rode as fast as I could over the 1/2 mile crossing at mile 70 of the day while holding up about 22 cars behind me that had no room to pass. They loved me. From there I spent three hours learning that Northern Maryland is really, really hilly. I easily spent more time today in my Granny gear than on any prior day on this trip. Serious gradients.  Serious fatigue. Serious props to all of the Maryland cyclists. 

My day had an awesome ‘carrot’ pulling me along. Matt and Jenn Hellmers and their home. With less than 24 hours notice they put their lives on hold to host me in their home. This only after realizing there was no way I could make 30 miles more to DuMont’s house (sorry Chris and Robin).  The Hellmers’ did make me earn it with a huge final pull (in my granny gear) up to their hilltop home. Once there, I couldn’t stop admiring their garage. It could have been mistaken for a well-stocked bike shop. Super cool. They socialized, fed me, the kids toured me around their playrooms (loved the Thomas jump track!) and allowed me a shower and a great night’s sleep in a bed. I am super-grateful for their hospitality on no notice. I know this now (and didn’t then), but they are truly in the thick of it kid-wise. 3 and 5 year olds take all you got. This is my second house visited with kids these ages and I shudder at their apologies. I get a great feeling of warmth knowing the stuff we went through with kids that age was normal. All families with kids that age are going through it. A lesson only time teaches and I imagine I’ll continue to learn over and over again. Thanks Hellmers for the lesson and hospitality. I hope I can repay it one day. 

What did I love today: Seeing old friends and hanging out at the Pennsylvania barnside stand. 

Oddity: A hawk takes off from a field adjacent to me, drops a small mouse from its talons on the road in front of me.  The mouse scurries to the side of the road for cover having his life just spared and misses my front tire by millimeters!  Oh the injustice that would have been. That mouse should play the lottery. Luckiest. Day. Ever. 

Zen moment: The Chester Valley Trail. 

Not-so-zen moment:  The hills of MD. I might have cussed them a bit. 

Who did I meet: The full Hellmers family!

Food I ate: banana, peanut butter and Nutella wrap, bar on the bike, bar on the bike, whoopie pie, granola bar, 2 apples and blackberry lemonade, 3 handfuls of chipotle chickpeas, bar on the bike, roasted veggies, salad and barley with apples and grapes at the Hellmers. 

 Tomorrow into VA via D.C.  779 miles ridden.