It was one of those kinds of mornings when you wake up psyched in knowing the days ahead are going to be super rad. My alarm sounded off at 5 a.m. and I jumped right out of bed, brewed a cup of coffee and watched the sunrise burst through my window one blind at a time. I double-checked my gear before leaving to board a 9 a.m. train to meet Mickey in Brooklyn. Thankfully we pre packed my bike and most of my gear the night before making my commute in a bit easier with just a backpack to carry.
After arriving at Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn, I spotted Mickey. We chopped it up, fit the gear in the back of his Volkswagen and we were off for a 7-hour drive to the Blue Ridge Mountains in South West Virginia. Along the way we panned out what the days would look like ahead. Now I’ve never traveled with Mickey before but I know he had a few trips under his belt, and that we both knew the common language of bicycle travel. I knew if anything were to go south, I would be able to develop some alternate plans on the fly but I had faith in that everything will turn out well.
We arrived at Otter Creek on the Blue Ridge Parkway right outside of Lynchburg, VA. At around 6:30 P.M. We unloaded and assembled our bikes, loaded all of our portage and left a note at the range station stating we’ll be back in 5 days. Typically, this is the common thread when riding the parkway and is permitted at most ranger stations.
After driving all day we decided to ride three miles and setup camp at Otter Creek for the evening. This will be our point of departure for the days ahead.
We got up early and did a quick breakdown of our paraphernalia. We did what we can, to consolidate the gear for the days we were spending on the Parkway. I had a little less than a gallon of water packed which included two 40oz Kleen Kanteens, my 25oz water bottle and a 20oz reserve.
After breaking camp at 8:00 a.m. The Blue Ridge Parkway was bright with light leaks that broke through the trees leaving their abstract branch shadows on the road. It was all too familiar, but so different, quaint and still with the sonic sounds of nature that moved everything. We were riding for about 10 minutes before we were introduced to our first 3000-foot climb. It wrapped us around the beautiful picturesque ridges. When I told Mickey I’d know within about 10 minutes if I were going to be comfortable in the saddle. He said not to think so much about what’s ahead of you, when it comes just take the climb. You begin to develop a rhythm and before you know it you reach the top.
We went with the flow. No pressure, no time restraints and no strings attached. Just bike and experience what the Blue Ridge was giving us.
We were headed for Roanoke Mountain, which was about 60 miles of climbs and switchbacks. Temps were climbing in the upper 80’s with inclement conditions at higher altitudes, “Keep on pedaling.” We were exhausted at times and took breaks here and there. We circled back to a ranger station where we took a break. After a brief refuel we were off with our legs spinning surrendering to the granny gear up Roanoke Mountain. We were nearing the main city there and decided to get a room at a local motel in town for the night. It was much needed.
The next morning the road back to the Blue Ridge climbed for several miles before it topped out. We were back on within 45minutes and heading back North towards Jefferson National Forest where we would stay the night.
I was awakened by a series of “Koww” sounds from crows that echoed around our campsite. Mickey was wide-awake. I made my way out of my tent for breakfast at the camp table. We shared laughs about the night before, packed our gear and set off for a 34-mile ride back to the car. Each day was different, something like a biking paradise. Steep uphill climbs with long rolling down hill descents. Swath of foliage that wrapped around us as we pedaled the tarmac. And beautiful views on the tops of every mountain. We rode fast going downhill awaiting for the next nuance around the bend.
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