We arranged for an early start for the long chug back to the cars on this final day of Bike Virginia. The route map had it at 58 miles, and for the outset we were re-tracing our steps back the way we had come down to Chickahominy River Park.
The forecast was for the rain to begin in the Williamsburg area around 10AM, and move away from the water, inland, so our idea was to ride before the storm. The 5:30 AM tent breakdown and packing began in low overcast, humid but cool weather. Breakfast was ho-hum, but we knew we’d need the fuel, so we ate and drank plentifully. We were away by 7:15AM.
Before actually embarking on the trek, however, I had noticed there was a boat slip or dock or something under the vehicle bridge spanning the Chickahominy River, so I pedaled over to see what could be seen.
I watched a couple of riders crossing the bridge and I knew I would stop at one of the pull-outs to take another pic, so I’ve got “under/over” perspectives of the bridge with its dedicated pedestrian and bike trail over top. As I turned to leave, I found a dollar bill on the ground! I hoped it would be a good luck token for the ride.
As it happened, I stopped on the bridge twice because I heard an unusually loud cheeping sound coming from below. Two little osprey nestlings, one far younger than the other (or perhaps far less developed because its larger sibling was stealing all the food), were looking for Ma and Pa to bring breakfast.
We followed the Capital Bike Trail back up Route 5 until we ran out of trail. I understand that a couple of the skinny-tire fellows might have had their bikes go out from under them due to the construction debris that was on the parts of the trail newly completed (or still under development).
Happily, the road itself was not nearly as busy as when we had ridden down. So the times we had to be on the road instead of the Bikeway were not horrid. The path picked up again just west of Charles City County Courthouse, and lasted about 10 miles or less, to just after Berkeley Plantation.
But we had to go back over the Hopewell bridge, which I was not particularly looking forward to. As we turned onto the bridge road, I passed an older gentleman riding what must have been one of those folding travel bikes. But his appeared to be held together with baling twine and old inner tubes.
He was not going very fast, and possibly for the first time during this entire ride, I passed someone instead of constantly being passed. His bike was very small, with specially-sized tires, so I supposed he had to carry with him all he’d need to change a tire, including a replacement tire or two. Most of us merely have to carry the proper inner tube for the tires that are on our bikes, because if the actual tire needs replacing, the sizes are more-or-less standard. But not his. So his ride was festooned with tires, twine, inner tubes and other paraphernalia that I was too embarrassed to stare at as I chugged past. From then forward, I thought of him as “shoestring boy” and it was a point of pride that he not pass me during the day.
But there were construction signs and my heart dropped, anticipating a delay like the prior day when we were trying to reach Williamsburg (and the means by which shoestring boy would catch me). But the Sheriff’s Deputy who was minding the road waved my pack of about 50 riders forward of the cars, and he told us to precede the lead car, which would go slowly enough to keep the cars well off the slowest of us.
The entire bridge was ours alone! The construction, which was on one lane only, at the far side of the bridge, had closed the entire right lane, and with the cars following the pilot car and the pilot car following us, we had zero traffic (except one another) to contend with. It was brilliant.
Hopewell awaited, however, and it was industrial and urban once again, and the temperatures were rising as the sun began to come out spottily and the humidity only thickened. The second rest stop was in Hopewell, this time at the Appomattox Manor, City Point. Many folks might know Hopewell for its paper mill, or for the Superfund Environmental Cleanup site there in the James, but few realize that the location played an important role in the Civil War. Its location right on the river was critical to the South’s cause.
The really lovely neighborhood we rode through to arrive at the rest stop was full of refurbished old houses and beautiful yards. The rest stop itself offered some ice cream bars that were great sugar fuel. And the boom box sound system was playing some excellent oldies (for all us old gits).
As I left the rest stop and was about to pull out the camera to show a particularly nice home, a rider behind me said, “It looks like your rear tire is a little flat. Do you have a pump?”
Sure enough, it was bulging badly at the walls, and I thanked him and reported that I did, indeed, have a hand pump.
Unfortunately, when I pulled over and applied said pump ALL of the remaing air left the inner tube. And it was the back tire, on the wheel carrying all the gearing. So I moved to the shade and contemplated my seat wedge pack, which carries a spare tube, and a couple of tools to change a tire. But it had been a couple of years since I’d late changed a bicycle tire, and boy, was I intimidated! Jack was well ahead of me – probably about a half-hour along.
One of the BVA personnel stopped when I gave her the thumbs down sign, and she called for reinforcements (she, also was intimidated by the task, and unsure if, when begun, the effort might not take more time than it would take me to ride to Pocahontas State Park). And I always have the option to be carried, lock, stock, and barrel, back to the car.
Another SAG person stopped and said that if I had a tube, she could walk me through the tire change. So we did.
After I alerted Jack that I would be delayed, we upended the bike and got down to business. While this was going on, Jim rode past, coming from the rest stop, and waited so we could ride together, and so he might be able to help if the tire went flat again.
So we finally got out of Hopewell, and the heat was bristling with not an ounce of breeze. We had 28 miles to go, no more rest stops to look forward to, and it was noon. Nothing for it but to push one pedal down after the other, repeat.
At some point, I began to recognize some of the neighborhoods we were traversing, including Virginia State University campus. I started to imagine we were closer than we were to our destination. Big mistake. A guy passed me and asked what time it was. When I said, “One o’clock,” he said, “Bummer. I was hoping to be done by one.” When I said, “You’re close, and only a couple more miles to go,” he said, “A couple? I got 51 on my computer and we don’t finish until 58.”
Ugh. Seven more miles. I was dying.
Cadence. Spin. Concentrate on the cadence and feel the spin. Seven miles is nothing.
Beach Road, the one we had been riding along since the beginning – the only road leading into and out of our camp area at Pocahontas – has been re-named Bit** road because of how completely horrible its traffic is. I was so glad to be off that hateful road when I saw Jack standing beside the car with his bike atop, and I pulled into the parking pasture, I cannot express my joy.
Jim was not far behind, and we all decided to forego the event lunch and find some real food. The shower trucks were all the way back at the camping area, about a quarter mile walk away, and we also decided that it was simply too hot to bother. We wanted good food and air conditioning, so we packed up the cars and found a Chili’s for water, burgers, and fries.
We finished the meal around 3:30 or 4, and went our respective ways home: Jim to the 64 interchange and we along the 360 corridor. We hit a significant thunderstorm around Danville, but at last got home in the 8:30 range. Exhausted and ready to be done, we left bikes, gear, tents, and sweaty clothes bags with the car, chatted with our wonderful house sitters, Lou and Pat, until around 10, and hit the hay.
Another BVA behind us, another 300 miles on the annual odometer, and some fond memories of places and challenges and stories and standing in lines. Plus some ideas on how to do our own cycling tour next time, if we elect not to ride BVA 2015.