BVA (Final) Day Six

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.

Scene from below the Chickahominy River Bridge.
Scene from below the Chickahominy River Bridge.
Riders crossing the bridge.
Riders crossing the bridge.
Riding up the Bike Path on the bridge.
Riding up the Bike Path on the bridge.

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.

View from atop the Chickahominy River Bridge.
View from atop the Chickahominy River Bridge.

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.

Osprey nest.
Osprey nest.
Two osprey chicks in their nest beneath the Chickahominy River Bridge.
Two osprey chicks in their nest beneath the Chickahominy River Bridge.

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).

Re-tracing our ride east, in reverse, under a loury sky.
Re-tracing our ride east, in reverse, under a loury sky.

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.

Freshly-harvested oats along the Capital Bike Trail. Next, I expect the farmer will cut the oat straw. The aroma recalls my horse days.
Freshly-harvested oats along the Capital Bike Trail. Next, I expect the farmer will cut the oat straw. The aroma recalls my horse days.

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.

Uh-oh. "Be prepared to stop." But for how long?
Uh-oh. “Be prepared to stop.” But for how long?

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 Bridge for Bikers! Bikers for Hopewell Bridge!
Hopewell Bridge for Bikers! Bikers for Hopewell Bridge!

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).

Jet fuel.
Jet fuel.

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.

We need a few of these signs around the Blue Ridge Parkway.
We need a few of these signs around the Blue Ridge Parkway.

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.

Job done.
Job done.

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.

G'Night, all. Thanks for listening.
G’Night, all. Thanks for listening.

BVA Day Two

Rained hard last night, but no water issues in or around the tent. A few of the gum balls that nearly carpet the ground around here lie under our tent, but the ground pads were enough to keep us from being disturbed by them.

Arose at about 6:30, ate a marginal breakfast at Pocahontas State Park (part of what we’ve paid for, catered for this event by local caterers), and managed to get rolling down the road by 8. Last night’s rain had cooled things off and it stayed overcast for most of the day.

The first rest stop was held at a lovely horse farm called Blackwater — about 11 miles into the ride.

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They also had chickens, ducks, and an absolutely killer tree house.

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At about 9AM we left there with the forecast overheard during one of the many many conversations you’re privvy to, whether you want to be or not, that it would be raining by 10. They were right, but it was only dribbling a bit, and it ended by only making the humidity skyrocket.

Rest stop number two was totally killer. A combination of the fire department and the Boy Scouts really did a great job. One of the most amazing things was that we were able to get ICE! So we left with ice in our bottles of Gatorade and in my backpack full of water: cooling me twice; once through the backpack itself and once when I drank the water.

The second delight of the stop was make-it-ourselves tomato sandwiches, on which we could add a variety of accoutrements including a home made garlic and herb sauce that was really good. We made that stop our lunch and might have slightly overstayed our welcome.

That was at mile 29. No problem for me because I’d been able to ride that far in most of my training rides. Still, the goal for the day was twice that. But I was feeling good.

The next rest stop had a Hawaiian theme and so they were dressed in luau outfits and there were lighted, animated flamingo sculptures that were a hoot. I neglected to take photos because first, my cell phone was chewing up power running the cycling program we use to track our bicycle progress; and this was mile 43: farther than I’d ridden to date — since at least last September. I was beginning to feel the burn.

Ostensibly, there was supposed to be a rest stop that would be water only in another 11 miles, but that didn’t materialize. Not that we would have stopped anyway, but the next goal was 22 miles in our future, back at home base. Naturally, this is when it got really hot.

But anyone can ride 22 miles, right?

I was pretty okay until about 10 miles out. That was when 6 hours in the saddle began to hurt. The pressure points of my hands/wrists and the two point bones in my butt were letting me know they’d had plenty enough.

By 3:00 I was rolling into camp. Where some of the thin-tired, small-gear folks had bee reduced to walking up some of those steep hills we encountered in the final 20, I chugged them all. And I finished, but boy, am I tired! I don’t think there will be any trouble finding sleep tonight. Nor for anyone else in camp, I’d guess. Today was the century ride for some poor gees who chose the 100 mile route. So I don’t think we’ll have to wait for “quiet hours” for it to become quiet around Tent City.

Despite feeling like I rather caved over the final miles, it was a really great ride. Neat stuff along the way, lovely winding back roads, not too much traffic, and my first over-30 day of 2014.

Yay!

While I was rolling down a beautiful, wood-lined, shady lane, I thought to myself, “This is what it’s all about. This is why we do this.” Only wish I could have captured a photo of it to share. But I was keeping my hands firmly on the handlebars, and such a pic would never be able to capture nor convey that feeling.

That’s what vacation is all about, no?

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One final thought. I spent much of my time this afternoon charging devices, along with every other camper present it seems. This snarl of wires and chargers (below) is actually a good thing – I’ve never attended a BVA where a charging bar or service was provided.

This station is right beside one of the two shower trucks, and runs off the same generator they use to run the exhaust fans, lights and (presumably) heat the shower water. Another line to wait in, but you don’t really have to sit with your device to protect it. Everyone leaves yours alone, as they are far more interested in their own devices than in yours. Truly a sign of the times.

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BVA Day One

We are cheek to jowl in tent city so I hope no one nearby snores much. We didn’t get our ride started until 2PM because it took a while to set our tents and Jim had to change his tires on his bike.
Somehow we managed to miss lunch, so began the ride hungry, hoping we would get to a shopping center or fast food corridor en route. Naturally, we didn’t see anything but pretty subdivisions and long rural roads. The day was partly cloudy and some stretches of the ride were lovely and cool. 18 miles in, however, where the rest stop was, it was sunny, moist and quite hot. Had some snacks to fuel the final ten miles back to camp, and the most challenging part of the ride was the final 5-ish miles, during rush hour along a rather narrow road. Note to self: don’t get between a soccer mom in a van and her Friday night wine glass.
Tomorrow’s forecast is to be wet, so I might not take many pix. But we might get lucky again.
Day One = Success.

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