69 miles (111 km) – Total so far: 533 miles (858 km)
A note from Mike on time travel by bike: Delays between blog posting time and real time will shrink as the rest days pass. Now, onto the blog…
My route improvisation yielded some great results. In addition to cutting 15 miles and a moderate amount of vertical off my trip, I came across two great towns that I would have missed otherwise: Marion, VA and Chilhowie, VA
Marion is a town of about 8,000, which feels like a major metropolis along this route. Complete with a rush hour and frenzied big city life. But for all that, it has one of those really great little downtown main street sections that is very pretty. I think I passed 4 or 5 big brick churches through the main part of town. All of them very picturesque.
Further down Lee highway is the town of Chilhowie. I probably would have blown right through if not for the sign out front of the first building you see as you come into town. Chilhowie drug store and coffee shop. I haven’t seen many great coffee shops along the way, but this one made up with quality for what I’ve lacked in quantity. The cafe owner, Charlie, whipped me up some biscuits & gravy along with a nice strong locally roasted cup of coffee. It was heaven. I chatted up Charlie for a spell about my trip and he told me a little about his daughters. One of whom had opened the drug store to which the & Coffee Shop is attached to. Charlie went above and beyond with hospitality, and didn’t charge me for my breakfast.
This is an important point about this trip. A lot of folks expected me to run into “crazies” and other dangerous elements on the road. But the vast majority of people have been kind, gracious, and hospitable. Even now I’m sitting in a church that has devoted a large portion of its space as a hostel for bikers. People are amazing.
But, I didn’t get to this wonderful hostel by magical happy fairy taxi. I had to pedal here. And the final 10 miles was over a gap in the Western Appalachians. I’m a little bit North of the Cumberland Gap. This gap is called Hayters Gap. Hayters gotta Hayte. This doozie was a 1400 ft 10% grade climb. It was the last of the big climbs for a while. I’m glad to have it behind me.