59 miles (95 km) – Total so far: 592 miles (953 km)

Today, I broke away from the ACA route completely and started heading straight west in an effort to get to an annual get together with my brothers North of Nashville. Though, honestly, several folks have told me that breaking away from the ACA trail is a good idea from time to time anyway. I can see why: the complacency of having printed directions to follow certainly cuts down on the planning/adventure aspect of the trip. The implication of this statement is that today was not particularly well planned and hence, more adventurous.The ride from Rosedale down to Lebanon was a little bit harrowing. I was riding on a US highway. Now, sometimes these highways can be pretty lazy, at other times, they are indistinguishable from interstates. This was one of the latter. Entering Lebanon, I went to four different gas stations to get a detailed state map. All four sold the same totally useless map showing only interstates, and occasionally a US highway or state highway. I bought one anyway just in case I got lost in the back country without any network connection.

The county road out of Lebanon was hardly better than the US highway. Tons of traffic. Narrow roads. Lots of uphill and downhill. I raced ahead trying to get this crazy road behind me. The whole time I kept an eye on my side mirror and pulled off for any trucks or particularly aggressive looking cars. I finally arrived at the end of the road only to realize… it was another US highway. Along this road I put on about 500 ft of elevation. Constantly looking in my mirror. My nerves were completely shot. At the top of a hill I hit the reroute button on Google Maps and found the nearest county road reasoning that no kind of hill can be worse than this traffic. Silly boy. Silly Silly boy.

Finally off of the main road, I found myself on a ridge running through farming and residential areas. It was breathtakingly beautiful, and agonizingly hilly. My average speed dropped well below 10MPH as I ground my way through the hills. Now that it is over, I have the luxury of saying it was worthwhile as you can see from the beautiful scenery I attempted to capture. Keep in mind, this is just a few of the valleys. I saw well over 100 of these scenes.

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Beautiful valleys on the high ground West of Lebanon, VA

Beautiful valleys on the high ground West of Lebanon, VA

Fall Creek near Dungannon, VA

Fall Creek near Dungannon, VA

Beautiful fences on a beautiful (if jarring) gravel road. Near Duffield, VA

Beautiful fences on a beautiful (if jarring) gravel road. Near Duffield, VA

Merging back into my original directions past the US highways was quite pleasant. Little traffic, and the hills became more manageable. Clearly my three mapping programs: Google Maps, Galillelo, and GPS-X need extra attention for tomorrow’s ride. I am optimizing for three things: Minimal traffic, minimal vertical climb and minimal miles, in that order. To that end, I went back and plotted my previous routes and got some rough estimates of my mileage and vertical. Really, the ft down don’t matter, it’s the cumulative climb that gets you. Having tossed everything on a spreadsheet, I can see that, yes, today was brutal. It was the 2nd hardest day so far after day 7 (The climb from Afton was both expected and short in mileage, so falls in at #3). Now that I have this tool, I can set my expectations for the days to come.

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My route for the next 3 days takes me over the Cumberland mountains with minimal vertical and traffic. It looks like the next two days should be fine, but Monday is going to be a long tough haul. After that, the average climb drops from 59.4 feet per mile to 24.9 feet per mile. Easy!

Which leaves one final important thing that I can’t plan for. Dogs. Dogs hate seeing me on the bike. I don’t know if they think I’m a threat or a herd animal to be culled. I was chased about a dozen times today. Fortunately, they usually give up pretty quick. But one was pretty serious. My 5MPH climb up a 6% grade turned into a 15MPH sprint in a hurry. I have a whistle which distracts them, but I’ve seen some cyclists with diluted pepper spray as well. If I can find some, I’m going to take it as a precaution.

And now, I’m going to rest in the pitter patter of a slight drizzle at Natural Tunnel State Park.

The nicest campground yet at Natural Tunnel State Park in VA

The nicest campground yet at Natural Tunnel State Park in VA