42 miles (68 km) – Total so far: 1,255 miles (2,020 km)
(Sung to the tune of “12 Days Of Christmas”)
12 grinding uphills
11 screaming downhills
10 cliff bars
9 bottles drunk
8 breaks for peeing
7 Trucks a rumbling
6 canines chasing
… A 5 cookie break
4 rain showers
3 crossed rivers
2 tired bikers
and a vulture circling ominously above!
11 Screaming Downhills: I maxed out at 43 MPH before hitting the brakes. I passed 40 at least 5 times during the day. We ran into Jess and Tuan again in Centerville and Tuan reported hitting 48 MPH. Crazy. The downhills didn’t get us up very far into the following uphills in this section. It was more spiking hills than rolling hills. Nonetheless, going that fast on a bike sure is fun.
10 cliff bars: It simply isn’t possible to eat enough food to replace the calories burnt during a day like this. We tried by eating cliff bars, fruit, cookies, etc, but by the end we were totally beat. I might have two dinners tonight.
9 bottles drunk: We both went through all of our water from Centerville to Ellington. We went through it again from Ellington to Eminence. We also got through our emergency supply of gatorade. Finally entering Eminence, we were completely dry. Jess told us she went through half a bottle. Bill and I just stared dumbfounded by this revelation.
8 breaks for peeing: This is probably related to the incredible quantities of water we were drinking.
7 Trucks a rumbling: About seven logging trucks passed us. These beasts are long and extremely heavy. The drivers don’t slow down for anything. In addition to the logging trucks, every other type of large vehicle found the road today. Something about this area makes the drivers go maximum speed through every turn. Less than 10% of drivers slowed down so that they could wait and see around the blind corner before just barreling over in the left lane… or sometimes not really shifting over at all.
… A 5 cookie break: A monumental feat of engineering, I managed to keep half a Nalgene bottle full of milk cold by putting a bunch of ice cubes inside it in a ziplock bag. The ice cubes melted, and leaked out of the bag, so we ended up with wonderfully cold but very skim milk. This wonderfully refreshing beverage accompanied some cookies that I had carried with me to celebrate the cresting of hill seven. I’ve never worked so hard for cookies and milk.
4 rain showers Most of the day was overcast and we had light showers on and off. Really, they weren’t more than drizzles. It felt good. But, my cotton shirt didn’t like the combination of sweat and rain. I was pretty soaked through. I may be forced to get some lycra… something I’ve been avoiding like the plague. Most of my stuff is wool, which works out pretty well, but I think the heat is going to force the issue by the time I hit Kansas.
3 crossed rivers: Here’s the thing about rivers. I’m sure they’re beautiful and all, but I haven’t actually really seen many yet. This is because they are at the bottom of river valleys. Which implies I’m at maximum speed. It would take an emergency of epic proportions to get me to hit the breaks right before an uphill. In fact, that’s why I got stung by a bee under my eye a few days ago. I didn’t want to slow down long enough to wipe the one that smashed into me off of my cheek. I stand by this decision, regardless of the following six days of swollen face and neck.
2 tired bikers: Bill and I were astonished at how fresh Jess and Tuan were when the caught up to us in Eminence. This section has been described as the hardest part of the ACA trail and I believe it. In fact, this section clocks in at a total climb of 66 average vertical feet per mile. Only one other section exceeds this number: the climb onto the Blue Ridge Parkway is 103 ft/mile. That number is deceiving, though because the Blue Ridge climb occurs over 100% of the distance whereas today’s climbs all happened over about 30% of the total horizontal distance. The implication: The hills are STEEP
And a vulture circling ominously above: Birds of prey seem disproportionately interested in our progress. I hope this does not continue into any desert climates.