Saturday, August 29, 2009

From the Blue Ridge Parkway to the Cookie Lady

Thursday August 27

It’s really going to end. In a matter of 3 or 4 more days we will be done pedaling! How did this happen? Kind of took me by surprise! I’ll miss all this once I’ve settled back into the routine that had kept me busy for the previous 13 years. The last couple of days I’ve been thinking of projects to see me through until the next big adventure (whatever that may be). One that ranks up towards the top is to build a sea kayak or two so that we can start exploring the coast of Washington. Relax Andrea, I’m thinking of weekend trips and progressing from their. But I don’t see any 100 day Kayak adventures anwhere on the horizon. Another project that I see taking off this fall is to build a cyclists shack on our property. This would be a neat thing to involve Lewis and Andrej in. Nothing like good old fashioned hard work and pounding nails and mixing concrete to keep the hands busy so the mind doesn’t become bored! Yep, the trip must be coming to a close as I’m thinking of other stuff and we’re not even done yet. Let’s get back to the cycling.

We had the continental breakfast at the Econolodge today. With a half of a cantalope thrown in for good measure, we were good to go. A departure at 10:00 was just a little later than I would have liked as it’s supposed to warm up into the upper 80’s again; but that’s not even really that hot for us now that we are seasoned touring cyclists! The initial part of todays ride was challenging for about 5 miles and then the hills parted as we followed a stream uphill for the next 10 miles. This was gentle climbing that you almost don’t realize you’re doing. Then the fun began. We reached the town of Vesuvius Virginia, and totally missed out on the service stop. We couldn’t find the store and opted to keep on going rather than going back and asking where it might be. As our water bottles were full and we had a couple of 32oz gatorades to boot, we would probably be OK.

As soon as we left Vesuvius behind (named after the mountain we would be climbing) we began the ascent. We pedaled for almost a mile before the incline became to steep to continue. This would normally be the time to start walking and pushing the bikes. We were mentally prepared to do this and were just minutes away from starting what would likely be an hour and a half or 2 hour stroll, pushing the bikes up the steepest meanest hill that the entire trans am bike trail has to offer. The toughest meanest bikers salivate when they think of the climb to get up to the Blue Ridge Parkway. I am not one of those guys. Having pushed the tandem up scores of hills that don’t come close to today’s hill, I see this as a whole bunch of work. Donna and I had talked about the possibility of catching a ride up the hill but it was most likely wishful thinking on our part. There was almost no traffic on this county road that takes us up to the parkway. So when a pickup truck approached while we were preparing the begin the walk, Donna and I simultaneously stuck our hitchhikers thumb out.

Lo and behold, the truck stopped! It was an easy sell to get them to give us a lift to the top of the hill once they got a look at Lewis and his black toenail. Joe and Shirley White were out for the some hiking in the area after some morning fishing. They didn’t have to think twice and immediately Joe began rearranging things in the back of his pickup which would allow enough room for the tandem. I was skeptical that with the short bed pickup and a tool box as well, there wouldn’t be enough room. But once the bike was up there, it looked like it was pretty comfortable! So we threw Donna’s bike up there too and hopped in the back seat of their extended cab truck for the short ride that would cut off hours of punishment. That is how I looked at the ordeal of pushing the bike that far. We have pushed the bikes so often that skipping out on the very worst push of the trip, didn’t cause any of us to bat an eyelash. This was the third and will almost certainly end up being the last ride we’ll take during this adventure of a lifetime. Thank you once again Joe and Shirley from the bottom of our hearts (and also my tired aching legs).

The trip was over before we knew it. I’ve probably spent more time writing about it than we spent in their truck! We unloaded and were once again on our way. The rest of the day held gently rolling up and downs while we travelled the Blue Ridge Parkway. And then the descent from the Parkway into the valley below. This was a fun ride as it was a screamer. Less than a half hour after we left the Parkway behind, we pulled up to the house of one June Curry. June is known affectionately as “The Cookie Lady” as she estimates that she has given away 40,000 cookies to cyclists since she began doing this in 1976. Now she provides cyclists a house for their use as well as providing food and beverage.

We pulled up to June’s house only to discover another cyclist had already arrived. Kendal from earlier days had spent the previous 4 hours talking to June. Our arrival meant he had an opportunity to get back on the road as he wasn’t finished riding for the day. We stepped in where Kendal left off and June was back in her glory. Her entire existence is now centered around bicyclists and their comings and goings. She has collected memorabilia from countless cyclists since she began her hospitality back in 1976. The cyclists house is a veritable shrine with postcards from all over the world taking up entire walls of the house. Cyclists have chosen to leave things behind and sign them as some form of homage to her. There are newspaper articles about her that fill up entire scrapbooks. She collects stuff from anyone who ever had contact with her. June is 89 years old and unfortunately is starting to forget the cyclists who have passed thru just days ago. Her health is not what I would consider robust as she has suffered a stroke and subsequently several broken bones as she’s fallen while doing her daily regimen. She no longer comes over to the cyclists house but still uses the money donated by cyclists to keep the pantry stocked. She is another icon of this trip who won’t be forgotten for many a cyclist including all of Team Jackson.

Donna and Lewis are now asleep on a couple of different couches while I poke away at my keyboard. I’m not that anxious to sleep as the place has an odor of old dusty closed up attics. But I too am tired and tomorrow is another day. A short day, but another day nonetheless. Sayonara! Total miles today would have been approaching 60 but the ride in the pickup truck reduced that to 52! Hallejeullah!


  1. Great ride, great pictures, great scenery. We are going to be so bored, when your trip is over. Lewis has learned soooo much, and Donna, you look so relaxed and happy. Love to ya all! Mom

  2. Waiting to hear about the end of your trip. I know Aunt Bonnie is too. It's been great reading about your adventures. Marlene