Editor’s Note: Last week, Justin Field, UD Class of 2011, embarked on a TSD-sponsored bike-ride across America to raise money and awareness for the Food Bank of Delaware. This is an update on his progress as he travels through Virginia. To read his last entry, click here.
Day 4: Picking up a trail
After a full breakfast, we hopped on the bikes and rode out of the Sanford family’s Mechanicsville, Va. neighborhood.
The heat was finally breaking, with a forecast high of 90 degrees, with much less humidity.
Having already traveled three days by blazing our own trail, we picked up the Adventure Cycling Association’s Transamerica route. The ACA is a nonprofit organization that supports bicycle travel and publishes detailed maps of various routes across the country, tailored to the needs of bicyclists.
We picked up the route just outside of Mechanicsville and immediately found ourselves on shady roads with wide bike lanes. We were on biker cloud nine, no longer having to fumble around with Google maps and GPS to try to figure out which roads to take and where to find a place to sleep.
We reached Ashland, Va. as the train rolled through town and we chased the train, also headed west, down a road that paralleled the tracks. Outside of Ashland we rode once again past rolling fields of wheat and corn, occasionally interrupted by old churches of all denominations.
In Bumpass, VA we saw our first fellow bikers. A group of bikers from the charity Bike the US for MS (multiple sclerosis) had just started from Yorktown, Va. the day before. It turned out we were headed to the same free campsite on the lawn of the Mineral, Va. Fire Department.
It was extremely nice to talk to other people doing the same trip as us, although they were supported by a van that carried all their stuff and followed them cross country.
Later that afternoon, we rode past Lake Anna, a man-made reservoir.
We weren’t going to miss a chance to swim, so we pulled our bikes past a fence and through some trees to the water’s edge.
We jumped in and were pleasantly surprised that the water was bathwater warm.
After sitting in the lake for a while, we headed to our campsite in Mineral, Va. wondering why the lake was so warm. We soon found out when analyzing the map for a correct turn down the road and realized we had been swimming in the water that cooled off the local nuclear power plant. Whoops.
That night we camped in the yard of the Mineral Fire Department hoping to get some much-needed rest.
Day 5: Trip to Charlottesville
For the first time on the trip, we woke up to temperatures below 70 degrees and needed to put on our rain coats for warmth.
The cool morning temperatures were perfect for riding and the first 30 miles breezed by.
Our destination was Charlottesville, VA, about 60 miles away, and today was the last day before we would begin pedaling the grueling Appalachians.
We saw on the map that there was a convenience store that would coincide well with our regular lunch time. We arrived at the country store to find that it had recently gone out of business.
After reaching the rural areas outside of the beaches, we’ve noticed a lot of recently abandoned buildings. Even basic services like gas stations without local competitors were going out of business.
Though it may have been the effects of the recession, the level poverty and financial misfortune seemed more severe in rural areas than what I am used to seeing in the cities.
As we approached Charlottesville, we decided to make a pit stop at Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s home (it’s on the nickel). It had a fancy entrance and reminded me of Longwood Gardens. There was a huge hill before the entrance where we walked into the ticketing office, dripping with sweat and decked out in biking gear.
The concerned looking lady at the desk informed us it was a 22 dollar admission to see the mansion. We passed—freedom is free.
We frightened more women and children at the next colonial attraction down the road: the historic Michie Tavern. Though this location had a 9 dollar fee for the tavern tour, we weren’t terribly interested and moved on to downtown Charlottesville.
We walked down the Main Street which was like a pedestrian mall and caught a free bluegrass concert in the town’s pavilion.
Upscale downtown Charlottesville citizens, dressed in their preppy clothing, contrasted sharply with the simpler folk and buildings in the Virginia countryside. As nice as it was to be able to be grimy all of the time, we felt a little underdressed for the town.
This night Dean’s parents came down from DC to take us out for dinner. Dean’s mom shared some advice from her trip across the country last summer as I carbo-loaded on pasta.
As we’ve noticed from seeing other riders, especially in the Bike the US for MS group, people of all ages make the trek across the country every year. It seems like most people are either college grads or recent retirees.
For the second time on our trip, we spent the night with a friend of Dean’s, understanding that the perks of air conditioning, free laundry and showers were going to become very rare.