Whew! If I didn't know we only rode 10 hours today, I would have guessed it was many more.
We were out of camp early for the 10 miles to the bottom of the mountain. The morning was gray and one of the guys at the campground told us there was a chance of rain. We have been very lucky with rain so I was hoping our luck would hold!
We made it to the town of Vesuvius and turned to head up the mountain. Our map had a warning that after Vesuvius, the road is a very steep switchbacked road for 4 miles. We have been hearing about this climb since Nevada and it was finally time! It started gradual and quickly turned upward; the morning was cool but I was dripping sweat in just minutes. It was indeed steep, but there were shallow sections dispersed throughout that offered some relief. George was already at the top, and Josh passed Seth and me about a mile from the top (he and Claudia are "slackpacking", having his parents carry their gear). I kept pumping and breathing and before I knew it, I saw a Blue Ridge Parkway sign...the top! It was much quicker than I expected and, though difficult, not nearly as much so as people had told us. It felt great to be at the top of our last big climb, but we still had almost 60 miles to go for the day.
The parkway was a beautiful, beautiful ride, although my legs were tired from the big climb. We went up and down over the ridgeline, and saw several bikers riding the road. I would love to ride it in its entirety! We stopped for lunch with Josh and Claudia at a wayside, and ate hot pockets and microwave burritos. Before long we were starting the descent into the valley and I said to Seth, "Say goodbye to the mountains..." We were leaving them behind!
The ride down from the parkway was steep and curvy; our map had another bold warning that it was a very steep and winding mountain road and to use extreme caution. My hands ached from pulling the brakes as we wound our way down the mountain. We stopped at a country store at the bottom for a popcorn, gummy bears, and soda snack, and decided to use Google maps to navigate to the hotel where we were planning to stay in Charlottesville. Oh, Google maps. After about 8 miles, during 7 of which it rained, we passed a gravel road that was supposed to be our turn! We kept going to try to reroute the trip, but I lost service. We rode until we had service again, but the new route called for another gravel road! It was only a mile so we decided to "be adventurous" (as Seth put it). It was bumpy and rough but we managed, and the last 1/10 turned to pavement. Not 10 minutes later, I heard a pop come from Seth's bike. We both knew in the backs of our minds what it was, but not wanting to believe it, I asked, "What was that?" We stopped to look and sure enough, a spoke popped on Seth's new rim. It was rideable so we finished the 8 miles to town; thankfully it was not on the cassette side so he was able to fix it tonight. So frustrating to have something break so close to the end!
We had dinner at Burger King and did laundry here at the hotel while we discussed the next few days. The ocean is so close!