06/18/2004

Day 19 - 6/18
Damascus, VA to Rosedale, VA
35 (885)

I had a great time hanging out with the hikers last night. There's such a community among them. Although most are hiking solo, they inevitably hopscotch over and hike with one another. They've all been initiated with trailnames and are obsessed with their gear. And there's so many of them. I was tempted to hit the trail with them, but instead I hit the road. And what a lonely road it is. Another westbound cyclist came into the hostel late last night. Being an ex-Marine, he was fully prepared to meet his goal of 100 miles a day. He's at least a day ahead of me already. I took it easy at the hostel in the morning. I went to the dollar store to buy a huge supply of toilet paper for the hostel, because trust me, they needed it. I let some guys borrow my bike to run to the grocery store just outside of town so they could resupply. I was out of there about 10:30. I had a pretty short day planned because today was supposed to bring the steepest climb of the trip so far-about 1,300 feet at an 8 to 9% grade for 3.7 miles. As soon as I made it to the climb, it started to rain. And as I continued further up the mountain, it rained harder. As miserable as it sounds, it was a blessing: it cooled me off for the hot climb, plus it discouraged me from stopping. As soon as I made it through the pass, the sky cleared and I cruised down the other side of the mountain, enjoying the vistas in the new terrain. I was surprised at how beautiful and different this new valley was. There were more open fields strewn with large stones. It looked like Scotland. From there it was just a few miles to the Elk Garden United Methodist Church, where I am spending the night. Yep, I'm sleeping right on the carpeted floor of the church, right between the pews and the piano. I spent the evening reading through all the bikers' logs-all the notes of thanks and advice for other riders. I found it pretty invigorating. Although we cyclists don't have the high numbers that Appalachian Trail thru-hikers enjoy, there's still a community. Thank goodness that these little churches, town parks, and generous families help to keep our community united. Gee, aren't we a little sentimental?