As expected, I didn’t make it to breakfast. I was able to eat two biscuits and a banana from my two new friends. Then they made to hit the trails, so I hung around long enough to pet the horses and watch the process of loading the saddle. It takes me a bit longer to load my Horse but I don’t have to do as much grooming. I stayed around the campsite hoping the sun would come out and burn the dew off my rainfly. After three cups of coffee and no sun in sight, I packed up and readied myself for a big climb into Damascus. I had a slow leak in my rear tire so I topped both tires off and hit the road.
Barely two miles later I had an extreme blow out. Fortunately I was climbing a small hill and had no real speed. It sounded like a shotgun and almost flipped me over. The front tube blew out with a six inch opening; the weight of the bike mixed with the sudden loss in pressure and a gnarly road completely destroyed my tire and roughed up the rim. There was a pinky size hole in the sidewall of a tire several people claimed lasted them the entire trip. Luckily I had an extra tire, a tire I had been debating why I was carrying in the first place. I used a rock to buff the rim and then changed the tire and tube. Then I crossed my fingers to be accident free at least until Damascus.
The descent into Damascus is pretty great. You can choose to take a road the entire way down, or spend the last 8 miles following the Virginia Creeper Trail, a rails-to-trails project. I did the Creeper (part of the AT) into town and ode briefly around Damascus to get my bearings. Then I went to Dot’s, one of the last great American diners.
Five years ago, I came to Dot’s malnourished and tired. I had ordered a pitcher of Amberbock, another pitcher, a cheeseburger, two orders of cheese sticks, another pitcher, and some onion rings. I anticipated doing the same thing this time. As I entered, I was struck by the smell of grease and cigarette smoke. The proprietor (Dot) was known for her ability to smoke a cigarette while cooking your food and not ash it. She could grow an ash on a smoke that was damn near two inches long, carefully not allowing it to fall onto the burger she was grilling. I ordered a pitcher, cheese sticks, and a cheeseburger. Then another pitcher. Then I made plans to sleep at a B&B in town, followed by a quick trip to the bike shop to get the Horse worked on.
Two other cyclists, Ed and Russ, were due in town that night and were staying at the same B&B. There were also a handful of hikers staying there, including a Englishman who was staying in town for an extra day to go on a date with a local. I had a pleasant afternoon of swapping stories about the trail and the bike route with everyone, followed by dinner at the local pizza spot. Before heading back I went to the gas station for a six pack of beer, then to the room for some beverages and internet usage.
I took a full day off the next day. I had contacted the owner of Damscus Brewery, which was closed both days I was in town, and he agreed to let me poke my nose around. Remembering my experience on the AT, I excitedly went to Dairy King for breakfast and order the biscuits and gravy. They were gross. Seriously not good. I was upset and disappointed; had I changed; was I so hungry on the AT that this passed as delicious; did they change? I got over it and moved on, which was the best I could do.
The walk to Damascus Brewery follows the Creeper Trail. Trial Days, the annual AT celebration, was the weekend before I arrived. I knew the brewery was small and assumed there wouldn’t be any beer left. When your brewery is tiny (termed a nano brewery, usually producing 1-2 bbls per brew (or 2-4 full size kegs)), it can be a real challenge to have beer available regularly. Unfortunately I was right. The owner and brewer took time out of their day to talk about their future and their plan for the brewery. I think they have a bright future, although winters in a tourist town can be a real killer. But it sounds like they have a good plan to survive, including cheap rent.
Once back at the B&B, I shared the video of the bridge crossing in VA with Russ and Ed. The look on their faces was great, and I was reprimanded in a calm fatherly way by both of them, all the while they kept muttering something about young people. I managed to upload it to the internet and was pleasantly surprised that people watched it, and only a small majority called me stupid for doing it.
That night, I sorted my belongings and packed up, hoping to get an early start on the day. I wanted to be near a friend’s cabin in a week and a half, so there were many miles to cover.