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Dot’s and Damascus

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.

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