Beer

I blame my eldest brother for my love of craft beer. No teenager should be grabbing cases of low fill bottles to take to parties. But, alas, I did and I'm all the better for it. Cheers to beer (especially good beer)! It is the ultimate carrot at the end of a stick

Bicycle

Surly Disc Trucker - she's my steel horse. Built like tank, beautiful as any before her. She takes whatever I give her and loves it. She's not cuddly but that's not her purpose

Travel

For me, the best way to grow is to push my own limits of comfortability. Travel is the ultimate tool for growth. I've seen many beautiful things, but still don't know my own country. That must change.

Howardstown with Local News

Along the way I got passed by numerous farm implements of varying sizes. A couple of times I had to pull off the road to allow them to pass. After 50 miles of riding, I took a break in a random field adjacent to a stream. It was an idyllic slice of central KY, and I was fortunate enough to find a Pileated Woodpecker’s nest with chicks in it.

When I arrived in Howardstown I immediately found the gas station/restaurant. It wasn’t hard as there wasn’t much else in town, besides a liquor store. I ordered fried jalapeños, because I could and ate a snickers. As I went to pay, the lady behind the counter informed me they couldn’t take credit cards since the phone lines were down. Shit, all I had were CCs. She apologized (although it wasn’t her fault) and told me not to worry about it; she would cover the snack and dinner later. What a sweet heart!

While eating, I began to ask where I could safely camp. It seems to be the best way to find legal camping, and to not camp somewhere dangerous. The spot I had planned to camp at was near a boat ramp and river; possibly shady but also accessible by bike. Her reaction wasn’t positive; apparently, the youth of the area were notorious for causing problems down there.

That’s when another local arrived. She was the head of the one room school house and church down the road. I was invited to stay under their pavilion, and to tell other cyclists about the sleeping arrangements. I was saved (as far as sleeping is concerned). She came back a couple of times to check on me, at least that’s what I told myself.

There was truly one classroom and the library as the school. Nothing else. But there were industrial fans under the pavilion, which kicked ass. I went back to the gas station for dinner, and was treated to a local Louisville news. It was a strange reminder of how far I had come and how close I was to home: a home I was riding past in order to get to the West.

I finished dinner, returned to the pavilion, was visited one more time and told the children would be at school around 7:30. I was welcome to stay and visit with the children. I set my alarm for 6; I had no desire to play with school kids tomorrow.

Published: June 20, 2014

Berea to Beer Engine

Whenever I stay in hotels, I try to maximize my use.  I check in as early as possible and almost always ask for a late check out.  And I shower.  I shower several times each day and whenever it strikes me to shower again.  Today was no different.  I checked out late and headed to Danville to visit one of the few breweries in my home state I hadn’t seen: Beer Engine.

Beer Engine is a small brewery that is expanding and opening a new brewery in Louisville.  They have had an up hill struggle to get open in Louisville, but should be running by the time I get back, hopefully.  I planned to stay with an old friend, Annie, who works at the university in Danville, Centre.

The riding was wonderful.  Gone were the hollers and old mountains; found were the rolling hills of horse country.  As I was riding I passed the Marksbury Farm Market, a company the chef I worked with used regularly.  I almost passed it up and was glad I hadn’t.  I had a pulled pork wrap and a pint of strawberries.  I really have been missing my massive berry patch at my house so the strawberries helped satiate that longing.

I rode the gentle roller coaster to Danville in no time and arrived at Beer Engine as they opened.  A flight and a beer later and I was feeling refreshed.  A couple of regulars asked numerous questions and were in minor disbelieve I had ridden there, which is becoming a regular occurrence.

Annie met me there after she finished work and we headed a couple of blocks to her house.  She prepared me a wonderful dinner, we talked about the trip and life, and then later that night were joined by a random friend of her neighbors.

There isn’t a whole lot to do in this part of Kentucky, especially if you are a young person looking for work.  This kid had come over to hopefully taxi his friend around, for money, but the friend wasn’t there and hadn’t called him.  We talked for a bit during which time he brought up how he was really good at video games.  He had earned a bunch of Play Station Dollars (or some other gaming console monies) and was excited to spend them. It got a little strange for a while after that.

Shortly thereafter it was time for bed, for I once again hoped to have an early morning and ride fairly far.  I did wake early and did hit the rode fairly early (8am isn’t bad).   The weather was beautiful, so I planned to have a long day of over 80 miles to get to Howardstown.  There was a river there and I hoped to camp near it.

 

Published: June 20, 2014

Lexington for the Day

Yes. I get to see friends today.  All kinds.  I was super excited to go to Lexington and visit Country Boy and West Sixth.  The breakfast at the hotel was, well a hotel breakfast.  It was free and I was hungry (I’m officially always hungry).  After some controversy over who was actually picking me up, my good friend Michael came to the rescue.  Turns out an older guy with long hair was holding back the first group from leaving.  I guess he had to get his man mane in line.

Country Boy was great, as always.  They’ve grown so much since I was last there, not even three months ago. New fermentation, more barrels, a sexy office space.  We had a great afternoon of drinking amazing craft beer.  I had been in a craft beer, and alcohol in general, dead zone.  Eastern KY is mostly dry, not even moist, and certainly not damp.  Dry.  Bone dry.  I  had made the mistake of not purchasing some bourbon in VA before KY.  Big mistake.  So I was relieved to finally have some delicious, locally-made product.

After several pints, food was needed.  As we were leaving, one of the owners, and the man who kept me in DC, DH pulled up.  I didn’t realize at the time, but he had managed to slip out of the house leaving his wife and baby behind.  He had little time, and unfortunately the train to food town was leaving, so we ended up missing each other.  Sad face.

When we got back the lads from LouisvilleBeer.com were there.  It was podcasting time.  I hoped that the dick jokes and fraternity humor would be kept to a minimum, and was pleasantly surprised how mature the boys acted.  We talked about the ride, the beers I had consumed and more.  Afterwards, we headed to West Sixth.

West Sixth has also kicked up a production.  The brewery looks great with all kinds of new stainless.  The LouisvilleBeer.com guys continued to podcast; I continued to drink.  When we finally left town, another friend, Nasty, gave me a lift home.  We stopped at a decent BBQ place and then I got home.  Where I fell on the bed face first and was done.  Until the next day.

Published: June 15, 2014

Church Camping, Dry Counties

That morning I packed up and made to leave.  While finishing some business, Charlie came outside.  He is forced to take a lot of medicine for varying ailments.  These pills make him pretty groggy in the morning, which he had warned me about last night.  We talked a little bit longer, hugged it out, exchanged information and I was on my way.  I may or may not have also tried a little KY mountain spirit, or as I am now calling it, Kentucky Grappa.  It was a delightful start to the morning.

As I neared Hazard I prepared for the worst.  Being from KY, I had heard horror stories of Hazard, like people being threatened with guns and disappearance.  But that wasn’t the reality of what I rode through.  The people were nice.  The diner I ate at was spectacular.  And compared to the east KY hollers, it was down right respectable.

The rest of the day passed without much action.  It was hot and humid, aka summer in KY.  I took some joy in a sign for Gays Creek Full Gospel Church, and had a long break along one of the many streams I crossed.  That night I headed for a church run camping area in Booneville, another damn dry county.  When I pulled in, I was surprised to find two more cyclists doing the same basic route.

We talked, shared stories, and planned for the future.  They were from Winston Salem and were moving at a pace a little slower than mine.  I tried to persuade them into coming to Lexington with me the next day but failed.  They were excited to get out West as soon as possible.  It is a sentiment I share, although I have been really enjoying my home state.  I’ll be thankful when I get out West, because I’ll be strong enough to really enjoy it.

The next morning was foggy, so I decided to take my time packing up.  I was headed into Berea, and was going to stay at a hotel for the night.  A friend’s uncle had called in a favor to get me a discounted room, and it was at a great price, especially once I saw the room.  The ride into Berea was beautiful but hilly.   Straight up and straight down.  I had hoped to get to Berea in time to catch another friend who was traveling through from Asheville.  He and two other friends had been camping in Asheville and were coincidentally traveling near were I was.

Unfortunately, we were going to miss each other by a couple of hours.  When he asked where I was, I sent him a photo of my route, and hoped to see him later.  An hour passed by and then I was passed by a SUV I recognized.  It pulled by me slowly, then pulled into a parking lot just up the road.  When I got near, there was my good friend Andrew standing triumphantly next to his car.  I was so excited to see him.  We hugged and caught up; he gave me all his leftover food from camping; then he had to get going for an engagement back home.  He was behind me as I rode away.  He again passed very slowly, but the truck behind him went speeding past me and then got right on his ass.  To my pleasure, Andrew maintained a slow speed until he was out of sight.

After I checked into the hotel, I went to my room for the night dejected that I was still in a dry county.  But the room I was in was massive, with a pull out couch and king size bed.  I got naked, surveyed my domain, and then took a long shower.  I hadn’t realized how tired I was, and as I lay on the bed I nearly passed out.  Fortunately I didn’t.  Instead I put a message out on Facebook asking if any one was in my area and wanted to bring me beer.  I also sent a message to my two other friends asking if they would be passing my way.

I was in luck.  The friends I was planning to stay with in Kansas City, John and Amanda, were visiting Amanda’s parents just south of Berea and would be passing by in an hour heading to Lexington.  Success.  Then the other two friends, Josh and Lane, called and said they were in the parking lot.  So there I was, in Berea, touring the US, surrounded by a group of friends who were all incidentally in the neighborhood and wanted to say hello.  I felt like an extremely lucky guy.  Soon they all left for their own plans and I was left alone.  Alone with 12 beers and a huge room.

The next day I planned to head to Lexington, via car.  A group of friends were going to meet me at Country Boy Brewery, go to West Sixth, and party all day.  One group had agreed to pick me up in Berea, but no one had agreed to deposit me back there.  That needed to be taken care of but was going to have to wait til morning.

 

Published: June 13, 2014

Old Rebs and Home Boys

I awoke relatively early, around 7.  It had sprinkled through out the night but nothing too serious, certainly not serious enough for me to run to my new friend’s cabin.  As I was making coffee, my new friend came over to invite me to egg sandwiches, coffee, and conversation.  I had hoped to get an early start on the day, but was curious to hear his story, just as curious as he was to hear mine.

His story was an interesting one.  He was from northern KY and had been called (by a dream) to Elkhorn City, where he eventually ended up purchasing the pay lake and surrounding 25+ acres.  He really needed someone to talk to who wasn’t a redneck local.  He told me that most of the people in town lived off of the government and were thus big fans of Obama and the government.  He wasn’t so much anti-Democrat or pro-Reublican, but rather anti-government.

After almost an hour and a half, I finally excused myself.  He kept going.  I was led to the premier campsite and offered it for the weekend (it was Memorial Day weekend and thus highly prized).  I continued to excuse myself until eventually I was able to ride away, up the terrible gravel hill and into Elkhorn City.  It had been a great conversation, very lively and respectful.  And he was an extremely interesting man, but I had miles to cover and needed to hit the road.

The hills and hollers of eastern KY were quite challenging.  The natural scenery was beautiful, while the cultural scenery was curious and at times sad.  The people living in these areas are poor.  Really poor.  Their properties are covered in trash, with a lot of cheap plastic throw away toys and lawn furniture in most piles.  The dogs are terrible.  I was chased at least five different  times, once by a pack of four large dogs – I managed to out run all of them.

Most of the roads in these parts go straight up hills and then straight down.  There was one climb towards the end of my day that really wore me out.  I stopped to break on top of the hill and was immediately greeted by a kitten.  The first truck to pull up was stopping to make sure I was alright, which I was, so I offered them the kitten.  No takers.  The next truck was going the opposite direction and pulled over without noticing me (I had on a blaze yellow vest, and my bike is covered in reflective material).  The driver (guy) immediately got out and started peeing.  The passenger (girl) got out, and while on her phone did a one handed jean short drop and squat.  I was stunned and grossed out.  I turned to the kitten, a far pretty creature, so as to not have to witness this spectacle of KY culture.  As she was shaking herself dry, she noticed that I was back there.  She didn’t care.  The couple loaded back into the truck and sped away. I said goodbye to kitty and enjoyed a wondrous descent down the hill.

The roads were mostly enjoyable except for one point when the route follows a pretty busy highway.  There is a large shoulder but you are completely exposed, and when it’s hot out, that’s a bad thing.  After turning off that road, I saw a sign I had been waiting for: Elk Crossing Next 8 Miles.  Kentucky has the largest elk herd east of the Mississippi, and I remember when they were first reintroduced a couple of decades ago.  I immediately put the GoPro on and hoped to see one of theses massive beast in my home state.  No luck.

When I arrived in Hindman, I had the intention of buying some food and doing at least ten more miles.  While at the grocery, a pizza shop owner from the next town over (Hazard) kept walking by trying to sell pizzas.  He stopped when he got to me, and mentioned that if I told him where I was going and agreed to send him a postcard, I could have a free large pizza.  Deal.  After eating over half, I realized I wasn’t going anywhere and would need to find a place to sleep.

A call to the local hostel made me realize I should have planned better.  They aren’t always open or ready for guest so I was referred to Charlie, who lived just up the road on the route.  Delighted to have a place to sleep, I headed to Charlie’s.  I had been looking for hammock sites and hadn’t seen any all day.  The most promising ones were down ATV trails, and I didn’t want to get caught stealth camping around a group of ATV riders late at night.  When I pulled up to Charlie’s (a serious uphill drive way), he and his cousin were on the porch enjoying the afternoon.  Charlie is a retired semi-truck driver and he had bought the house where he and his mom were both born before he retired.  Coincidentally, he had lived in the town just south of where I used to live in Ohio.  He was from Franklin; I was from Springboro. He couldn’t believe me but after some discussion of the town he realized I couldn’t make that much information up.  I was in immediately.

We talked for some time, the whole while I kept thinking how I really wanted to change clothes and get out of these tights.  But we talked.  And it was interesting.  He told me all about tractor pulls and his life in them.  I got to see some amazing photos from the 70s of him driving tricked out tractors.  I also got to pick up on some good lingo (“she’d make a Holstein jealous” “her mother looked like a barrel”).  Eventually I made it to my camping site and set up the hammock.  Charlie had invited me to dinner, which I of course accepted.  We had pork chops, potatoes, beans, and long conversations.

A funny gesture of his was how he punctuated a statement.  Where some people raise their eyebrows or do a more Monty Python related nudge with “you know what I mean”, Charlie would take off his hat and stick his tongue out.  I’m quite certain it’s an unconscious move, but was awesome to watch. He had the most majestic KY waterfall I’d seen in a long time.

After dinner, we talked some more until I realized it was 11:30.  I needed to get to bed so I could make it to Berea in two days.  At the time, I thought I only had one day to make it.  Turns out I had lost track of my days and had a full extra day to do as I pleased.  Excellent.

Published: June 13, 2014

Hayters Gone Hayte; Hello My Commonwealth

It stormed all night and in the morning it was still threatening to continue. Ed suggested a shuttle 35 miles up the route, which seemed like a good idea if the rain was to continue. But before I could load the bike, the weather changed for the better. The humidity was high which meant I was as wet as if it were raining. After some interneting and parental check ups (sorry I haven’t been better about checking in, but I’m only a couple hundred miles away, so…I’m sort of close to home), I was on the road. The first twenty miles were enjoyable rolling hills with some moderate climbs.

Then I hit Meadowview and the base of Hayter’s Gap. It was a bitch of a climb; I was glad to have it early in the day. Once I summited and recovered on the downhill, I realized I was really beginning to get my legs under me. So I kept riding, thinking I would eventually stop and camp. I made it all the way to Break Interstate Park, a shared park on the KY and VA border. Proclaimed to be the “Grand Canyon of the East,” Breaks is a truly wonderful and scenic piece of public property.

For whatever odd reason, I wanted to spend one more night in VA. After several scenic vistas, I reached the visitor’s center where I planned to inquire about camping and sleeping options. Not to my surprise, it was $17 a night for a basic campsite. I’ve been having a hard time paying to do something I can do for free, so I decided to move on. The woman at the park visitor’s center mentioned possible free camping at a pay fishing lake just over the border in KY. I was going to be in the Commonwealth soon (yes I know VA is a commonwealth, but Ky is the Commonwealth).

I headed out for what I hoped would be a couple of easy, downhill miles. They weren’t. There were hills and climbs. It rained briefly. And then I crossed the border, and it was different. Not necessarily good or bad, but different. Within the first half mile, I was passed by three ATVs. I hadn’t seen one on the road in VA, but here were three immediately zooming around in KY. No helmets, two per vehicle, on state highways.

The camp was down a gravel road, way downhill, and was part of a pay fishing lake. The “main office” was a small cabin next to the “lake” (it was a pond) which held a small store and the owners room. I talked briefly with the owner, who informed me it was $10 to camp, although I could go down to the pavilion but would probably be run off by the sheriff. I made to investigate the pavilion, got passed by three more ATVs on the gravel road, and decided to make camp next to the river at an established site. $10 be damned, I was tired.

After dinner and stretches, I settled into the hammock to read and look at the maps. Suddenly I was aware of a light and someone near me. The owner had come to investigate my whereabouts; I was ready to pay just to be able to fall asleep. Instead I heard him say, “hey bicycle man! If it rains you can come stay in the cabin with me. It’s real clean and dry.” I thanked him and let him know I would be fine in most any major storm but that I greatly appreciated his hospitality. It truly was hospitable of him, but also pretty creepy. Here I had just rolled up, exhausted and soaked, rocking spandex tights and a dry fit jersey, riding a loaded touring bicycle and clearly not from these parts, and the proprietor is offering me a place in his cabin.
I fell asleep aware of my awkward situation: rednecks were zooming around on ATVs all night, I was hanging in a hammock with no camp fire, I had no camo on, and the owner was offering me a private suite in his cabin. Luckily I was exhausted and mentally spent, so sleep came fast and was deep. I was in my home state and finally starting to feel fit. It was a hell of a good day.

 

Published: June 7, 2014

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.

Published: June 4, 2014

Horse Camp

I woke up fairly early, mainly because I was scared some farmer would find me camped out. Mounting Horse, I kicked off for another long day. I wanted to get close to Damascus so I could take a short day into the city and another full day off and out of the saddle. Originally, I hoped to do a several night camping trip in Grayson Highlands, one of my most favorite places in VA. Those plans fell thru so Damascus it was.

I’ve been eating light snacks in the morning and hoping to pass a diner whenever I’m in my first couple of towns for the day. This day I passed one an hour into riding. For whatever reason, I’ve fallen in love with biscuits and gravy. I don’t even look at the menu. Waitress: “do you need a second?” Me: “do you have biscuits and gravy, two eggs over easy, and sausage?” Waitress: “Yes honey.” Me: “make it happen, please, and a glass of water.” These were some of the finer biscuits and gravy I’ve had yet. But I was anticipating the glory of Dairy King in Damascus, where I had fallen in love with BnG while doing the AT.

After some 60 miles of riding, I entered into Grayson Highlands/Mt Rogers Recreation Area. There were several intense miles of climbing while surrounded by picturesque forests. It was nearing 6pm when I started looking for a campsite and came upon a horse trailer camping area. Grayson Highlands has a managed herd of wild horses, and there are several miles of horse riding trails. The Forest Service maintains a horse trailer camping area to facilitate those who wish to ride these trails. I was tired and there was only one other campsite occupied so I decided to hang my hammock between two horse tie up spots (you know, for Horse parking).

Once my hammock was hung, one of the two gentlemen from the nearby camp wandered over and quietly invited me for hotdogs and conversation. I agreed excitedly (hotdogs!) but with some trepidation. Disclaimer: I have mixed emotions about horses and horse riders in the backcountry, especially on the east coast. Generally speaking, horses and their riders have a proportionally larger impact on the environment than do other recreation users (bikers and hikers). Horses spread invasive plants (via feces), destroy trails (think about the weight of a horse and rider and then distribute that weight on four points), eat native vegetation, and generally suck to interact with if you are on a bike or hiking. Not to mention all the shit they produce. But, I was in a horse camp and was curious to learn about horse culture.

And I learned. These were salt of the earth, rural western Virginians. They had been coming to that camp for 20 years, riding a diversity of marked and unmarked trails throughout the mountains. Both had horse trailers with beds in the front. One was heated; one had a shower. Their camp was more akin to music festival camping than to backcountry camping. Both were retired and full of stories. Some stories were great and insightful; others were long winded and hard to follow. (side note: I love when you start talking to someone and can’t understand a damn thing they are saying because their accent is so thick, then over time your hearing adjusts and most phrases begin to make sense.)

After three hotdogs topped with chili, baked beans and a desert of chocolate cake, we gathered round the fire and the bullshit started flowing. A small fire had been smoldering since dinner and in order to kick it up one of the guys grabbed a container full of motor oil and doused the wood. I cringed. He did it again. And again. All night in order to burn freshly fallen wood (brought from off site, cringe), the fire was regularly covered in motor oil. It smelled terrible, and infiltrated my clothes. Finally, I thanked my gracious hosts and went to bed. Apparently I was well behaved as I got an invite for breakfast the next morning, although I was warned it would be early.

 

Published: June 4, 2014

River Co to Pine Stand

Another late start but a beautiful day of riding.  I was three days outside of Damascus and really excited to get there so I mounted the Horse (my name for the bike I’m riding) and dug in my spurs.  I was on county roads most of the day and the riding was uneventful; gorgeous and hilly, but uneventful.

I had decided to ride to River Company Brewing outside of Radford.  It was 3.5 miles off my route, and I hoped it would be worth it.  The aerial photos I looked at showed lots of forest land around the brewery so I expected to find easy camping.  Having googled their hours before I arrived, I anticipated having several beers and food before leaving to make camp.  Upon arrival, I took a quick tour to get a feel for the lay of the land.  There was a brewery owned pavilion near by which seemed prime for camping.  When I entered the restaurant, there was a note on the door indicating a change in hours.  I had arrived at 3:55; the bar closed at 4.  The woman at the hostess stand told me I had time for one beer, which I was extremely thankful for.  I inquired about camping in the pavilion and was told that I could, which sounded great.  I would fill my growler, ride back a couple of miles for some food, and camp on the property.  Then I was told I couldn’t drink on the property.

I filled my growler and left.  The IPA was great and very flavorful, but I wasn’t going to sit at a brewery for multiple hours with no beer.  I hoped I could find a suitable camping spot early enough to allow me to enjoy a pint or three.  Nine miles later and I passed a manicured white pine stand between I-81 and my route.  I quickly pulled over, dodged copious amounts of poison ivy, and set up camp.  Dinner was Subway from town and a well-deserved growler.  The forest wasn’t picturesque but I had a great time anyways.  The beers went down easily as a swung in the hammock and schemed my route for the next couple of days.

 

Published: June 2, 2014

Foam Henge, Natural Bridge, Flying Mouse

Foam Henge was only 12 miles from Lexington, and the Bridge was barely 2 miles more.  I planned to have a fairly easy day to my two main stops, and hopefully make it to a new brewery that was located near both the AT and the 76/Transamerican Trail, called the Flying Mouse.

I would have missed the Foam spectacle if it hadn’t been for a group of bikers (leather not spandex) hanging out by a fence.  Pulling over, I asked whether this was the Great Foam Henge, and was told it would be life changing.  As you near the site, there is a sign explaining its creation by “4-5 Mexicans and one crazy white guy.”  Solid intro (odd it was 4 to 5, must of lost one). It was totally worth it, plus it was free.  Unlike the Natural Bridge.   Another bonus was the opposing theories on how the Stonehenge was formed from Merlin and magic to aliens.

I had heard Natural Bridge had recently been purchased by the state to become a new park; which is true but not due to turn over until next year.  For now it is privately owned and a tourist trap.  The Bridge is beautiful but the retail and “entertainment” side of the operation was disgusting.  The gift shop is gigantic and full of all kinds of nonsense. But what irked me the most was the afternoon Genesis show, where the Biblical story of life is displayed on the Bridge.  What bullshit.  Let’s hope it changes when the property changes hands.

Walking to the Bridge I noticed how developed it was.  Concrete paths, a snack shack mid way to the Bridge, the stream is channeled through the bridge, stadium style seating on either side.  It may be a natural wonder of the New World, but the surrounding environs are wholly human made.  But I had paid my entry fee and was going to enjoy myself.  And I did.  It truly is an amazing geographic formation and I understand why Jefferson was so enthralled with it.

After Natural Bridge, I cruised on some really pleasing country roads.  I was able to save my first box turtle and corn snake from certain vehicular homicide; and paralleled the AT for a good way.  Eventually I made it to Flying Mouse Brewery, a new, relatively small microbrewery in Troutville, VA.  The brewery is in an old concrete molding factory located a quarter of a mile off the main road (a road crossed by the AT and the Transamerican Route).  I was able to time my arrival with the opening of the taproom and immediately made a mental decision to sleep on the property.

I ordered the flight – four beers, three regulars and one seasonal.  The regular beers are all numbered, with no real logic behind the system.  I guess you could argue that the higher numbers are more intensely flavored, but they certainly don’t correspond to any brewing metric (maybe color, but not really).  The beers were good, with the porter (#8) being the stand out.  After finishing the flight, I inquired about camping on site.  Apparently the brewery had wanted to have tent camping and facilities but the county wouldn’t allow it.  So I changed my wording, and asked what would happen if I hung my hammock in the woods on the property.  With a knowing smile, I was told nothing would happen.

Having made a new friend while drinking, I was able to get a quick life to the grocery store for provisions.  Dinner and snacks were acquired so I went back in the taproom to have some more beers and listen to some local musicians.  It was a great afternoon and evening of good beer and random company.  Before last call I paid my tab and got a roadie to consume with dinner – broccoli cheddar noodles with tuna.  I hoped to make it to another brewery tomorrow so sleep was needed.

Published: June 1, 2014

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