Monthly Archives: August 2015

Halfway Home 5

palm tree sunset

Palms grow where people have planted them

Well, well, well. Now that we’re half way through and are officially heading west for good we can say with pleasure that we’re finally on our way home. There are a few things I’m looking forward to, mainly sitting in bed with my dog, a good book, and a big ol’ mug of momma’s coffee listening to the rain outside. But before all that, we’ve got some work to do. We are nearing Oklahoma where we will spend a couple of days in Tulsa visiting Lizzy’s extended family. My daddy is flying out to Little Rock next week to ride with us for a few days. We still have the beautiful desert to cross, the Grand Canyon, Death Valley, and a visit with my fambam in California. Still, it feels good to know that every stroke forward is a stroke closer to home.

It was hot in Dothan, AL, so we stayed in the library for as long as we could–we’ve become those people who sleep in libraries. We did an interview with the paper and eventually left, plugging away into the miserable heat. The road was fairly nice though, so we were able to make good time. That night we found a great place to sleep at a baptist church in town near a laundromat. We both slept so well that there is nothing much to say about it.

In the morning, we rode out to a gas station for the normal routine of coffee/breakfast/bathroom. A man there though we we homeless and offered to buy us breakfast. It was very sweet of him and we got an opportunity to talk about Watsi, and also made mental notes that it is time to ‘clean up the house.’ Sometimes the bikes get, well, a little sloppy. This is especially true if it has been raining since we employ some highly advanced technology to cover our gear…mainly old shopping bags.

standing in front of the Florida sign

We made it to the Gator State

We made it to Florida that morning and I was kind of surprised at how different it was than I expected. I think that in my mind all of Florida is like the Everglades, and I think I expected to cross the state line and find myself knee deep in a gator swamp, but this is not the case. Northern Florida is just like Southern Georgia and Alabama: light pine groves, cows, and dead armadillos. It was getting steadily flatter, and we knew that we were close to the beach, so we ended up riding 81 miles to Shalimar, FL. We hadn’t really intended to go that far, but it was a lovely, cool evening, and we both felt like it. To top it off, I finally was able to find the NPR frequency on my little FM radio and I was listening to an interview with a man who has a successful cricket farm in California. He and his business partner are trying to introduce cricket powder (a complete protein) into the northwest whole foods market. I have some friends who were toying with this idea as a future project in Papa New Guinea, so I was excited to tell them about it. (I forgot to, so this is me telling you Mary)

To celebrate our miles, we made the decision to eat Mexican food and we found a great little restaurant and porked out. The staff was very interested in what we were doing and gave me a fantastic “Pepper’s Grill” pen that I have been using every day in my journal. As we were leaving, we spotted a church across the street that still had cars in the parking lot. We rode over hoping to find a pastor and ask permission to camp out in their property. We did find the ministers who gave us both permission to camp in their open air courtyard, and use the shower. That night however, our beauty rest was interrupted by a very drunk man who stumbled into the church grounds and wanted to talk about the bikes. When he finally realized that we were trying to sleep, he trundled away. Of course, I couldn’t really get into a deep sleep after that because I kept thinking he was coming back. Eventually I drifted off, only to be reawakened by the sound that sends dread into all cyclotourists: sprinklers. There is absolutely nothing that gets me out of bed quicker than the sound of a sprinkler and the threat of being soaked by freezing water at 4 in the morning. Fortunately, neither of us got wet.

Navarre, on the Gulf

The beach at Navarre

We decided to take a leisurely morning since we were a tad ahead of schedule for our post office pick up, and because we deserved it, and because there was a Starbucks down the street, and because we wanted to enjoy the Navarre beach. So, we stopped at the St. Arbucks to get fancy coffees, and we went across the street to the Winn Dixie. I didn’t know that Winn Dixie was a real store, so that was kind of fun. Lizzy did a phone interview and I did a whole lot of something. Oh. Map stuff.

It was hot and windy, but flat. We kept a speedy clip as we rode out of town, through the airbase, and out to Navarre. We did an interview at the Walmart and headed toward the water. The beach wasn’t really what I was expecting, which is not to say that I didn’t like it, or thought it wasn’t beautiful because it was absolutely beautiful, and so bright I was getting a headache even with my swamp hat and sunglasses.It just was too sterile in my mind. Unlike the frothy, chilly, violent waves of the Pacific, the Gulf waves were lappy and lazy. The water was so clear we could see the hairs of our toes when we were neck deep in it. There weren’t big berms of dead, washed up kelp on the beach either. The white sands were devoid of much of the debris of the coast at home: no hunks of driftwood, no wads of shells, no dead seagull skeletons, no charcoal. We swam in it for quite a bit and then retired to the bikes to eat more snacks and let our clothes dry. I took some time to walk around and take pictures and got zapped by a jellyfish.

We left and rode out to Gulf Breeze, a bridge away from Pensacola, and made it to the post office before closing. Unfortunately, not all of the packages were there, but we figured we could come back in the morning as we were staying in Pensacola that night. The post master thought the we were rock stars because we had so much mail. We got so many letters, cookies from momma Sue, drawings from Lizzie’s cousins, and a hammock from the McMinnville Master Gardeners. Thanks all!

a seagull at the gulf

The seagulls are a bit different too. They’re pretty cute

We had an interview at the post office, and then went inside and made a big mess opening the above aforementioned parcels. From there we had a nice ride to downtown Pensacola to the First United Methodist Church who agreed to host us that night. Jeb, the host, met us, handed me the key to the youth building, told us the kitchen was ours and left. It was awesome! I had grand plans of falling asleep at 6 since I was so tired, but there were unlimited possibilities to use the time and space we were given. For one, there was a piano. For two, there was a kitchen. For three, I finally had time to call some of my friends who I’d promised to call weeks ago. And there was both space to reorganize all the junk on the bikes, and plenty of comfy sitting places for reading and writing. I made myself some dinner and went out onto the deck to call home and go for a walk. Lizzy took some time to write post cards and make burritos.

Mail goodies

Mail Goodies! thanks everyone

I went upstairs to pick a room to sleep in, sat down on a couch to try it out, and immediately fell asleep. Immediately is no hyperbole. I don’t think I’ve ever been so tired except for when I was doing missions in Mexico. When I woke up I couldn’t remember falling asleep.

Lizzy wasn’t up yet, so I decided to get some good coffee to drink while doing devotions and journaling. I walked to a coffee place that was both farther, and more expensive than anticipated, but soooooo worth it! Sipping good coffee and walking around downtown (that reminded me so much of California it was uncanny) I had a great morning.

We packed up and decided to take another lazy morning, neither of us looking forward to backtracking to the post office. It wasn’t that bad though. Really, it was a great ride across the bay. The water was beautiful, the road had a decent shoulder, and we didn’t really have that far to go. When we got to the post office, I was disappointed but not surprised to find that the package from Aunt Jenny hadn’t made it. We went to the air-conditioned grocery store across the street and I moped around a bit and made a quick trip to Tuesday Morning next door (mostly because my roommate who is from Texas and has impeccable taste in home furnishings swears by it.)

shade at the beach

A burnt Ginger hides from the sun

We rode out, following the beach, trying not to die in the 100 degree heat. I got the joy of calling my sister-friend Mary and we got a good laugh at how she was behind a McDonald’s using free wifi to Internet call me, while I was biking along the beach, thousands of miles from her. Technology.

We spotted a Target and sped toward it knowing the caliber of air-conditioning inside its metal slab walls. Even riding past the sliding doors we could feel the cool air rushing out to greet us. In we went for a good, long loiter, disguised as a shopping trip.

When we left Target, I didn’t realize that I left my sunglasses and my headphones behind. I think we have all heard this story before. Sigh. We made it to another beach and went swimming. I kind of laughed at the silliness of the resorts on either side of the 100 foot strip of public beach. They had placed “private beach, no entry” signs in the sand. I had wished that I’d remembered to buy goggles at the store since this beach had an alleged coral reef offshore, but it was all good. We swam around for a while and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

We left from there back into Alabama along a straight, flat strip of highway that followed the beach and was strewn with high-end and expensive resorts. The sun was setting and the effect made us feel like we were in a quiet sort of Vegas. We made a stop at a Winn Dixie to get something for dinner and to try and figure out where we were going to sleep for the night. Only to find out that the Winn Dixie deli sells their old hot foods for 50 cents a pound, so we loaded up on starchy, less than fresh goodness and ate it up on the curb.

Moonscape Beach

Moonscape Beach

I found a church on Google that was about two miles away so we flipped on our lights–including the fun and flashy wheel lights courtesy of Donna–and peddled off. The church was not a traditional church since we were in resort land, but was a swanky kind of multi-level place with beach access. We left our bikes under the stairwell and tried to sleep on the beach. Tried and tried and tried. It was the worst night I’d tried to sleep since the West Yellowstone fiasco.

It happened to be a full moon, and we were right next to a fancy, party style resort. Tourists kept walking the beach in front of where we were trying to sleep, catching sand crabs and screaming and holding hands and being beach bums. Worse than that was the combination of sticky, salty, itchy sand, and sand fleas. I could feel them crawling all over me. It was awful. I was also a bit paranoid because I thought we were going to get kicked out of there. When your not trying to sleep in such a situation, it is easy to say, “so what if someone kicks you out, then you just go elsewhere.” But for some reason it keeps me up thinking that someone might just come bust us. I also had tummy grumbly from the old deli meal I ate for dinner. Eventually, I stumbled over to an abandoned floaty thing and curled up on it, in the sand, under a beach church canopy, trying to hide in the shade from the bright moon, and fell into an uneasy sleep.

Beach Road

It was nice being up early in the morning even if my eyes were burning from lack of sleep. We rode out through some national seashore and a bird sanctuary state park. Both were wonderful. Though the moon does not have water or grass, I imagine that if the moon had a beach, it would be like that beach. We found a McDonalds and had a good loiter / attempted recovery from the previous night. I was surprised to find that my Uncle Dean had given me an audio book credit and downloaded the 20 hour, first volume of James McPhereson’s Battle Cry of Freedom (I tried to find a good copy of Don Quixote at first but ended up with McPhereson). Thanks again Kim clan!

From there, we made for the Dauphin Island ferry, traveling through a national mouse sanctuary and historic Ft. Morgan. The ferry only cost 5 dollars, much less than I was expecting. A woman at the post office had given me money for lunch, we put it on the ferry instead. We made it to Dauphin Island in one piece, 30 minutes later. I was able to book a warmshowers host last minute, so we were excited about the possibility of sleep that night. It was that which motivated us across Dauphin. Unfortunately, I was lost in the music of Beautiful Eulogy and distracted by the sight of a BBQ building that was on fire and missed our turn to the bridge off the island. So, we ended up riding WAY out of the way. I was not happy about that.

After an about turn and some internal battling (I was very emotionally unstable due to my overwhelming exhaustion), I found the turn we’d missed and headed to the mainland. It was so incredibly hot. After a good 20 miles we stopped at a McDonalds to bask in the air-conditioning and have an impromptu Skype call with my dog (and more importantly my momma). I double checked coordinates to our hosts, and we headed out again. Of course, I missed some turns increasing my count of 40 mistake miles to about 50. (I don’t know that Lizzie knew that) We made it to our hosts, Kim and Ric and their children Lydia, Lilly, and Liam, well before dark and were met with a buzz of excitement and dog kisses. It was lovely. Kim and Ric are both educators, and true to the trend of teachers we have met along the way, were wonderful and interesting folks. Kim and Ric have hosted over a hundred cyclotourists through warmshowers, something I found remarkable.

We got to take showers, and do laundry. Both were much needed after long travels in the heat and after swimming in the same clothes that we’d been sleeping and cycling in for days. Not good. My shorts were stiff with salt. Not long after, Kim received a phone call from a friend whose husband was involved in a car accident on the interstate not far from the Jordan’s home. Lizzie stayed with the kiddos while I went with Kim to check on her friend’s husband and children who were involved in the accident.

We drove West into Mississippi, and then turned around the other direction until we found them. Fortunately, no one was seriously hurt. Another car had run the family off the road and they had hit a ditch hard enough to deploy the airbags. After the kiddos were transferred to their mom’s car, Kim made sure there was nothing else we could do, and we drove back to the house. By that time, Ric had made it home, thinking for a short while that it was Kim and their kids who were in the accident. When we got to the house, Lizzie was in the living room with the kiddos watching terrible Katy Perry music videos. Gag. It was not her choice.

Mississippi sign

There seems to be a state sign music rivalry between MS and TN

We were supposed to sleep outside that night, but Ric said that if it got too terribly buggy that I could come inside and crash on the couch. I tried to hammock it, but between the heat, the bugs, the sound of the speedway down the street, the neighbor’s dog that barked at me every time I moved, and the dog and kitten that insisted on joining me in the hammock, I could not sleep. Since I hadn’t slept the night before either, I decided that awkward though it might be, I would stumble into the house at 12:30 and crash the couch. It was a good decision.

When I woke up the next morning, I looked outside and I didn’t see Lizzy, the tent, or her bike. I was a little bit concerned, but when I finally got the gumption to go out into the heat and look for her, I found her sitting in the shade behind the house eating munchie mix. I hadn’t really thought to invite her into the air conditioning the night before—maybe that was a little selfish. Poor lizzbit didn’t realize she could come into the house.

Kim and Ric and all the kids were getting ready for church but managed to make us a great breakfast and some really delicious coffee. We were invited to go to church, but chose to hit the road at the heat was steadily rising. We had a couple cups more coffee, and then were off.

We made it into Mississippi and then to a town large enough to host—you guessed it—a McDonald’s. We needed to cool off and catch up on some admin. responsibilities. Trying to beat the heat, we decided to leave with only just enough light to get to the church we’d found to stay at, but we kind of took our time packing up.

When we left, I started Battle Cry of Freedom and was deeply engrossed in a summary of the socioeconomic fabric of mid-19th century America when a large and intimidating man pulled over and indicated that he wanted to talk. When I saw Lizzie had pulled over, I turned around to chat too. His name was Woody, and he was extremely nice, politely interested in what we were doing, and insistent that he give us some cash for the road. We explained that we didn’t need money and gave him some Watsi information. After making totally sure we weren’t in need of anything, he prayed over us and warned us not to pick up any snakes that we find in the area. I assured him that I wouldn’t.

blury sunrise

Blury morning

We rode off into the buggy evening, over a swampy river area (still no gators) and eventually found a church with perfect sneaky camping possibilities. A quick supper of Margret Holmes’ Hoppin’ John and frozen veggies later, we each were ready for bed. It has been getting darker much earlier now, so I had plenty of time to set up the tent that night. I also had plenty of time to use the emergency Fabreeze mom and Lillian had sent me on every inch of the tent and my sleeping mat as it was beginning to smell like a combination of sweaty feet and mozzarella cheese. I don’t know why, but every time I smelled my mat I was reminded of how my mom used to snack on cheese sticks in the car. She would leave the cheese sticks on the dash until they were oozy before eating them and it used to thoroughly gross me out when I was a kid.

In the morning, we packed up and headed out—noting that the sunrise was behind us, not ahead of us as it has been for the past 3.5 months! We stopped at a little gas station for the morning routine and Lizzie found some ducks to feed. It started out as a good day, and it has continued to be a good one. Mississipians are kindly folks and have some great boiled peanuts. Even so, we’re looking forward to that Luisiana line…then Arkansas, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Navada, California….. and OREGON! (that litst’s a gettn’ shorter)

If it ain’t hilly, it’s hot… sometimes both 4

okay, so normally it's both ...

okay, so normally it’s both …

Okay, so, Stink left off in Fall Branch, TN, in a nice pavilion, that we had immediately exploded with all of our junk. Pots, pans, clothes, rats; you name it, we had it strewn about.

I had stayed up kinda late eating munchie mix and reading Tom Sawyer, so we snoozed it a bit in the morning. We as in me. As in I am in charge of setting the alarm on my phone each night, and, subsequently, in charge of giving it a few good snoozes each morning. And to think you all thought I did nothing to help out!!

That morning we took our time packing up, and lazed about boiling up some water for oatmeal and tea, and lounged around reading. We finished getting ready to go only once it was good and boiling hot out.

Church camp

welcome to lounge town

Stink was having a less than awesome day that day, as her rear derailluer was seriously considering giving up (it had been on the outs since Cleveland, OH). It was decided that we needed a nice, long, air-conditioned loiter at a Wal-Mart that would only be like a half mile out of our way.

This was an excellent decision. I’m sure we patted ourselves on the back for it. We do that a lot. Especially for decisions involving sitting, or eating lots of snacks. Gotta stay motivated somehow.

After stepping inside the blissful AC warehouse of cheap goods, I remembered that I’d forgotten my water bottle outside (I make a point of carrying it everywhere with me, so that I can mindlessly gulp and stay hydrated). When I turned the corner outside to get to the shady spot the bikes were resting in, I was startled to see a gang of gingers giving our scoots the stare down.

The mom and her two sons explained that they were road cyclists, and were checking out all the gear on our bikes. I introduced them to Denali, and they were pleased, offering up that they had raised orphaned possums and raccoons in the past. That certainly won my admiration. If you feel like falling in love with possums, please watch this old OPB segment on them… and also get some great early 90’s fashion flashbacks.
You will never look into their dumb crossed eyed the same way. Also, Master Gardener tid-bit, I learned in class that they eat mulch. Okay, that’s probably enough about possums…

There was a McDonald’s inside of the Wal-Mart (double loiter jack-pot!), so, naturally, we sat and got some coffee. The gal behind the counter had a particularly embellished way of doing loop-de-loops with her hands as she pressed the necessary buttons on the screen in front of her; like conducting a cartoon orchestra or something.

ANYWAYS, we sat, drank coffee, and one of us, not gunna say who, cooled off built up steam from having to cycle through the heat with an increasingly busted derailleur…

Eventually we pulled ourselves away, and got back on the road. Mountains loomed up ahead of us, and in my head, I hopefully thought that, perhaps, just maybe, we’d take a turn and just skirt alongside them instead of charging straight towards the overgrown peaks as we seemed to be doing. Turns out, sometimes I give myself false hope. Oh well. We charged into the mountains.

It wasn’t actually that bad though, as we’re quite used to riding steep terrain at this point. It was less than nice for Stink though, as her chain dragged low to the ground, and refused to comply with orders, sometimes causing her to have to walk her scoot up hills.

jonathan, the one legged tourist. kidding.

jonathan, the one legged tourist.

At one point, right after I had finished mulling over the fact that we hadn’t seen any fellow tourists on the road since New Hampshire, and that we probably wouldn’t see another for a long time as we were firmly out in the boon doggies, a tourist rolls into view on the other side of the road. Of course.

Turns out, his name was Jonathan, he was sort of in a state of perma-tour (having spent the last three years on a bike, only returning home to his land outside Nashville during the winters), and had a semi-completed full-size long bow strapped up to the top tube of his bike… this guy was the real deal. He also even had peanut butter (okay, he corrected that it was sunflower seed butter) stuck into his water bottle cage. Now, that’s our kind of tour style!

We chatted for a bit about dumpster diving hot spots, sneaky camp tips, and the usual, then turned and rolled off in our separate directions, but not after he told us we’d have more some gnarly climbs before getting to Asheville, NC the next day. Thanks a lot. Everyone allllways has to tell us about the hills.




by the way, this is how I take all our state sign photos. super casual mode.

by the way, this is how I take all our state sign photos. super casual mode.

We scooted on, crossed into North Carolina at some point, and stopped at a church on top of a very steep (I mean it) hill in Marshall, NC for the night.

Stink called the pastor’s number (which was quite helpfully taped to the front door) and got permission to sleep under their overhang for the night. A few minutes later, she accidentally stumbled upon their hide-a-key (I shouldn’t say where…). I had just returned from trying to fill my empty bottles at the spigot on the other side of the building. That did not go well for me…. White chunks literally came spewing out of the faucet, along with the stench of rotten eggs. NO THANKS.

I summed up the courage to call the pastor back, let him know we found the hide-a-key, and ask if I could go inside and fill my water. He one upped me, and offered the use of the shower at the end of the hallway as well. We then took it as a given that we could use the kitchen to cook our dinners as well, and made ourselves quite at home in this dark empty church high in the boonies of North Carolina. (I want add here that my boy Timmy sent me a box of vegan mac and cheese in a care package back in Erie, PA, and I only just cooked it up that night. The box was a little worse for wear, but damn, if that wasn’t good vegan mac and cheese… something about carrying your food for thousands of miles…)

In the morning, we knew we needed to get to a bike shop in Asheville, and also hoped to meet up with my cousin Daniel who lived just a few short hours away (by car!). We took our time using (but not abusing!) the kitchen and preparing our breakfasts. Finally we got back on the bikes, and slammed on the breaks to safely get back down the insaneo hill without busting our noggins out.

We had, as Jonathan so kindly warned us, many more hills to climb over in order to reach Asheville. Stink’s derailleur was even less than cooperative and many long ascents had to be walked up. This worked fine for me though, as I could just scoot up to the top and have a sit and read my book… this perhaps did not help abate Stink’s rising frustrations with her bike… Oops. 😀

But yes! Finally we did reach Asheville (after spending some time hunting down unmarked roads and climbing steep city streets) and rolled up to the bike shop. Only then did I notice that their name, Billy Goat Bikes, was somewhat insinuative of the types of bikes and parts we’d find there.

Sure enough, it was purely a mountain bike shop. Stink was… less than pleased. A different shop was located, and we scooted out in their direction. Miles later, we found ourselves rolling through a super hip section of Asheville, to Epic Cycles West, where Stink forked over the cash for both the necessary new parts and the labor (shocker! This was the first time anyone other than herself had worked on her bike! Good decision though, because tying up the bike in some tree and attempting to do these repairs would have probably been a total pain in the ass. We already have enough of that.)

So, she unloaded her baggage, threw the Hunq up on the stand, and went upstairs to this cush coffee shop for hours. I felt out of place in my swamp suit (as I’ve deemed my stinky stained everyday riding clothing), but soon couldn’t give a rat’s ass, as I sunk into a comfy seat, sipped good, real, non-McDonald’s coffee, and savored a small piece of vegan fudge. We sat about, writing, reading, and relaxing till around four when Stink’s bike was all done.

rando image to break up huge block of text!

rando image to break up huge block of text!

Unfortunately, my cousin was tied up with work, and couldn’t make it out our way, so we scooted on. It started raining as we were getting out of town, and as we stopped on the side of the road to pull on rain coats, I sent out ‘adopt us!’ brain signals to the passing cars.

It didn’t work.

We rolled on a bit further and stopped at an Ingles (not “inglés”, as I had originally thought, expecting a giant Mexican grocery store…). While I was out back scoping out the dumpster situation, a gal named Emma came up and started talking with Stink. She had seen us pull in, and wanted to adopt us for the night. IT WORKED!

We stood around for a bit, chatting, and trying to figure out how to get us, and our scoots, to her house, seven miles off. We could ride out there, but it wasn’t really on our route, and we couldn’t decide. Emma offered to have dinner with us across the street at the Earth Fare grocery store (think Whole Foods). We jumped at the offer, giving us more time to mull it over, and more time for Emma, who was brainstorming other options to get us to her home.

She bought our meals for us, delicious hot meals from the deli area, and we all sat outside and ate together, us telling about our adventure, and Emma telling about her recent hitchhiking trip she had gone on, working at community houses along the way.

We finished eating, and Emma needed to head out, as she was going contra dancing with a friend that evening. We exchanged contact info in case we decided to ride out to her house, and said our goodbyes.

We mulled it over a bit longer, then decided to go grocery shopping, and had an extreme case of the munchies (right after having a really delicious meal too! What’s with you body???) We shopped a bit at Earthfare, snacked, then headed back to the Ingles, shopped some more, and continued snacking till it was well past sunset.

We finally dragged our overfilled guts back on the bikes, and rode on, having decided to just camp out at a church or something on our route.

Just as it began raining, we spotted one in Skyland, NC and pulled up into it’s parking lot. There was a house there as well, that we thought might be the pastor’s house, but it was 9:30 and we didn’t want to be rude knocking that time of night. We rode around the church buildings, looking for a nice dry spot to sleep, when I saw someone heading out of the house to sit and relax under the carport, so we tentatively rolled up, and asked the lady if she was with the church, and turns out, no, just rents the property, but didn’t see any reason why we couldn’t sleep there over night. That was enough permission for us, and we thanked her around rolled over to a dry stoop.

We parked our bikes under one small overhang, and laid ourselves out head to toe, under the other (it was about 11’x3′ of dry space, so we fit, just barely). We goobered around, to sleepy to sleep, looking at dumb pictures online and sending out dumb text messages to folks at home, before finally falling into dreamland.

In the morning we headed out to a McDonald’s eight or so miles down the road, got our loiter on. We talked with a few different folks about the trip and about Watsi, and one fella insisted we take some dollars for snack money (thank you!!). There was also a crazy guy there (like actually crazy), who kept coming over to talk with us. Unfortunately we couldn’t understand a word he said… actually, I’m not sure if he was nuts, or just had the thickest southern accent we had yet to encounter. The really nice gal behind the counter kept mouthing to Stink ask see if we were okay though, so that might be an indication of  the former.

We left McDonald’s to go a few more miles to the post office in Mountain Home, NC, where we had mail sent.

oops, eating the wrong thing.

oops, eating the wrong thing.

My pal Steveo had sent a letter, that turned out to be a letter PLUS a big ol’ bag of homemade caramel corn! Steveo is known for her excellent popcorning skills, and we couldn’t resist getting our munch on, right in the lobby. Thanks Steve, you dog.

Stink’s ma had sent us a ‘hygiene package’. Sooomebody tattled on my swamp shorts, it seems, as there were shorts, unders, socks, soaps, deodorants, detergents, and snacks, lovely yummy snacks.

I immediately threw my new swamp shorts on, continued eating caramel corn, and began pondering upon how I was going to get all this on my scoot. To make things easier, I ate all the popcorn. Just kidding, I ate it all because I just couldn’t stop. Win-win.

oops, I put them on top of my  swamp shorts.

oops, I put them on top of my swamp shorts.

Eventually we had the bikes all packed up and we once more ready to roll. At the McDonald’s, we had been warn of some ‘hellacious downhills’ which just had us pretty excited at the prospect of easy miles, not fearing the deadly curves as they were trying to do.

bring on the down hills, we ready for this.

bring on the down hills, we ready for this.

Right as we entered South Carolina, the descent began, and it was lovely. No pedalling, and no brakes for that matter, for ages. It was through a lovely forested area, a watershed actually, and there was little traffic to be seen.

it was nice.

it was nice.

so nice that you get two pictures of it.

so nice that you get two pictures of it.

You can see a video clip of it off my instagrub here:

Eventually the land levelled out, as in it got hilly, and we had to get back to ‘work’. Soon, we were caught in the midst of a downpour, and were completely  soaked with warm rain. We stopped at a gas station in the middle of bum-truck nowhere to do some loitering. They had excellent ice cream cone rates that Stink took advantage of, and I found a horrible packaged food product that I could eat (it’s called an Apple Ugly, and is like some sort of log of glazed doughnutty bad choices). We sat on the rocking chairs out front, munching, till we decided to go back inside and get french fries and coffee to top it off. And maybe another ice cream.

There was good tv out on the front porch, as in we got to watch a fella pull up in his heavily smoking pick-up-truck, and hop out and kick the bumper. A group of hick boys, that were also loitering on the porch, came to the rescue as they all huddled together over the still smoking engine and fixed up the buster radiator hose. Once the tv program was over, we hopped back on the bikes and rolled out.

We got a few miles down the road when we were flagged down by a man as we rode past. We pulled up and he came over to start talking with us, and boy, was he a character. I think he said he went by the name Fly Rod, though his real name was Thomas Jefferson. He had a bear-paw pouch hanging off his belt, and was drinking straight honey from a gatorade bottle in an orange coozie. He talked a mile a minute and called up his son in Alaska to see if he lived near Denali, after hearing about my rat. He was offering us a place to stay, but I’m not sure we would’ve had enough energy for the kind of party we’d be walking in to. Also, we had more miles to do that day, so we had an excuse. I’m sure a night at Fly Rod’s would’ve been a grand time, just not exactly… relaxing.

We rolled on with the goal of arriving in Pickens that evening, which had a McDonald’s! We stopped there and got our loiter on. It had these crazy touch response LED tables, and videogame stations at some tables too. We got really caught up in some stupid puzzle games, then time slipped and it was night and we were in need of sleep. We headed to the church across the street to a dry stoop, which was well enough, because immediately after settling, the sky opened up and dumped buckets.

In the morning, we (obviously) went back to McDonald’s. We got an email from the gal who sorta gave us permission to camp at the church south of Asheville, saying she figured we were up to something big, and spent probably a good deal of time tracking us down on the internet using such search terms as “august 17 2015 blog bike camp church rain,” and actually found us! I admire your perseverance Patty!

Outside the McDonald’s, as I was digging around in my bag, a gal running called over and asked what were up to. She was a long distance hiker, and offered us her home and all sorts of hospitality just blocked away. This was just, devastating, as we had yet to do any miles for the day and we just knew we had to keep going. She even came back by on her return loop to offer once more. The hardest decision of my life.

We really had to keep going as we had had some short mileage days recently, what with a broken derailleur and such, so, very reluctantly, we rolled on.

mm, frozen sugar water.

mm, frozen sugar water.

It was hot as hell out that day, and we stopped at a  QuikTrip (a favorite gas station of mine from my Oklahoma days) for lunch. I got a giant icee-freezie-slushy-drink-thing, and we munched our lunch in the limited shade before moving on. It’s cooler to keep going because you at least generate some wind chill.

Soon enough though, it was thundering and lightning in the distance, and then pouring down upon us. We crossed into Georgia at some point in this deluge, and I had to rig up a way to take our obligatory new state photo without getting my camera completely drenched. may not be able to tell, but it's cats and dogs out there

…you may not be able to tell, but it’s cats and dogs out there

Once the thunderous booms got a little too close to comfort, we stopped in at the Savannah River Dam visitors center, and froze our butts off as the AC blasted our sodden clothes. We didn’t stick around long.

rain, rain, go away...

rain, rain, go away…

We ended up in Hartwell, GA that evening. There was a Wal-Mart right at the beginning of town and a big ol’ church right across from it. We went to the church office first to see if we could camp out somewhere, and were then offered hospitality above and beyond our request by Todd, the youth minister; we could shower there, they’d be having a potluck dinner later that we were invited to, and a lady named Cindy offered to take us home for a good night’s rest that evening.

After dinner and such, we locked our bikes up in the office and rode (in a car!) to Cindy’s, and met her husband, David, and their ancient Yorkshire terrier, Bridget. We got to sleep in the grandkid’s princess room, complete with an ultimate collection of disney vhs tapes and a full sized panda stuffed animal. We slept like babies.

Stink wasn’t super pleased when I woke her in the morning with the giant panda, but soon enough we were downstairs, ready to go. Cindy took us back to church, getting breakfast from Bojangle’s on the way, where we all soon got to work helping out with distributing food pantry goods to a long line of cars winding around the church that morning. It was good to be able to help out, and give back a bit, since we always seem to be on the getting end of everyone’s generosity.

gettin to work

gettin to work

After the line of folks was all gone, we helped clean up, and then went with Cindy to the office, met with Todd again and put on the ultimate show of cramming all our junk back into our already bulging saddlebags, and letting Beefy run around the windowsills.

Finally, we were ready to go, and Todd was getting a goodbye picture of us, when the mailman came by and said he’d heard about our trip and wanted to congratulate us. I have no idea how he knew, but as you may or may not know, I stinkin love the post office, so took the compliment with pride.

We super scooted that day, stopping in Bowman for a moment and chatting with a fella named RJ or something who had a thick curly black mullet and crafted extendo forks and spoons in his spare time.

We stopped later at a McDonald’s in the outskirts of Athens, and once we were ready to leave, it began to rain. We skipped across the road to a Goodwill to wait it out, which turned out to be another excellent choice, as within moments of getting the scoots under cover, the rain dumped. Seriously dumped. The rain out here means business.

Eventually the rain died down and we left (without having purchased that super cool cartoon cowboy print sheet I wanted) and scooted on into the evening till we reached Bishop. There were a couple churches out in the middle of nowhere, and we aimed to camp at them. By this time it was night, and the area we picked to camp at was a spooky hallway and had an open door leading to a room with a ladder. I got the heebies jeebies and had to go sleep on the front porch in front of the flood lights…

In the morning we rolled to a gas station, got our coffee and oatmeal fix, and as we prepared to leave, the sky once again sprung a leak. So we loitered a big longer, as these storms often blow by quickly, and a lady stopped and asked if she could take my picture. She said I was the spitting image of a friend of hers who lived down the road. I get that all the time, and I’m 98% sure it’s just because of the red hair. Us gingers just look alike. Pale, freckly, and real squinty in the sun.

Anyways, we left, and rode, and I don’t remember what happened (if you’ve noticed the previous days see extra detailed for me, it’s because I bought a cheapo voice recorder with a Wal-Mart gift card my fa sent me, and have lazily been journaling that way. Unfortunately, I’m still not the best at being consistent with it. Ooops).

Uhh, so we ended up in Monticello (pronounced Montisello down here in the south) and did an interview with the paper. It was pretty early in the evening still, so we scoped out a church to crash at. We were both really exhausted (the night at creepy church was not very restful for either of us…) but couldn’t sleep because it was still daylight and cars kept driving through the parking lot we were sitting out in front of. Through frustration of not being to sleep, we just munched and munched and ate all our snacks. Finally we gave up and walked to the grocery store, got wafer cookies (like that would help our situation) and scoped out another church to sleep at. It seemed more secluded, so we giddily went back and got the bikes, scooted back to it, and immediately laid out our sleeping arrangements (Stink hammocking a stairwell, and me crashed on the doormat).

At what seemed like a million o’clock in the morning, the floodlights turned on right above me and Stink hissed something that woke me up. I groggily got up and groped around, trying to pack my bags up because for some reason I thought Stink said we had to move. Moments later, I realized she just was telling me the lights were on, so I just dropped back onto the ground in the blinding light and was immediately zonked out again.

In the morning we went into the town square in search of a coffee shop but everything was still closed because the world hates us or something. We rolled on to an Ingles, and had a lovely time grocery shopping for discounted products, dining on strange things like peanut butter and jelly pita stuffed with cheerios and sipping coffee in the deli seating area, and making sure to stuff our pockets with free jelly packets before we left the store.

We were motivated to bike far and fast that day because we knew Stink’s Auntie Jenny was driving down from Nashville to meet us, AND is ‘allergic’ to camping so would be providing hotel housing for the night. Naturally, we flew.

When we reched the predetermined destination of Thomaston, Aunt Jenny had texted us and said the room was booked and we could check in whenever we arrived. We raced to the hotel and stepped inside the air conditioned lobby, happy enough to just be out of the heat. We got our room keys from the lady at the front desk, who seemed a bit… incredulous that us two sweaty tomato-faced vagabonds were going to be staying in the hotel that night.

Nothing could dampen our spirits though and we heartily gave the continental breakfast room a once over (finding a raisin bran dispense that was the only thing not on lock down, and making sure to take advantage of that and the free coffee in the lobby) before heading to our, thankfully groundfloor, room.

We dragged the bikes in and immediately blew up the place. Snacking, watcing tv, showering, charging, creating a rat play environment, unpacking, and just generally having a grand ol’ time in that sweet sweet blessedly air conditioned air.

About an hour later, Stink’s Aunt Jenny and cousin Willow arrived and we spent a good while chattin it up in our room, before getting ready to go out to dinner. In a restaurant. As in not opening a can of beans on the curb. Bliss.

stink, willow, & swamp

stink, willow, & swamp

We stopped first at a Mexican joint in town, and all concluded from the storefront that we would most likely contract a serious case of the runs if we even considered stepping inside. We went to Chilli’s.

Which was excellent! We spent more time catching up, eating fried pickles and other various foodstuffs. We eventually left after getting the stink eye from the servers as we chatted over our empty plates for some time after the meal was over. The dinner was a treat from Aunt Jenny as well, who I know is probably reading this, so, like seriously THAAAANK YOU!

We all walked around Wal-Mart for fun (just like we do!) afterwards, then heading back to the hotel. We were spent, and ready for a real night’s sleep, so said our goodbyes and went to bed (obviously with a bit of good ol’ terrible hotel tv entertainment in between).

In the morning, Stink & I got up early to hit the continental breakfast, then came back to the room to veg out, before hitting it again once Jenny and Willow were ready. Let’s just say we got our money’s worth.

Jenn-ayy (say it like Forest Gump, you'll like it)

Jenn-ayy (say it like Forest Gump, you’ll like it)

After breakfast, we all hung out in our room as we packed and unpacked and bustled around the room for hours, getting ready to go. Aunt Jenny offered to mail home some of our excess stuff for us (maps from previous states, hatchet, ornamentaly decorated wooden box, a bunny rabbit magnet, you know, the us…. Ugh, I have no idea how to spell ‘us’ and in ‘usual’. Dumb.) so we really did an exhaustive repack, and Jenny and Willow were kept entertained with our clown car baggage act.

With five minutes to spare before checkout, we dragged the bikes out the door, and were met with a wall of heat. We loitered about saying goodbye, accidentally blocking our doorway from the housekeeping lady for several minutes as she patiently watched our repeated goodbyes, and pictures, and last minute ice machine usage.

Dragging ourselves away from familiar faces (and a whole entire AC packed room) was hard, but we have to keep going if we’re ever to reach home.

We had an excellent (if not hot) road to travel along that day though, so the miles did go by. Wide shoulders, little traffic, and boon doggie views of rural Georgia were all appreciated.


gaaaaay. the rainbow. as in it’s happy. caption]

We arrived in Ellaville that evening, and stopped at the Pig N Wig (Piggly Wiggly) for frozen veggies, and the check the dumpster, which was (not ) fiercely guarded by a pack of kittens and a momma cat…. Can I keep one?? We also saw our first pomegranate tree, and why didn’t I take a picture of it? Why?

Dinner procured, we rolled to a baptist church that was just letting out, and ran the gauntlet down a crowded hallway, quickly meeting what seemed like whole congregation and answering all the usual tour questions as we were lead to the pastor. They gave us permission to camp out back, and even made a $40 donation towards medical treatment (we’ve applied it to Eric here, and you can help too: )

Once everyone was gone, we sat on the curb outside and prepared to make ‘dinner’ but were swarmed with gnats. Apparently, south Georgia is well-known for it’s generous collection of gnats. We swatted and jigged about, whining about our misfortune all the while, till we remembered that Stink Ma hd sent us bug spray. Duhh. That took care of them well enough…ish.

After dinner we were ready for bed, and decided not to take up the offer of sleeping under the gnat infested pavilion out back, but rather to sleep on the porch of the pre-fab. Stink slung up her hammock and I sat on a bench with Beef, writing up this here blog post well past nightfall. Neither of us could get to sleep very easily, so Stink listened to hours of Harry Potter, and I took a nightwalk to the nearby gas station to use the potty…. then ended up getting cookies. Dang it.

Eventually we both zonked out, and woke in the morning. We returned to the gas station for coffee and hot oatmeal water, and chatted with quite a few friendly local folks. One gal even passed us some monies, “for snacks”. You got it, lady.

We stopped in Preston, GA for lunch, where I invented the peanut butter soy sauce nutritional yeast frozen mixed veggies deluxe meal. People gave it the stink eye as they walked past… One lady also stopped and asked if I was a boy or a girl.

Stink (smartly) scooted over to the Subway to sit in AC and sip soda, so I met her after finishing my …meal. We met an adorable elderly couple there, Atlas and Evelyn Hester. They were so sweet and curious about what we were up to. I just wanted to put them in my pocket and take them with me.

[caption id="attachment_1102" align="alignnone" width="1024"]ride for days... or you know, months... ride for days… or you know, months…

After Subway, we got back on the road and trekked out to Blakely, where we saw that it was 102˚ out, and scampered into the McDonald’s, where I’ve been sitting ever since, finishing up this insanely long super mega blog post. Sorry everyone, I’m wordy as hell, it seems.

Okay, adding a bit more because we kinda got…. excused from the McDonald’s. Georgia don’t put up with our shenanigins it seems. We rolled to a grocery store across the lot, and found a church in the dark. Unfortunately, it was still hot as heck, there were people milling about and potentially staring at us behind a seedy looking hotel next door, and we just could not get to sleep, no matter how many hours of Harry Potter, Tom Sawyer, and dumb games we entertained ourselves with. Eventually, we just laughed and decided to pack up in the wee hours of the morning to find somewhere else to “sleep”.

We rolled to another church down the road, deemed it passable, and set up our beds (Stink hammocked in the children’s playground, and I squeezed between the church van and my scoot leaning against the wall. It was still hot, but less buggy, and noone was about to make us paranoid, so we actually fell asleep. In the morning, I kept snoozing the alarm because I was dead tired,  but when I heard a car pull up into the parking lot, I jumped out of bed and scrambled to throw my shorts on. Stink rounded the corner just then, and we quickly packed up and got the hay out of there.

We went to a gas station down the street and got coffee and made oatmeal, all bleary eyed and sleep deprived. Then, still half asleep, we rolled out to Alabama, just 15 miles or so away, and got our photograph.

need. sleep.

need. sleep.

After that, we scooted on another 15 miles to Dothan, AL, where I grudgingly paid one dollar to use the computer here at the public library to finish up this here blug post. You’re welcome. Just kidding, I love to write for you all.

Uhm, so, in conclusion, go join our Watsi team because it looks sad and small, and uh, that’s (hopefully) all folks!

-Lizzzzzzzzzzzzz with a y

Part B 9

Still behind. Forever and always behind. Oye.

Storm clouds

A storm welcomed us to Tennessee

Part B of A and B

Waking up under a church pavilion in Rock Camp and listening to the rain falling heavily around us was not conducive to an early start. We managed to get out of our sleeping bags around 7:30 and whip up a mean oatmeal. I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t need sugar in my oats in the morning and I’m kind of proud of that. We took off, up a slope toward Peterstown, WV, making a quick pit stop at a gas station that happened to have pumpkiny flavor JJ’s pies. We perhaps got one for breakfast. From there we meandered over hills and under hills, not really wanting to put too much effort into it and making sure to stop at every food opportunity. I got a sack of peaches and a sack of green bell peppers for 50 cents a pop. Since we were following the border, we went in and out of Virginia and West Virginia what seemed like a million times. Eventually we sat on the sidewalk out front of a restaurant eating semi-ok mushy peaches and talking to my mom on the phone when we realized what we were doing and decided to pretend to be a little bit more professional and make some miles.

We went over a couple large mountain/hills and spotted a Walmart gleaming in the distance. Walmart means air conditioning, non-judgemental loitering zones, bathrooms, snacks, and entertainment. Sometimes you can even get away with charging a cell phone. Since we were both dripping sweat, we wheeled in.

After procuring copias snacks, I locked in the coordinates for Blue Wells, WV, on my GPS and off we went. We wound through some tight and steep roads when out of no where the sky opened up and dumped rain upon us! It was a massive amount of rain. We sprinted for cover and found the remains of an old gas station, but that proved to be inadequate for us. The rain began to fall so hard that it was bouncing off the pavement and hitting us from below. Since we had plenty of snacks (I found a couple unopened Hershey’s bars on the road) and it was warm, we both were laughing about it.

The thunder grew louder and the lightening more intense making quite a lovely storm, although we had no where to stay for the night. I was going to check my phone to see if there was a church along our path when a man pulled over to check on us. It was hard to hear his voice through the rain, but we were able to understand that he was offering us a home for the night, and dinner. He mentioned something about his wife cooking up veggies and something else about how they had hosted some gals who biked around selling textbooks. We couldn’t refuse. Tim said that he would have to return home to get the van and have his son take the seats out so that the bikes could fit, but he would be back in a half hour or so.

We exchanged thanks and phone numbers and he drove away. While he was gone, a woman and her son pulled over wondering what we were doing and what was living in the mailbox. They had seen us at the WalMart earlier. We explained, gave them a business card, and they drove away, then came back and insisted we take some snack money. We thanked them for it.

Tim came back and we loaded our bikes into the van. It took some doing, but after a huff and a puff both bikes were in the back, and both us gals were crammed in the front seat excited to go on a real live car ride! Tim drove us home and we were met by Michele, his wife, and Aaron, his younger son. Michelle showed us where the showers were and let us do our laundry. Mind you, this is the same nasty laundry that had been steam cooking in plastic bags in our panniers since DC. Poor, poor woman.

Pickle jar

Some of Michele’s pickles

We sat down to dinner and were blown away by Michele’s spread, complete with quinoa (!) and fried summer squash (!!). Michelle and Tim moved to West Virginia a few years back and now work with Heaven Sent Ministries in Bluefield. Tim offers life coaching to people who are dealing with substance abuse, and he and Michele dabble in family and marriage counseling. We had a great time chatting through dinner. Tim looked at us worriedly as we explained our planned route to Kentucky that put us through McDowell County on highway 52, and offered to help us find a different way.

Tim explained that McDowell County used to be one of the wealthiest counties in the country due to the booming coal industry, but it has slowly become more and more isolated and impoverished as area coal mines closed. It is certainly not a place two cyclists want to find themselves at night. Most homes are unapproachable due to ferocious dogs and during the day the steep, hairpin-curve roads mixed with coal trucks and little to no hope that drivers expect or care if there are cyclists out make for a dangerous ride to say the least. Tim suggested that we go to work with him and Aaron at HSM in the morning so that we could use the Internet and and see what all is going on in lower West Virginia. We couldn’t say no, and were excited to take a day off and get to look around.

Armpit sandwich

Us and Mini. Poor thing got an armpit sandwich for thanks

Sometimes when you’ve been on the road a while the most relaxing thing any host can do for you is to let you tag long with them on normal type things, like driving through town doing menial errands, or letting you help cook a meal, or do yard work, or take the dog for a walk. That night the Swingles took us for a drive out to an old coal town in McDowell so we could see some old architecture (they also bought me a fantastic ice cream, and since Michele doesn’t eat dairy, she even had some veggi-cream that Lizzy could eat too!) and in the morning, we ate breakfast and loaded into the car to go to HSM. Tim asked us if we would be willing to make a run out to WalMart to pick up school supplies for some kids that would be starting school the next morning. We told him we would be more than happy to do it.
Chow time

Mmmmmmmmm. Chow time!

We drove out to HSM and got a grand tour of the place. HSM works as an umbrella organization for missionaries around the world, organizes the packaging and shipping of nutritional food packages to children who are starving, and hosts teams of people who do local house work or maintenance missions. They have a great facility complete with kitchen and laundry station (we used both). Tim let us bring our sleeping bags with us so that we could wash them!!

An important presentation

Giving an important presentation concerning the world…. Just kidding.

A little later in the afternoon we got a ride out to the Walmart so that we could go school supply shopping for the kiddos. It was so much fun and I kind of wished I was going back to fifth grade. Tim picked us up and we headed to home. Michele was a bit tired since she had been working all day butchering chickens for a local, free range chicken farmer so We helped chop up fruits and veggies for dinner and then we all sat down to eat. Before is got too dark, we loaded into the car and drove out to Gobblers Knob to deliver the school supplies.

In the morning we said goodbyes, gave hugs and email address, took pictures, and then tossed all our gear in the back of the van and drove out to the 460. Tim dropped us off and headed out to work. Though the 460 is a four lane and highly traveled, it was deemed safer for bicyclists than the tipsy back roads we’d planned on taking. We rode all the way out to Vansant and stayed at a church pavilion there. The pastor gave us permission to go into the building as well. I was so tired that I threw up my hammock and immediately fell asleep. I didn’t realize that I had placed my hammock directly under a streetlight since I fell asleep while it was still light out. Around 9 or so, a man drove the church bus back to the parking lot and dropped off a bunch of people. He didn’t realize that we were staying at the church, so upon seeing my hammock he decided to investigate. I think we startled the day lights out of each other and of course, I couldn’t sleep after that. The next morning we groggily stumbled into the church to make oatmeal and sample some old cookies we found in the microwave, and then took off to what we both knew would be a strenuous day.

Pudding cloud

Pudding Clouds

We had to cross two major ridges into and out of Kentucky. It was steep. It was hot. It was soggy. But it was incredibly beautiful. It’s like a jungle out here. There are crazy rock formations, vines are growing on everything and twisting their way around gnarled old tree stumps. Waterfalls and little creeks splatter onto the road’s shoulder. There are innumerable bird songs and a constant buzz of cicadas. I like it.

We made it out to Jenkins, KY, and realized that we’d have to climb back out of there into Virginia (again). So after a quick snack break at the Family Dollar, we hopped on the scoots and peddled up our last mountain of the day. The view from the top was wonderful, and we were told that a lot of college geology classes go up to that particular point to look at rocks and so forth. I could see why. We coasted down the other side, trying to avoid the rumble strip, and rolled to a stop in front of a little church in The Pound, VA.


Beautiful sunset marks the way home

We couldn’t find a cell phone number so we called the church office, but no one was there. Since it as getting dark and we were exhausted and making poorer and slower decisions, we thought it a good idea to sit at the church steps and eat dinner before looking for place to stay. The church we were at had no parking lot and backed up against a creek, so there wasn’t really a good place for us.

Just as we finished eating dinner a man pulled over and told us that we would probably not be welcome to sleep on the church’s porch for the night. We couldn’t tell if he was affiliated with the church or not, but decided to listen to him. He told us that we should go down to the First Baptist Church which was about a half a mile away. We peddled off, found the church, and we’re just rolling into the back parking lot when we ran into two of the ministers. We explained our situation and asked for permission to sleep in the parking lot for the evening. Pastor Tom said that we could, but asked us if beds and a shower wouldn’t be better. We said of course it would, and Andrew led us out back to the old circuit preacher apartment. It was a complete time warp to 1972 and we liked it! We expressed our gratitude and then cleaned up and went to bed. It was so fantastic to have a dry, not foggy place to sleep, and–get this– there was an air conditioner!

In the morning, we slowly made oatmeal and packed up. Andrew had told us that there was a monster climb getting out of the Pound and offered to give us a ride to the top in the morning if we wanted, but we just couldn’t cheat like that even if the offer was tempting. So, we were less than motivated. We peddled off to the IGA/Dollar General down the street to stock up on food and to procrastinate going up the mountain. We got some new batteries for my radio and Lizzy’s tail light (see daddy, we’ve been using our lights) I also got some much needed chocolate.

We we huddled around our bikes mixing up our respective munchie mix (a raisin bran based trail mix of sorts) when we were approached by the IGA store owner Skipp. I thought for sure he was going to ask us to move along since we’d been there a while and I was parked close enough to the automatic door sensor that my bike kept slamming the door shut on customers. He didn’t kick out out though, quite the opposite. He had done some missions work in Southern Africa and was excited to hear about Wasti and our trip. So we told him all about it, the whole time he was listening to us and greeting almost every customer by first name as they entered his store. He introduced us to one of his customers named Bernie who left, and then came back wanting to donate toward a patient on Watsi. Skipp headed into the store insisting we take some food compliments of IGA and came back loaded with bananas, granola bars, and Gatorade. We gladly accepted, thanked him profusely, and then hit the road.

 Snacks from Skipp

Thanks Skipp and IGA!

The climb was not as bad as Andrew had made it seem, and we were at the top before we knew it. I pulled into a McDonald’s as I needed to use the internet again, and we were approached by a woman and her adorable granddaughter. “You stayed at my church last night!” she said. She just so happened to be Andrew’s mother-in-law. She insisted that we take some lunch money.

We sat at the McDonald’s for a while, doing bloggy things and all that jazz. It takes forever to do blog entries. We left around four, looking at the map and seeing that we had, of course, another major climb ahead of us. We had three options that had elevation profiles. I decide to let Lizzy choose. Either we go the steeper but shorter route, or we go one of the longer and less steep routes. She chose shorter, I didn’t complain. When we got to the turn off for that climb however, my heart melted. It was at least 11% grade in the shallower parts, complete with switchbacks, mosquitoes, and dense forest so that we couldn’t see if we were making any progress. Lizzy rode on ahead without me. I stopped and started pushing my bike up the hill. I have only been given two knees, and I’d like to keep them.

Virginia creeper

What is this plant? We think it could be Virginia Creeper. It takes over everything

About a quarter of the way up, a man pulled his truck over to check on me. I told him our plans and he told me that we really shouldn’t go that way. We were only a quarter of the way up, at the top the road turns to gravel and it’s another 30 miles. In other words, we weren’t going to make it where we wanted to go by nightfall (it was already close to 8). Gordon offered to take me and my bike up to where Lizz was so that we could talk to each other, and he offered us dinner and space in his back patio. We couldn’t say no.

We followed Gordon back to his house and he let us do our laundry and shower. Unfortunately, his wife was out of town that day. Lizzy and I were both bummed because–based on how he talked about her, the great titles on her bookshelves, and her fantastic garden–we really wanted to meet her. Gordon said she was working on putting together a charity that provides new school shoes for kiddos in need in the area, and there are a lot of kiddos in need out here. We had a long chat about the coal industry and the effects fraking is having on the water table in Western Virginia. Gordon puts water lines into homes. A lot of places that used to run on well water out here now have water piped in now due to the leakage of natural gas. In some places, he said, you can hold a match up to the water faucet and it will ignite. Gordon also showed us some fantastic pictures of his bicycle tour across Virginia when he was a senior in high school.

In the morning, he sent us off with apples, bananas,and granola bars and bellies full of breakfast. We thanked him, and headed toward the hills. This time, however, we were going down!!! It was so beautiful, the misty clouds were all caught up in the valleys below, which were acting like pudding bowls. We descended into the fog and made it out to a gas station/McDonald’s for coffee. After a descent loiter, we headed back to the scoots where we had earned the attention of a gang of motorcyclists. One looked at Lizzy, “you’ve got a flat there honey baby.” We have officially entered the South.

Unfortunately, we were out of patches, which is a long story. And we were out of replacement tubes. Somehow, Lizzy got a hold of someone who has a bike shop who has a customer who does bike touring who had a friend driving through the area who would have a tube or two on him. The friend, Kendall, drove all the way up from Tennessee to bring us tubes, but we failed to mention that we would need fatter tubes 700×36 instead of skinny road tubes 700×28. So, Kendall left us in the parking lot and drove out to a couple different places, eventually coming back with two tubs and patch kits. He refused to take any money from us, and after making sure every thing was installed to spec, and letting us use his high end floor pump, he wished us well and drove away.

We were flabbergasted by his kindness, and ecstatic to be back on the asphalt, especially since Kendall had told us that it wouldn’t be too bad of a climb the rest of the way into Tennessee. It was a gorgeous ride into Kingsport, and it wasn’t too steep either. We got pictures at the TN sign and peddled through town marveling at the flatness. It was the first place we’d been in days that had streets running left and right with no cliffs. That flatness quickly disappeared though. We made it as far as Fall Branch before the combination of ominous looking sky and fatigue caught up with us.

Church camp

Ain’t nothing like church camping

I spotted a church with a pavilion and made way to it. We could tell there was someone inside so I knocked and waited. The pastor came out and said we could sleep in the pavilion and also said that he grew up in Willimina and has close friends of family that go to Adventure Christian Church in McMinnville (you know, the one behind the old Rite-Aid and across from Brookdale) It was crazy to be talking to someone who knows Mac! Of all places, in Fall Branch, TN too!

We slept well under the cover. The storm, although loud, never really materialized into rain. We took off early that morning in hopes of making it to North Carolina.


Part A of A and B

It's a bit hilly out here

It’s a bit hilly out here

I’m picking up Lizzy’s slack. Totally kidding. We have been doing a lot, and having a lot of things happen to us this past week or two. The result has been a lot to remember and little time to write…and new friends!

West Virginia, or Virginai

We woke up in the baseball dugout in Wardensville, VA, and tried to convince the 7-11 employees down the street to let us use their restroom. It was working the night before and the night shift let us use it even though it wasn’t technically a public restroom, so when they refused us in the morning I thought it was due to our haphazard and bug eyed appearance. Turns out, they actually were having plumbing issues and sent us down the road to a little 24/7 laundromat. To our delight and amazement, it had desks and free wifi! Of course, we stayed for hours but somehow it didn’t occur to either of us to actually do our laundry which had been wadded up in steamy plastic bags in our panniers. It is hot and damp out here. Let’s just say the result is less than fresh.
Spring falls

We ran into this waterfall the other day

We left having cought up on our business end of things: emails, route files, Watsi things, trying to convince people to joint our Watsi team (click here) etc. The sky that morning was threatening, and it was quite noticeably cooler when we left Wardensville. This was a relief, but we both knew what it meant–an impending downpour. There are a few skills we’ve acquired on this adventure and predicting weather is one of them. We made it as far as the next town which was a good 25 miles away and over a mountain before we finally gave in to the chilly drizzle and made for a wayside McDonald’s to continue our work. We weren’t feeling particularly motivated that day if you can’t tell. As we got back on the bikes to ride out to Petersburg we both commented on how the weather was feeling like fall at home in Oregon.

Fall in Oregon is fantastic, it’s like a second spring. Everything turns green and wet again after a dry summer. There are also loads of apples, pears, walnuts, and pumpkins to be had along with their corresponding baked goods. Lizzy and I talked a good hour about all the different types of cookies my momma makes for her famous Christmas platters, but alas, it is only mid August.

Beautiful wildflowers

Beautiful wildflowers

We made it to Petersburg and the rain started up again, so we decided that we weren’t going to get our full miles in and were going to spend the night in a high class dugout we could see from the covered overhang at the Dollar General across the street. It was a good night.
West Virginia, or maybe Virginia

West Virginia, or maybe Virginia

It was a good thing that we slept so well because the next day was a doozy. We stopped at a McDonalds across the street to load up on coffee and use the Internet, leaving just as both a troop of Boy Scouts came in for breakfast and a torrential downpour opened up outside. It was that kind of a day. We rode through the rain to Seneca Rocks and ate lunch at a rock climbers’ post/general store, and then hopped back on the road. I was really excited because I knew that we were getting close to the Green Brier River Trailhead. This trail follows an old rail line so it manages to wind through some remote places in the mountains at a mere 1% grade. It is gravel though, so I was a little wary of the trail surface since it had been raining for so long.
The Judy Gap blunder

The Judy Gap blunder

At a critical junction, I double checked the map and headed up a mountain. A real mountain too, miles of 7% through low hanging clouds and twisty-turny curves. We caught up to each other at the top, congratulating each other on our success, and the went down. Five miles of foggy, twisty-turny, 7% etc. We made it to a town, 13 miles from our initial turn. Then I realized–we were in the wrong state.
I was none to pleased when I discovered my mistake on the back end of said mountain with no where to go, no idea what road to take as I was unwilling to ride back up and over that mountain, and utterly frustrated. To top it off it was raining again and everything we had was dampish and smelly. I tried to stop at a library to look up some directions but I got to the library with only a half hour to closing and extremely slow internet. Both added to my increasing anxiety and frustration. I decided that we should just hit the road that I knew would lead us more or less in the right direction and worry about correcting my mistake later. I also made the decision to eat the candy that Donna sent us. Thank you Donna, I really needed a PayDay right then.

The Appellations are very steep, but have deep valleys that run North and South. If you are following one of the valleys the roads are kind to you, but anytime you have to go East or West you must cross an excruciatingly steep ridge, like we did going over the Judy Gap.

We followed one of these valleys into the deepening afternoon, knowing that it would be difficult to find a place to camp where we wouldn’t have to worry about being attacked by hill people dogs or shot at, and we knew that we were miles from any sort of settlement. For about an hour that ride I was fighting with myself. I was frustrated that a silly thing like taking a wrong turn could get me so worked up and my mind started buzzing through every mistake I have ever made… Yatta yatta, you know how that goes.

I said a little prayer, and at the very moment that I decided not to worry, an old man pulled over in a pickup and offered us one of his many cabins to sleep in that night. Furthermore, his home was right exactly where we needed to go and exactly the miles that we needed too.

Sweet digs, thanks Ray

Sweet digs, thanks Ray

We made it to his house and it was… well, memorable. I quite enjoyed it. He is a tire salesman/bluegrass musician. He has a pond full up trout in his back porch and he offered us a club so that we could get our own trout for dinner if we wanted. He fed us some really great tasting, but expired Costco foods (I’m never one to trust an expiration date anyway) and then threw our bikes in the back of his truck to take us to the cabin. As he drove, he explained he was taking us to a different cabin, one that had running water though no electricity, since some people had died in his other cabin that he had previously offered us… When we got to our home, he explained that the bears sometimes fall through the roof and that there are rattlesnakes living in the woodpile–“I killed a 51 incher last month”–but not to worry as there was a troop of hunters in the woods behind the house that were training their bear dogs. They would be stopping by later to check that we hadn’t exploded since the house lights and water heater were run on gas…
Lizzy fit right in at Windsong Cabin

Lizzy fit right in at Windsong Cabin

It was fabulous, absolutely fantastic! We couldn’t have invented a better place to stay that night. The hunters did stop by around 10 and were very kind. One keep trying to give us all of his flashlights and they made sure that we were quite safe and comfortable before heading out. I set up my hammock on the back porch and watched the stars until the clouds came and covered them up. It was absolutely silent and perfect out there.
William points to the Devil's Backbone

William points to the Devil’s Backbone

Ray come by in the morning and gave us a florescent safety vest and chocolate. What a guy! His grandson William came by too and offered to take us on a tour through the Carr lands. We hopped at the opportunity and had a great time bumbling around Carr mountain in a real live vehicle. William took us up to an overlook and showed us the adjacent mountain range called the Devil’s Backbone. When we got back to the cabin, we cleaned up, finished coffee, and I got some pictures of some beautiful butterflies that are common out here.

We left the Carrs’ around one or so, and made it seven miles before the sky opened up again. We were fortunately at a gas station, so we had a little bit of an overhang to shelter us from the ferocious downpour. Some motorcyclists stopped there to hide from the rain as well and struck up a conversation with Lizzy, then invited her to join them for drinks. I said I’d be over in a bit and called my momma.

Butterflies are common around here. My favorite are the blues ones, but I haven't got a pic. yet

Butterflies are common around here. My favorite are the blues ones, but I haven’t got a pic. yet

When I got off the phone the rain had subsided so I went across the block to collect my friend. We took off toward Hot Springs. I was still a bit uncertain about how we we going to get to Kentucky since we were well off course at this point and I was hoping for a good sized town with a McDonalds, though preferably a library. I should have expected that Hot Springs would be a golf town since we were following the Sam Snead memorial highway, but it still startled me when we rolled out of our West Virginia cabin morning into pleated white pants and crispy collard polo Hot Springs, VA. I knew that we wouldn’t be welcome to sneaky camp there, so we opted to eat bean-on-bean burritos in the Subway outdoor seating area before climbing out of Hot Springs in hopes of finding a dry-ish wayside or church parking lot to sleep in.
We've been in and out of Virginia so many times

We’ve been in and out of Virginia so many times

We didn’t make it too far before we spotted a large Presbyterian church with an ample parking lot out back. Since it was still waking hours, we decided to circle the church and ask permission from someone. We walked right into Pastor Scott, who refused our request to pop up a tent in the parking lot and instead opened up the auxiliary building which had fluffy carpet, power outlets and bathrooms!! Virginians have been good to us!

We left early that morning, still trying to regain our lost miles acquired from my navigational error and literally rode all day. We were in the total boon docks at this point. No surviving towns. No cell service. We were on a nicely paved, single lane road complete with steep, heart stopping grades, bug-eyed dogs (crazed beagley-looking things, pitt bulls, several Pyrenees etc.)

It was absolutely gorgeous. I didn’t manage to get any pictures because I was too busy gawking at everything, and I don’t think pictures would do it justice anyways. We had been planning at stoping at the town marked Zenith on the map, but when we got there we discovered that Zenith has been long defunct. I was disappointed, but not completely suprised, so we rode on. Up and over an extremely steep eye boggling, knee straining grade, down the other side, past a lone motorcyclist, and then down to a junction called Rock Camp. To my satisfaction, I espied a beautiful church pavilion and made straight toward it.

We weren’t sure what the next day would bring, we only knew that we were safe and comfortable once again (three cheers for Virginia!) and that we really needed to use the Internet. It is absolutely beautiful in these parts, but in order to survive it you have to be as tough as the landscape around you. We can tell that quality in the people we have met in the Virginias. Along with that toughness however, is a overwhelming recognition of humanity and hardship, kindness and generosity. Just like the mountains surrounding us that maybe even get me a little claustrophobic, the first experience of boon dock Virginias was a little intimidating, but now we know better. The are deep valleys of goodness here, and I will write more about that in part B of this week’s blog.

Until then, thanks again everyone for all of your support. My chronic homesickness is flaring up again when I think of all of you at home, but it is good to know that this country is our home too. Everyday we have an amazing opportunity to meet new people to add to our growing list of friends and family. It certainly helps to think of that as we start each day’s ride.

If you haven’t joined our team yet, please do! You can see the faces and read the stories about everyone who’s medical treatment has been funded with WBD Team contributions.

Thanks again, Stink out