If it ain’t hilly, it’s hot… sometimes both 4
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.
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. http://www.opb.org/television/programs/ofg/segment/possums/
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
You can see a video clip of it off my instagrub here: https://instagram.com/p/6lpRSWFO5y/?taken-by=lizzy.trickey
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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