2021 Trans Am Bike Race Day 25 Report
Wednesday June 30, 2021: Close to the worst nights sleep ever. Hard floor /no mattress and bright lights not turning off I can work with. However there was a high frequency hum emanating from somewhere in the room that just didn’t stop. It was maddening and on numerous occasions and with increasing agitation I got up to try and find where it was coming from – something would have got smashed if I found what was responsible. It took me hours to fall asleep but pure exhaustion finally delivered some respite at what must have been well past midnight.
A few hours later my alarm cruelly woke me at 4am. I needed more sleep but there was sweet fuck all chance now that I was conscious. I extracted myself from my bivy and just sat for a while, munching on an apple pastry from yesterdays smorgasbord and a McDonalds Cheeseburger from the previous day to that.
The 40 hour old Cheeseburger was a very bold move.
As if on cue a rumble in the belly….
And another one…
Sweet Jesus I need to get out of here!
I doubt I have packed quicker.
On the bike looking around in pure desperation for a bathroom. There was nothing open of course. I pedaled a hundred yards or so before I simply had to get off the bike. Thank goodness it was just out of town, because all I could do was waddle to the grassy embankment by the side of the road, disrobe (the traditional over the shoulder bib short design is far from optimal in these situations), and…………….well…………..unleash hell.
A quick digression to interrupt the troubling mental image – When I get back from these ultra races one of the first questions my boys ask me after a massive hug from each of them is:
“Any poo stories Dad?”
In regards this edition of the Trans Am I had already been working on the retelling of a distinctly unpleasant and chilly experience from the morning of Day 9, east of Ennis, Montana. This one however, occurring 2 weeks later was an absolute doozy and would actually take a little courage to explain. I mean the whole experience was sort of low on humor and high on disgust and embarrassment.
It was at the time anyway………….looking back does raise a chuckle, as do all of the “poo stories.”
Although I felt good for shedding the ballast the sting of shame was definitely also present as I pedaled into Day 25. However my attention soon turned to tracking down some water. I was running very low. I had no change for the vending machine outside a supermarket 5ks out of town and then in the town of Pippa Passes another 5ks further on I asked a chap out the front of the Addiction Treatment Centre if there was a spigot nearby that I could use.
He very politely indicated that there maybe one behind the building, but unfortunately there wasn’t.
Another quick digression – it was very obvious that these little towns have prevalent social issues. I was pedaling past legal offices, Addiction Treatment Centres, Family Services offices and Food Banks. It is very sad but there are also signs that the communities are fighting back – well maintained churches and Schools and Appalachian Art and Cultural Centres for example.
35ks into the day and just after a 30 minute roadside break to tend to my blister I came across a rather run down gas station and convenience store that was bustling with early morning activity. Thank freakin’ goodness! – I was out of water and low on supplies.
I stocked up and stood out the front knocking back a couple of bacon biscuits watching the comings and goings and chatting to a couple of locals.
Ok, that was two 30 minute breaks already! 2 hrs and 45 minutes total time for only 35ks banked and that was before any proper climbing had occurred. There were some beastly climbs in my near future. Time to pull my finger out!
Past some more signs of decaying structures. I was very mindful of respecting the area and not stopping to take too many photos. One scene in particular though I simply had to capture. It was a falling down house with an old model rusting car (circa 1950s??) parked up out front, the whole scene overgrown with weeds. I got a distinct feeling for what must of happened here, that tough times had hit a family and they had simply packed up and left, leaving everything.
Incredibly sad when you think about it.
Soon later I become very grateful for the resupply as the fun and games all of a sudden began. 3 hours and 50ks of relentless up and down in pretty hardcore humidity.
By the time I rolled into the small coal town of Ashcamp at around 11am I was more than ready for a little lie down in the shade. The large concrete verandah of the Glory Bound Freewill Baptist Church presented the perfect opportunity. It even had a working outside ceiling fan. Glory Bound is right! 30 minutes worth.
Back on the road and only 15 minutes later I came across a little local diner and thought Why not? I was after something more satisfying that gas station crud and also a bit of human interaction which diners tend to provide. It was a Ma and a Pa style diner and I got the impression that they had just recently opened up after having closed for Covid. You can’t underestimate the damage done to these kinds of small businesses in already depressed areas, by all the Covid related restrictions.
Anyway I ordered a couple of hot dogs with the lot and sat back with a large Pepsi, eavesdropping on the conversation of the next table, a group of teenage lads who reminded me distinctly of the cast of ‘Lost Boys’ – 2 Coreys, 3 mullets and 4 dirt bikes propped up outside.
Back on the road and not long later the second Poo story of the day unveiled itself. As disgraceful and shame filled as the first so the less said about it the better.
Gastrointestinal distress was definitely playing its part today. In the company of my infected blister and the ridiculous humidity it wasn’t making the climbing any damn easier.
Anyway, about an hour later I crossed into Virginia where of course I stopped for a photo. No smiles however, I knew what was coming – longer, steeper climbs.
More relentless up and down, a 30 minute resupply at the 24 hour Valero gas Station at the top of the hill before the little town of Haysi, a town reinventing itself as a tourist destination due to its location at the confluence of the McClure and Russell Fork rivers.
60 minutes more hard slog, another 30 minute resupply and break, at a gas station near Davenport.
Another 80 minutes of teeth grinding effort, yet another 40 minute break at a gas station on the long, steep descent to Honaker. At this stop I chatted to a touring cyclist, a trainee doctor from Philly. Lovely bloke.
My stoppage time was getting borderline ridiculous but I was doing what was necessary to keep going. I wanted to get the big lumps behind me today! I needed to make this last stop count. It was pushing 6pm and there would be negligible services until Damascus 70ks up route. I packed up by bike with what I had purchased and sat out the front of the gas station mainlining ice-cream and caffeinated beverages, trying to fire myself up for the next stretch.
Finally I gingerly remounted and pedalled off into the evening. First a really dodgy stretch through and out of Honaker rife with aggressive drivers – the change from the patient drivers of Kentucky was palpable. Then a hectic 5ks on the busy multilane Virginia State Route 160, aka the Trail of the Lonesome Pine, and finally a left turn onto beautifully peaceful back roads.
These back roads took me past the Elk Garden Church and Biker Hostel where the chap I had met earlier told me he was aiming for, through picturesque rolling farmland and then onwards and upwards over one of the longest, steepest climbs of the day.
Adrenaline and sheer desperation for a comfortable bed finally got me to Damascus where I pulled up to the Old Mill Inn just after 10pm. The clerk who I had spoken with to book a room during my stop in Honaker had stuck around after hours thank goodness. It had taken me a lot longer than anticipated and with no cell coverage I hadn’t been able to update her.
Once in my room I lay back on my hotel room bed, proud of the days effort. Not the longest day distance wise by a long stretch and I had taken an inordinate of time in stoppages but it was my biggest ever day in terms of elevation covered.
I rewarded myself with a supper of champions – Pringles, a salami stick and a squashed apple pastry and then drifted off to sleep.
765ks to Yorktown!