Today's Miles = 31.2
Average Speed = 9.5 mph
Maximum Speed = 31.1 mph
Total Miles = 530.2
Today was another one of those days were it was difficult to remain positive. I woke and packed up my campsite shortly after sunrise and got on the road. Immediately after I started riding I found myself climbing again, trying to summit a hill at 3,200 feet, riding into a headwind, and being rained on. After a short while of climbing I saw an AT hiker sitting on the side of the road trying to hitch a ride back towards the way I had come. He hadn't yet noticed me coming uphill when suddenly there was an ear-splitting bang like a shotgun blast. My rear tire had blown open, this time much more loudly than outside Charlottesville. I went ahead and pushed it the 40 yards to the hiker and sat down next to him to talk while I worked on the tire.
AT hikers all have trail names that they know each other by, and this hiker introduced himself to me as Wicked. Wicked's was trying to catch a ride to Damascus to meet back up with his dog and hiking companions he had left behind while he did a little soloing. I helped him out by pointing out that he was hitchhiking the wrong direction, then we chatted while I took my tire off the rim. It turned out that for some reason still unknown to me, my tire bead had slipped off my rim. The tube had ripped about six inches long down one side, so I ruled out patching it and replaced it entirely. Since the tire appeared to have no serious damage to the bead I put it back on the wheel and inflated it cautiously. It appeared to be holding, so I decided to ride it as is. While I was doing all this, Wicked flagged down a passing truck and we said farewell.
As I continued riding I met another hiker, Beau, who was also hitching the wrong direction so I set him straight as well, then climbed until I finished my peak and descended into Troutdale where I got myself a warm breakfast and a chance to dry out from the rain.
After leaving town I started my second big climb of the day, which my guidebook indicated was to 3,500 feet but my GPS told me was 3,800 feet. I don't which altitude was more accurate, but either way it was a long grueling climb with a cold rain pouring down on me. I stopped partway during my climb to visit a log church in Laurel Valley, and ended up spending over an hour alone in the church getting warm and reading and napping. When I finally completed the climb I was treated to a very long winding descent into Damascus. I'm looking forward to one of these descents where I'm not soaking wet and worried about my brakes, but even so I enjoyed not having to pedal for a few miles.
When I got to Damascus the only thing on my mind was finding a place to be warm and dry and hopefully not have to sleep on the ground for the night. The Methodist Church in Damascus runs a hostel for AT hikers, but TransAm cyclists are welcome as well and I was able to find an empty bunk to claim by throwing my sleeping bag onto.
At first I thought the hikers were a bit standoffish towards me, but I was probably just projecting my negative feelings towards being cold and wet onto them. Once I got showered and changed my clothes I started talking to a few of them and really enjoyed their stories. Hiking the AT was one of the things I had considered doing this year before I settled in on this bike ride, and I hope to find the time in the not-so-distant future to give it a try.
I went to dinner with Tweety, English Bob, Buckeye, and Ollie, then retired back to the hostel to drift off with dreams of being dry and warm and never cold and soaked again.