Find Your Way
May 13, 2002
Sugar Grove to Damascus

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.


Yea, the weather's been sucky up here too - I'd been hoping you had something better. In my next life as the weather goddess, I'll make sure you have sunny, 60-65 degree weather for most of your trek... And any showers will be of the light, fluffy, pleasant type. Hell, while I'm at it, I'll make it flats and downhills only. Both ways, so you can start from either side of the country. And all the AT hikers you meet will be fetching female massage therapists, just dying to get their hands on you. Hee, hee. You're welcome, it's what friends are for.

Posted by: Cindy on May 14, 2002 11:06 AM

These updates age great. Sorry I couldn't see you off at the start of your trip. Do TransAm bikers get road names like the AT hikers? I think you need to come up with a cool one. How do you avoid tornados? Do you have some kind of warning system. It would suck to reach the top of a hill, then be picked up by a funnel cloud and carried back thirty miles. Have you come across any other bikers on your journey?

Posted by: Chris on May 14, 2002 12:29 PM

Excellent website and journal interface!

You've reported having some troubles with dogs and having to resort to your pepper spray. Another option is to grab your water bottle and give them a squirt. They're easier to aim and since the dog doesn't know it's just water they tend to stop quickly to figure out what they were hit with. By the time they figure out it was water you have escaped. One other idea we've tried with success, bark back. We were climbing a killer hill in Kentucky when 3 small dogs started to chase. Going uphill we were not going to outrun them, they stopped when squirted but only for a short period. My riding partner became fed up with trying to avoid them, zig-zag all over the rural road, he finally turned the bike around and barked at them as loudly as he could for several seconds. That scared them off and we are still laughing about it 2 years later.

One other suggestion, don't forget to take photos of the people you meet. Take care and have fun.


Eric - who went cross country in 2000 with a friend

Posted by: Eric on May 15, 2002 09:30 AM

Even when you're having a bad day, the trip sounds really great from the vantage point of a cubicle, a PC, and deadlines to meet. I'm sorry to hear the weather hasn't been all that conducive to a peak experience, but when your spirits are down, reread your notes from a good day --- they're wonderful. So keep on truckin'. Look forward to the updates and the photos!

Posted by: Howard on May 15, 2002 10:04 PM

Hi Nick,

We have finally arrived back in Carbondale. I think we are still a few days ahead of you. We will be here resting until the 25th. If you come through before then and need a place to stay let me know.

We crossed into Illinois on Wednesday afternoon on the ferry at Cave in Rock. We were the last load to cross before they closed it down due to the access road flooding on the Kentucky side. The Ohio is expected to rise another 4 feet. It's raining now so it may be closed for a while. You might want to check to make sure they are operating and consider an alternative route just in case.

Posted by: Charlie Porter on May 17, 2002 06:06 AM
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