Number of flat tires: 0
Mechanical problems: 0
Number of crashes: 2
Number of bee stings: 4
Bugs accidentally ingested, in tons: 1
Weight lost: 13 lbs.
Well, um, that's it then. Three months and 4,800 miles. A lot of the entries here make the ride sound harder than it was.
Hardship makes more interesting stories, and writing, "Sun is shining, everything's marvelous" every day would be boring. Most days were like that, though - boringly marvelous.
There are lots of stories that I didn't write down, and I can't wait to start boring you with them in person.
Just smile and nod, and let me blab on. I'll stop talking about it so much in a few months.
Thanks for reading!
Leaving Charlottesville, I stopped at Thomas Jefferson's house. It turned out to be at the end of a long winding driveway, protected by multiple gates and manned security checkpoints. From the visitors parking lot, you can't see anything, only trees. The guard in the lot, leaning against his truck, said the only way to see the house itself is to pay $22 for the tour.
Then he asked if I was one of those cross-country cyclists. When I said yes, he thought about it a second, and popped open the door of the truck, telling me to take off my bike helmet and hop in.
I did, and he gave me an unauthorized tour, driving through the security checks, where I nodded as they waved us through, straight up to the house.
The security guy said, laughing, that he was a retired cop. If they fired him he still had his pension.
Here's the photo that normally costs $22.
At the base of a huge mountain,June Curry the "Cookie Lady" has been letting cyclists stay at her house for free (and making them cookies) since the inauguration of the TransAm Trail in 1976. There is an unofficial museum there filled with memorabilia from all the people who have stayed.
I knocked on her door yesterday and a tiny, frail old woman answered and invited me to sit on the porch. She is 90 years old now.
There was an aura around her, like being in the presence of a saint. It felt like a scene from a movie, when the hero meets the wizard or the aliens, and finally gets to ask his question.
After we sat down, she asked me which direction I was heading, and said, "So, you're almost done."
Then there was a long, quiet moment before she asked, "Was it everything you'd hoped for?"
I couldn't think of a reply.
"I don't know," I answered.
"Were you disappointed?"
"No, not at all. It just feels like..life."
The dogs of Virginia are delightfully well-behaved. I've barely heard a bark since crossing the stateline. It's possible that word of my victories in the bloody dog wars out west has preceded me, and now the curs cower silently until I pass.
Western Virginia is like a gentler, well groomed version of Kentucky. A land of genteel farmers and friendly evangelists, happy to chat about the weather, or Jesus, or their cousin's motorcycle trips.
I stayed in the master bedroom of a magnificent Victorian mansion. The sweet old lady who lived there fixed us a huge Southern breakfast in the morning. All of us guests sat around an ornate table in the parlor eating cheese grits and biscuits and fried tomatoes, among many other things.
It was so good that I stupidly rode off in a food-daze, forgetting to take a picture.
After the pitbull attack I was kind of PTSD'd. Every noise sounded like a bark and every movement looked like a dog running out toward me. I had trouble falling asleep the night after.
Unfortunately, that wasn't the only dog that attacked me in Kentucky. I was attacked again later that day, and many times in the following two days.
Most of the dogs were bluffing and would chase me, snarling and baring their teeth, but not really wanting to catch me. Others were more serious. They all frightened me.
The Appalachia mountains are spooky, with deep misty valleys and thick wet woods. Being alone, with creatures constantly charging out of the murk, made them terrifying. Like a nightmare.
There's a scene in Private Ryan where Tom Hanks character explains that he's able to keep fighting despite being scared, because each mission he completes brings him closer to home.
That became my new credo.
After the first attack, I bought a can of wasp spray, which the Internet claimed works like mace. When I spray dogs with it, they don't yelp in pain, but they do stop chasing.
For 3 long days, I fought a Dog War in the hillbilly hollows of Appalachia. I sprayed countless dogs, Dobermans and Dachshunds and Dalmatians, every furry fuckhead that came after me, attempting to block my way home.