Journal May 3, 2021 starting in Yorktown, VA.

Recap week 1

One week ago, I set out from Yorktown, VA at 7:30 am to begin my bicycle trip across the United States via the TransAmerica Bike trail which is also known as Bike Route 76. The route consists of 12 maps. Because I am traveling westbound, I begin with map number 12, which is mainly Virginia. I will format my recap in sections for ease of reading.

General Observations 

Seeing Virginia from the intimacy of a bicycle is wonderful and physically demanding. I have met other solo cyclists as we intersect at stops along the way. It’s been like riding through a history book of our country with all the signage and monuments from our earliest settlers in Yorktown, our various wars, and efforts to move west. The MANY battlefields and cemeteries were most indelible on me.  I couldn’t help but think that I was riding my bike across sacred grounds where people were fighting and dying. Farmland and roads had now transformed the landscape. I would like to ride with our youth from the Lord’s Gym on these historical routes. 

I have been blessed with nice weather, although chilly and windy, to experience the mountains in such vivid color. It made the challenge of riding up the countless ascents breathtaking. Seeing the decay and evolution of buildings, homes, and farm equipment pepper the landscape was a subtle reminder of riding through history. I kept trying to imagine what life must have been like in our earliest years as a country and community – especially in the mountains! 

As the week progressed and the terrain became more challenging my pace slowed down. As such, I am not as far along as I planned; so, I am having to adjust and trust the Lord for new daily arrangements. It’s day 8, 400 miles of riding, and my body is ready for a day of rest. I completed map 12 of Virginia yesterday, on Mother’s Day (yes, I called my mom and Betsy too). A day off each week is built into my itinerary, I would have liked to be further along in my progress on map 11. As the weeks, miles, and terrain progresses I pray that my body and legs gain in strength. 

God moments or “How God showed up Each Day!”

Riding solo I find myself praying, thinking, meditating on scriptures, listening to tunes on those big climbs, and taking in the beauty of the scenery. I want to share 5 God moments.

1. On day one a rider came up alongside me. As we talked and he learned of my plans, he informed me about an unpublished route change on BR 76. If I followed the signs, and not the published routes it would keep me safer and off a very busy road. He was right! Had he not intervened I would have taken the busier road.

2. Towards the end of day 2 I experienced a significant thunderstorm with crazy winds. The wind was exceptional. As I prayed, I rode around the bend in the road in Bumpass to find a volunteer fire department and EMS. They were getting ready to launch due to downed trees and emergency calls. I pulled in and asked if I could get out the weather. It was 6:00 pm. Due to COVID-19 they said no, but I could hang out in the shed in the back. By the time the front passed, I was not comfortable attempting to ride to my intended stop for the night.  I later asked the young Fire Chief if he would let me sleep in the shed (translated large garage) for the night explaining that I had my COVID-19 shot – for good measure. He said that it would not be a problem and invited me to use their showers too, which I did. Hmmmm, I thought I should be able to make up the lost time.

3. Road Closed!  On two occasions I rode up on blockades to my route. From the previous day’s excessive winds, electric companies were out restoring downed lines.  I pulled up to a man who could pass as a twin of Burl Ives and asked if the crew would make an exception for me?  As he radioed in my request, I was counting on all the people praying for me as he smiled back and instructed me on how to proceed with caution. They basically stopped their work and lowered their booms as I squeezed in between the road’s gutter and their service trucks

At the other road closure, it was erected just in front of the turn off I needed to take. I managed to walk my bike around it and resume riding. The wind and rain again had done damage to the road. Had the blockade been anywhere else I am not sure what I would have done. 

  1. Day 3 had me climbing to 3,250 ft in elevation to the Blue Ridge Parkway. This was my first mountain range to tackle. The views were spectacular.  It became apparent that I was not going to reach my intended destination as the day wore on and I got down to my 4th and final water bottle. Praying and reviewing my map, I saw a little dot that identified the community of “Love, VA,”. It was so small that I rode past it coming down a hill and barely saw the sign. As I turned around, it was then that I noticed homes through the trees and brush along the Parkway.  

Seeing an access road, I walked my bike to a locked steel horse gate. It was a ten-acre horse farm with a log house on it. I could hear a tractor, so I waited. I planned to ask for water. 

In about 5 minutes a lady came out of the house and I started to wave and shout hello. She walked about 100 yards across her field to meet me and ask me what I wanted. I introduced myself and explained my situation. Lynn, mid 70s, invited me to her home where she introduced me to her husband, Billy – pastor Billy. 

It’s here that I could write pages about their kindness and hospitality. I fight back tears-just recalling the experience. Lynn is a writer for two local pubs. She writes about the people, history, and culture of the mountains which she claims is being changed or lost over time. Billy grew up not far from their home, which he built and trimmed out.  He still has the 100 acres where he grew up that is still enjoyed by his family.

They fed me, let me use their home, camp outside in their yard, filled my water bottles with fresh spring water, and prayed for me, holding hands standing in a circle at Billy’s prompting, as I prepared to leave their farm. With my bike loaded, Billy helped me fix my kick stand that was loose.  They walked with me across their farm so we could have a photo op by the town sign of LOVE, which they so admirably showed to a stranger who they had no reason to help except by the grace of God. Because cell reception was so spotty, Lynn called Betsy for me on her land line to give her an update. Their last bit of advice was to be sure to eat at Gerry’s in Vesuvius where hikers and bicyclists sign the walls. We hugged and I was on my way to Gerry’s, where it began to rain for the rest of the morning. 

  1. On Saturday, I stopped for lunch on the outskirts of Troutville at the Greenwood Restaurant. Yes, much of the wood is painted green. With my itinerary turned on its head, I am still having to make new sleeping arrangements each day. I was seated in the center of this small family establishment. People immediately began asking me what I was doing. I felt the need to just introduce myself to the whole restaurant. In doing so, I explained that I was looking for a place to camp in Catawba. Tim, who introduced himself from the adjacent table said that Mountain View Baptist church was known for letting a cyclist camp in their shelter house. Again, God does not disappoint.  Later that day I rolled into the appropriately named church in time to meet the volunteer groundskeeper and his wife.

They opened the church to let me use the building facilities. The temperature was dropping and suggested a nearby hikers’ hostel just a few more miles away across hill and dale. I called them and decided to go for it. I stayed at the Four Pines Hostel primarily serving hikers on the Appalachian Trail. People could get out of the elements, sleep on a bunk or couch, and share a common area to include one bathroom and shower. Modesty and privacy were not a hallmark of a large space accommodating about 16 people. 

I was asked my trail name to which I replied, Scott. They dubbed me “Biker Scott” and then changed it to “Spokes” by the morning. It was a great experience, again I could write more pages. After I had my oatmeal and instant coffee a person named Care Bear helped me get underway.

 Take-A-Ways week one:

  1. God is in the details of our lives. 
  2. There are my plans, and then there are God’s plans. He is in control.
  3. Remain flexible and adaptive.
  4. From Lynn, keep at it long enough, and things get done.
  5. Kindness is a big deal.

Blessings and Stand Firm,

Scott