I'm really happy with my cross bike. It has to be the most versatile bike I have. It can be ridden on paved roads, gravel roads, dirt roads, mtb trails, and of course raced in a cross race. A few years ago I rode my Bianchi on the Virginia Creeper Trail and was so happy with it on that kind of terrain that I never road the MTB on it again (sold it a few months ago). Ever since riding on the Creeper I wanted to ride the entire trail from Abingdon to White top and back, which is 66.8 miles. If you ride on the road a lot that doesn't sound that impressive, but riding on the surface of a former rail road bed requires a lot more effort than a smoothly paved road.
We were supposed to start riding at nine from Abingdon, but I got to Jeff's late, and then he forgot some of his stuff, so by the time we got there it was 9:40. Mike was taking a look at Jonell "AC" Johnson's chain when he realized the one link had completely separated from the outside of the chain, so rather than send her back home we shortened the chain and finally got underway around 10:00 AM. There was a lot of traffic on the trail, good looking runners who must have been kin, they all had "Shorter" on their shirts. After weaving through all the runners we rolled pretty fast at around 15 to 16 mph. The trail was beautiful, a corridor of trees and then open fields. When we arrived at Alvarado I looked up the road and thought I saw a dog crossing the trail when someone else saw and yelled bear! It was huge, about as tall as my saddle is from the ground. Probably around three hundred pounds. I joined in the chorus of "bear, bear, bear!" as people back in the parking lot we had just past began walking toward where we were. The bear ran across the road and up hill, stopped, turned and looked at us for about 20 seconds and then wondered off in to the bushes. Fortunately, it must have been a male since there were no cubs around. I'd have been hauling ass in the other direction if there had been.
After about an hour we rolled into Damascus and took "AC" over to Adventure Damascus to get her chain replaced. We talked the whole to time to Dave, another South African American. He seemed pretty surprised when I asked him if he was from South Africa, and seemed happy that some one in his adopted country new of his home country. Once the chain was fixed we started out of Damascus and up to White Top, which is a steady grade that runs for almost 17 miles getting steeper the more you near White Top. I've never seen so many herds of unhelmeted riders of the larger persuasion, putting along in a coast as we actually climbed faster than they descended. Got a lot of strange looks as we passed on road bikes at a fast pace. Many people gave the thumbs up. I think we were the only people on the whole trail going up hill? Climbing at the pace we were, on the rough surface, and knobby tires, hunger made it's way into the situation and I new if we didn't stop and eat on the way back I was going to bonk. Never get this way on a road ride. No one else objected to the idea.
After a very fast descent from White Top, slowed intermittently by the herds, we stopped at Taylor's Valley and ate at the Creeper Trail Cafe. That place has to be a gold mine since every time I've been there the place is packed. Had an awesome hamburger and french fries, really hit the spot, lots of annoying music playing though. On the trail again Jeff and I were "attacking" each other as he puts, but that was short lived as the awesome hamburger tried to come up. Racing each other put us ahead of everyone, so I made the obligatory stop at Mojoe's coffee shop while everyone caught up. Nothing like a good cup off coffee in the middle of a 70 mile ride. There should be coffee stands on the side of the road on every route we ride..... I digress. On the way out of Damascus I noticed the only Rail on the whole trail. We were riding pretty fast at about 20mph when I dodged it. Billy hit it and blew a tire for the second time on the day. "AC" decided to ride on ahead while Billy repaired his tire. Repairs completed, we started off to catch "AC." The flat tires, and the urge to just be done with it must have taken hold of Billy. We started off at reasonable pace off 20mph when Billy came around like he had a bee up his shorts and accelerated up to 24mph! 24mph on a pea gravel surface, with knobby tires? I never thought I would be riding on the Creeper trail in a pace line at 24mph. After about a mile he finally swung off and we slowed to a reasonable 21, since that was as fast as I could go. We caught Jonell pretty quickly. The last eight miles were about as hard as anything I've ever done and with three miles to go Billy took off again and I went too. We were of the same mind " I'm ready to get this done". It rained for a few miles but just as we got back to Abingdon the bright sun returned.
This was a great ride, something different and great training. I rode 73 miles and averaged 15mph. The combination of the distance, terrain, and pace, kicked my butt. I felt like a had done a road ride with multiple mountain climbs. Can't wait to do it again, may even ride slow enough to enjoy the scenery.