Day 134 • July 13, 2012 • Wytheville to Christiansburg, VA • 44 miles
Soon after arriving in Nitro, the temperature finally broke. Some thunderstorms rolled through with a cold front or two, we see-sawed between cool and hot, and then things finally settled into a more seasonable mid-80’s. Though my in-law’s house wasn’t affected, parts of West Virginia were still without power in the aftermath of the derecho that hit on June 29-30. Zoe and I were at Mammoth Cave at the time, unaware of the destruction occurring less than 100 miles north of us. We would see the effects for much of our remaining ride, mostly in the form of massive trees that had fallen.
Studying maps and previewing roads using Google Street View, I was convinced that the road conditions that stopped us near Berea, KY were much improved by Wytheville, VA. So when it was time to press on, we had Poppy drop us off just east of Wytheville, bypassing about 320 miles of the TransAmerica route. A week of R&R in Nitro had reset my bump tolerance so it’s hard to say if conditions really were improved or if I was just more tolerant, I think a combination of both, but the remainder of the trip was fairly stress-free from a traffic standpoint.
We rode today under overcast skies and periodic rain which kept temperatures in the mid-70’s, a welcome change from the weeks prior. Though still short, pitches were getting noticeably sharper which caused some new problems for us. On one particularly steep hill, I pulled so hard while (very slowly) spinning that a strap on my left sandal broke. No more spinning today, and by the end of the day I’d developed the only soreness I would experience the entire trip, right at the top of my left foot opposite my heel.
The sharp grades meant quickly changing from our highest gear to our lowest, rapidly shifting through every cog both front and rear. At one point we had a combination of steep grades and rain. When it came time to do the big shifts, my hands just slipped on the grip shifters and we wound up stuck at the bottom of a steep hill in our highest gear. Getting out of that jam was quite comical, with Zoe and I pushing and pulling and lifting and grunting, trying to get our heavily loaded trike into a lower gear without the aid of forward movement, all the while getting soaked in an increasingly intense rain. The road was too narrow for a clean U-turn and we didn’t want to wind up blocking the entire road, though thankfully there was no traffic during this little dance. Eventually we pulled off most of the panniers so we could lift the rear wheel and get it shifted down. At that moment I would have paid any amount of money for a quality set of grip shifters but unfortunately such a thing doesn’t exist as far as I know. I prefer the form factor of grip/twist shifters but these plastic shifters from SRAM and Shimano really stink. This experience may push me to bar-end shifters in the future.
With rain threatening again and a field repair of my sandal in order, we opted for a motel tonight. The Christiansburg Budget Inn was a little questionable even for Budget Inn, but the price was right.