Day 135 • July 14, 2012 • Christiansburg to Daleville, VA • 48 miles
I would have never guessed that a drivetrain could go from completely functional to almost useless in a single day, but that’s what happened today. At the bottom of a big hill we were fine and 15 miles later at the top we were skipping every five pedal strokes or so and it was getting rapidly worse. I wasn’t sure we were going to make it to our destination today, much less climb up onto the Blue Ridge Parkway a few days later. On the plus side we’d done most of our big climbing for the day but even downhill runs around here are peppered with short, steep climbs. We’d made it to Catawba which had minimal services and it was mid-day Saturday so if we didn’t take care of this today we’d probably lose a day waiting for a shop near Roanoke to open on Monday. I didn’t want to venture much further like this—the problem was getting worse and there were about two days worth of riding before we could be confident of finding another bike shop.
We didn’t even have cell coverage in Catawba but the kind folks at the general store let us use their phone to call around to the area bike shops. We struck out with several until striking gold with Just the Right Gear. They had what we needed and were only about 6 miles away. The only problem is that in about an hour they’d be closed for the weekend and I wasn’t sure we could make it in time. And when I took a look at the road we’d have to take, Route 311, I decided not to even try. We’d have to climb a big hill we would otherwise have traversed, with a failing drivetrain on a narrow, curvy, and extremely busy road. When I called back to say we wouldn’t make it in I must have sounded crestfallen because after a moment Steve said he’d just come get us! Zoe and I ditched as much of our gear as we could behind the general store and waited. Shortly thereafter Steve showed up in a pickup with a friend in a car just in case we needed the extra storage (we didn’t) and soon we were at the shop. I knew this trip would trash my drivetrain but thought that with matched wear on the chain and rear cluster I could make it the whole way. Wrong. The chain was so worn that we couldn’t get the measuring tool to work. We replaced the chain and rear cluster, did a quick test ride, and Steve shuttled us back to Catawba where we continued on nary a skip. Steve really saved the day. More like two days, really.
We reached Daleville just before dusk and just as a big thunderstorm hit. Not wanting to set up camp in heavy rain and lighting, we got a room at the Howard Johnson.