Day 139 • July 18, 2012 • Love to Charlottesville, VA • 37 miles
As we travelled further east and spent more nights in towns, we’d become less concerned with critters. Up on the parkway, however, we should have been taking precautions. Keith, the owner of Royal Oaks where we spent last night, brought us back to reality when he casually mentioned that bears had been regularly entering the area and getting into the trash. He’d had to build a cage around the trash cans, which was now bent and battered from one of the visits. The lawn we were camping on was right next to the trash. I really didn’t want to experience bears up close, particularly if they are accustomed to (unafraid of) humans. We scooted the tent as far from the trash cans as possible, hung our food for the night, and kept one eye open.
We got some help with our bear watch. Shortly before bed a woman drove up and shouted a greeting our way as if we were old friends. I wandered over and met Sonshine Rivers. She’d just had a pretty rough day, getting lost and stranded in the backwoods of Virginia, but was in a remarkably good mood. She was staying in a nearby cabin and said she was a light sleeper—if we encountered bear trouble just yell and she’d be there. This was reassuring but I was still glad we had the food hanging in the trees.
Sonshine was doing some marketing work for Royal Oaks and grabbed some snacks and water for us. Her positive energy was infectious and pretty soon we were talking about breaking out the guitars—she is an accomplished R&B singer-songwriter with a bona-fide CD out, recorded in Nashville. Zoe and I thought that was pretty cool, and in the morning we did break out the guitar and Zoe played a couple songs for Sonshine. As I write this I’m listening to her CD for the first time, it’s quite good.
Since Mammoth Cave, Zoe has developed a sixth sense for Junior Ranger programs. We scored again today at Humpback Rocks Visitors Center. She’s now a thrice-decorated Junior Ranger.
Our time on top of the world was brief. On the way down the east side of the Appalachians and off the Parkway, we stopped in Afton to see the Cookie Lady, June Curry. June is another icon on the TransAmerica trail, having witnessed the original 1976 Bikecentennial ride which inspired her to serve the cyclists travelling the trail ever since with lodging, decades of TransAm cycling memorabilia, and fresh cookies. We knew it was unlikely we would see June, her health was failing, but the word from westbound cyclists we’d recently met on the road was that her hostel was still operating and well worth the stop to see the memorabilia alone. When we arrived, however, the building was locked up. When we inquired in town we learned that June Curry had died two days prior. Here’s a eulogy from Adventure Cycling.