Day 23/ Mar 21st – Dublin, VA to Fort Chiswell, VA: I want to ride my bicycle

The breakfast room in my motel this morning was filled with NASCAR fans, wearing replica jumpsuits and loudly debating over their cornflakes the merits of concrete versus asphalt tracks.  The race was being held at Bristol Motor Speedway, all the way over the border in Tennessee, 100 miles down I-81, but so vast are the venues (this one seats over 150,000 people) and so sparse the local accommodation that it fills hotel rooms even this far out. 

I walked nineteen miles to Fort Chiswell today, most of it along Old Route 100, another of these heaven-sent roads that track I-81 at a distant enough remove that they feel quiet and rural.  Route 100 gets very little traffic, but what little there is moves at very high speed, so it was an epic day for dead animals: a small black cat, three raccoons (two on their backs, looking startled) and a smeared skunk whose stench betrayed what animal it was from a hundred yards away.  Against my will, I’m becoming an aficionado of roadkill: it ranges from perfectly preserved little bodies that look as if they’ve just fallen asleep while crossing the road, through smears of viscera, to flattened, 2D renderings of an animal, and, after years of decomposition and desiccation, to forlorn swatches of fur. 

Sleeping raccoon

Raccoon, fast asleep

This cheery analysis was ended abruptly when my road veered back alongside I-81, so close to it that I could have tossed a biscuit into the fast lane if such an act were not dangerous and illegal.  At any rate, I could clearly read the exit signs, and glumly noted that I was at exit 94A – my motel for the night wasn’t until exit 80.  Nothing quite lifts the soul like the knowledge that one has to walk fourteen exits alongside an interstate freeway.  Even the sight of two bleating goats tethered to an iron spike outside a trailer couldn’t raise a smile. 

Old Route 100 and I-81

Old Route 100 alongside I-81

 I stepped off the road, with about eight exits to go, for lunch at the Appletree Restaurant.  Almost the only other diners were two cyclists, resplendent in yellow reflective jackets, who had passed me on the road earlier in the day, so I joined them for lunch.  They were Mike and Mick; not only were they both British, and not only were they also crossing America (albeit using the cheating expedient of a bike), but they hailed from roughly five miles away from my home in London.  It was only with enormous effort that we were able to spend an hour together without discussing house prices. 

Mike was clearly the leader and motive force of the trip – tall, lean and with the long, sculpted legs of a cyclist, he was in charge of route planning, bike repair, hotel selection and, as far as I could tell, everything else.  Mick had a less, er, classical physique, and the lugubrious demeanour of a man who had spent the last few years contentedly propping up the bar of some riverside pub only to be hauled outside one day and instructed to cycle across America.  I asked what his training and preparation had been. 

“Three times round Richmond Park!” he answered brightly. 

Mike and Mick at the Appletree
With cyclists Mike and Mick

Although this is an obvious travel corridor for anyone trying to traverse the continent, it was a small restaurant and a minor road, and the odds against our running into one another must have been fairly high.  Still, we were Britishly insouciant about it, took a few photos together, wished each other well and got on our way.  They passed me again out on the road, Mike freewheeling by with a languid wave, Mick huffing past a few minutes later in low gear and evidently lower spirits. 

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3 Responses to “Day 23/ Mar 21st – Dublin, VA to Fort Chiswell, VA: I want to ride my bicycle”

  1. Steve Says:

    Re “I want to ride my bicycle”… unless you’ve taken a holy vow to walk every foot of the way across America (a continent of walking, mind you)… why not also use a bike? You WILL end up walking some in each state you cross (well, maybe you could cross Delaware without putting a foot on the ground, but that is a special case), so Walkover States project is still legit. Per notable physicist Brian Greene, “The boldness of asking deep questions may require unforeseen flexibility if we are to accept the answers.” Deep question: do you want to cross the continent, having a great time in the process… or is slogging it all on foot a must-do?

  2. Druin Says:

    There was a flurry of publicity a couple of years ago when a retired British civil servant published his roadkill recipe book. I don’t think he was motivated by bloodthirstiness, nor frugality. I think he was intrinsically barmy, in that mild way that his profession must have encouraged. I remember his comment that labrador tasted rather like lamb. His wife, appropriately, was a vegetarian.

    May these pertinent thoughts accompany you on your journey.

  3. Pippa Says:

    Have you thought about planning a more off-road type route? Or are you wedded to the interstates/roads near interstates? And how is it going without Sally, have you developed any bad bachelor habits yet?

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