Before I took off from Wytheville, I needed to get some affairs in order. First off, I needed to figure out where I was staying once I got to Asheville. I figured I had to know at least one person that lived down there, so I put out a message on Facebook. A short while later, I found tent space in the yard of a friend of a friend. Check. Next, I needed to catch up on Law & Order: SVU. Every night when I went to bed and every morning when I woke up, SVU was playing on one channel or another. I know the over-availability of SVU re-runs is a tired joke, but I have to admit that it's kind of nice to see familiar faces while on the road. Even if they are late-run faces, after the Stabler years, which aren't nearly as good, but still, Benson is there, kidnapped or not, so it's like home.
Once I had eaten breakfast, gotten dressed, packed my gear, and loaded my bike, I opened the door to my little room, ready to tackle a near-century. When I arrive at a motel room, the first thing I usually do is close the curtain on the large window next to the door. The motels I usually stay at are at most two stories high, and always have that window. There is always bound to be foot traffic heading past, so I close it to spare them from my post-ride, nekkid cool-down. I need to get out of that lycra! Anyway, with that curtain closed, I have no visual clues as to what's going on in the outside world, so when I opened the door, I was not expecting to see the pouring rain that had overtaken Wytheville. I quickly closed the door and went back to SVU.
A half hour later, I tried again, and with the bulk of the storm already gone by, I hit the road. Having climbed my way into Wytheville, I assumed I was at the top of a ridge. Fifteen miles of off and on climbing later, I finally found that summit, and from my high view, I could see that a storm was raging south of me. Lightning bolts lit up the night sky off to my left, and I was hopeful that it wasn't headed northward. As I started my twenty mile descent, the rain started. And when it started to rain, the temperature dropped considerably. I had been riding in a sleeveless shirt and lycra shorts since I'd left Philly, and up until now, I'd only felt overheated. I was finally cold, and I was not handling it well. Cold Troy needed to hide from the rain, so when I reached the small town of Chilhowie, VA, I hid under the awning in front of the New People's Bank. It was around 2am, so no one cared about the beardo hanging out at the bank with no banking needs.
At around 37 miles in, I still had another 60 to go before reaching my destination of Johnson City, TN. With the late start and this extended break, I knew it was going to be a hot one eventually, so I just enjoyed the relaxing break in cool weather while I could. After twenty minutes, the rain slowed, and I was itching to get riding. Actually, I was just itching in general. Does anyone else experience the wet butt phenomenon of itchy cheeks? If I sit in a pair of wet shorts long enough, lycra or not, eventually my butt cheeks start to get really itchy. Is this normal? In any case, riding relieves the itch with the constant rubbing of cheek on saddle, so I had no desire to stand around longer than I needed. Also, after a week on the road, my legs were finally broken in properly, and didn't need long breaks.
As the rain clouds passed, warm air trailed in their wake, creating a surprising natural sauna. The temperature quickly jumped into the 80s, even though it was the middle of the night, and I found myself riding through a world of smoky clouds. Half expecting ride past an overweight Russian wearing a felt hat, it was an unexpected change. To the South, a storm still raged.
I rode in that cloud cover until close to day break, when the impending arrival of the sun scared it off. Only the smoke left, though, and the heat and humidity not only stayed, but doubled-down. By the time I reached Bristol, I was still over 25 miles from my destination and the temperature was already in the 90s. Sweat dominated my life and I had no idea how people could possibly sit in this weather all day watching car drive in circles.
|Vroom, sweat, vroom.|
By the time I reached Johnson City, I was soaked. Again, I was at a Red Roof Inn, the big difference being that Tennessee has a 14% hospitality tax on hotel stays. Geez, Tennessee... give people one more reason not to visit your sweat lodge of a state. After settling in and finding some dinner at a nearby Target, I checked Strava to see if I had any words of praise or encouragement before getting some sleep. There was one message, and it was from a friend who was giving me shit about the route I was taking since I was not riding on the considerably more beautiful (and difficult) Blue Ridge Parkway. Ah... ball-busting comments on my Strava feed made me feel even more at home than SVU.