While packing up my site in the morning, I noticed that my water pannier (front, drive side) was getting suspiciously funky. All that was inside of it were a few Platypus water bags and some tubes of Nuun tablets (plastic goods with no inherent odor), so I wasn't sure where the rotten smell was coming from. I didn't have time to investigate that morning, but made a mental note to give the bag a cleaning that night. My guess was it was just mildew from riding through the rainy, humid, summer South.
I was ready to cross the Mason-Dixon, and today I'd be one state closer. My next stop would be in or around South Boston, VA, a confusingly named town about 90 miles away, that while technically south of Boston (over 700 miles south), has a noticeably different accent. Not sure which I prefer.
The evening rain didn't do too much to clear out the heat and humidity, but there was a layer of clouds on the horizon that was both appealing and repelling. I really wanted those clouds to catch up with me and block the sun's rays, but I really didn't want to spend the day riding in the rain. I could think of a lot of reasons why riding in the rain sucked, but the two big ones currently were my lack of phone access and nipple chafe. I always stowed my phone in a waterproof pannier when it rained, making it inaccessible for maps, podcasts, and music. I know this could be mostly remedied with bluetooth technology and waterproof pouches, but I haven't gotten there yet. As for the nipple chafe, my favorite riding shirt is wonderful on dry days and even on days with intermittent rain. But on days with heavy rain that doesn't dry up quickly, water seems to turn it to 80-grit sandpaper, and my nipples get a harsh rubbing. I was already riding with bandaids on them from the heavy rains at the start of the tour, but a big storm would soak them right off and I'd be exposed to a world of nipple hurt.
I had just barely made it to an Exxon in Yanceyville, NC when the skies opened up. I could not have been happier to be under cover for that show. Giant explosions of lightning in all directions, gusting wind, sheets of rain. It would've been a top five riding storm for sure. Even under the large awning of the gas station, I was still catching my fair share of rain. It was bad. And then twenty minutes later, it was gone. Just like that, it was a hot summer day again and I got back on the rode.
(Before leaving Yanceyville, I'd just like to mention that they have a pizza joint called Little Pizza My Heart.)
The route I was planning to taking from Yanceyville to South Boston was going to be all back roads. Bumpy, hilly backroads. Thinking back to the stray dogs and sand traps of Mississippi and Alabama, I didn't have nighttime back roads left in me, so I headed due north to Highways 58/360. Riding in traffic probably wasn't going to be fun, but at least it would be smooth.
Having survived that decision, if I had to do it again, I'd probably take the back roads (at least on a clear day). That highway didn't really have much of a shoulder, but it had an abundance of cars. And while it had an overall elevation decline, it still had a lot of hills. A lot of getting up to get down. At least the tops of those hills gave me a good view of the incoming weather to the west. It looked like another Yanceyville storm was approaching, and that actually made me happy to be on the highway. Torrential downpours on highways don't result in mud pits that stall out bikes. They can on back roads.
|Clear sky, smooth road, big shoulder, no cars, not The South.|
Not wanting to get caught in that storm, I hauled ass to the closest Budget Inn, just southwest of the big city. I didn't know if there was camping anywhere in the area, but the flashes in the distance made me not care to find out. I checked in, was told the cable and WiFi might get knocked out by the lightning but the electricity will probably stay on, and went to my room.
I unloaded my bike and when I opened my water pannier, was almost knocked over by the stench. So much for needing to make a mental note. Bag in hand, I headed to the shower. And that was the longest shower I've ever taken in my life. I hand washed every item in the pannier, and when I reached the bottom, I found the source of the stank. It was a single Walmart bag. I don't know why a plastic bag would ever smell so bad, but this one did, and it had infected everything else. After throwing the plastic bag in the trash next to the toilet, I soaped and scrubbed out the entire pannier. (Actually really easy with an Ortlieb waterproof bag. Fill it up with soap and water, roll up the top, shake it really good, pour out the foam, hand scrub, repeat.) Once the pannier and all of its contents were scent-free, I tended to my own dirt covered body, legs coated with puddle splash. I left that shower feeling more accomplished than I did after 87.5 miles on the road.
That night I slept comfortably in my bed to the sound of thunderous lightning and gusting wind, hopeful that maybe this would finally be the storm that killed the heat.