Friday, September 4, 2009

Day 29 Appalachians II Jenkins, KY – Troutdale, VA 104 miles

Today was epic for difficulty. Hill upon hill gassed me on Routes 23 and 58. Just horrendous hills all day. The downhill never really compensates for the up, especially when there is no paved shoulder, as was the case all day. Plus it got quite hot. One sign of the level of difficulty was my speed, an almost glacial 11 miles per hour. The other was my appetite. I tore into food like an unfed hyena. I ate 10 pieces of fruit, half a dozen cliff bars, pastries, egg sandwiches, tuna sandwiches, fries, a large bag of chips, etc. I am eating as I write this.

I was looking for a spark in the afternoon to revive me. I got one in Abingdon, VA. This was a very pretty city. Very few cities or towns I have passed through have a charm and a heartbeat, but this was definitely one that had both. I stopped at a wonderful coffee shop and inhaled several homemade cookies and pieces of quiche. The air conditioning and soothing music tempted me to sleep on their hardwood floor. Then Route 58 between Abingdon and Damascus went from four lanes to two, so I had to be super careful with the traffic. I almost bailed off of 58 to some county road seemingly adding more miles to the Appalachian crossing. I got to Damascus at around 6 PM. Damascus is a very nice town with a definite outdoor feel.

I got a pleasant surprise after Damascus. It was almost like this stretch of US 58 was waiting for me after the long hot afternoon. The layers of the onion just peeled away. I was in the mountain ravine of Mt. Rogers National Recreation Area and crossed the mighty AT. Suddenly, the traffic around me was gone, the sun was gone, and there was a beautiful trout stream running along the road. What ensued was the most pleasant 20 miles of the entire journey. This is what I had been coveting: a smooth mountain road with outstanding scenery; mountain slopes covered in pine, oak, and rhododendron; and no traffic noise for a long stretch of empty road. It made me forget that I was climbing another serious hill in my lowest gear. There were outstanding mountain views all the way to my campground at Troutdale. I saw several hawks and deer in the meadows between the hills. As light faded, the full moon came over the mountains on a completely calm and cloudless night.

Persistence has no substitute. It won the day.

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