109 miles - Total: 150 miles
Tough day today: 9 hours on the bike, lots of hills between Leesburg, elevation 350 ft and Cumberland Md, elevation 625. In the middle I passed the state line at 2250 ft. Actually I crossed two state lines as today I cycled through 3 states, Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland.
The day the Olympics kick off I bag the first century of my trip. With the amount of climbing I did today I consider it to be the first real physical test since I got diagnosed. Three months ago I was questioning my willpower and today I have my eyes on an ambitious prize and unless my body wavers, I am going for it. Despite the hills I feel fine, my legs are bit heavy but I am ready for more! I am quite emotional as I write these lines: I am alive and well and I am doing something I have so much passion for that no medicine can top that. Today I had the first real taste of pain on those hills but my mind raced back to the dozens of support messages that I am getting on the blog; thank you! it means the world to me. I wish I had time to answer every single message. My days involve pretty much the same routine: eat+ride+eat+shower+eat+blog+sleep. Also, the fund raising is going great and it is an absolute thrill.
Here's my report of the day's ride. I wake up and I gorge myself at breakfast, the buffet is plentiful and I ingest as much fuel as possible: oatmeal, waffle, 2 bananas. I have a tough day ahead with temperatures in low 90s and at least 100 miles to cover if I want to get to Cumberland before sunset. How I am feeling? Pretty strong. Ask me tomorrow though! I quickly get out of Leesburg on Dry Mill Road, a charming rural road. The historic downtown is tiny but pretty. Leesburg is probably better known for its shopping malls and outlets than anything else. These places are a big draw as they provide opportunities to buy good stuff avoiding high street prices. People spend an entire day in these malls. So the place is well connected to DC. I am happy to leave the vast networks of highways behind and I make my way into a more rural part of Virginia where the country roads I cycle on are light on traffic and heavy on leafy trees and vistas. Virginia appears self-confident, stately, spacious, organized; all indispensable elements of America’s suburbia. Judging by the structural and institutional arrangements you may say that Virginia really sends out a message of dynamism and forward-thinking. The economy is flourishing and is the most diverse of the US with various sources of income, including local and federal government, military, farming and business.
I cycle through a country which, at first glance, resembles a Norman Rockwell painting, idyllic and pretty, glossy and bourgeois. Not a leaf out of place. I cycle past mansions and houses with white picket fences and abundant livestock. I like to think that the self-confident and patriotic, to the point of being schmaltzy appearance of Virginia, does not just reflect the high median income of its inhabitants but also harks back to the ideals and the structure of the European whites that settled here back in the seventeen century. The Civil War that was fought in Virginia was merciless, so something pretty and wealthy had better come out of that. And it did!
As I push my bike through the miles and up and down short but mean hills I have time to think about the natural beauty and the historic resonance of this part of the country. The colors of the land echo the grandiose history of Virginia, they are clean and intense, the earth is lush and rich and provides plenty for its people. The country is neither really mountainous nor low but these nasty rolling hills are steep enough to drain me of my energy within a few hours. It is a nice setting to cycle in, the hills are pleasant, the valleys are fertile and they all seem to be watered so conveniently by sweet brooks and springs. During the day I pass through several villages where I stop to take in fluids and munch on snacks.
Road 51 into Cumberland is the worst part of the day as I have to mind cars and trucks. By 4:00 pm I feel the toll of 100 miles in my legs and I see the outskirts of the town with some relief. When I arrive in Cumberland I decide to take the bike to the bicycle shop because the chain doesn’t shift smoothly. Hutch, a hulking man with an affable smile greets me and takes good care of my bike. The few guys in the shop are intrigued by my bike ride and ask me questions. They were aware I was passing through Cumberland because they have read about my fund raising ride in the local newspaper. While I wait Rick, a lean and tall man, comes into the shop and welcomes me to Cumberland; he also read about my “heroics” in the paper and sent me a message over the blog. I called him up today and here he is. He says he will be honored to ride for a while with me tomorrow morning on the Great Allegheny Passage. Hutch services my bike in record time and he does not allow me to pay for it. He is pleased to help my fund raising in this way. The welcome I get in Cumberland is fantastic. In my 37 years on earth, I have come to the conclusion that I will probably never understand human kind, however, on this journey I cannot but side with those philosophers that argue that the basic human nature is good.
I thank the people from Pittsburgh for their hospitality, I don't think I will be able to be there by tomorrow night: I think I have miscalculated the third day. Contrary to common belief you are weaker and slower at the beginning of the journey, and you gain strength and grow in confidence as the ride goes on. My stride is still hesitant. Yes I will have Rick and I will be able to draft with him but the 130-mile planned stage from here to Pittsburgh is way too ambitious. If I do make it I will email/call and be honored to be your guest.
The stately front building of Loudoun County School
A deer, wishing me luck?
Rural Virginia, the road all for myself
The first hills are in sight..
Lovely stone houses
As I enter West Virginia
At the junction with the popular and culturally-charged Appalachian Trail
Crossing the Shenandoah river
A proper hill coming up
The view from the top is pretty awesome
Post Office in Glengary, WV, population: 277
Siler, a tiny village of 4 houses and one (closed) grocery store
These are Barbra, Robin and I forgot the other lady's name, met during one of my stops. They were extremely kind and at my explaining the fund raising bike ride made a donation of 20 dollars
Secluded creek in rural Maryland
Potomac river..we meet again!
After 109 miles I see the sign and I am pretty happy
As I enter Cumberland I see this sign, is there any prophetic significance?? I hope so!
Cumberland gets lively on Friday night