Day 2: Charlottesville, VA (42 miles)

Today was much better. Coming off of an exhausting and demoralizing day yesterday, today was exactly what I needed and allowed me to feel better about the entire trip.

First, I slept like a rock. Wait, is that it? Or did I sleep like a log? Either way, when I lay down in bed, I was out. When I woke up this morning, I actually felt rested and ready to head out.

I got an earlier start this morning. I won’t say it was cool out, and the humidity was already pretty bad, but manageable. I used the air pump at the neighboring 7-Eleven to make sure my back tire was properly inflated and headed out.

Right away I was much happier with the terrain. These were the roads I’d been hoping to ride all day yesterday. Two-lane country roads with plenty of trees on either side. The shadows would often cover the whole roadway, providing these wonderful tunnels of cool and shade along the route. Add to that, the terrain was rolling hills, not so steep that they were difficult to climb, but steep enough to give you a little boost on the way down.

country lane in virginia

And the scenery was gorgeous. I realized that I had spent the first half of yesterday navigating through the D.C. suburban sprawl and had only gotten to the rural parts of Virginia in the hottest part of the day. But here I was getting a chance to experience the Virginia countryside and it did not disappoint. In many ways it reminded me of my beloved Upstate New York and this portion of the trip was reminiscent of Day Four of my trip to Albany last year (scroll down in this blog to see that one). Particularly some of the farmland and the small country lane (Tatums School Road) that I wound up taking for a few miles.

Tatums School Lane eventually brought me onto the South Blue Ridge Turnpike, a portion of which I will wind up biking tomorrow (not the same portion, though, which suits me fine: I always prefer taking new road and hate backtracking). I stopped for a break about 24 miles into the trip at a little gas station/deli in Old Somerset. I sat out at a picnic table in the shade and rested for a good 45 minutes before continuing on.

road in Virginia

The second leg of the trip was just as beautiful as the first and the mountains were coming more and more into view. This too reminded me of the valley I biked through in Upstate New York last summer, as the terrain was broad, flat farmland at the foot of the mountains. Following this, the terrain began to get a little steeper, though perhaps it just seemed that way. It was starting to get hotter and the boost in energy from my break was starting to wane. But all things told I was making really good time.

In fact, after only an hour and a half I was at the intersection of the James Madison highway and the road my friend Gussie lives on. (It was she, along with Laura Arico) who gave me the idea for the destinations on this trip throughout the Virginias (Laura’s was to go to the spa town of Berkeley Springs, where I’ll be Monday night to Wednesday). Only a little bit over a mile to go. And right on time, too. It was around this point that I would have probably made my second stop of the day for a break.

But, as I turned onto the road I was immediately faced with an incline and suddenly, I felt all the energy go right out of my legs. I wound up downshifting to a ridiculously low gear to get up this initial incline, an incline not terribly steep, merely demoralizingly so. The rest of this road had some nice downhills and the occasional uphill, that probably wouldn’t have been so bad had my legs been fresh. When I got to the driveway, I noticed that Gussie’s folks’ place was a beautiful house… at the end of a long, steep driveway. (I’ll post a picture of the house tomorrow.) I got about half way up the driveway and needed to take a break. I hopped off and even thought about walking up the rest of the way, but with packs, my bike is pretty heavy and that wasn’t really any better. So, taking one last gulp of Gatorade, I made it to the top.

I am glad that this was such a quick day, all told. It will give me a chance to rest that much more and it looks like it’s about to storm out there. (With any luck, it will cut the humidity somewhat for tomorrow).

Today was a success in many ways in that it restored my confidence greatly. I wasn’t really enjoying the trip yesterday, it was something I was just trying to get through. But today, surrounded by the beautiful countryside, I was reinvigorated. And given that I had been on a really good pace, it made me much more confident about the days ahead and let me know that the measures I was taking in light of yesterday’s experience were bearing fruit.

A restful evening ahead and then on to Front Royal tomorrow!

(For a map of this route, visit