Day 5 – Stealth camping

(36 miles)

Today was going to be a half day as we had a hotel room to make the most of, things to sort out in town, and a relatively short ride to to bottom of the Blue Ridge Parkway which was the first serious climb of the route.

Managed to sort out a US SIM (AT&T month-by-month) for my iPhone. FYI – phone contracts in the States are about 3 times more expensive than they are in the UK.

We then popped to the FedEx office where Jeff sent home both his front panniers and a bunch of gear that, during the harder hills of the first few days, he’d realised he really didn’t actually need. So no more SAG wagon comments – but I’m relieved that he’ll be finding it easier from now on.

It was about 10 miles to White Hall where we stopped for lunch (yes – a burger). I managed to embarrass myself by bantering with a local about stealing a candy bar only to find out he was the big cheese in town and owned the shop.

Just another road

Next fuel stop was at a beautiful orchard farm store. Three words: Strawberry. Cider. Slushie.

Strawberry. Cider. Slushie.

We had been planning to stop at the foot of the big climb up the Blue Ridge Parkway but Jeff was keen to get a bit further before stopping so that the next day wouldn’t be so tough. So we dropped through the gears and span up the steep climb to the village of Afton, home of June Curry, aka the Cookie Lady, who is in her early 90s and has been welcoming weary TransAm cyclists for years. But alas, she wasn’t home. We also bumped into a chap called Adam who is a ‘proper’ cyclist – he was flying up the hill we’d just crawled up. Admittedly with no panniers and a super-light bike. Apparently he coaches cycling at a local boarding school. Er – what? What kind of a boarding school has a cycling coach?!


Alas the Cookie Lady wasn't home


Right this way


We rode on, starting the ascent on the Blue Ridge Parkway. In the end we stopped at a rest-stop and decided we’d wait until dusk and then stealth camp behind some old wooden buildings, out of sight of the road.

While we were waiting for dark, we were invited to join a group of older women who were finishing a picnic dinner – and they insisted that we finished it all up for them, which we did – purely so as not to appear rude, obviously. These women, a ‘Supper and Prayer’ group from nearby, have been meeting for years. We chatted for over an hour, sharing stories and generally laughing lots. It was a perfect way to close an eventful day. These are the kind of encounters I was hoping to have so that the trip would be more than just the cycling.


Hanging out with the 'Sisters Supper and Prayer Group' on the Blue Ridge Parkway

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