Ride for food

For a few hours today, this trip felt a little bit more real  than it had before. Traveling with a credit card can at times make you a bit disconnected to the whole experience. You’re never really in danger of not having a bed to sleep in, a meal to eat or a glass of water to drink.

When I woke up this morning in Covington, money couldn’t buy me any real food. The power was out in the whole city, and people were saying that large parts of the state of Virginia was actually out of power. This meant that gas stations, food stores, restaurants and hotels all were more or less closed. The gas station down the street from my motel was selling stuff for cash, so that’s where I got my breakfast. The stuff in the picture in my last post, was actually all the food I had to my name when I left Covington this morning – and I hadn’t eaten anything since about 6 pm the day before. I had my sights set on finally getting to Daleville, one of the towns that the Transamerica Bike trail passes through. To get there from Covington, you could either take the interstate (but not on a bicycle) or map your own route through the back-country roads. I obviously took the latter alternative.

The interstates take the most direct and least hilly routes through the mountains, then come the smaller routes, like route 220 that I’ve been on for a big part of this trip. The roads I took today would be the next step – small winding country roads that go straight up and down the mountains. No dynamite involved.

Starting out, these were the signs I was met by:

The road instantly turned very steep, switching back on itself. Pictures obviously don’t do this justice.

I keep rocking up the mountain, stopping probably every three minutes because my legs are aching or there’s too much sweat in my eyes. (This is in 97 degree heat, mind you). After about two hours of riding up, then down, then up again I get to some sort of plateau on top of this mountain. People actually lived up there. I was astounded. It was so hard to get there that I thought I’d be alone up there. It was beautiful and all,  but I had literally no food left – and there obviously were no restaurants around.

I did find one or two little country stores up there that would normally sell food or drinks but they were of course closed due to the power outage. To cut a very long story short: I was hungry and thirsty as hell, very far from where I wanted to be, and very far from a main road. My luck started to turn as I was rolling down a hill maybe an hour or two after the above photo was taken. I had just completely ran out of water, when a Jeep Cherokee pulls up beside me. The woman sitting in the passenger seat rolls down her window and asks me if I would like a water bottle. That was just crazy. The first time I’ve actually run out of water on this trip, someone just happens to roll by and give me more water. Just beautiful! I felt like a Tour de France rider getting handed supplies.

That didn’t solve the food issue though. Another hour or so on, and after actually finding a small pack of peanuts at the bottom of my handlebar bag (saved me), I hit a main road again. So 20 hours after eating my last solid meal, I finally got to a place that was open and had electricity. Best moment of the trip so far, no question. I got a huge turkey melt sandwich, chili hot dog, bag of chips and some fruit. Awesome.

Take note of the gas price!!! 2.89 a gallon – cheapest I’ve seen so far.

Line of desperate people waiting for gas. Felt a bit like rationing at war or something.
To sum it up: I now know what it feels like to not have the power to decide when, what and how much to eat. As a westerner, moments like that are pretty scarce, but it was a good reminder that always being able to eat when I want is a great luxury.
More to come!

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