Day 13, Monday, 7/13/97, 7:41pm
24.64 Miles; 6 hours, 44 minutes
On-bike time: 2 hours, 40 minutes
Avg speed: 9.19 mph
Max speed: 40.7 mph
Today’s ride is dedicated to those of you who have requested hearing about
the difficulties of our biking adventure.
We woke up rather late this morning and had many things to get done before
we could start the ride. Our new tube for the Burley and front bike tire
arrived via Federal Express from Luke at Calhoun Cycle, and Ben began to
replace it this morning. While Ben was pumping up the front tire, the valve
actually came off. Unfortunately, our replacement tube turned out to be
the wrong size, and Ben spent over an hour trying to work it onto the front
wheel. This would only be the beginning…
We finally got on the road around 6:15 a.m. and headed toward Meadoview
(see upper left corner of top map) to pick up the TransAmerica Trail. Ben
and I were glad to be sitting in the familiar bike seats once again with
the wind rushing past us. Over the weekend we had nearly given up on this
trip, but as we sped away from Abingdon, we felt as if we could make it.
By 7:30 we were well on our way to Hayter’s Gap, making our way through
the foggy morning. Visibility was less than 500 feet in some areas, and
the air was completely saturated with water. I was having difficulty spotting
cars in my mirror because both my glasses and mirror were fogged up. We
began to worry about the route ahead of us because there were signs along
the road which said trucks over 30 feet long were prohibited. We knew that
meant steep, winding switchbacks. In the meantime, we tried to enjoy the
spectacular view we were having as we passed through a very dense portion
of a forest, covered in fog. Steep hills covered in trees loomed on either
side of us as we followed a river along the valley floor. We spent a good
deal of time descending for a change, and we were thankful.
Along the way, we stopped for a quick snack, and met some fun cows and
cobwebs sparkling with morning dew.
By 7:45 we began our climb. We have pushed the bike before, and we have
also encountered what we thought were pretty big hills. But they did not
prepare us for a two hour, uphill push! The road was extremely steep, and
every curve was blind. I have honestly never sweat so much in my entire
life! I was shocked to see how much I was sweating. Ben was sweating so
much that his entire shirt was drenched. The worst part about sweating
this much is having it drip into your eyes!
Around 9:45 we had reached the top, only traveling 3 or 4 miles in two
hours! We took a break and prepared ourselves for the descent that we most
definitely deserved! The speed limit was 20 m.p.h. and the truck we were
following down the hill tried to stick closely to it. We were having a
great time flying down the road, but at the same time it was frightening
and I used my brakes. As we continued our rapid and winding descent, I
grabbed the camera for a quick picture. Just as I was about to snap the
picture, and just as we approached a hair pin curve, we heard a loud pop.
Ben thought the sound was coming from the truck behind us, but I screamed
out that it was our rear tire! The tire deflated in less than a second
and we went reeling toward the edge of the mountain! We applied full brakes
and instinctively (but stupidly) my legs flew out and I got whacked by
one of my pedals. Thankfully we stopped and the truck behind us didn’t
hit us. It all happened very fast, and unfortunately it would change the
course of our summer.
When we got off the bike to assess the damage, burning rubber was all we
could smell. Ben grabbed my water bottle and poured it over the rim of
the rear wheel which was so hot the water boiled, hissed and steamed. He
couldn’t even touch the rim. It turned out that the tube was so hot that
it expanded and exploded, blowing the stem right off. Around 10:30 Ben
had the new tube back in the tire and ready to put back on the bike. As
he bent down to tighten the quick release, a huge explosion rang through
our ears giving us both instant headaches! The tire, having been weakened
by the extreme heat, exploded! Parts of the tire, and the tube which had
exploded through the hole, scathed my leg, and I was sure Ben’s face had
been hit since he was so close, and now screaming. Luckily he was fine
(only a huge headache), but that was our last tube, and we didn’t have
a spare tire. So, there we were in the middle of nowhere, sitting at a
hair pin curve with no tube and no tire. Ben spent the next two hours trying
to patch the tube which had a gapping 4 inch hole in it. Ben put the heavily
patched tube in the tire, and wound duct tape around the tire and rim so
the tube wouldn’t "leak out" through the hole in the tire. We started rolling
the bike, and we heard another loud explosion. The duct tape had ruptured,
and the tube exploded through the hole. With no patches left, we were out
of options, and we had to roll the bike down hill hoping the rim wouldn’t
It was a nine mile walk to the services in Rosedale. We were very upset,
especially considering that during our three hour ordeal, nobody stopped
to assist us. We must have been passed by over twenty cars! But after only
15 minutes of pushing, a wonderful couple in a tiny Jeep stopped to help!
Janet and Jerry James gave us a ride into town. Amazingly, the bike, the
Burley, and both of us fit into the back of that little Jeep. We can never
thank those two enough; they wouldn’t even accept gas money!
After much thought, Ben and I have decided to leave the TransAmerica Trail.
But don’t remove us from your list of bookmarks just yet! We decided that
we would much rather do several two to three week rides this summer, rather
than our 78 day juggernaut. Two routes we are considering are the Pacific
Coast ride and the National Parks ride. The former would take us down the
Pacific Coast, while the latter would begin at Rocky Mountain National
Park and take us through Tetons, Yellowstone, Glacier, and into the Lake
Louise area in Canada. Biking turned out to be for us a lot like backpacking
- after doing it for two weeks or so, you begin to really want to get home
and rest for a while. We just couldn’t see ourselves pedaling for the next
65 days. Besides, this way, we spend our biking days seeing some of the
best scenery in the US, not weeks and weeks of the same stuff. Hopefully
this will be easier on us, and our pictures and web pages will be more
interesting for you! Any suggestions, encouragement, or words of wisdom
would be greatly appreciated at this time!
The plan, then, is for us to return to Minnesota, and move our stuff out
to Oregon, where Ben will soon start a job at Intel. By the beginning of
August, we’ll be back on the bike again! If you want to receive an E-mail
mesage at the beginning of our next trip, please E-mail us.
The trip isn’t really over; we still have to figure out how to get to
the nearest U-Haul to get a truck to drive back to Minnesota. Of course,
without a back tire, its hard to ride anywhere. What I did is I took the
hub out of the rear Aerospoke wheel and managed to fit it into the front
Aerospoke wheel. This took some time, as I had to mess with both of the
hubs to get something that would fit correctly. So, we now have a new rear
wheel, although its a 20 inch, not a 26 inch, so we have no brakes. We’ll
be using one of the wheels from the Burley as the front wheel for the bike.
Hopefully, we can ride the bike this way to the U-haul and get the truck,
then drive back to the hotel and get the rest of our things.