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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Appalachian mountains: a brief description

One frustrating thing about planning this trip was the extreme lack of information regarding the Appalachian mountain range. Like what kind of climbs there are, when the mountains start and more importantly, when they stop. Well I have been keeping track these last few days and I am going to include this information here for the next poor deluded sap that decides he (or she) wants to ride across the country.

Before I go into details with numbers and such it may be helpful to understand my pespective. We have of course recently gone through the grand canyon and part of the rockies by bike so that of course may skew my opinion. Another thing to keep in mind (and this is where my fear is based out of) is that I have previously ridden through the Appalachians.

Some of you may be aware that I have attempted to bike accross the country before. Actually it did not start off as a cross country trip. I got it in my head that I wanted to ride my bike (this was a 1979 Peugot racing bike with all original, ie racing, equipment and about 4 sizes too big for me) for a while. This decision was made Friday and I left Sunday with some cheap panniers, some clothes, survival gear, a compass, and a sleeping bag.

The trip lasted only 700 miles or so and was doomed from the start. I had not trained at all. I did not have the right equipment. I did not plan at all. Finally, I had no idea what I was doing. I gave up part way through. I did not quit because it was too hard or too far, actually I quit right after crossing the mountains. You see, going through those mountains with my equipment, took such a toll on me I ended up injuring my butt and shoulders pretty badly. So now I fear the Eastern Mountain ranges.

With todays and yesterdays climbs I am not sure if that is it or what to expect. I just know that for me these mountains are "trip stoppers".

A recent cyclist told me the mountains start in Berea, KY and go east until Christiansburg, VA (about 370 miles), actually they started 40 miles East of Berea but close enough. Thus far I have gone 180 miles and have passed 7 signifigant climbs. These are of course in addition to the normal hills encountered as well. We are currently at the Kentucky/Viginia border at the Breaks Interstate Park.

(these happened yesterday)Peak 1 peaked at 1,100 feet with about 500 feet in elevation gain.

Peak 2 peaked at 1,200 with about 500 feet in elevation gain.

(these happened today)Peak 3 peaked at 1,300 with about 600 feet in elevation gain.

Peak 4 peaked at 1,500 with about 700 feet in elevation gain.

Peak 5 peaked at 1,800 with about 1,000 feet in elevation gain.

Peak 6 peaked at 1,900 with about 1,200 feet in elevation gain.

Peak 7 peaked at 1,800 with about 800 feet in elevation gain.

hope thus helps.

Here is an intersting observation I have made about Kentucky (and West Virginia on my last bike trip) and the roads they build. You see, up until now the people designing the roads seem to think in straight lines only. If there is a hill, go over it. If the hill is too big, cut into it (but mostly go over it). Kentucky seems to think differently. If you have ever looked at a road map here, the roads are all over the place winding and zigzaging haphazardly with no apparent plan in mind.

Turns out those road builders here actually knew a thing or two about the path of least resistance. Riding through the state of Kentucky is a very zen experience. As the large mountains loom in front of you the road veers and swerves until suddenly you find yourself going around those peaks through the easiest path possible. Sometimes I have even gone down to go around a mountain (yes it did occur to me that going the opposite direction would have dissimmilar effects), but sometimes I go up as well. Even the uphill climbs meander around instead of directly attacking the peaks. You really get a feel for the land around you and appreciate unity between civilization (for the most part this refers to broken down old mobile homes) and nature. This is also a much more pleasant experience since I am biking on these easier grades and not trying to go straight through.

Today this zen-like(there should be a book called Zen and the art of bicycle maintenance, it would not be much of a stretch from the original) experience was interupted by rude drivers and mean dogs a number of times (ok 6 drivers and 8 dogs). It seems eastern Kentucky may be much like eastern Missouri in the attitude of the inhabitants. I am not sure where this aggressiveness comes from, perhaps it is a border mentality, or state loyalty, but it is not fun. I was thinking maybe the people were upset with me because I was heading out of their state. I wonder if the experience is reversed for travelers in the opposite direction. I hope I never find out firsthand about that.

Now we are in Virginia and heading into the state so I expect to see some nice people for a while. We will miss my uncle and cousin, they were two fun people to hang out with for a few days. And my cousin has the added honor to be the only person (that we did not meet on the road) so far to bike with us on our trip for several days. Heather says we have about 600 more miles to go. I think the next 2 or 3 days will be pretty tough (especially tomorrow we have a big climb or two I think) but after that I am hoping for rolling hills and smooth biking.

With any luck, our very good friend, Lee will be around from the philipenes. He is the sort of guy that would bike with us for a few days just for fun.

Take care all and wish us luck we are in the home stretch now. (Boy, I never thought I would preface a 600 mile bike trip with the word "just"!) Just 600 miles to go!

-dana

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hey guys almost there. Be careful and we are all cheering from our desks..even though you can't hear us!!!
aunt janice

Jenilee said...

Hey you guys!!!
WHOOOO you are almost here!! I am getting goose bumps as I tpye this comment!!! I am so PROUD of you guys! I really wish I could bike through VA with you guys, but then again, I am not sure if I could keep up with you ENERGIZER bunnies!!
Love you and have been thinking of you both everyday!!
Love,
Jenilee

Natalie said...

You can do it!!! You are so close to being done!!

Go Dana & Heather!!