Only in America could you start the day in Damascus and pass both Bristol and Lebanon before the end of the day! I got up at 05.30 this morning as I knew that I had a long day, with some pretty bad climbs, and wanted to get going before the day really heated up: it’s been near record temperatures for this time of year.
It was still dark when I set off, but it was fantastic to see the sunrise over the mountains. By the time I stopped for breakfast in Meadowview I had already cycled 20 miles. When I told some guys in the diner where I was going they warned me about the impending climb up form Hayter’s Gap – it proved to be as nasty as promised. I climbed more than 1500 feet over 4 miles – but the view at the top and the decent on the other side made it worthwhile.
I then had miles of rolling countryside before I had the second big climb of the day up ‘Big A Mountain’ which was nowhere near as long and as steep as the climb up from Hayter’s Gap. Best of all from there I had a nice steady downhill for around 20 miles to Haysi – a small town with more redneck flags than people – I really am in ‘Hill-Billy’ country now. In fact some of the trucks going past had ‘Hill-Billy’ bumper stickers. Despite the steady downhill slope of this strech of road the heat made it tough going.
From Haysi I had three steep climbs of about 500 feet each to reach Breaks Interstate Park, where I am staying tonight. It is a beautiful park with a fantastic gorge. At the last viewpoint of the day I saw my first eagle, and as I was watching it several others showed up, which was awsome. The owner of the motel I’m staying at tonight told me that a couple from London, following my route, came through here two weeks ago, so hopefully I’ll catch up with them at some point.
Although I only covered 80 miles today, it was easily one of the toughest days so far, due to the numerous steep climbs. I have just about finished the Virginia section of the route now – having covered 572 miles. Tomorrow: Kentucky!