And so it gets interesting.
Even though we are still in West Virginia, we are out of Mountaineer country. We say goodbye to the never-ending Appalachians and goodbye to uphill switchbacks shared with coal, rock, and construction trucks. But we also say goodbye to the good things that come along with Mountaineer country – the thrilling five-mile downhills, the beautiful mountain scenery, and the wonderful bike route along WV Rt. 48.
However, getting through Mountaineer country on Day 4 was interesting, to say the least.
After leaving Kenny, Dawn and their RV and stopping at Sheetz for some shmiscuits, we officially rolled out of Parsons just before 8 am. We set a good pace on Rt. 72 and then up and over our “final” mountain on Rt. 38. Surprisingly, we covered 30 mountainous miles by 11:30 am. We then rode through Phillipi and headed downhill on Rt. 57. We maintained the good pace and were helped by the sunny, 85 degree weather. The Appalachian gods were quite generous to us – supplying us with sunny 85 degree weather, plenty of downhills, and running into good people like the produce man who gave us free apples. But, the Appalachian gods started playing tricks on us outside of Clarksburg.
First, Lukas’ knee locked-up. We waited for him to recuperate, which he did fine after a couple of minutes in the shade and a bottle of water. Then, Devon got disconnected with the group- backtracking along Rt. 20 in search of the rest of us to little avail since we were in front of him. Fortunately, his cell phone worked and he was able to call us. It was faintly similar to Day 2, when Nate took a “scenic” route after taking a wrong turn.
We realized that we needed to reverse our spell by eating. We chowed down at the Bluebird in downtown Clarksburg. By the end of lunch at 3:30 pm, we had completed 50 miles and had high hopes for a 30 miles late afternoon ride along Rt. 50.
But the Appalachian gods had other plans.
Rt. 50 was riddled with high-speed traffic and a poor shoulder. I didn’t have a good feeling about it at all. With our stomachs full of Mac-n-cheese, the four of us crawled up the first Rt. 50 hill at a snail’s pace (5-6 mph). First, Nate’s cassette came loose – nothing too concerning but would need to be addressed with the proper tools sooner, rather than later. 100 yards later, BAM!
Nate’s back tube popped. Flat tire #1. He fixed it and we mossyed along, avoiding the gravel when possible (which was not a lot). Then, a mile later, flat tire #2 happens. Nate begrudgingly fixes this one and we realize that Rt. 50 isn’t treating us well. We searched the maps for side roads to no avail, but we did find the North Bend Rail Trail. It sounds great on paper – spanning over 70 miles from Clarksburg to Parkersburg – but in reality, it isn’t compatible with the 700×23 tires Nate and Lukas were using. Shortly after we passed through a pretty cool/creepy tunnel, BAM! Flat tire # 3 happened. Let’s backtrack (figuratively, not literally as Devon did in Clarksburg): that’s three flats within 10 miles. How can you not think the Appalachian gods didn’t have a grudge on us? Is it for underestimating the difficulty of the mountains?
Kenny’s venison meat got us in better moods (boy, Kenny!). It got us to Salem, WV around 7 pm. We stopped in a supermarket, got some snacks for dinner and proceeded on hoping to put in a couple of miles in before dark. It appeared the Appalachian gods were done vexing us. We had a gorgeous, 7 mile ride along a back road following a creek at dusk. No dogs attacked us (they did chase us though) and we enjoyed the peaceful end to a hectic day.
We camped along the North Bend Rail Trail adjacent to Rt. 50. After 78 miles on the day (our longest yet), we’ve earned this night’s sleep.
We’re off to Athens, Ohio tomorrow where we have a Warm Shower lined up. Hopefully the rain will hold off and we can enjoy the rolling hills.