BIKE VIRGINIA is a five-day bike tour of incomparable Virginia scenery, history, culture and hospitality. Each year 2,000 cyclists of all ages experience the best biking adventure Virginia can offer. This year the cities of Bristol, Abington, along with Kingsport, Tennessee will play host to the cyclists riding "The Crooked Road Tour" along Virginia's Heritage Music Trail and The Birthplace of Country Music. Join us!
Posted: Wed, 25 June 2008
DAY 5 THE FAREWELL LAP IN ABINGDON
Today's wrap-up ride was a shorter 30 mile loop in an around Abingdon, VA.
As Alan is driving to Louisville today on his way to Chicago, and I am being picked up by the Blue Ridge Parkway van with 10 fellow cyclists aboard, we had to return to the hotel early to get ready for departure.
We abbreviated the planned BIKE VA route somewhat and found a 30 mile route that would provide a good final ride in the hills of Virginia, yet allow us to meet our time commitments.
Twenty miles east of Abingdon--near Blacksburg, Va--is located the quiet campus of Emory and Henry College where we stopped for the first SAG and spun around campus.
It was then back into the rural 2 lane roads of rolling hills and farms. "Bessie" gave us a strange look as we cycled past in the morning sunshine.
At White Mill (where the town folk provided quartered baked potatoes and popcorn at the SAG) we ventured off route and rode the hills back into the historic section of Abingdon.
Showered, shaved, packed and ready, I await the approaching van which has already departed Asheville, NC.
The next cycling adventure starts in a matter of hours!
PS- Alan is a great cycling buddy and travel mate. We did BIKE VA proud!
Posted: Tue, 24 June 2008
DAY 4 ABINGDON LOOP
Alan and I chose the 56 mile route option today. Originally we had planned to do back- to- back centuries, but after yesterday's ride of 9 hours we made a wiser decision.
Abingdon, VA, a city of 8000 people, is famous for the 35 mile long "Creeper Trail", a bicycle pathway following the old Creeper railroad route that attracts 50,000 visitors a year. Only hybrid or mountain bikes are suited for this trail, so we did not ride it, but many BIKE VA cyclists did, and our paths crossed a couple of times.
We rode today's shorter ride at a quicker pace, passing by several SAG stops, but we did stop at the Alvarado Train Depot (once a stop along the Creeper RR) A talented young man was singing Blue Grass music and playing his guitar for our enjoyment.
With a crowd of 2000 cyclists the Port-O-Johns always seem to have a waiting line.
We had blue skies, low 80's temperatures, and again truly scenic views from the bike---and of course--- lots of hills.
Lunch was at the Community Park in Demascus, VA.
This afternoon we drove downtown to check out "historic" Abingdon, and found a charming center city. The focal point was the Barter Theater, the State Theater of the State of Virginia. Across the street is the Martha Washington Inn, a palacial old hotel with the history and charm of the Greenbriar or the Homestead resorts in Virginia.
It being 5:00 pm, and spotting a number of bicycles out front , we stopped in "the Tavern", one of the oldest buildings west of the Blue Ridge that began as a tavern and overnight inn for stagecoach travelers in 1779. it was used as a hospital for wounded confederate soldiers during the Civil War. It is a classic! We talked bicycles and cycling with some of the BIKE VA gang gathered there.
We had our final dinner of the trip at the nearby Cracker Barrel restaurant (very popular in the South), and had a photo taken on the porch.
It has been a wonderful cycling adventure; 4 days of great rides, enjoyable cycling folks, beautiful scenery and great weather. Everything a cyclist could a want!
Posted: Mon, 23 June 2008
DAY 3 KINGSPORT, TN TO ABINGDIN, VA
Today is the day for which Alan and I had trained, and which we both anticipated with some trepidation. Having spent 2 days of these Blue Ridge Mountains climbs we knew today's "century" would be a challenge. It was certainly that, but much more--it was one of the most scenic, picturesque, and invigorating rides we have ever taken. It is is WHY WE CAME TO BIKE VA!
We cycled from Kingsport to the new tent city in Abingdon, VA. The cities are only 40 miles apart on the interstate, but our BIKE VA route took us 105 miles into the prettiest and greenest rural countryside imaginable. These back roads presented a steady diet of climbs and super fast descents
The vistas from atop the unending hills were those of hazy distant mountains and peaceful farmlands and cattle ranches. We often cycled beside rivers and creeks and through shady patches of traffic-less roadways. The weather was clear and sunny following the early hours of foggy patches.
Departing at 7:00am, we rode 24 miles to the SAG stop at the Carter Family fold and A. P. Carter Museum for some home made pastries. Alan commented on the attitude and hospitality the town folks had displayed at the SAG. He said "What a great place to live; good food, friendly dogs, and a wonderful environment".
A box lunch was served at the Holston Baptist Church located on the banks of the Holston River, where we took a short break. I had lunch with Kurt, a friend from the Across America -North ride in 2006 that I had run into at breakfast.
We continued on --up and down-- taking all the colored routes of the century ride ("for cyclists looking for more of a challenge", according to the route sheet.)
We climbed Clinch Mountain at the 60 mile mark and rode on into Saltville, VA, where salt has been produced since the 1780's. Here they infuse high pressure water into the ground where salt deposits are located, extracting the brine and then drying and producing salt.
The final 20 miles had the most difficult hills--or maybe we were just so tired it seemed that way. The "cruelest" hill we surmounted was at the 99 mile mark. It was the final challenge.
We were so happy to have completed this ride--even if it took us 9 hours from start to finish. We pulled into tent city in Abingdon and received our 100 mile BIKE VA patch.
Tired, but pleased with the accomplishment of a difficult ride, Alan and I enjoyed dinner and ice cream with Brad and Robyn in Demascus, VA. It was a memorable day of biking (and my 45th 100 mile bike ride)!
Posted: Sun, 22 June 2008
DAY 2 BRISTOL, VA TO KINGSPORT, TN
Today was a moving day on BIKE VA. Tent City was packed up and moved to Kingsport, TN on the grounds of Dobbyns-Bennett H.S. We "motelers" brought our luggage (only 1 bag per person allowed!) to a location in the hotel lobby. All bags had been previously tagged with the names of our hotels in Kingsport and Abingdon. They were all successfully delivered intact (whew!)to our Hampton Inn in Kingsport today. Unfortunately, the hotels in Kingsport are located FAR from tent city and even FAR from town, in the "hinterlands" as I told Alan. We have a distance to bike tomorrow BEFORE we begin the "hilly century" ride in the Blue Ridge Mountains. We also are in a quandary over where to eat in the hinterland. The choices are basic fast food--UGH!
No complaints about today's 68 mile ride in the beautiful, traffic-free
countryside in VA and TN. The weather was great: sunny in the 70's. The back roads routes took us past hilly farm fields with rolls of hay stacks, and past so many Baptist churches (located on Hills) that we lost count. We rode in hills alongside rivers and streams, in hills through small towns, we even had the support of the State and local police in stopping motor traffic at the bottom of hills so that we could pass through intersections safely. Even the Pink Route (always the shortest and easiest route offered) had hills.
On Ollis Bowers Hill Road near Kingsport we encountered a hill so steep we were REQUIRED to walk our bikes. We were told "even Lance Armstrong walks up this one". Be assured it was the only hill we walked up today. We struggled on several, but made them all.
The first SAG stop was at one of the numerous Baptist Churches on the route. It had all the prerequisites of a good SAG stop; ie portable toilets, good food and drink AND something more. Next to the Gatorade stand stood a lady at a microphone singing HYMNS to a rather astonished cycling corps.
A bit about the colors of routes offered each day: The Pink route is the shortest and easiest. Everyone does the Pink in entirety. In addition, options are given to extend the Pink route. When you go off the Pink route for optional add-on miles or more hills the markings are Green, Orange and Red. If you do ALL the colored routes you have completed the longest and most difficult route of the day. Today Alan and I did them all--68 miles--of Pink, Green, Orange and Red.
We opted not to stop at a water-stop located at Exchange Place--although we could see it from the road. It is a restored farm complex along Old Stage Road. Early travelers exchanged their Virginia currency for Tennessee money and turned in tired horses for fresh ones. The complex has been restored to original conditions and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
At the 48 mile mark we pulled into the new tent city in Kingsport for a box lunch in the civic center building near the high school campus where the individual tents will be set up.
After lunch we headed out of town for the optional hills offered on the Orange and Red routes. What a way to finish the last 20 miles. It was another great ride day along the Holsum River in an area called Rotherwood HEIGHTS! Guess why?
Back in the city of Kingsport it was off the Hampton Inn (after racing through the intersections blocked by police--I love that!) We rode so far out of town we wondered "who in hell would put a hotel way out here?" Answer: Hampton Inn.
We are meeting and riding with cyclists from all over the country. Many bike clubs have members here riding together in their matching "kits" (team uniforms). There are tandems, recumbents of all styles, and road bikes of every size and make. The cyclists themselves represent a great cross section of the cycling community; from "hotshot" racers to elderly couples on tandems, really all abilities and ages are in the mix. Very interesting indeed!
We really enjoyed the views from our bikes today. We also had some wonderful descents on excellent country roads. It was a super Sunday ride!
I like it here!
Posted: Sat, 21 June 2008
DAY 1 BRISTOL LOOP
Several months ago my friend Alan Ryker and I discussed the possibility of riding BIKE VIRGINIA together. He had participated in this event a couple of years ago and was impressed with its organization and the challenging course that was laid out for 2008. We quickly committed and registered on line.
BIKE VA is a 5 day annual cycling event that draws 2000 biking enthusiasts. This year's location is Southwestern Virginia, an excellent, but difficult, cycling venue in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The cities of Bristol,VA, Kingsport, TN, and Abingdon, VA will be our home bases. A choice of rides of varying lengths and degrees of difficulty are offered daily to the cyclists. Alan and I plan to ride the most difficult (in terms of climbing) and longest distance ride each day--if we are able. It will be a stretch- a real challenge for both of us. This is very hilly terrain!
The timing of this event fits my schedule PERFECTLY. On the final day of BIKE VA, I will be picked up in Abingdon, VA by the rented van carrying 10 of my cycling buddies headed for Front Royal, VA where we will begin a 10 day ride on the beautiful and mountainous Skyline drive and Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP).
Alan and I drove to Asheville, NC (stopping overnight in Perry, GA), where I left my car at the home of Jim Morris, a member of the BRP gang--and meeting point and final stop on the BRP ride.
Friday, June 20 was BIKE VA registration day in Bristol. I was fully aware of the complexities presented to organizers of a cycling event drawing 2000 participants, and intrigued by the questions of "how can it all be pulled together?"
The answer I guess is great PLANNING. So far-so good. A "tent city" has popped up on the grounds and buildings of a local high school in Bristol. Most of the cyclists have elected to "camp", in tents, on the gymnasium floor, or in RV's, at tent city. Alan and I are "motelers", happily ensconced in a wonderfully comfortable room (by comparison) at the Courtyard by Marriott. Our luggage will be taken by an event truck to the successive motels in Kingsport, TN and Abingdon, VA in the coming days. We are provided lunch daily and will mainly dine out for breakfast and dinners.
At last night's dinner at Ruby Tuesday's in Bristol, we got together with Sebring cycling friends B-rad and Robyn. Their wedding will take place at their country home in Tennessee next Saturday, 3 years after I introduced them to each other at the Sebring event (at least that is my claim). I wish them all the best! Good friends!
Today's ride was a 63.5 mile, 4 hour 24 minute, loop from and returning to tent city in Bristol, through the rural countryside and hilly terrain of SW Virginia and Northern Tennessee.
A funny thing happened early on in this ride. We are asked to place a name tag "license plate" behind our bicycle saddle showing our name and home town. While climbing one of the dozens of steep hills encountered today, another rider pulled up along side me and said; "You're not in Florida now, Bill, how do you like the hills?" Alan and I had our fill of those hills today.
It was an overcast day, cool-in the 70's, with a 40% chance of rain as we departed at 8:00 am.
I had never been on a bike ride with 2000 other cyclists---a big crowd! But all went well. We were well spread out, the SAG stops functioned well, and our box lunch in Cumberland Park in Bristol on return went smoothly as it took place over a couple of hours as cyclists came and went.
We biked along the Holston River, stopping at the Holston Dam. It is constructed of earth and rock- fill and stands 285 feet high and spans 1,600 feet across. We biked along the top of the dam where Alan and I had a photo taken. The Holston River must be loaded with trout as we saw numerous fishermen on the river.
We entered Bristol under the arched lighted sign on State Street marking the VA-TENN border. Bristol is recognized as "the Birthplace of Country Music", and claims Tennessee Ernie Ford as a favorite son. A street party is planned for tonight with a wine and beer garden for some VERY TIRED cyclists.