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Day #14

I’m typing this from the Haysi, VA public library. I ended up spending 2 nights at a hostel in Damascus, VA. It was an awesome experience; I met dozens of hikers traveling north coming from Georgia on their way up to Maine; I got several tips on the camping aspect of my trip. Check out Bear and the gang’s website at 2000milestogo.com.

At the hostel, I met my first fellow cyclist also traveling the Trans America. Allen Baumgartner is a disabled cyclist who is “riding a hand cycle from St. Louis to Washington D.C. on April 28th to promote awareness for Spinocerebellar Ataxia while raising money for children with physical disabilities to participate in sports through a St. Louis based organization, DASA.” Check out his website fromheretothere2010.com for more info. Unlike myself, he was going west to east, but provided me with some very useful tips. The day I left, I actually ran into a biker-friendly church where I saw his name in the registration page the night before we met. Good meeting you Allen; good luck!

Since I started heading west on the Trans-America, I’ve been happily amazed at the cyclist friendly nature of the people out here. I’ve already seen a few other cyclists, and the people are so familiar with us, they already know our deal, wish us luck, and are extremely nice & helpful.

On the terrain aspect, the mountains are still rough, and Allen told me it would continue to be so through Kentucky. Yesterday I was climbing a mountain too steep to ride longer than a few minutes at a time before I needed a break. I’d climb until my legs would burn & ache and I could no longer breathe: Climb, break, climb, break. I was absolutely drenched in sweat, and trying my best to keep up with the loss of fluids. During one of my breaks, I started feeling lightheaded, dizzy, and disoriented–symptoms of heat stroke. I pulled off my helmet and felt my forehead; it was burning hot. I sat down for a while, and conservatively splashed some water on my head to cool down.

You’re in the middle of some unknown mountain, the cars passing are infrequent, you haven’t passed a business, residence or anything else for several miles. You know you’ve got somewhere between 10 and 20 miles until the next place you can get more water, and you’re rapidly burning through bottle after bottle as your body continues to pour out the sweat.

Priorities change rapidly. Before you were calculating how many miles you could make it before the sun went down; now you’re worrying about making to the next gas station before you die of dehydration. How long does this incline continue? Around every turn is another hill; it’s seemingly endless. A car passes in the other direction and you ask how much longer the incline continues for, and they tell you 2 miles or so. You give up biking and start walking. 1 foot in front of the other lugging a 80-ish pound touring bicycle up the mountain. 2 miles later you ask another passing car who tells you you’ve got another 2 miles ’till the top. Climb another incline, pass another turn; hill, turn, hill, turn. All you can do is keep walking.

Eventually the incline levels out; you’ve reached the top of the mountain. You see the happy bicycle sign informing you you’re still on the Trans-American. Hop on the bicycle and coast through the down hills. You’re still drenched in sweat, and the air rushing past you starts giving you goose bumps. In minutes you go from worrying about heat stroke & dehydration to worrying about hypothermia; that cotton shirt doesn’t dry fast at all.

Today a local told me I’d be climbing 3 mountains like this one. I haven’t hit them yet, but it should be one hell of a day!

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