Sunday, July 20, 2008

"Which part did you ride?" "Uh, ALL of it."

I get that a lot. I should say, we get that kind of question a lot of the time, and we often give that kind of an answer. To us, it's funny in a way; 40 to 50 miles by bicycle is a decently moderate ride. We don't shy away from that kind of a distance, we actively seek it out. When you seek, you shall find. And what a find we made with the New River Trail in Southwest Virginia!

It technically starts in Galax, VA and rides 57 miles north, following the New River, up to Pulaski, VA. Being from Blacksburg ourselves, we decided to start on the north end, ride south, camp overnight, and ride back over the course of a weekend. My original plan was to ride down into Galax and stay in a lovely (and comfortable) Bed and Breakfast Inn. Florin, being the backpacker/camper type, talked me into a night of camping instead. While I was not initially thrilled at the idea of all-day exercise toting our own camping gear on our bikes followed by sleeping on the hard ground, I promised I'd at least give it a try before making any rash judgments. For the record, it wasn't bad; it was actually quite enjoyable. Go figure! Here's how it went down and the slideshow below reveals much of our two-day trip.

We started at the 2-mile mark, at the Pulaski/Xaloy gravel lot entrance to the State Park. With our bikes loaded up with all of our gear, we were ready to ride! There was no fanfare, but we were off! Immediately, I noted that riding with loaded panniers on gravel is a bit of a freaky experience. It's nothing like a road bike. My bike, Juniper, was sluggish and felt as if she had a mind and direction of her own. It took many miles before I learned that a light touch on the handlebars would prove easier. (Not only was it easier on my back, shoulders, arms, and hands, but on the general handling of the bike as well.)

I have to admit, I spent a lot of the first part of the ride staring in fear at the loose grit of the trail in front of me. Something I did notice was that it only took about 10 or so miles before I loosened up. Once that happened, the ride was fantastic. I cannot believe how well maintained, stocked, and fantastic the amenities and facilities were throughout the entire trail. And it was an absolute delight to see entire families riding shorter parts of the overall trail.

One last thing: cycling makes you hungry. If you're me, you can survive a two-day trip on GORP and crackers and water, but if you're Florin you'll be needing a lot more sustenance. That hamburger you see below was an out-of-the way ride-like-hell 6 miles roundtrip to the closest local store and "food grill" during the afternoon of the second day. It wasn't the best burger in the world, but it was a burger and Florin was satisfied. Not only that, but we found another gem of a camping spot on the way to Fries. Next trip, we're going to book into there.

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