4,516 miles
188,389ft climbed

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Waynesboro to Chapel Hill

After two hard days cycling my legs were pretty knackered so rather than return to the Blue Ridge Parkway immediately I decided to spend a day cycling down the flatter valley to the west of the parkway and then spent the night in Lexington, VA.

When I woke the next morning I had an email informing me that my house sale back in the UK had fallen through at the last minute (the day we were due to exchange)! Communications when you are up in the mountains can be a bit difficult so I decided to change my plan and head directly towards the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill area, where I was due to meet my friend Kat who is going to cycle with me for a few weeks. Taking a direct route rather than following the Blue Ridge Parkway before striking out for them would save me a few days cycling and I’d have good access to internet etc so I could get everything back in the UK sorted. It would also give me a few days off to rest and recuperate after a pretty hard 4 weeks cycling.

As I left the motel I found I had a flat tyre. My first of the trip and just what I needed to make my already foul mood even worse. I’d been struggling with dexterity in the fingers in my right hand for a few days after spending so much time gripping the handlebars so what normally takes 10-15 mins ended up taking me a good 30 minutes and a lot of frustration.

Not a happy James

Not a happy James

The 8 miles to the next time took ages as I wasn’t really concentrating or in the mood to cycle. I decided to stop for a quick break and grabbed a subway before heading off for the only big climb of the day; a 2,500ft ascent up to the Blue Ridge Parkway. As I was cycling out of town my right pedal was behaving very strangely and flipping over half the time when I took a stroke. I stopped and had a look at it. It was very stiff and wasn’t rotating freely. I took everything off the bike and got the tools out - taking the pedal off it was ooozing grease and my totally non-mechanical opinion suggested that a bearing had gone in the pedal. It was 40 miles to Lynchberg - my target for the night or 8 miles back to Lexington. I wasn’t sure I would be able to cycle the 40 miles to Lynchberg with the pedal in its current state and returning to where I had started the day was not an option!

I fiddled with the pedal a little more and still couldnt get it any better so decided to go find somewhere to stash the bike and I’d hitchhike to the nearest bike shop to buy some new pedals. As I was cycling along - still fuming - the pedal fell off (I hadn’t put it back on very well) - it got picked up and thrown hard at the nearest wall in frustration. More meekly retrieving it and putting it back on the bike I found that remarkably the pedal was behaving itself a little more and while stiff it was a little easier to cycle so I thought I’d give the climb a go and worse comes to worse I’ll coast back down the hill into town and I’m in no worse position than I am now.

The climb turned out to be OK - a nice climb up a small gravel road which was meant to join the Blue Ridge Parkway. When I got to the top I found what I thought was a junction was actually a bridge - luckily it was only a 15 foot bridge and having come up 2500ft I wasn’t going to let that final 15ft stop me. I ended up “finding” a route through the woods and joining the Blue Ridge Parkway for a glorious 12 mile descent through some of the most beautiful woodland I’ve come across so far this trip. Not to mention a total lack of traffic!

I was with sadness that I left the Blue Ridge Parkway and headed towards Lynchburg for a 20 mile stint along an uncomfortably busy road.

A hunt around some bike shops the next morning turned up a new pair of pedals that would probably get me to the next big city where I could buy some higher quality pedals.

The next three days down to Chapel Hill were very wet. It was pretty constant mizzle, drizzle or all out rain. The countryside was pleasant but pretty unremarkable - maybe if it hadn’t been so wet I’d have noticed more but in the end the only photo I took was the shot up sign coming into North Carolina. I was very happy when I pulled into my hotel in Chapel Hill where I’d spend the next 3 days - a luxurious break!

Welcome to North Carolina!

Welcome to North Carolina!

The plan is now to head back towards Asheville and the Blue Ridge Parkway then cycle the last 100 miles or so to Cherokee before heading over the Big Smokies into Tennessee and start heading west properly!