THE TREK TO PENSACOLA
Thursday, May 18, 2023
Wednesday, February 8, 2023
Early March Thiago (Brazil) and I set out for East Tennessee & Virginia to see family and friends and do some GTD '22 Training on the Virgina Section of the Trans America Bike Route.
Saturday some friends treated us to a Firetower Hike at Bays Mtn. State Park, very challenging and beautiful.
After Sunday worship at Boones Creek CC we visited friends at Grace CC in Kingsport before I began a short ride (36 miles) from Kingsport, TN to Abingdon, VA. I ride and Thiago supports me in the vehicle. After departing Kingsport we met up in Bristol, TN to "talk Route" before entering Virginia and proceeding to Abingdon. It was a nice ride and ended up in the Hampton Inn Parking Lot. After settling in and cleaning up we headed out to enjoy hydromassage at Planet Fitness and dinner. It was a good start to the GTD '22 Week of
Mornings come early during any multi day Bike Ride or Training Week. Breakfast 5:30am or 6am. Load up and then begin riding or driving to where the ride will begin. Day 2 began in Damascus, VA and it was chilly which was okay with me. I knew after leaving Damascus there would a lot of climbing up to Mt. Rogers then after that there it would be downhill with occasional bumps all the way to Ft. Chiswell. The ride was beautiful and challenging. Riding along the river was great. No real problem with traffic but I was without cell service for several hours so Mama C got concerned. Once back in range I debriefed her the previous hours. I shared with her about the Trail spottings and crossings I encountered. For awhile the Virginia Creeper Trail was alongside me and I crossed over the Appalachian Trail at least once.
After riding through Rural Retreat I found an awesome lunch spot on the corner of Main St. and Lee Highway, The Dutch Pantry. I had an awesome sandwich and root beer. Thiago found me but wasn't hungry because he had been snacking as he was driving. The ride through Wytheville brought back memories of my East Coast Bike Ride when I passed through, riding south, on my way to Kingsport, TN.
Between Wytheville and Ft. Chiswell there was nice countryside but a nasty long climb after Max Meadows. I was happy to reach the top and then cruise in to the Hampton Inn just past I 81. No sooner did I get settled under cover in the entryway when the heavens opened up and it began to rain hard. Thiago pulled up shortly thereafter and we moved in once the rain lightened up. We got cleaned up, went out for dinner and then called it a night. It was a good day on the Trans Am Bike Route.
Day 3 started off with a temperature of 29F. Cold but no problem because my cold weather gear is awesome. I was excited about today because we would be meeting up with Phil Parker and family for lunch in Christiansburg. The ride to Christiansburg was really nice and included a fair amount of ups and downs. It was about 10 miles outside of Christiansburg when I encountered Evergreen Rd., the first stretch of road where I had to dismount and push because it was so steep. After pushing for about 20 yards or so I was able to start riding again. Phil and I were texting so that he would know when to arrive at the Restaurant. After Evergreen Rd. there were quite a few hills on the way to the Restaurant but that didn't set our lunch time back too much.
Lunch with Phil and family was awesome, always great to have time with Phil. I have known Phil since he was an Elementary School Camper at the Christian Camp in East Tennessee. Phil and family served in Thailand for many years and I had the great opportunity to visit them twice there. Now Phil is serving International Students at Virginia Tech so catching up and sharing about ministry is always something I look forward to.
Phil gave me a preview of what the Route looked like between Christiansburg and Catawba, it sounded challenging but really nice countryside. It was challenging but in a different way than the day before. The day before there were long ascents and descents. This day it was a lot of short steep climbs followed by short descents so there never was a lot of recovery time. Finally, about 5 miles outside of Catawba Thiago and I met up, loaded up and drove over the mountain to Salem.
Salem is home to many family on my wife's side. Thiago and I met up with Uncle Tom for dinner, it was great fun!
The next morning was wet. We hit Planet Fitness for a hydromassage then drove to Catawba to begin the ride to Lexington. The day was overcast but no rain at this time. That all changes as I approached Troutville. It was more like a hard mist instead of a hard rain. I met Thiago at Sheetz for something hot to drink and a snack. After Sheetz I missed a left turn and rode an extra few miles. Once I saw I 81 ahead of me I turned back and found the turn I missed.
There was some really nice countryside riding on the way to Buchanan. There I made a plan with Thiago to meet him in Natural Bridge where we would turn off the busy Lee Highway and head out to the countryside.
The countryside was nice but I was excited to be approaching Lexington, the home of VMI. The city of Lexington looked very much like a college town, it was a cool surprise. The city led me right through the heart of VMI, really cool! I rejected back to the time Celeste and I were at VMI to share in her cousin Kevin’s wedding, good times. By now the sky was looking angry and the traffic was picking up. I climbed a hill and crossed over the Interstate and found Euby Tuesdays, this would be our dinner and stopping spot for the day. Thiago caught up with me and I introduced him to the Ruby Tuesdays Garden Bar, it was great. After dinner we made our way to our hotel for a good night’s rest because tomorrow is the climb up Mount Vesuvius!
After a good night’s rest it was time to tackle Mount Vesuvius! We drove to the church at the base of Vesuvius and I got everything together and mounted my trusty steed. Before the trip I considered changing out my rear cassette for a 11x30 but didn’t. Not sure if a 30 would made a huge difference but the 11x28 I was running was truly insufficient.
I rode the first mile and thought to myself, “this is ok”. Just after that thought I hit the wall. What a grade, what a climb. I soon was off the bike pushing. Thiago came alongside me and I let him know I needed to change to my running shoes. After the shoe switch I pushed until I could ride again which was toward the top. I was elated to see the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP) Bridge, I made it! It took me 1 hour and 15 minutes to cover approximately 3 1/2 miles.
I started on the BRP and pulled off at the first Overlook to switch back to cycling shoes. Thiago was loving the beauty and amazed that I pushed up most of Vesuvius instead of hitching a ride. I told him TABR riders had to do it so I had no choice but to get to the top no matter how long it took or how difficult it was.
I loved the ride on the BRP! It was tough but fair. Challenging climbs and awesome descents. I had been in touch with the Bike House in Afton and scheduled a visit so we could immerse ourself in TABR history, it was awesome to see room after room of notes and memorabilia from TABR Racers and Riders from all over the world.
After soaking in the history and chatting with the Bike House Caretaker we determined it was time to get riding again. I wanted to get to Charlottesville by 4 or 5pm so we could load up and head off route to my brother’s house in Powhatan. After leaving the Bike House I chose the wrong fork in the road and went down past some trailers and barking dogs before I realized my mistake. I turned around and rode back up past the trailers and barking dogs to the correct fork in the road.
After a screaming downhill descent past the Afton PO that many TABR racers have slept in, the Route leveled out a bit before starting the continuous climb to White Hall. I didn’t stop at the White Hall Store but as soon as I spotted it I was taken back to the scene in “Inspired to Ride” where TABR ‘14 Winner Mike Hall stopped in to refuel and chat with the locals. RIP Mike!
After a lot of ups and downs and a missed turn just before tge Charlottesville City Limit I met up with Thiago and we loaded up and headed toward my brother’s house. All in all it was a good day despite a couple of missed turns. The ride on the BRP and the visit to the Bike House offset the missed turns frustration.
After a great dinner with my brother and his family we called it a night so we could get up extra early to drive to Kents Store to begin the ride to Mechanicsville.
After stopping for petrol and a drive thru breakfast we made our way to Kents Store which is in the countryside. We arrived and found a gravel lot to park in while I got everything together to begin my next to the last days ride.
I set out and enjoyed the scenery on this cool morning. After a brief encounter with a few small dogs I saw the next city ahead of me. Something didn’t seem right and that was confirmed when I saw Welcome to Palmyra, I had ridden west instead of east! Not sure how I got turned around but I did. I immediately called Thiago and let him know I had messed up and needed him to come get me. While waiting for him at a store I restocked my snacks and studied the map.
Thiago arrived and I loaded my bike on the rack and we headed back to Kents Store. We returned to the same gravel lot and I unloaded my bike and began pedaling east. After a bit I crossed under I 64 and enjoyed a scenic ride through Mineral, VA, to my lunch stop at the Elk Creek country Store. Lunch was awesome! I addressed some saddle sore issues after lunch and began the push to Mechanicsville where we would meet up with my uncle and nephew.
Right away I was riding through some fingers of Lake Anna, it was beautiful. As the ride went on I was starting to feel the effects of the extra miles I rode to Palmyra. As the day went on and I arrived in Ashland I decided to stop at a Starbucks for a boost and call it a day so we could get to my uncle’s house at dinner time.
Shortly after arriving and unloading we got cleaned up and waited a few minutes on my nephew who was riding up from the Yorktown area. He was going to ride with me to the Victory Monument in Yorktown the next day. It was long before he arrived and was ready to head out to dinner. We had an awesome Mexican meal!
We awoke the next morning to rain, wind, lightening and to a temperature that was falling, snow was in the forecast. As much as we hated ti we decided just to drive the Route to the Monument. It wasn’t all bad, we had a great visit. We arrived at the Monument, parked and walked over to see it up close. It was cold, windy & freezing! We viewed the Monument for a few minutes and rushed back to the warmth of the car.
We took my nephew to his vehicle and then we went out to lunch. After lunch and saying goodbye Thiago set out for a hotel that was just off the Interstate. On the way the snow started falling and Thiago got excited. After checking into the hotel he took some time to enjoy the snow while I settled in for the night and processing the week of riding the Trans America Bike Route through much of Virginia.
After a week of riding the drive home had a different rhythm. Pedaling had been replaced with driving. Covering 68 miles a day was replace with covering lots of ground through several states. The drive home was was broken up with an early dinner date with CCH Alumni. It was a great dinner and time of visitation. We didn’t visit too too long because we had another 3 hours to drive. It was great to get back to Gainesville, drop Thiago off, get home, unload and see Celeste. We chatted a bit about the week’s journey and faded off for a good nights rest.
The week of riding was challenging but awesome. It was great to see family and friends along the way. Thiago was a rockstar as he supported me the entire way. Overall it was a great journey for the both of us.
Looking forward to the next one!
Friday, January 15, 2021
It's never too early to start getting excited about and planning for the next Go The Distance (GTD) Fundraising Bike Ride. The next one will take place next May 2022.
The GTD '22 Route will begin at Fort Pickens State Park in Pensacola Beach, FL and conclude in Kendall, FL after going to Fort Zachary Taylor State Park in Key West, FL. The total number of miles will range between 1,025 and 1,100. I look forward to seeing family, friends, alumni, supporting church friends along the way.
I will be seeking financial supporters and prayer warriors for GTD '22 over the next year. All funds raised will be used for Mission Scholarships and UFCCH Projects.
The Funds raised for GTD '20 will help students serve with Lifeline Christian Mission in Winslow, AZ this summer. THANKS to everyone who supported GTD '20! We can't wait to post a Report and Pictures after the Trip.
Wednesday, July 29, 2020
I had let Carman Ann know I was catching the 9am Ferry so when we landed I spotted Carman Ann & Richard right away. They had made signs to welcome me to Mayport, very cool. There were a group of cyclists waiting to board the Ferry, they were interested in the welcome I was receiving. One of the bikers who had crossed over with me thought it was cool and fist bumped me before heading off with his friend.