Leaving behind goodness: Damascus, VA to Council, VA

Sunday May 24, 2009, 52 miles (84 km) – Total so far: 581 miles (935 km)

Phil and Linda were most gracious hosts.  We took a day off to recuperate, then they drove us back to Damascus to resume our trek.  We left behind good food, good drinks, good housing, good companions – good friends.

Phil and Linda (with Springer!)

It was spitting rain as we left Damascus.  Beautiful terrain.  I rode pretty well, except climbing out of the South Fork of the Holston River, into Meadowview.  With the humidity and early hour, it was a rose day trip – wild roses all along the road.  From Meadowview, a thriller ride down to the North Fork of the Holston at Hayter’s Gap.

North Fork, Holston River; how can anything so peaceful be so toxic?

I mentioned stairsteps a few days back, and for a while I thought VDOT ran out and built me a road – a rise, a flat, another rise.  Pretty soon, though, it turned into a serious climb up Clinch Mountain.  Thank goodness it was overcast, a sunny day would have been a lot tougher.

Old tobacco barn, a former economic foundation of the region

Mountain laurel still blooming on Clinch Mountain

Near the top of Clinch Mountain, looking south

Through Elk Gardens into Rosedale, where the gas station deli turned out a nice, cheap, filling lunch – good enough for another mountain?  Climbed a bit, rolled down to Honaker and the Clinch River.  Six miles and I’m thirsty again?  Stopped for another drink.

Small hill near Honaker

Why is there a steep hill after railroad crossings?  I told Virginia I thought my legs had one more ridge in them today, so we headed up Big A Mountain.  I saw it from the far side of Honaker, and hoped that wasn’t it. It was.

Big A has one of the highest concentrations of antennas I’ve seen.  And it is steep getting up there.  I had to rest and cool off twice on the way up, but the view of the Clinch Valley to the south was beautiful.

Rain crows (yellow-billed cuckoos) were singing a duet coming up Big A, and it looked like the weatherman might deliver on his thunderstorm, but we ended up with just a heavy fog that night.  Damped down everything we had left out to dry, though.

View from the top of Big A Mountain

Flew down to Council.  You have to be careful if it’s too steep going down – don’t want to overheat the rims and blow out a tire.  Supposedly Council allows cyclists to camp in the park.  The folk in the community center didn’t know about that, but they knew they had leftovers from their family reunion they didn’t want to take home.  We helped them with that problem. 🙂

Turns out we were allowed to sleep in the park, and shower as long as the pool was open.  We had reversed our normal procedure – shower first so you feel human, then eat – but the results were worthwhile.  Five Blacksburg bikers were there too – they’re riding across the country, starting from Blacksburg.

So even though we left a lot of goodness behind, a lot was waiting for us at the end.

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