i’ve decided that maybe it would be a cool idea to journal my bike trip. i’m sitting at the table in my apartment, going over things i need to bring for the trip tomorrow. do i have the right size tubes if a get a flat? little nerves, mostly just excited to take on this first over-nighter. very happy that my buddy chris, who has done numerous bike packing over-nighters, is taking this journey with me. referring to that komoot stats, it will be about 72 miles, and almost 9,000 feet in climbing elevation.
the plan is to do it in two days. we’ll be meeting at the lot, where the trail starts, around 7:30pm tonight. i, in richmond, va, am only 2 hours driving time away.
we both arrived at the parking location. it’s already dark, but that doesn’t stop us from hopping into bike packing mode. i backed the van up to have the headlights shine toward the rear of chris’s van. (my old van, rachel). chris starts to pull out all of his gear, while i pull out my bike. we set up my bike in front of the headlights, and start to try different bags out. frame bag. check. top tube bag. check. seat post bag. check. strap the tent to my handle bars, and also a dry bag to the seat post bag. check. all of my stuff is now packed, and bags are attached to my bike. i do a quick little loop around the parking lot. bike rolls without a hitch.
we sit and eat a little peach pie that chris’s wife, sam, has made. hits the spot. we catch up a bit in the dark. we call it for the night and plan to get up and ride first thing in the morning.
sleeping in our vans tonight.
woke up freezing and wide awake. i’m not used to going to sleep that early. luckily i brought some melatonin. that definitely helped. but i did toss and turn trying to find warmth for the next couple of hours.
the sun is just starting to come up. i can see the tree’s silhouettes a little more clearly through the van windows. i reach up to adjust my skull cap and realize my earring had gotten caught in it, and bled down the side of my neck. crusty and a little gross. the earring was still intact. i’m ready to start the day.
i’m already cold, so getting up and moving wasn’t a hard task. can’t get any colder than i am now. maybe moving will warm me up. i find my riding apparel to throw on. bike shorts, leggings, socks, sneakers, long sleeve shirt, t-shirt on top, gaiter, skull cap, jacket with hood up. time to get out of the van.
we putz around, making sure our bikes are packed and ready to ride. all thumbs up. we hop in chris’s van with the heat blasting to eat a little food and drink some instant coffee before we go. granola.
we have started our ride. it’s so cold that coasting down the hill is making our eyes tear up. the gravel road turns into state roads. quickly the temperature is getting warmer as the sun grows taller in the sky. also getting out of the woods is helping. we follow paved roads for awhile, passing countless trump signs. thinking about the day when we won’t see a single trump sign again. hopefully very soon.
we pass houses, farm land, cows. not many people out just yet. might still be too early.
we turn down a road that eventually turns into gravel again. the gravel is super packed down and easy to ride on. even though we’re starting to climb, it’s not too bad, and warming us up.
we covered the first 10 miles rather quickly. made it through trump country and cows unscathed. the path was pretty nice and packed down for about 3 miles. bigger rocks started to show up and a steep incline had begun to grow longer and longer. the beginning of the ride seemed like a chilly breeze at this point. it’s warmed up enough that we’re both in t-shirts.
we’ve crossed a stream, lost the poop shovel (twice, once in chris’s pocket). walked our bikes a handful of times now just due to the inability to make a full rotation on the crank.
we finally made it to a flat spot where there’s a fire pit and a small opening to pitch a tent. we won’t be staying here tonight. but i’m sure when the leaves fall, this would be a great view. waiting for chris to finish his trip to the woods, and we’ll continue on.
we have only traveled 5 miles over the last 3 hours. many ponds to walk around and steep rock scrambles. carrying and pushing our loaded bikes up. we’re feeling it. we’re almost to the highest point.
we’ve decided to take the shorter route and nix seeing the fire house. the climb already has been brutal. the thought of extending it feels daunting. now our ride will be cut down to about 50 miles instead of the 72. we feel good about this decision.
we have passed the spring that was shared on the map. no longer supplies water. damn. we’re now sitting at reddish knob, a little campsite right along the cliff. the plan was to camp here tonight. due to not having a chance to fill up on water, we’re forced to keep moving along till we can find a place to fill up. judging by google maps, there’s a creek just 6 miles downhill. pretty much telling us that we are not camping with the view tonight.
we’ve been bombing down the gradual decline. it has gotten very rocky and the sun is now going behind the trees, making it a little harder to see. also fatigue is kicking in. i will admit that i’m getting a little frustrated with how rocky it is and constantly having all the bones shake in my body.
chris is taking the lead about 50 feet in front of me. all of a sudden i see him stop. “i’ve got a flat!” we jump to it and try and get his tire patched, and ride ready again. not so much luck. chris is riding tubeless so trying to patch the tire is a new thing to me. the sealant wouldn’t take... we resorted to trying out a tube. but we couldn’t get that to work either. we believe we broke the hand pump by trying nonstop for about 20 minutes.
running out of options, we decided to hike down the last mile or so to the creek. while walking down, keeping our eyes peeled for a place to camp. we figured there wasn’t much for us to do at this point than try to fill up water, eat, and sleep. dealing with the bike will wait till morning.
an old jeep slowly rolls up behind us. we haven’t seen anybody else in miles. is this our savior?
it was an older couple seemingly just enjoying the scenery. we asked if they had a compressor or pump. they did not. but they did offer us apple juice. we respectfully declined, and continued on our way down to the creek.
we’ve found a creek and started filtering our water. the sun is now setting and it’s getting dark. we dig through our bags for headlamps and bike lights. i took to riding down the path a little further to see if i can find any other places to set up camp for the night. no such luck. nothing i can find, with just the lights on my handle bars, looked flat enough to lay down.
luckily we did see a place decent enough to camp back the way we came. about a half a mile up. we’ll sleep there.
we’ve found a site to set up camp, less than a mile up from the creek we filled up at. tents have been pitched and set up for sleeping.
we sit around our little stoves, fueled by alcohol, waiting for our freeze dried meals to boil. taking the time to zone out and reflect on the day. we’re pretty spent, but feeling good now that we’re about to eat a hot meal. which i might add was pretty good! freeze-dried chicken, veggies, and mashed potatoes that chris prepared before the trip. we both scarfed down our food as we pseudo plan for the day tomorrow. both secretly just waiting for the morning to come to figure out what to do about the flat.
we finish eating. pack up the bear bag and sling it over a branch a good distance from camp.
i’m in my single person tent. still fully clothed with a jacket and beanie on. inside a fleece sleeping bag, inside a regular sleeping bag. i have an inflatable pad to lay on top of, as well as an inflatable pillow. i don’t remember falling asleep.
laying in the tent, been fighting the urge to pee. i’m comfy and warm. chris hasn’t woken up yet, or at least hasn’t left his tent from what i can hear. slept a lot better last night than i did the night before in the van. the fleece blanket was a big help. the plan is to make some breakfast, and drink some instant coffee, warmed by the tiny stove. then we’ll try to figure out how we can get chris’s tire pumped up. i’m thinking that maybe the tube for my bike might work. if not, we may post up by the creek and fill up waters, and wait for somebody to pass for a bit. maybe somebody will have a compressor or pump? i’ll keep ya posted.
packed up all my stuff back onto my bike and now heating up some water for some instant coffee, and some oatmeal with freeze-dried fruit. chris is inspecting his bike and it’s not looking promising. the pump is officially busted. we believe the tubes we have will work, now we just need to find a way to but air in it. as i have breakfast, chris packs up his things and eats a little bit. granola.
filling up waters again at the creek. we decided to hoof it down the trail, with hopes to maybe run into somebody. worst comes to worst. i’ll bike ahead and get the van, or we’ll enjoy the beautiful day and hike the entire rest of the trip. we’re about 20 miles out.
about two miles into our hike we waved down two motorcyclists. fortunate for us, they stopped and were willing to help. two older gentleman, probably in the 50s, judging by the first thing one of them said when he stepped off his bike. “my son is a senior a west virgnia university.” chris and i looked at each other and shrugged. we asked if they had an air compressor, and they did! filling up now and it seems to be working. making small talk with the 2 guys about their trip so far and how much further they’re going. they were friendly enough. the idea of being able to ride again is getting me excited. i would rather ride than walk any day.
we have air! hopefully it holds till we get back to the van. motor boys said the path is pretty smooth where they came from. luckily we’re going that direction. we ride on, but we’ll be a little more careful. the tire wasn’t filled all the way. due to the urgency from the motor boys to continue their day. we had enough to keep moving. maybe we’ll run into somebody else.
rode up to a truck with 2 dogs. asked if they had a pump (the people, not the dogs). they were nice enough to turn around and lead us back to their camp, just up half a mile. looks like they’ve been posted up for a couple days, if not longer. camper, clothes drying on a line, right next to the creek, and portable solar panels to the side. this couple must’ve been in the mid 30s. i hung back by the dogs while chris used their pump.
the tire is now full and ready for action! it’s cruise time.
forced to stop due to the poop shovel falling off the bike again.
we’re cruising now and feeling high in spirits!
we make it to pavement and it’s all down hill. let the downhill bombing commence. we traded the lead, each one destined to beat the other to the bottom. this segment of the ride had been something i believe we both needed. wind in our hair, bugs in our teeth.
we made it it to the vans! kinda snuck up on us. we lost ourselves in conversation keeping a good pace. we joked about how today could’ve been a lot longer. all of the possible outcomes if we didn’t run into helpful folks. we could’ve still been hiking our bikes with a flat. happy we were able to enjoy the day and ride most of it. making for a fun adventure.
vans are all packed up. vans are running. about to head off back to richmond. chris might go fishing before headed back up to ny. i’ve got about a 2 hour drive ahead of me. we say our goodbyes.
no service right now. hopefully i can get out of here without getting lost.
3:08pm [next day]
i’m sitting back at the table in my apartment, typing up the the past couple days. trying to recount everything. i would say that my first over night bike packing trip was a success! i was able to experience a lot of the trials that come with it. a flat tire, looking for water, hiking the bikes up steep rocky hills, and sleeping in the cold. to be completely honest. i loved every second of it! maybe i’d call it survival, but that sounds extreme. it’s a very “in the moment” experience. taking what the trail throws at you and adjusting to reach the end goal. in our case, to make it back to the lot where we started.
big thanks to chris for taking on the trip with me.
already planning the next trip.