This is big, people. BIG.
20 days without an update and so much has happened.
We’ve been saved, lost, saved again, hungry, cold, alive, laughing til we cry, crying til we laugh, and then saved once again.
Saturday, October 19th, we packed up and left Amber’s house in Charlottesville.
We needed new mandolin strings, and to mail some things, so we decided, for the first time on our trip, to separate and meet up at the music store that neither of us had ever been to. We’re sharing Addison’s phone now, so he was the only one with a phone.
Google maps gives you directions from the perspective of a cold, heartless computer, showing no compassion for your human-ness. Due to this fact, it directed Addison in a strange, calculated way that caused neither of us to be able to find the music store. After I’d dropped some things off in the mail, I set out to find Addison buying mandolin strings, but after riding back and forth and realizing the directions were wrong, I had to accept that I may not find him for a while.
I rode south for a couple of miles and stopped at the University Police Station. I asked if I could use a phone because I’d lost my fiance. They begrudgingly let me use their cellphone, and though I called Addison several times, he didn’t answer. I thanked them and went to sit outside and hope he’d find me if I stayed put.
Being far away from home, and on an adventure that offers no material security or assurance, I’ve begun to associate Addison with home and security. No matter what happens, I always have his big lug-ness to rely on. Sitting out there by myself, I was reminded of being a little girl in India, and how I would cry hysterically when my parents would leave me and my siblings alone at the house. It scared me so much because I didn’t feel like I had a home or anything reliable in my life, and if they never came back, I didn’t know what we’d do.
After about 10 minutes, I went back into the police station and started blubbering. I don’t know how they understood what I was saying, but they were able to piece together that I was supposed to meet Addison at a music store that neither of us could find. They called around to see if other officer’s could find him. Gloriously, only 10 more minutes later, Addison called the police station and said he was on his way.
We sat by the road together while he explained what had happened, and I snotted all over him. He’d ridden his bike to the next town, and found a different music store, simply because he didn’t have a better idea or know how far away the original was supposed to be. He’d purchased the mandolin strings, and then biked the 5 miles back to the original area we’d separated in, heard my message and called me back.
By this time, it was after 2 pm, and we still had another 25 miles to get to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Unbeknownst to us, it was 20 miles up a huge mountain range, and we’d never have made it in one day.
A man pulled up in a mini-van, and asked if we needed anything. Throughout this trip, we’ve been asked that golden question, “Do you guys need anything?” The fully honest response would be, “Yes. I’d like a ride, a prepaid hotel room, pastries, hot chocolate, a massage, a haircut and my mohawk re-dyed purple or red. Oh, and $100 dollars cash would be nice too. 10s and 20s please, no big bills.”
However, we NEVER say that. We usually hem and haw and go over a brief checklist of the things we’re trying to accomplish that day. The man who’d pulled over was named Tom, and we told Tom that I was concerned my brakes were funky, and that we were trying to bike to the Blue Ridge Parkway that afternoon and camp somewhere. He came out, looked at my brakes, adjusted the problem, and then announced that we’d never make it to the Blue Ridge today and we should stay at his house. I was mortified at the concept, because we hadn’t biked ANYWHERE that day, but when he said he lived on the way to the Blue Ridge, I conceded. I insisted we could just ride our bikes to his house, and no, he did not need to load all of our stuff into his van and strap the carrier to his roof. While I was insisting all of this, he and Addison were loading all of our stuff into his van and strapping the carrier to his roof.
We piled in with Zoso, and chatted amiably on the way to his home. His wife called and he very clearly stated that all of her concerns would be nullified upon meeting us. By the time we pulled up his steep, gravel driveway, I was immensely grateful for the ride. It would have taken us the rest of the day to get to his house, and he knew it.
Tom is a cyclist, a science teacher, and our savior. His wife, Nina, is a neurologist, and they have two kids and a small dachsund named Rambo. Tom showed us around, said we could camp or sleep on the carpeted basement floor, and then he and Nina left to go to a dinner party. We sat around while our dinner cooked, amazed at our continued good fortune.
In the morning, while Tom and Nina made us coffee and pancakes, he informed us he would drive us to the Blue Ridge Parkway, AND he’d take us up the first ten miles of uphill. We were thrilled at the news.
After packing up, taking pictures and saying good-bye to Nina, we headed out.
The Blue Ridge Parkway is a National Parkway and All-American Road in the United States, noted for its scenic beauty. It runs for 469 miles through twenty-nine Virginia and North Carolina counties, mostly along the Blue Ridge, a major mountain chain that is part of the Appalachian Mountains.
We would be riding on this parkway all the way to Asheville, NC some 300+ miles from Charlottesville.
As Tom drove us up to the mountain range, we were astounded at the amazing beauty of the surrounding landscapes. Once we got to the top of the ridge, we viewed the Shenandoah Valley down below to the West, and our minds exploded.
Tom helped us unload at an overlook area, about ten miles south on the parkway. We were in National Forest area, so camping would be easy for the next few days. There was going to be a large section of parkway that was privately owned land or state parks, where camping anywhere we pleased would, essentially, be “illegal.”
He took some pictures of us with the Shenandoah Valley behind…
…and sent us on our way with protein bars and shakes, and hand warmers to boot.
We rode about 20 miles that evening, and camped in the National Forest near a hiking trail. It was cold, so a fire was essential. I had a conversation with my rage, because Zoso scarfed down one of our plates of bean dinner that I had been fantasizing about for the full 20 miles of riding, and we didn’t have anymore beans to replace it with. One becomes very covetous of something like beans when one is exerting alot of exercise everyday and sleeping outdoors.
The next day, Monday the 21st, we covered about 30 miles.
We were preparing to coast the last 10 miles downhill to a river where we planned to camp, when Addison reported that his wheel felt ‘wobbly.’
Addison has had numerous spoke repairs, and replaced TWO of his wheels already on this trip, one in PA and one in DC. When he asked me to ride alongside him and watch his wheel, I wanted to scream. His wheel simply was not ALLOWED to be broken in ANY way. I REFUSED to be a part of this continuing nonsense.
I did, however, examine his wheel while he pedaled, and he looked like he had a chappati (an Indian bread that is much like a tortilla made with wheat and flour) for a back wheel. It was wobbling and flopping about hopelessly.
We pulled over at an epic overlook with stunning mountain views, and stared in horror at his wheel. He said he’d gone off the road for a second accidentally, and after he’d pulled back onto the blacktop, his wheel felt funny.
I thought to call Tom, back in Charlottesville, because he had said several times to call if we needed anything. Because of his experience with cycling, we thought he’d have an idea as to whether or not it was even possible to bend our wheel back into it’s former self again.
Addison took all the gear off his bike and pulled the wheel off, and after a couple of feeble attempts at ‘straightening’ it, he called Tom up. Within 5 minutes of our telling Tom what had happened, he announced he was picking us up because it sounded like a bike shop situation.
I knew Tom worked all day teaching classes, and didn’t have a whole lot of time to himself in the evenings, so I felt terrible thinking of him driving up the Blue Ridge to get us, and then having to bring us back again the next day.
…and cooked mac’n’cheese while singing with the mandolin.
In a couple of hours, Tom arrived, and Zoso immediately leapt into his van, thrilled to see it again. We loaded everything up, and he drove us the 70 miles back to his house.
We ended up staying with them for two and a half days, while a bike shop there ordered Addison a reinforced wheel. I still wonder why–when we first went into a bike shop in Brattleboro–the bike shop mechanics there wouldn’t have thought to mention that maybe, just maybe, a man who weighs nearly 230 pounds and is hauling 50-100 pounds in addition, should have a reinforced wheel, built to carry WEIGHT. Have the people at these bike shops NEVER been on a long distance bike tour? Why are they working at bike shop? To work on racing and town bikes I guess..
The bike shop people in PA and DC didn’t think to tell us that either, so we can’t just blame Brattleboro. Although apparently one of the PA bike mechanics did tell Addison it might be good to consider a heavier duty wheel, but it would cost like $400, which seemed like too much money for a wheel to us at the time.
We had a wonderful time with Tom and Nina, eating dinner together, watching youtube videos and laughing, sharing stories and favorite bands. We feel indebted to them always.
Here’s a video of us performing Wasted Words:
On Thursday evening, the 24th of October, Tom drove us back to the Parkway, and being the kind the soul that he is, he opted to drive us 35 miles south of the area he’d saved us from.
We found a camp spot behind a pile of huge, jagged boulders. It was very blustery and cold that evening, and we sat by our fire in the wind, playing songs and thinking about how lucky we were Tom decided to help us in the first place.
That night we practiced a Tom Waits song that we still play today, one that felt like the soundtrack for this particular part of our journey. It’s called ‘Hold On’, and the words go like this:
“They hung a sign up in our town:
‘If you live it up, you won’t live it down.
So she left Monte Rio son,
Just like a bullet leaves a gun.
With her charcoal eyes and her Monroe hips
She went and took that California trip
The moon was gold her hair like wind
She said, ‘Don’t look back, just come on Jim.
You’ve got to hold on, hold on…
You’ve gotta hold on
Take my hand, I’m standing right here you’ve got to hold on.’
He gave her a dimestore watch
And a ring made from a spoon
Everyone’s looking for someone to blame
If you share my bed, you share my name
Well go ahead and call the cops
You don’t meet nice girls in coffeeshops.
She said, ‘Baby I still love you.
Sometimes there’s nothing left to do.
You’ve got to hold on, hold on
You’ve gotta hold on, take my hand
I’m standing right here you’ve got to hold on.’
Down by a riverside motel
It’s ten below and falling
By a 99 cent store
She closed her eyes and started swaying
But it’s so hard to dance that way
When it’s cold and there’s no music
Your old hometown’s so far away
But inside your head there’s a record that’s playing
A song called…
Hold on, hold on
Baby gotta hold on, take my hand
I’m standing right here, you’ve got to hold on.”