Ok, so I'm sitting on a bike with zip ties holding down 2 out of 4 connection points on the rack, I'm about as far from my car/home base as I can be, and it's gonna be dark-ish soon. I need to evaluate options. Big picture, does this prevent me from finishing the loop? well, that's not really immediately important. First, can I get down off this mtn with my shit intact? Only one way to answer that and daylight's burning, so best get moving. Baby steps at first, then I do manage to find some smiles and whoops along the way and make the most of it with regular dropout directed glances and an alert ear. Pop out at the trailhead about 7ish, thankful for the angelic halfway water that helped me through and now searching directly for something to filter into the bottles and bag. The creek that's on the map, across the road, has dismal low flow, hmmm. Checked inventory, tried to recollect the distance to more substantial flow, walked in a circle and then went down hill to the Potomac.
Bling! Spy a stellar white pvc pipe sticking out of the hillside right below a little stone hut. DING DING DING!!!! SPRING! Saw some fellas fishing, inquired about it, they knew nothing, definitely weren't locals, DC diplomats I'm guessing...then a big ole' pick em truck rolled by. It had a 'friendly local' vibe to it, so I waved 'em down as they hit the bridge..."Hey, do ya'll know if that spring is fit to drink?"
"ah yeah!....that's gooood water, yep, help yerself to it."
Awesome. now for the options. I have reserve calories on board for at least 3-4hrs. I have fresh stock of water. I do have to do something about the lack of chammy lube if I'm gonna do more pedaling and find some music. Also need to think some more, so roll back up to trailhead for a bit of quiet. OK. Rack is gimpy, it may or may not survive the SMT assault. It did make it down the lower Gnarl though, so it should survive the next road portion to Brandywine. I think it's about 30ish to Brandywine from here. At Brandywine I can make the call. I can maybe ditch the rack & gear and solo assault the SMT, then swing back up w/ the car and pick up the gear stash afterwards, or bail on the route and spin road to the car if the zip ties give it up between here and there. Either way, it looks like I need to push to Brandywine, tonight. Fuck.
Why the need to push on? Because if I bail now, I bail on the ride, period. If I bivy now, along the Smokehole, I'm too far out to get it all done in a day. Bivying now, means needing to bivy up on the SMT somewhere, which was the original plan, but right now, I don't know if this rack and my gear will make it past Brandywine, so by getting there, I leave the door open to finish the route. Right now I just don't know enough about the repair in order to say, yeah, I can reach 250 as planned if I sleep here...So, I need to get to Brandywine, and I don't have much choice, cuz there aren't many off the path bivy options once I hit 220. So, mental up, plug in some Radiohead and venture into the dark Smokehole night. The 30ish in my mind is at least 3hrs pedaling based on observed averages so far, that's 11pm without stopping, if my 30 is accurate. And I'm gonna need to stop, Franklin is probably the last chance to refuel for the SMT.
So, plan is set, 8pm, begin to roll south. Rollers between the trailhead and Smokehole proper were super slum in a unique fashion. The little helmet light lacks confidence for really bringing the speed into those switchback hollows, so much wasted mo. But, wow, no traffic, at all, use it all for a looooong spell of darkness. Tehn near Eagle Rock, sitting along the shoulder eating the last of my Combos....car slows down.
"Ya need anything?"
oh, wait, how far to Franklin?
"10.2 mile. Just up over Spencer Heell there, then 220."
10.2 from here? or from where I hit 220?
"probably safer on the road now anyways..."
yeah, 9:30-10ish on a Sunday in bumfuck WV is pretty much garunteed low traffic volume, got that going for me. Finish my snack, cue up another fresh batch of tunes and get back on it. Up over SpencerHill and on down to 220. See a couple cars, mostly opposing direction, the Upper Tract soda machines were mesmerizing UFO like objects glowing up the road in space, I was going to an interesting place. That was 50cent worth of caffeinated sugar love that I won't soon forget. Gathered my nerve, made friends with a moth, then rolled back out into the darkness. I hit Franklin at 11:30ish. Turns out it's 30miles to Franklin, not 30 to Brandywine. How fucking far is Brandywine? Hope there's a Gazateer I can fondle in this gas station. The 'kitchen' is closed so it's prewrapped sandwiches from the mini fridge, bland turkey wrap looks filling, cue that up with a Frap and try to decipher the Gazateer I pulled from the rack. Where? here? there? how far? topo..hmmmm. doesn't look too bad....ask the locals.
"well, yer ina pretty hard spot right now, motels close early, bears......'bout 2:30 they start commutin' over the mtn to Harrisonburg, might wanna be off the road by then..."
that's the plan. how far to Brandywine?
"ohhh, 'bout 10-15minutes....
er! but that's by car."
well, how fast do you drive?
"oh, the speed limit. 50-55"
"oh, not really, well, bit of an incline, but just up to the State Troopers.
nothin' like that durn Shenandoah Mtn though."
"safe travels, watch fer bears."
oh yeah, thanks.
Spend 9 of my last 10 in cash on ride food, 3 packs of PopTarts, king size PayDay, breakfast pastry thing, fig newtons.
The 'incline' she spoke of was a steady 8mph tempo climb, for 8miles. A long hour of tempo pedaling thru the darkness, the well goes deep, deeper than I thought. Just put your mind to it. Fight the urge to aero tuck down the blurry descent and hit downtown Brandywine proper in the post 1am Sunday night, passing up on the Ruritan picnic tables, pushing on. Hit the M&J Mart, check the hours, 5am opening, will keep that in mind, depends how far it is to camp. Spend my last dollar and get a can of coke from another neon lit machine. This one's for tomorrow. Roll from town and start heading up the hill. Look longingly for the Rec Area out along this mind numbingly straight piece of road, apparently, the well goes even deeper, and it gets really quiet down there. End up almost riding past the entrance in a daze, whut, is that it? blink blink, looks differnet, wonder why...pull in, grab a picnic table campsite in the woodsy fog of 1:45am, in the bag by 2. Bike is still intact, 97ish miles covered on the day, 18hrs out in it. Will make decisions in the morning, at least now, I have options..