This ride was only from Abingdon to Damascus. At the end of this entry I’ll say something about past rides from White Top Mountain to Damascus.
The scenery from Abingdon was just as pretty as I remember it from past rides on this section of the Virginia Creeper. The trail is composed of hard crushed limestone and dirt, it is well packed, and it is wide enough for two people to ride and talk. All this makes for a pleasant ride, plus the weather was exceptional—maybe in the 70s and no rain. We rode along the Holston River most of the time but also went through some farm lands, where we had to open and close some gates, which means private land and the owners are good about letting the trail go through their land. We crossed several wooden trestles either over the river or over wet or low parts of the land. It was really pretty. That area had had quite a bit of rain, so several places were a bit muddy, and my legs became covered with splashed up dirt. Oh well that’s part of the trip.
Surprisingly, I had a flat tire ½ mile northwest of Alvarado. Unfortunately, it was a back tire, which meant we had to deal with gears also. I was proud of us—Martha and I stayed calm, turned the bike over, released the brakes, removed the axis holding the rim, got the chain off the chain holders, and then removed the tire from the bike. Once off, we used my tools in my tool kit to remove the nearly flat tube and the old Teflon liner that looked like it was pretty well worn out. We got out the spare tube that I had brought along for just such an emergency. Martha said she thought we should remove the whole tire from the rim before we tried to put the replacement tube back into the tire. So we did that, and that process seemed easier than what I’ve done before, trying to put the tube into the tire while it’s still on the rim. Once in, Martha used her hand pump (glad she had it because I don’t know if I know how to use mine properly) to pump it up a little, and then we put the tire back inside the rim.
That was a bit of a challenge, but between the two of us, we were able to do it. So with the tube in the tire and the tire back into the rim, we pumped the tube up more, and were pleased that it was filling up just like it should. Then when it seemed solid enough, we got the tire back into place on the axis, tightened the bolts holding it in place, and then got the chain back on, and turned it back over to rest on the tires. After we finished pumping it up to max, we put the brake back together and got on our way. We felt pretty good about the whole process. The biggest anxieties came from batting off the flies that kept getting on our legs as we tried to think and act, and then trying to get hold of Ed to let him know that even though we had texted him to meet us in Alvarado that now we got the tire fixed and he could just meet us in Damascus. (His lack of cell phone service was indeed an obstacle.) We had thought we should just exchange my bike with the flat tire for Ron’s bike. But we were able to fix it ourselves. The other problem with the flat is that during the entire event we didn’t even think about taking a picture, as it would have been a great photo of the only flat tire we have ever actually fixed on the 30 plus trails we have ridden.
We eventually met Ed on the trail in Damascus near the restaurant, had a great lunch with Ed and Ron, and then we drove to Fries, Virginia, where we rented a canoe and had a nice hour float down the New River. After the canoe trip, starting at the New River Outfitters, we picked up the New River State Park Trail and rode 3 ½ miles to the junction where it meets the trail coming in from Galax, which we did on the next day. We then rode the 3 ½ miles back to the New River Outfitters where Ed and Ron were waiting for us. Then we drove to Galax to the cabins and then out to eat and then to bed.
As said earlier in the entry, the Whitetop Mountain to Damascus ride was done years earlier, in fact many times years earlier. We’ve done it with our sons more than once, with our friends (Ollie in particular enjoyed it), and with Martha and Ed. It is a beautiful ride in the mountains, crossing many old train trestles over high places, creeks, and river, and is shaded most of the time. The other great thing about it is the elevation decline, so that we are riding downhill most of the way. I hope someday my daughters-in-law can make this bike ride, as it is a very pleasant experience. The trail goes through some very small communities, again where land owners are allowing us to cross their pasture land, and follows streams several times. The only problem with this part of the trail is that either someone doesn’t get to ride it because he is the driver getting our bikes to the top, or we pay for a shuttle ride. Someday we might get ambitious to ride from Damascus to Whitetop, but right now it is a memory of only downhill riding.