When John suggested we ride the Virginia Creeper, he said I’d love this trail since it was a 17 mile ride, all downhill. I thought he must think I’m not very bright since I’m sure that any trail that’s all downhill must be ALL UPHILL on the way back. When I mentioned my skepticism that a ride could be 100% downhill, he explained that for $11 a shuttle takes cyclists to the trailhead so yes, it was indeed possible to ride 17 miles…all downhill.
We met at Sundog Outfitters in Damascus, Virginia and loaded our bikes on the trailer behind the brightly painted van and then rode to the trailhead at Mount Rogers Recreation Area with six other cyclists ready for the downhill adventure.
For the first time ever, I shifted my bike into its highest gear and pedaled occasionally, but mostly rode the brake all the way back to Damascus on a beautiful, cool, early fall morning.
We stopped at the old train station which has been converted into a museum.
Walked on a portion of the Appalachian Trail.
And then had to check out The Creeper Trail Cafe since the most common question asked of cyclists after riding the trail is, “Did you eat a piece of cake?” According to locals, the cafe serves the World’s Best Chocolate Cake so yes, we ate cake…good cake, but not the best chocolate cake I’ve ever eaten.
I didn’t think I’d ever be called a Creeper, but having ridden the Virginia Creeper, I guess it’s a term that describes me.
Numerous benches and seating areas along a bike trail can only mean one thing: I’ll need to stop to rest along the way!
The wide, smooth Gainesville-Hawthorne State Park Trail connecting Boulware Springs Park in Gainesville to Lochloosa required too many shifts to first or second gear so I could navigate the hills on the path. I know, it’s Florida. The hills can’t be that tough. Well, they provided more than enough challenge for me.
Since we arrived in Gainesville at 6:00, we didn’t attempt the complete 16.5 mile trail, but instead started at La Chua and then rode east through a portion of Payne’s Prairie Preserve stopping at several of the overlooks. Our ten mile round trip ride was sufficient.
We saw deer, armadillo, and rabbits, a bonus of riding near sunset. A quick detour down the LaChua Trail would have surely resulted in the appearance of alligator and maybe even bison.
Next time we’ll have to start in Hawthorne to insure we ride the remainder of the trail. Hoping for fewer shifts to those low gears.
I’ve spent many July mornings sitting in front of the television listening to Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen describe the events of the day’s stage of the Tour de France. This July I’ve ridden my bike more than I’ve watched others ride so last Thursday when Christophe Riblon took stage 18 in an epic climb on Alpe d’Huez I was riding another leg of the Tour de Withlacoochee in Citrus and Hernando counties.
While there are similarities in the two rides…people riding bikes…there are also many differences.
Our ride did not include a rider in the maillot jaune (yellow jersey), but I wore a blue Chihuly shirt.
No high tech machines costing thousands of dollars, just a $20 garage sale cruiser.
We rode past a general store instead of castles, but like the Tour de France, we encountered beautiful surroundings and communities with names I was unable to pronounce.
There were no people lining the route cheering us on, but armadillos, turkeys, gopher tortoises, and a fawn quietly watched us ride.
No one handed us a bag to sling across our bodies to provide nourishment as we passed a feeding station, but we sat in an air conditioned restaurant overlooking the river and dined on hamburgers, Philly cheese steak, and fries.
I may have missed the live broadcast of stage 18, but no problem…I recorded it and watched Christophe Riblon climb on the podium on my schedule…after riding stage 2 from Nobleton to Floral City on the Tour de Withlacoochee.