Day 2: Orlean, VA -> Stanardsville, VA (58 miles)
Updated: Jul 8, 2018
9am – thunderstorms. 10am – thunderstorms. 12pm – thunderstorms. 3pm – thunderstorms.
Wednesday, May 30th, my 25th birthday (I'd totally forgotten about until a friend texted me), and my hourly weather app showed an endless string of lightning-bolt icons. I scrolled through over coffee and a plate of scrambled eggs with toast ($3.00 – what a treat!) in Orlean Market, where I had slept in my tent outside the night before. It was 8:30am, and I was trying to decide whether I should make a break for Culpepper, the next town on my route about 25 miles down, or wait to see how hard the rain would come down and if it was smart to even step outside and on the bike.
Waiting for my phone to charge, I doubled up on coffee and responded to some birthday texts. “25 years!”, a few of them read. That may sound old to some of you and young to others, but to me it felt no different than 24. What did feel different was everything else. Waking up in a tent on some stranger’s yard, packing everything I have onto a bike, throwing on the same sweaty clothes I wore yesterday with no friends or family anywhere nearby – it was an entirely new way of life. Total inexperience. But this is what I wanted, right?
I decided to make a break for it and the weather gods punished me straight away. It poured the whole ride to Culpepper, but thankfully the main road I took had a big enough shoulder I didn’t have to worry too much about how visible I was to traffic. I also discovered my rain jacket was about as useful as saran-wrap. Nice!
I pulled up to Baby Jim’s Snack Bar in Culpepper and under their patio awning around 11am for some brief respite from the rain that thankfully, was letting up. Also under the awning were Donny, Mark, and Rob, some locals enjoying some of Jim’s snacks who upon seeing me roll up, were curious what had brought me there and where I was headed. We chatted for a bit as I filled them in and gave them some info on how they could follow me if they were interested. I then crossed over to McDonalds and spent a half hour in the bathroom using the hand-drier on my shirt, shoes, and “waterproof” socks.
While refueling on a Big Mac and a large fry, I again scrolled through my weather app with a heavy heart as things looked even worse than before. Storms looked to be picking up where I was headed in the next few hours and continuing through the night. Camping was likely not an option.
I decided to open up the WarmShowers app for the first time. For those unfamiliar, WarmShowers.org is a community of cycling tourists to host and stay with one another, pay-it-forward style. I scrolled through to see if there was anyone who could host me on such short notice.
I sent out five or six messages and thankfully, a girl by the name of Madeleine enthusiastically offered to host. She lived just north of Stanardsville, about 35 miles west from Culpepper. It veered a good ways from my route, but I didn’t want to chance being stranded, so I set off.
I got to their home around 4:15, after a grueling twenty minute walk up the last mile through muddy gravel on a 10% grade. Maddie wasn’t yet home, but her lovely parents Martha and Whit welcomed me in and gave me water and chocolate chip cookies straight from the oven. Heaven! The deluge began moments later.
This was my first experience with a WarmShowers host, and it turned out to be their first time hosting a traveling cyclist. We had a great night! Martha and Whit grilled some steak, we drank some wine, and Maddie and her partner Grant filled me in on some of the more memorable experiences of their own cross country bike trip. They even put some candles in some cakes they were planning on tasting and sang me happy birthday. Much too kind of a family.
After dinner, I followed Grant down to the stables where he walked me through a nightly feeding of all the animals they raised on the farm. As he fed the goats, he talked of their plans to help Maddie's parents 'down-size' their AirBnB/farm into something much more easily managed to assist their transition into retirement.
By the time I went to bed the rain was still pouring down, but I didn’t really notice it. I was so dazed from all the delicious food, beer, wine and cake, along with the 63 miles I tallied, and my eyes closed as soon as my head hit the pillow.