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  • Liam Condon

Day 5: Blacksburg, VA -> Rural Retreat VA (70 miles)

*Finally* connected with the Trans-America Trail today.

8:33 am - I slept in late, latest of the trip so far, but after a long day I cut myself some slack. When I walked upstairs Kim and her kids were getting ready to leave for North Carolina, so I quickly got dressed and packed my things.

After a couple of buttery bagels and a banana, I decided to head out towards Wytheville and connect to the TransAmerica Trail (finally) on the way. Kim, fam and I exchanged warm a warm goodbye and good luck, and I pedaled off just as the rain started falling. Seriously I timed it perfectly. Whatever - I was pretty used to it at this point.

This morning featured more rain and even more hills, but the sun poked through after an hour or so and my attention shifted to the new saddle I’d just installed. It was uncomfortable. Just having started to get used to the last one, it was a tough blow to have to start breaking in another one on day 5. I stopped after 15 miles or so to adjust it, and again after another 15. Finally I got it feeling decent.

Soon thereafter, in Dublin, VA, I finally connected with the TransAmerica trail. Yes! After what was supposed to be two days but became four and a half, I was finally pedaling the historic Bike Route ‘76. It quickly became obvious why it was so popular among touring cyclists – the roads were empty, winding, and surrounded by breathtaking views.

When I stopped for lunch it was nearly 2pm, and the afternoon’s weather, according to my phone, didn’t look promising. Storms were scheduled to trickle in at 4pm, and continue off and on through the night. I wolfed down a quick burrito and got back on the bike to get to Wytheville before weather became an issue.

When I did get to Wytheville, to my surprise the skies were still sunny and clear. It was 4pm when I pulled up to a gelato shop, and I was stoked for an frosty treat. I sat out on the terrace with my mango Italian ice, and enjoyed some live Beatles covers that played somewhere in the distance. I thought about seeking out their source, but decided with the weather still on my side to get in a few more miles before calling it.

Still getting used to riding without cloudy, rainy skies!

At 5:30, I arrived in Rural Retreat, the smallest town you ever did see. Starving, I found a diner and ordered a BLT with two sides of fries and a garden salad. I brought up the weather app again and it now showed storms beginning at 7pm.

Worried because I wasn’t sure where I’d sleep, I ate quickly and asked the cashier while paying if they knew anywhere I might be able to camp. She shared my inquiry with the rest of the staff, and one suggested I try the fire station around the corner.

In addition to beautiful cycling, what makes the well-traveled TransAmerica bike route so great is that it’s just that – well-traveled. The kind folks at County Diner were not unfamiliar with unaccompanied two-wheeling vagabonds seeking refuge. They knew exactly where to send me, and I was grateful.

I found a comfy patch of grass just behind the station and set up shop. By 8pm, the skies were still clear. I was wide awake for whatever reason, so I decided to take a quick ride to the Dollar General up the street for some snacks and a six-pack. It was Saturday night, after all.

I spent the rest of the evening enjoying some cold beer, calm skies, distant train whistles, and the high that comes with the independence of setting up camp straight from your bike bag. This is what I’d been after when I decided to take this trip, and so far, it’s not disappointed.

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