Vermont to DC via Blue Ridge Parkway


Fall 2011


Denis Kertz, ©2011


Day 30: Tue, Oct 04, 2011 - Asheville, NC to Lenoir, NC [88.4, 7:40:43, 11.5 mph, 3,723']

Mark offered to lead me out of Asheville and I accepted if he would let me buy breakfast.  We left the house close to 8:00 and rode ¾ of a mile to the Rise and Shine Cafe where not many people were rising since we were the only customers.  We both had pancakes but I had a little more – a tall stack of wheat pancakes with bananas and nuts which were good.


Then Mark led the way out of the city pointing out some interesting facts along the way.  Despite the rush hour traffic riding was pretty good.  After 13 miles Mark left me on Arcadia Road with just a short ride to pick up US70 where he could turn around and take another route home.  In maybe a mile I turned right on 4-lane US70 that had no shoulder but was fine because the traffic really didn't need more than a 2 lane road since I40, which paralleled 70, took most of the traffic.  Almost immediately I was reminded that I was in the South – I saw a Waffle House.  Unfortunately, it was too soon for a second breakfast so I rode on but I made a mental note to eat breakfast at a Waffle House wherever I could.


Riding was good through Black Mountain, which looked like it had some nice stores in its downtown.  I missed a turn and was soon about to ride on to the Interstate when I realized I missed a turn.  I only had to backtrack maybe a half mile when I cut across the lanes and was on Old US 70.  Shortly after that I reached a point where Mark had warned me that 70 had dead ended 20 years ago but now the old, closed 4-mile section had been converted to a paved trail and I was able to get around the gate barring the entrance with my loaded bike and ride downhill the rest of the way on the trail.  It was a very winding trail and probably why this section had been closed.


A short while later I rode into Old Fort and then the riding changed.  First, the traffic increased on a road with no shoulder and the terrain became rolling.  This section between Old Fort and Marion was not particularly pleasant because of the traffic and no shoulder.  Just outside Marion I stopped for my second breakfast close to 1pm, not having seen a Waffle House since the one when I got on 70.


Riding continued less than great on my way to Morganton where I did have the luxury of stopping at a couple of food marts for a cold drink, something that was a rarity on the Parkway.  I stopped again in Morganton at 4:00 for a cold drink and then picked up US64/NC18 to Lenoir, another 15 miles.  Traffic was pretty heavy in the rush hour but the road had a reasonable shoulder and little truck traffic so the main issue was just traffic noise.  There were some long rollers in this stretch.


As I rode through town I looked for motels since I had previously found there was no camping nearby.  I found a Day's Inn that I thought might be my best bet but a Red Carpet Inn ($52) had the same deal and then a better one by about $7 when they gave me an AARP discount.  I walked to a steak house that had a buffet and loaded up on calories for $10.


Then the fun began.  It was almost dark when I got back to my room.  Usually, turning on lights in a room is pretty straight forward – flick a single switch –  but not this one.  There was a switch right by the door that I assumed was the main light switch but there was a lamp on the left and one on the right walking into the room that wouldn't light up.  There was also a bank of 3 switches in the far corner by the bed that seemed to be an odd arrangement.  After trying several combinations of switches without success I asked the front desk if there was some secret I was missing.  The attendant worked on getting the maintenance guy to my room while I did some more investigation.  First I discovered the lamp on the right was not plugged in and it worked when I plugged it in.


I figured that at least gave me adequate lighting so I plugged in my PC adapter where the other lamp that didn't work was plugged in and my adapter's power on light didn't come on.  So I realized the outlet wasn't working.  The other outlet option was using the bathroom outlet but the counter outside the bathroom had no chair so I borrowed a chair from the front desk.  As I was returning with the chair I ran into the maintenance guy who wondered what I was doing with the chair.  After explaining the outlet problem he explained there was the main switch by the door but the bank of 3 switches also had to be set right.  So he flipped one of the secondary switches and I found I could get the final lamp to light jiggling the light.


Assuming everything was finally set I powered on my PC and discovered I had essentially no WiFi signal.  At that point I was about to blow a gasket but the front desk attendant restarted the WiFi transmitter and I got enough signal to be able to connect.  But I was not a happy customer since I had wasted about an hour fiddling with lights and WiFi when I could have been doing useful work.


Day 31: Wed, Oct 05, 2011 - Lenoir, NC to Yadkinville, NC [59.7, 5:33:22, 10.7 mph, 2,388']

The motel had a continental breakfast so I had cereal, some mini-waffles, and a bagel for breakfast.  I dawdled around and didn't leave until 8:30.


NC18 was the main road north to Wilkesboro so there was a fair amount of traffic on the road and a minimal shoulder but traffic was very accommodating as I rode through the country side.  I had hoped I could get breakfast in Wilkesboro but it was 28 miles and I didn't arrive until after 11am.  I stopped at a food mart just south of town for a bite to eat although they didn't have much selection.


By the time I got on the road again it was close to noon.  I picked up 421 east which was a 4-lane expressway.  It would have been okay except it had rumble strips in the shoulder.  Sometimes I could ride to the right of the rumble strips and sometime I rode along the white line.  Neither was appealing even though the traffic was accommodating when I was riding the white line.


Fortunately, when studying the route last night I noticed that I could pick up Old US 421 not too far out of Wilkesboro.  After 10 miles, I exited the expressway and took the Wilkes-Yadkin Road east.  This immediately made cycling fun again.  There was almost no traffic and the pavement was good.  There was even a food mart where I stopped for a break.  The road passed through some farms and some wooded areas.  In places with trees the trees were close enough to the road to provide shade.


I could have switched to Old US 421 shortly but the road I was riding was so good I didn't want to change.  I rode it until it terminated at a 421 entrance/exit and then rode across the freeway and picked up Old US 421 which was not quite as nice due to more traffic but still far more preferable than the expressway.


When I reached Yadkinville I had a decision to make.  It was only 3:00 but it was about another 25 miles to the next place with accommodations and that was a little inside the Winston-Salem metro area.  I really wasn't feeling all that great, probably at least partly because I didn't sleep all that great but probably also because yesterday was a harder day than it seemed.  If I continued on I was probably facing about 2.5 more hours of riding and I just didn't feel like pushing myself to do that.  Furthermore, Yadkinville had a small motel right in town that was cheaper than anything I was going to find if I continued.


So I made the decision to stay and got a motel room for $35 for which I had to pay cash.  It was pretty much a dive but it had a bed and a shower and it also had one thing last night's more expensive room didn't have – a chair in the room.


I cleaned up and walked a couple blocks where I found the public library which had WiFi access.  Then I had a pretty good meal at a Mexican restaurant.


Day 32: Thu, Oct 06, 2011 - Yadkinville, NC to Reidsville, NC [72.5, 6:28:55, 11.2 mph, 2,346']

I slept well, about 10 hours, and apparently that's what I needed as I was back to normal today.  When I ate at the Mexican restaurant last night I asked about breakfast places and the guy identified two possibilities, one heading south and the other heading east on my route.  I had difficulty understanding his accent.  He seemed to say the one south was about a quarter of a mile but I couldn't see anything down that way other than a descent down a hill and back up again so I wasn't about to try that.  So I headed east and looked for a breakfast place.  I stopped at a cafe that was really a coffee shop and I smelled bacon.  So I followed my nose across the street to a place labeled as a Seafood Restaurant.  It never occurred to me that this would be a place offering breakfast but it did.  I just didn't understand why the Mexican guy didn't simply say it was essentially just across the street from his place or next to the library.  Anyway it was a good breakfast with pancakes and bacon and the elderly waitress was a delight.  She was fascinated that I was doing such a long ride.


I was on the road a little after 8.  There was some traffic initially but that went away as I got out of town.  This was good riding in the country side.  After 14 miles I passed a nice park by a river where I probably could have camped yesterday if I had continued on.  When I reached Pfafftown I turned north on Tonsou Road to skirt around the Winston-Salem area.  This turned into Bethania Road.  In Bethania, I picked up Bethanian-Rural Hall Road to Rural Hall where I stopped for my second breakfast around 11 at the junction with 52 which was a busy area.


I left on Bethania-Rural Hall Road which also became NC65.  Riding continued nice on NC65 all the way to Stokesdale and I stopped a couple times along the way for a cold drink and a bite to eat.  In Stokesdale I picked up US158 the rest of the way to Reidsville.  US158 was a lot busier traffic-wise and riding wasn't as nice although the traffic was very accommodating.  Most of US158 had no shoulder so traffic had to slow down when there was oncoming traffic.  But it was great to have good legs and it didn't hurt that the route was a little downhill overall.


When I reached Reidsville I could have continued on another 20+ miles to Yanceyville but that would have been a near century and I probably wouldn't have arrive until 6:30 or so and I didn't know what services were available.  The good thing was I felt strong enough to continue if I had wanted to.  Instead I turned north on US158 and stopped at the first motel, the Royal Inn, for a room for $42, which was the motel value of the trip.  This was a nice room with WiFi and close to eating facilities.  I walked to a Golden Corral Buffet for dinner and spent the evening familiarizing myself with tomorrow's route.


It was great to be back on the road with good cycling and good legs, which I attribute mostly to a good night's sleep.


Day 33: Fri, Oct 07, 2011 - Reidsville, NC to Oxford, NC [79.1, 7:15:18, 10.9 mph, 3,038']

There wasn't a real breakfast place around so I stopped at a Hardees for breakfast for something acceptable.  There was a lot of traffic on US158 and essentially no shoulder so it wasn't a great start for riding.  However, after 158 bent around the top of Reidsville the traffic dropped off and there was a decent shoulder and it was good riding.  With the light traffic a shoulder really wasn't necessary but it was nice, until the shoulder disappeared about 8 miles from Yanceyville.


I got in Yanceyville right at 10:30 and was hoping I might find a breakfast place so I took the business route through town but there was nothing.  Yanceyville did have a large courthouse in the middle of town and I would have thought there would be a breakfast place to accommodate the folks working there.  Instead I stopped at a food mart for my standard second breakfast.


When I left 158 joined with 62 and became a high speed road with a great shoulder.  However, 158 split off after a couple of miles and it reverted to its low traffic, good riding road.  Another 20 miles brought me to Roxboro which was a mess to get through.  I was looking for a food mart that might have a sandwich or burrito but the two I found had neither.  So I made do with some food from my own supplies.


US158 was a little rough with some patches for a while before becoming the same as before.  I continued to ride through a country side with occasional houses lining the road and some farms.  When I arrived in the Oxford area about 4:15 I was faced with the decision whether to continue another 12 miles to Henderson or stay in Oxford.  I decided to ride through Oxford where the motels were at the other end and decide then.  What I found was the King's Inn at the same price as last night's motel - $42.  I didn't figure to do any better in Henderson so I stopped for the night.


There were a bunch of fast food places on the other side of I85 that were within reasonable walking distance.  I ate at a Subway for the first time in a long time.  Then back at the motel I had to fiddle with the WiFi.  The attendant was clueless about WiFi and didn't even know the password.  Then I had to hassle with my PC to get it up on the WiFi.

Day 34: Sat, Oct 08, 2011 - Oxford, NC to Burkeville, VA [97.9, 9:02:07, 10.8 mph, 3,307']

I stopped at a McDonalds because there was no real breakfast place in the area and had their big breakfast with hot cakes.  Not a bad substitute for a real breakfast.  However, the place was crowded and it took a while to get food.  There was also a grocery store in the mall area so I grabbed a box of cereal.


It was easy to get back on route.  I took Industrial that ran into 158 Bypass.  But the Bypass led me onto the Interstate which I took until the next exit.  As luck would have it, there was a Waffle House at the exit so I had to stop for a second breakfast even though it was barely an hour later.  I had my usual double pecan waffles but service was slow.


As I worked my way out of Henderson I passed 3 motels.  In retrospect I would have been better riding the 10 extra miles yesterday.  US158 merged with US1 and I followed that until Norlina where I took Oine Road northwest to hook up with USBR1.  US158 turned out to be a reasonably good road for a major route but as soon as I got off of it cycling improved because of the very low traffic.  I stopped at a food mart at the I85 junction and got a couple pieces of pizza since they were just $1.50 per slice, much better than the usual price.


The route took me across the Kerr Dam where I stopped at a restroom since it was convenient.  A guy was just getting out of the portable and appeared to be eyeing my bike.  When I exited he was looking my bike over, intrigued because it appeared to be a single speed.  I let him think that for a bit until I pointed out that the rear hub was fat because it had 14 gears.  Turns out he had also bicycled the Blue Ridge Parkway but with less gear.  He took a photo of my bike as I left.


Just after I passed the dam I hooked up with 4 and saw my first USBR1 sign.  I would see these consistently for the rest of the day, noting when turns were necessary except for one instance.  It was great cycling on these low traffic roads through rural Virginia but there was little in the way of services.  I stopped at one food mart for a drink and then another in Victoria.  Victoria would have been the natural destination at 78 miles but it had no accommodations so I rode on to Burkeville where Google had shown a couple of motels.  Problem was I had 16 miles to go just before 5:30 to get to Burkeville so I knew I would be pushing daylight.  Fortunately, the route was easy and I made good time.


Just south of Burkeville USBR1 took the west leg of a Y and I followed it although I suspected the other leg was probably a better bet for services.  I ended up riding around town as it was getting dark and had to ask at a hospital where the motels were.  I got directions but the half mile down the road direction I got turned out to be somewhat longer.  I asked again and got better directions when I got closer to the Comfort Inn.  It was dark as I rode to the motel so I had my blinkie on and my portable head light.  The motel would have cost $110 but it was sold out for the night and I was stuck.


Given the luck I had in Buchanan with eating at a restaurant and getting a spot to throw up my tent I tried that at 3 different places with no luck.  At the last one, I decided to eat and wait for the owner to show up and had an awful chicken sandwich.  I expected a typical chicken sandwich and got a fried piece of chicken with bread slapped around it.  But since I had no way of knowing when the owner would show up and how he would respond I finally asked the waitress about a town park.  She noted there was an athletic complex just down the road so I decided to try that.


I pulled into the complex and was set to set up behind a picnic building when a police car showed up with a spot light.  The officer had seen me earlier and fortunately was agreeable to letting me camp for the night.  So I set up and crashed after taking care of this report.


A long and tiring day made difficult by no accommodations.


Day 35: Sun, Oct 09, 2011 - Burkeville, VA to Richmond, VA [75.2, 6:40:52, 11.2 mph, 2,296']

I slept fine in my camp spot but there was condensation on my tent so I had to pack it up wet.  There were several good things about not getting a motel last night. First, the Comfort Inn would have cost as much as the last 3 days combined so I saved some money.  Next, I found the little restaurant right next door to the motel that had a breakfast buffet where I ate.  It was a simple buffet without all the bells and whistles but I had bacon, eggs, potatoes, waffles, and pancakes.  That was all I needed for a decent price.


The last good thing was that I found the road to the motel was part of the USBR1 route so when I left the little restaurant all I had to do was head north and I was on track.  The big problem today was going to be getting through the Richmond area.  USBR1 pretty much paralleled US360 at a distance.  There was very little traffic and the route passed through open country side and some forested areas with the scenery switching back and forth.


The one downside to the USBR1 route is that it often passes through rural areas with few services such as food marts.  Around 11:30 I gave up on finding a food mart so I stopped at an old abandoned house to use the front doorsteps for a comfortable place to sit.


The big problem as I neared the Richmond area was going to be not missing any turn signs.  But I either missed one or the turn sign was missing.  In any event, after a while I hadn't see any USBR1 sign and the road I was on was going a little south so I was sure I was off route.  So I gave up on USBR1 at that point and used my GPS to start making my way north.  I just picked Courthouse Road and it got me going north at least in the right direction.  I stayed on it for a while until it turned east and I picked Libbie Road to go north again.  Eventually I picked another road to go east to get me too US1 when I was near the northern end of Richmond.


As soon as I reached US1 there was a motel but I road a little further north to get as much of Richmond behind me as possible.  I didn't go much further when I found a motel for $45.  I thought I could probably go a little further north but I didn't want to risk not finding any motels.  Plus this area had two advantages.  It had a Subway and a Waffle House.  I ate at the Subway and planned breakfast at the Waffle House.


It would have been nice to see what the USBR1 route was like through Richmond.  The route I stumbled on wasn't the greatest but it eventually got me about where I wanted to end up for the day.

Day 36: Mon, Oct 10, 2011 - Richmond, VA to Woodbridge, VA [103.0, 9:10:26, 11.1 mph, 3,365']

Breakfast was easy.  Just pack up and ride less than a block down the street to Waffle House where I had a double pecan waffle.  What wasn't easy was finding USBR1 again.  I searched Google trying to find a map or cue sheet that would allow me to get back on the trail but no luck.  I found one map for the Richmond area but it ended too soon on the top end.  I started riding on Mountain Road which went northwest that I thought might get me on the route but no luck.


So I ended heading back to US1 and taking that.  After 5 or so miles traffic dropped off and US1 was okay as a 4-lane route.  There wasn't enough traffic for a 4-lane road with the parallel I95 so traffic had room to move to the side to accommodate me.  US1 was a continuing series of rolling hills.


US1 was okay until it approached Fredericksburg when traffic picked up.  At one point it was really heavy but that turned out to be everybody queuing up to get on I95 to Washington.  After that traffic was mixed riding through town.


The real challenge for the day was how to get to motels after Fredericksburg.  Staying at Fredericksburg would have left a long last day to DC which I didn't want.  However, US1 eventually became unrideable near Stafford and that required a semi-circular route from Stafford to Woodbridge, which added quite a bit of distance over the straight route and I wasn't sure it was doable for the day.  Fortunately, I had an Adventure Cycling map that detailed this route or I would have been in deep do-do.


I left US1 about 3 miles before Stafford.  There were a whole series of turns required to form a semi-circular loop and I paid close attention to the Adventure Cycling cue sheet.  At one point I saw a USBR1 sign which made me think this was part of the USBR1 route but the road dead-ended at a T shortly and there was no USBR1 sign identifying the direction.  I saw one other USBR1 sign later and that was it.  This makes me think that USBR1 must not be so well signed.


Surprisingly, for roads that looked like rural roads there was a lot of traffic, more traffic than the 4-lane US1.  I was really thinking there was no way I could make it to a motel because I would run out of daylight.  So I was thinking about looking for a camping spot at Independent Hill.  But when I got to Independent Hill it was 5:30 and that gave me hope that I could get close enough before darkness set in that it was worth a try.


So I took off on a mad dash hoping that I would get far enough before darkness that I would have little riding in the dark.  That worked out pretty well and I turned on my rear blinkie as I was mixed in with some fairly heavy traffic heading towards I85.  When it really got dark I put on my front light and started riding the sidewalk.  At a foodmart I asked about getting to motels and was told I only needed to ride a little further on Old Bridge Road where it ended and turn right on 123 and within a mile or so I would find some motels.


Then I noticed my rear blinkie wasn't blinking and I didn't know how long that had been the case.  It could have just been a case of weak batteries but I decided not to try to change batteries in poor light.  That forced me to stay on the sidewalk which was probably a good thing.  That is, until the sidewalk ended at the I85 entrance/exit ramps.  At that point I started walking with my bike until I got past the ramps and then traffic died off.  There I rode just a short distance and found an Econo Lodge with a room for $72.  I ate next door at a Taco Bell and then settled in to figure out how to complete my route tomorrow.


Day 37: Tue, Oct 11, 2011 - Woodbridge, VA to McLean, VA [67.1, 7:35:23, 8.8 mph, 2,598']

Econo Lodge had a continental breakfast but it was virtually useless.  I got a small bagel and a small muffin and I figured that would get me going.  I backtracked on 123, seeing what I couldn't see last night.  When I got to the river I reverted to the Adventure Cycling route which used a pedestrian bridge to cross the river but it came back to 123 on the other side so I would have been better off if I had stayed on 123.


After turning off on Lorton Road I got back on US1 which wasn't a good road with little or no shoulder.  Fortunately, this only lasted a few miles.  When I got to the turnoff to Fort Belvoir, I stopped first at a Burger King for breakfast since no real breakfast place appeared.  I got the ultimate breakfast which was fairly decent.


Riding improved greatly once I started riding through Fort Belvoir.  The important thing was US1 was history.  I rode along the Potomac coast until Mt Vernon where I picked up the Mt Vernon Trail, a multi-use trail used by cyclists, walkers, and joggers.  There were some nice views of the river along the way on a winding trail.


Near the end of the trail it was an easy turn off to Arlington National Cemetery so I stopped there.  They were picky about where you could ride a bike.  I tried to workaround this by walking my bike but that didn't go over too well either.  When I tried to ignore directions to park my bike and continued walking my bike I got approached by a security guy in a car.  So I turned around to leave but I managed to get a couple photos of the cemetery and then left.


Directly across the cemetery was a bridge across the Potomac that took me to the Lincoln Memorial.  From there it was easy to ride by the Washington Monument, the US Capitol, and the Supreme Court.  It was a little more difficult to find the White House but I managed that too.  This was all good because tomorrow was supposed to rain and I wanted to get this outside viewing out of the way.  I also lucked out and met 3 guys, Pat, Ross, and Mike, who had ridden down from Pittsburgh on the GAP and C&O Canal.  I met these guys when Pat saw me at a refreshment stand pushing my bike with the Rohloff Hub and came after me to inquire.  It was interesting talking with these guys while they were taking a break before heading back to Pittsburgh the same way they came, except for Ross.  Ross was having trouble with numb hands and didn’t want to ride back.  So I told him how easy it would be to take an Amtrak train back to Pittsburgh.


Finally, having viewed the major things I wanted to see, it was time to head to my niece's place in McLean.  Unfortunately, I underestimated the time it would take to get to McLean.  I rode across the Potomac back to the Mt Vernon Trail and picked up the Custis Trail.  After 4 miles on the Custis Trail I picked up the W&OD Trail.  I rode it to Vienna and then picked up 123 to McLean.  123 was a busy road, really far too busy especially during rush hour, and I rode the sidewalk where I could but eventually I was forced on the road.  Things got really interesting when I passed through the mess of Tyson Corner which was really congested.  There was an intersection with 4 lanes where 2 lanes were trying to get on the expressway and 2 lanes were going straight.  Since I was riding along the right hand side of the road and needing to go straight, it could have been a real problem trying to cut across 2 lanes to get to the 2 straight lanes.  But the traffic was stop and go so I was able to weave my way through the two turning lanes to get where I needed.  This was a case where congestion saved the day for me.


After getting through the congestion I stopped at a restaurant and asked how to get to McLean High School.  Turns out I was in a good location and only had to make a couple of turns to get near the high school.  All this was happening while it was getting dark when I was hoping that darkness would be the least of my problems today.  When I got near the high school I met a local cyclist who led me to the high school and found my niece's home given the address.


But what a shock to the system.  I was in a home with 3 young, rambunctious boys.  The youngest was masquerading as a ninja and threatening me with bodily harm.  It’s hard to understand the energy of these young tykes until you are immersed in it.  Fortunately, this house had a mother-in-law apartment which provided some insulation from further shock.


Day 38: Wed, Oct 12, 2011 - McLean, VA – tourist day

Today was a tourist day before my Amtrak train tomorrow.  I rode downtown with Emily on her daily commute, after she dropped off the oldest boy for school, and made her commute faster with my mere presence.  Since I was a second person in the car Emily was able to use the HOV lane.  Still it was aggravatingly slow but I was in no particular hurry, just wondering what commuting like this every day must be like.


I had Emily drop me off at a breakfast place close to where her office was and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast.  I had seen all the major sights I wanted to yesterday and today’s focus was on museums. One thing I didn’t get to do yesterday was ride to the top of the Washington Monument because it was closed due to some recent earthquake damage.  However, I found a brochure that suggested the Old Post Office Tower was a better choice than the Washington Monument since it was free and there was no waiting line.  So I rode up to the tower and got a nice view of DC without any waiting.


After that I spent a couple hours each at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History and Museum of Space and Aviation.  These were somewhat cursory tours due to the time available and left something for any future DC visit.  Then I took the Metro to the West Falls Church Station.  I might have walked the rest of the way from the train terminal but it was raining so I took a cab home, about 2 miles.

Day 39: Thu, Oct 13, 2011 - McLean, VA to Amtrak Train

My original plan was to ride by bike from McLean to the DC Amtrak Station but since Marc, Emily's husband, was driving to DC any way for his job and had a big Suburban I hitched a ride.  This was a good thing because it was raining and would have been messy riding.  I also got to see more of DC because Marc was taking his two youngest kids to day care and kindergarten.  So I saw some of the other parts including embassy row with a famous status of Winston Churchill and the Vice President's residence.


At first I thought I would just get dropped off close to where Emily dropped me off yesterday but Marc said he didn't have anything pressing until 11am so he took me to Pete's Diner for breakfast, near the Capital Hill Club, just southeast of the US Congress.  After a leisurely breakfast it was still raining so it made sense to just have Marc drop me off at Union Station since conditions weren't conducive to doing anything else.  So in the end I didn't ride my bicycle anywhere.  I just pushed it around Union Station.


My train wasn't until 4:05 pm but there wasn't any point to hanging onto my bicycle and baggage so I strapped my two rear panniers together to form a luggage unit and filled my duffel bag with sleeping bag and tent and the contents of one of my front panniers.  I used the other front pannier as a carryon for my sensitive items and valuables and whatever else I would need/want on the train.


I paid $20 for a bike box and shipping and waited by the baggage station for someone to bring up a bike box.  At first no one showed up so I had to get the checkin attendant to re-page the baggage guys to bring a bike box.  Then it was a simple matter to remove the pedals and turn the handlebars sideways and roll the bike in the bike box.


While removing the pedals I got my hands dirty so I stopped at the men's washroom to clean my hands and as I was washing someone came up from behind and said “Hi Denis.”  I was astonished since I had no idea who would know me in DC but it turned out to be Ross, one of the 3 guys I met the other day who had ridden down from Pittsburgh on the GAP and C&O Canal.  Ross's two compatriots were riding back to Pittsburgh but Ross hung around in DC with a friend because he had problems with a numb hand and was planning to take the train back to Pittsburgh.  He was at Union Station to check out what he needed to do to pack up his bicycle.  He had some time so we stopped by a Starbucks for a coffee.  I thought Ross was from Michigan like his two compatriots but he lived in Sacramento so I shared some ideas for bicycle touring like the Pacific Coast route and the Pacific Crest Bicycle Trail.


Meeting Ross was nice also because it was a good way to kill time while waiting for my train.  Union Station had an impressive arrangement of various eating possibilities and I took advantage of a buffet bar to eat before the train.  As it turned out I had more time than I thought.  The train was almost an hour late and our 4:05 train didn't leave until around 5pm.


As soon as the train departed and the conductor collected my ticket I moved to the observation car which was conveniently the next car down.  The train pretty much followed the Potomac River on its way to Harpers Ferry and Cumberland so I got to see parts of the Potomac River and C&O Canal from the perspective of a train.


At 10pm quiet time was in effect and cell phone usage was not allowed in the coach cars.  So I retired back to my seat to do my best to sleep in my reclining seat.


Day 40: Fri, Oct 14, 2011 - Amtrak Train, to Naperville, IL [38.8, 3:53:56, 9.9 mph, 0']

It's always a challenge to try to sleep in a coach seat on an Amtrak train.  In my previous overnight experiences I always had two seats to myself and could somewhat lay across them.  However, this time I had a seat mate so I could only use my own seat.  The best I could do was to sleep for an hour or two at a time but I managed to get a reasonable amount of sleep.


Since we had started an hour late yesterday the hope was that some of that time could be made up but that was not the case.  We lost more time and were about 2 hours late getting to Chicago’s Union Station.


Luggage delivery was a little slow but I collected my two pieces and was lead downstairs to my bike.  Restoring the bike was straightforward but I had to repack my panniers somewhat.  By the time I got on the road it was about 12:30 which still gave me plenty of time to make the 30+ miles to Naperville.  What wasn't helping was the wind.  It was very breezy and mostly hurting.  I had also forgotten to download the Chicago area map to my GPS so my GPS was pretty much useless but I had done this trip a couple times before.  Once I got away from the downtown area the route was pretty straightforward, using a route from the Grand Illinois Trail.  This route headed north from downtown and then west to Oak Park where it linked up with the Illinois Prairie Path that got me within a few miles of home.


At one point along the way I met another cyclist on the Illinois Prairie Path who was curious about my trip.  He suggested taking the Illinois Prairie Path all the way to Wheaton-Warrenville South High School and then the path through Herrick Lake.  I hadn't thought about that but that seemed reasonable, especially since this would help avoid some of the rush hour traffic.


I made it home just before 5pm and pretty tired, partly due to the windy conditions but probably also because my body was still tired from the stress of the tour.



Copyright Denis Kertz, 2011. All rights reserved.