August 1, 2016 – Cloudy, 80 degrees
Miles Today: 20
Miles to Date: 13,780
States to Date: 38
Maybe its because I dealt West Virginia a short hand, staying only one night in a state of many contrasts. Maybe its because I spun 20 miles on gravel yesterday, which I dislike as much as my bike Tom must. Maybe its because during our email exchange my host for tonight, Chuck Downs, offered to pick me up along the way and Tom, like a petulant adolescent, decided to slough off. Whatever the reason, I pedaled out of Harpers Ferry on a nice firm back tire but after I stopped at a fruit stand for some excellent local peaches, it came up flat.
Thus begins a comedy of errors worthy of the Marx brothers. I fix the flat, but am down to one tube. So I ride out of my way to Charles Town where Goggle suggests a bike store will be open in an hour. On the way, another slow leak develops. I pump it up every few miles until I arrive to discover the store has gone bust. I push Tom through the historic county seat where ‘John Brown’s body lies a-mouldering in the grave.’ Two swell, tattooed bubbas in a pick-up stop and haul us to Wal-Mart. Way more West Virginians in Wal-Mart than in historic downtown, that’s for sure. I snag three more tubes and eat a Subway foot long before changing another flat. Four miles out and I’m flat again. I push Tom to the Panda Garden, order some food, though I am not hungry, so I can sit inside and use their Internet to find a bike shop. I call my friend Chuck, who swoops down from this mountaintop to save me. The closest bike shop is twelve miles back in Maryland. The mechanic checks the tire with the same care I did and finds no abrasion. He has no suitable replacement anyway, so he fixes the flat and I pray that his more experienced hands will yield success.
In the meantime Chuck has taken my question to heart and arranged two house tours with local folks who’ve built sustainable, geothermal, passive solar houses with extensive gardens. We speed through the Virginia countryside to see these interesting places, then climb up to the top of Hickory Knob where Chuck lives in a cabin with a phenomenal view of the Shenandoah River. Despite spending the entire afternoon bailing me out, he throws a terrific dinner party. Seven of us drink beer while the sun sets over the mountains. We dine on grilled salmon and talk about tomorrow. It’s almost enough to make a guy stop worrying whether his tire is holding its pressure…