OK, we weren’t really in Atlanta and we didn’t really go to Boston. But you get the idea – we headed north. In our never-ending search for the perfect climate, we have departed the Atlanta area and have headed north to New England. Nothing says leave Atlanta better than 90+ degree temperatures.
Our first stop was in Tennessee to see old friends. Old friends… now there is a label filled with meaning. Old people are all we know now. How come all our friends are old, and yet we are still svelte physical specimens in our late 30’s?
Dinner conversations start with and end with medical maladies. I am not a doctor, but I have played a doctor, and yet still – these are deeply unnerving conversations.
As a bit of a queasy fellow (some would say woos), I am not comfortable with any discussion about body fluids or body parts and their ever-increasing failure rates. If I wanted to hear about your distended bowel, hangnail, or dementia, I certainly would have asked. But I didn’t. And I never will. These should be deep, dark secrets that we all keep to ourselves and take to our graves. No. Sharing.
Regardless, it was great to see our peeps on the Cumberland Plateau and break bread together, even in a socially distanced manner. Speaking of getting old, you know you are old when you consider pizza from the local gas station like an epicurean, gastronomical delight. Sad. And yet, perversely wonderful. All in for about $7 per head, we satiated ourselves with the best pizza available within 4 miles.
Alas, we must continue our journey. Next stop? Damascus, VA, home of the Virginia Creeper. Many of you are likely familiar with the Virginia Creeper, but for those not, this is about a 15-mile bike ride from the Mount Rogers station at White Top, downhill to Damascus on a gravel rail-to-trail path. Most people rent a bike and get transported to the top of this trail, and largely coast back down to Damascus. Smart.
As new owners of ebikes (RAD Power Bikes), we elected to ride up the trail, and then ride back down. Twice in 2 days; a total of about 60 miles, in 80-90 degree temperatures. Prior to these rides, my longest ride has been about a mile around our neighborhood in 65-75 degree temperatures. Not so smart.
Actually, this trail is spectacular – and fun! It largely runs along a river bed, so you feel cool temperatures coming from the water. And it is drop dead gorgeous.
We have previously ridden this trail in the fall, and that too is a spectacular time of year to do this trail. One of the picturesque parts of the trail (there are many) was a pumpkin farm. Today, that farm is now a Christmas tree farm, but still beautiful.
And of course, there is much influence on the trail and in the area because the AT (Appalachian Trail) runs in part on the Virginia Creeper and Damascus, so it is nice to see thru-hikers along the way. Most hikers do the AT from Georgia in the south to Maine in the north, and most hikers we saw have been heading north.
Let me give you a little earned knowledge about biking the Virginia Creeper. First, my arse feels like it got too close to a meat grinder, although I did secure a pair of biking shorts before the second day. Buy or wear biking shorts for this ride. Or I guess any ride. Big difference!
Second, don’t open your mouth. I’m not kidding. Unless you want a full dose of fresh protein, keep your mouth closed to keep the bugs out of your mouth.
Our ebikes performed wonderfully! Mine is the Rad Power Bikes’ RadRover, and my wife’s bike is the RadCity Step-Thru. Fabulous! Having ebikes (electric bikes) allowed us to ride 60 miles on rough gravel trails in two days, and enjoy it!
Both our bikes were fully charged before each ride and we had more than sufficient power going 30 miles – 15 of it uphill. With 5 bars on our display at the beginning, we each had 3 bars remaining when we finished each 30-mile ride. Hard to say what our entire range could have been, but my guess is we could have done 50 miles with no problem. Now I won’t lie – with close to zero preparation and riding 60 miles in two days we are each feeling it. But a nice shower and maybe a two-day rest and we will be ready for our next outing.
Damascus itself is a really cute town, although tiny. As mentioned previously, it sits right on the AT so hikers are hiking through daily for months. There are many small inns, some which cater to hikers and some that cater to more refined tastes. Let’s face it, when you have spent weeks or months sleeping in a sleeping bag and eating freeze dried meals, a night on a bed and a meal from Subway could be heaven sent.
One boutique hotel I saw (the tiny boutique hotel), built from scratch according to their web site, was built in 2016 – just another example of a creative entrepreneur creating an experience for a couple. You can find it easily – it is right next door to the wee suite.
During this stop in Damascus I also learned something about the sexual lives of ducks. This was an unasked-for education (you might feel the same), but when you are camped along a river bed, you get what nature serves up.
Whatever cute, romantic image you have about how to make way for ducklings – well, forget that. I’m not sure how to characterize this “meet up”. One female duck comes flying down the river, closely followed by 3 male ducks. After landing in the river, they all followed her for a few minutes. One of them just up and mounts her, practically (it seemed) drowning her in the process. Meanwhile, the other two are just watching! Sweet; how romantic. About an hour or two later, I did see the consummated couple floating next to each other, having a smoke with a gin and tonic, and looking like an old married couple: neither was talking. I guess that is the nature of nature.
Since this is almost like a travel blog, I might make one more observation from our stop in Damascus. We were parked next to this beautiful motor coach, and we couldn’t help notice how meticulous this guy was with the way he packed his grill, chairs, tools – whatever, all the tools of travel in an RV.
I, on the other hand, take a more Cousin Eddie approach to packing. Throw it in – I’m sure we’ll find it eventually. I had to explain to Karen that while she is very fortunate to have married a looker such as myself, my anal compulsive tendencies may be a bit lacking. Perhaps next time she marries she may want to be a little more discerning; ask a few more questions before committing.
Our next stop was Washington, DC. Not to sightsee, but to see our daughter. It feels like we haven’t seen her in eons, or maybe it has been eons. Anyway, nothing surpasses seeing your children. The bad side was not being able to hug your own child. We took 4 minutes to describe all we had been doing for the last 3 months – I may be exaggerating. And then we dined in a proper social distancing way with take-out from an Ethiopian restaurant on our picnic table. Who says we don’t get out.
Next stop – Littleton, MA. We really stopped for a night at a campground here to empty and fill our RV tanks, so that when we arrive in NH everything is as it should be. The way you know you are staying in a New England campground (aside from the accent) is the use of rocks – ever abundant in New England. This campground made great use of this natural resource to build some great fire pits. Way to go Minuteman Boston Campground!
Last stop (for now) – Hampton, NH. We have arrived at our cottage and will be holed up here for the summer. “Holed up” probably doesn’t really capture our condition, but we will need to quarantine ourselves for a few weeks. Living a half mile from the beach, life could be worse. We did grab take-out lunch from our favorite seafood restaurant – Petey’s in Rye; nice to be back in the saddle, so to speak.
Temperatures are a bit warm today – 80 degrees, but it will be in the 50’s tonight – perfect for sleeping. And the week ahead portends highs in the 60’s. I am all in.
Wear a mask, wear white at night, love your neighbor, and whatever other cogent advice I can parse off to you!
And now… 30 seconds of calm for your zen state…