We were with a rally of the Virginia Airstream Club in Abingdon, Virginia. The city blocked off a street so we were free to move around without fear of traffic. We enjoyed a nice breakfast hosted by Peter and Stephanie. One of the many attractions of Abingdon is the Virginia Creeper Trail, an old railroad bed that follows beautiful Whitetop Laurel Creek. Most were doing some form of the Creeper, but it was interesting to hear what others were doing. Some went to the Birthplace of Country Music in Bristol.
We drove to “The Bike Station” in Damascus, where we had scheduled bike rentals and shuttle to Whitetop Mountain. We considered bringing our bikes, but they are more street bikes or hybrids, and thought it safer to rent bikes with bigger tires and more comfortable seats. Our very pleasant driver navigated the curvy road up the mountain, which took about 40 minutes. A few laps around the parking lot helped get familiar with the bikes. It was a bit hard to change gears on the right side, but I finally figured it out. These bikes were like riding a draft horse – solid and safe.
It was raining just a bit and the trail was wet with puddles, so we were soon lined with mud up the front and back. Both of us had worn shorts and were cold. The whole ride is down hill, but the top is pretty steep. I could have taken 15 pictures as we blasted by beautiful scenery with big patches of buttercups. After 30 minutes we stopped on one of the 46 trestles on the trail for the view. The sun had come out, and it felt great to stand in it as people passed by. The trail follows Whitetop Laurel Creek, as pretty a trout stream as you will ever see. It was Friday afternoon, and there were a number of fishermen out. I could have spent a couple of hours just fishing this little stretch around the bridge.
We got back on and cruised down the mountain, stopping for a few pictures, but I could have spent all day taking pictures. It’s the prettiest bike ride I have ever been on, but it was chilly and we were trucking on. We passed people from our group that had a flat tire. I stopped to help, but they knew what they were doing. The rental bikes have a spare tube and tools, although they wanted a CO2 cartridge, which I didn’t have. Later David told me it took about 30 minutes to change the tire. That’s a pretty good pit stop! By the time we got to the bottom, it was warming up. It only took an hour and a half to cover the 17 miles, and that’s stopping to take some pictures. While Martha went to the bathroom, I leaned on the hood of the truck in the warm sun.
It was “Trail Days” in Damascus, which celebrates walking the Appalachian Trail.This draws a big crowd and a lot of business for the small town of 614 people. We drove by “Tent City” where hikers camped for the festivities. They say it gets a bit wild at night, with music and drums playing late into the night. Just down the street, venders from all over showed their products. I walked the trail through Shenandoah National Park for 9 days, which is just enough to appreciate how hungry these real hikers can get. Food, rest, new socks, or maybe replacing a torn tent can make a huge difference on their 2180 mile, 6-month journey.
We drove about halfway to Abingdon and stopped at a pretty spot along Laurel Creek for a picnic lunch. Sitting on a rock, we watched a young man fishing. He worked at the high school, teaching art while coaching the football and track teams. This is almost a river now, probably kayakable in the right conditions. He worked several lures as we ate lunch with no luck, finally switching to a bobber with a worm through swift current. It that didn’t work, nothing was going to work!
Back at the trailer I took a nap while Martha walked for an hour. We had a meeting at the Farmer’s Market, where Jeff presented gifts to the the town manager and Tanya, with Abingdon Economic Development and Tourism. The club presented donations to the Farmer’s Market and to the Food Bank.
We had a nice dinner with Gary and Lynn Brink at The Tavern – great food and great company.