Day: 4 (Louisa, VA to Charlottesville, VA)
Average Speed: 10.9 MPH (it was hilly)
Miles Cycled Today: 45.7
Miles Cycled Total: 202
Mood: Thankful (to be alive)
Wooden Tricycle Outside of Cambia Community (my host for last night)
And last night, I got my chance.
The Cambia Community, yesterday's host, is an intentional community in Louisa, Virginia. It's egalitarian, meaning that they share income as well as responsibilities in order to keep it running (but there is no one leader). Cambia is small in comparison to other similar communities, but they are still one of only fifteen registered egalitarian communities in the country, according to Claire (one of the hosts). I might be getting some of these facts wrong as I'm working from memory... there are many different types of commune systems, and the simplicity of each type seems awfully complicated to me.
They are accustomed to hosting people who might experience a bit of culture shock, but were kind enough to allow some photos:
This is why this trip is already the coolest thing I've ever done. First of all, these people took me in- no questions asked. They held their dinner for me (and I was way late). They asked nothing of me and offered literally anything they had. As I set up camp, I listened while they shared past experiences about parenting with one another for at least an hour or two in a "heart circle."
Gil, another host, was ringing the breakfast bell as I was packing up this morning. I assumed it was meant for the others... not me. I was wrong. They had to come and get me as I was still packing up, and were obviously waiting with food in front of them until I joined. I thought I was being polite by not assuming I was invited to breakfast... they thought "Hurry it up Jimbo!" We held hands at breakfast for quite a while before digging in to pancakes, fresh fruit, and peanut butter.
While it's not a lifestyle I'm going to be partaking in on a long-term basis anytime soon, I see the draw. It's complexly simple, it's carefree with careful planning, and it's welcoming. Locks on the doors at Cambia? Nope. They made it quite clear that anyone is welcome.
Today was a short (but hilly) ride to Charlottesville, VA. Knowing it would be short, I didn't push myself. I travelled slow. Don't get me wrong... I'm sore as hell right now after just 45 miles. Just a few miles in, I ran into another cyclist heading the other direction, obviously completing the same trail in the other direction.
This guy was from Switzerland, and he was planning on finishing his tour in Yorktown tonight... 150 miles from where we were. That might not sound like a lot, but he had just biked 250 miles in 29 hours. Taking the occasional 20 minute nap.
Holy shit. 250 miles. No sleep. Another 150 to go. Imagine you're motivated to bike across the country, and you're proud of the 50-60-70-80 miles you can get through in a day. And then you meet this guy.
He started his tour on June 4th and was going to end in under a month.
Just when I was starting to feel good about myself, I met Arnold Swiss-zenegger.
He warned me of the dogs in Kentucky, which I had read about several times. Then he warned me about the dogs 1/2 mile down the road. Then he scoffed at how much gear I had. Then he and his glistening 800 pound calf muscles rode away into the sun.
I will say this: He was Swiss. They're not known for their personalities. Dry. As. Dust. And hell, if my visa were about to expire, I'd probably bike faster too. So there.
He was right about the dogs down the road though. These two look friendly enough, but moments before this picture was snapped, they were out for blood. Nick, their owner, saved my life and filled up my water bottle.
Then both dogs licked me.
The biggest scare of the day, however, was not dog-induced. It was the eight miles leading into Charlottesville.
Bike route 76 does not claim to be safe, and as I rode just outside my destination, there were a couple of angry honks from cars (please... for the love of God... never honk at a cyclist who's following the rules of the road). At one point, an elderly man followed patiently behind my bike waiting for a passing zone... then he rolled down his passenger window and rode beside me. He opened our conversation by saying "Are you suicidal? Or just plain f***in' stupid?" I informed him I was the latter. He had not said all that was on his mind though, and it became intensely awkward as his Anti-Me editorial seemed to have no end. Bear in mind, he's ranting about safety while riding side by side, staring at, and ranting at a cyclist. I'm just glad I gave his wife some new bullshit to listen to for the night. She's probably tired of hearing all the other rants over and over again.
Old Man Warner had a great exit line though... and I quote verbatim: "I do not believe you are intelligent enough to be riding the bicycle that you are on." And then vroom! he was off- with his Trump bumper sticker staring back at me.
A sign just like this one was about 500 feet from where he ranted... I hope he saw it:
Here's the thing though... and I really, really hate to admit this: He was right.
After that exchange, the intensely busy two lane road narrowed. There was absolutely no shoulder. There were sharp turns and steep hills. And I was legitimately scared. Like really scared. I stared in my rearview and needed to suddenly unclip my shoes from the pedals and dump the bike three times. There was no way for traffic to safely pass me-- a pickup truck slammed on it's brakes and fishtailed when it saw me. Not his fault. Nor mine. I walked up a big climb (and even walking wasn't safe) not because I couldn't bike it, but because it could've been a disaster. I don't have the words to express how dangerous and unfit for anything other than cars this road is. Interstate highways, with their wide shoulders, are much, much safer for cyclists than this road will ever be.
This is a road that has no business being on a bike trail. I don't scare easy when it comes to biking in traffic, but I was white as a sheet. My sweat beads had nothing to do with the ride. Here's a text I sent to my host for tonight and her response (mind you I haven't met these people and I'm trying to sound classy... but notice I used four exclamation points. And I rarely use exclamation points).
I set up my tent in their lawn and sent them a pic to let them know I was there... but this was all done in a daze. I was seriously, seriously shaken. And that's hard for me to admit.
Another short ride planned for tomorrow, followed by my first major climb the next day. Hopefully, I never see a road like Route 53 again. I'll take those 211 type-roads any day over that. My God.
"Hmmm... I'd like a ham on rye, hold the mayo, and a learner's permit please..."
I was only bummed that they didn't share a common "take a number" system.