Up and down in the mountains


It’s raining outside and I’m cozy by the fire at the home of the Friedrichs in Lexington, Virginia.  John and Suzanne are the parents of our good friend Ira, who we will stay with very soon when we arrive in Asheville, North Carolina sometime next week.

We’ve learned to be rather vague with our scheduling.  Weather has strong presence in our lives and at times we are sequestered to stay where we are.  Some days the miles melt away and others take us hours to do less than 20.  It’s been a fascinating lesson in endurance, tolerance,  and patience.  I sometimes sit back and feel like we’ve gone so far-60 miles, then I realize in a car it would have taken us less than 2 hours.  It’s an issue of scale I suppose.  Sometimes I feel so tiny on my bike.

On Wednesday October 21st, we started pedaling up Skyline Drive entering in Front Royal.  We nicknamed the town “Front Spoil” due to the sheer lack of recognition of cyclists.  Every sidewalk ended in an abrupt curb, shoulders on roads were basically ditches for storm water runoff, and people drove by us so closely like they’d never ridden by cyclists before.  We’ve really started to scrutinize all the communities we come to for their pedestrian and bicycle friendliness.  We’re beginning to think that more people need to come together, pedestrians, cyclists, disabled individuals and parents with strollers.  We all have a right to navigate safely in this world, especially outside of a vehicle.

Skyline Drive was incredible on Wednesday.  It was a beautiful sunny day as we climbed and climbed 17 miles up the Drive.  We had many incredible vistas, the foliage was near peak.  We camped on Wednesday evening at an Appalachian Trail Shelter with 3 other hikers.  I think we scared them as we approached the shelter in the dark pushing our bikes through the woods on the AT.  The hikers thought we were pulling roller suitcases, imagine that!

Thursday we biked 35 miles to Big Meadows campground.  It was a day filled with sunshine, beautiful vistas again, and many expletives.  There was more traffic that we ever could have imagined and we found ourselves being passed over and over again so carelessly that our ride was becoming awful.  At times we were barely able to go 5 mph as we had so much climbing.  It was an exhausting day that we did not want to repeat.  We decided to reevaluate our route at the campground and find a way off of Skyline Drive early.  I guess it’s called Skyline Drive and not Skyline Bike for a reason.  We get so sad sometimes that these places aren’t more accessible for cyclists.  We ended up staying at the campground for 3 nights camped out at 3,500 ft.  Some strong windy weather moved in bringing fog, rain and sustained gusts of 30-40 mph, definitely not conducive to cycling.

The adventure isn’t always on the bicycle.  During our stay at Big Meadows we met a lovely individual named John. The three of us had much in common and shared an evening around the campfire and a hike the following day.  It’s great to make new friends where you least expect it.  Our campsite was on the edge of the woods and we were within 1/4 mile of some black bears.  We witness a mom and 2 cubs one evening and a large male the next.  They all went up into the trees multiple times and slowly rambled through the woods eating acorns and searching for bugs.   The area was absolutely alive with wildlife: bears, deer, skunks, and raccoons.  We explored the area, hiking, eating ice cream, and taking it easy.  Thanks to a wonderful park ranger named Hazel we found a fire road that would lead us off the mountain and down in to the valley.  On Sunday morning we headed out all bundled up from the cool temperature-there was frost on the ground, brrrr!  The local roads down were SUPER steep, our brake pads were just about finished by the time we got down.

We biked 44 miles to outside of Grottoes.  We were back in the Shenandoah valley and our legs were loving it.  We camped in the woods and got up early the next morning to head 55 miles to Lexington.  Once in Lexington, John came to meet us at the Lexington Coffee Shop and we followed him back to his home, had a wonderful dinner and an even better night’s rest.

Today we fixed Bryan’s chain on his bike that almost broke.  Bryan and John took a tour of Lexington in the rain: The Virginia Military Institute, Stonewall Jackson’s grave site and house.  Debi took a much needed nap.  Then we shared another lovely dinner with the Friedrichs.

Tomorrow, Wednesday we hope to head out after showers clear in the morning.  We have our route lined up to get us to the border of North Carolina.  We will be on Bicycle Route 76 to Pulaski where we will take a 50 mile long bike path called the New River Trail.  Apparently we will cross 33 railroad trestles, it should be beautiful.

And now the newest batch of photos:

Debi, day one on Skyline Drive

In case you were wondering....

We catch a lot of these

Bryan surveys the scene

Turn the lights on, it's the only tunnel on Skyline Drive!

The colors and the mountains were stunning

Black bears, a little blurry but you get the idea!

Bryan and John at Dark Hollow Falls

Bryan and Debi in the rain at the falls

Hiking in the fog

I wonder if the clouds and mountains have interesting conversations?

Riding in the Virginia coutryside

We love mirrors, ignore the bird poo.

That’s all for now.  Thanks for keeping up with us, it’s so nice to read all of the comments and support.

Debi and Bryan


8 Responses to “Up and down in the mountains”

  1. Great to hear the update. Thanks Debi! It sounds like you and Brian are in a new place – in your heads. Are you? I wonder about things like: do you think about goals as much – like destinations? Or is it different? Sorry, I’m getting existential, like I usually do reading your posts. So glad you’re posting. I guess your bikes are working…

    • 2 thrubike


      Existential is a great place to be. Bike are working great. We just bought four pair of Brake pads after burning them to almost nothing!

      Hope all is well in northern VT

      Take Care,

      Bryan and Debi

  2. 3 Teresa Leamy

    So nice to beable to keep up to date where you are. The pictures have been great. I can remember as kids, camping with my parents in the Skyline Drive. It was so cold in the morning and remeber hearing the roar of the bears close to the camper. The views were unbelievable. So glad you both are safe after experiencing your ride up the drive. Tim will agree with you that motorists are not always aware and caring about people on bikes. Miss you Love Teresa

    • 4 thrubike

      Thanks Teresa,

      Skyline drive was pretty amazing in a lot of ways – that is for sure. Thanks for reading and checking out the blog!

      We miss all of you greatly!

      Take Care,

      Bryan and Debi

  3. 5 molly

    you must hear some of the conversations that the mountains and clouds have…enjoyed checking in on your journey today. I think it’s amazing so far, thinking of you and hoping for sun!

  4. 7 Kate Cross

    Thanks so much for your blog. Three questions: 1. Do you have lights (for the tunnels) on your bikes? 2. Are there bike/pedestrian lanes in the tunnels/trestles? 3. Could you tell I’m a mom by my questions? Love you both, stay safe.

    • 8 thrubike

      Hi Aunt Kate!

      Thanks for checking us out!

      Yes, we have lights for those dark times in the tunnels. The tunnels on Skyline drive had no extra room for cyclists but most are not too scary. Yes, I can tell your a mom.

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