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My Bike Virginia (BVA) experience began with a 5-hour car ride to Roanoke on Friday, June 24th; I arrived around 6:30PM and checked in (a relatively smooth process for a 2000+ rider affair). After my dad arrived a little later, we set up our tents in the already-crowded “Tent City” and took the convenient shuttle bus downtown to find some food. We ended up having beer, chicken fingers and fries at the Cornerstone Bar and Grill and headed back to Tent City a little before 10. We planned to be up at the crack of dawn on Saturday for the first ride, so we got to sleep early.

We were up before 6am Saturday morning and each headed to the shower truck to freshen up and get our riding clothes on. After that it was off to breakfast at the cafeteria, the only BVA meal we purchased with our package. The breakfasts during the tour were filling but, as mass-produced meals, were not very exciting: powdered eggs, sausage, biscuits, and waffles of varying degrees of quality day-to-day. We got to grab as many milks, juices, and cereals as we wanted, so that was a relief. We also got a free paper to read each morning.

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We took the shortest (pink) routes each day, but the color shouldn’t indicate that they were easy. The New River Valley area has a lot of rolling hills and mountains, which were not completely avoided! Check out the elevation charts for the routes on the BVA website to see what I mean. Saturday’s ride around Franklin county included a ride up Cahas Mountain, which was quite challenging. The payoff is when you get to a hard-climbed hill and get to speed down the other side. The ride was long for both my dad and I, but we made efficient and ample use of the rest stops to carb-load and rehydrate. Because of the large climb, I think we averaged only 10mph that day.

After the ride we cooled off, showered, and recharged, then later in the afternoon we headed downtown again and looked at some of the market area. We had dinner at Awful Arthur’s Seafood restaurant that was delicious. Their beer-battered fresh grouper was a step up from the previously frozen fish you get in some other establishments. They also made great hush puppies.

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I ended each day by reading a little of The Devil In The White City (loaned to me by my dad) and listening to a mix of old and new (to me) music on my Hi-MD player. The Bright Eyes and Ryan Adams and the Cardinals that Streeter gave me were great, and I listened to a lot of Porcupine Tree and John Wesley. After the rides and activity later in the day, it wasn’t to hard to get to sleep. But with all the other campers in close proximity, next time I camp like that I plan to bring earplugs! My dad had loaned me his old tent (the orange and blue one, in case it isn’t apparent) and while it wasn’t the easiest thing to set up, it did the job! Plenty of room inside for me and all my gear and I slept comfortably enough each night.

Sunday morning we had to pack up our site and throw our bags on the truck bound for Lexington, where we would reunite with them after a 71-mile ride. This was the longest ride for me ever (at least, since the previous day’s 45-mile ride) and by the end my rear was asking me to stop. The scenery was great and we even had a rest stop at the Rockbridge Winery. I think we averaged over 10mph that day; we left before 8am and were in Lexington before 5pm. Once we set up camp and cleaned up (hard tasks after a long ride — I lost my patience at one point) we were going to head downtown to eat dinner but noticed an Applebee’s close by and decided to eat there. I can’t remember doing much after that so I must have just drifted off to sleep. 😉

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On Monday we gave ourselves a rest and relaxed for a good portion of the early morning. We headed in to downtown Lexington at around 10am and explored it for a while; I had never heard of Washington and Lee University, and only barely knew of Virginia Military Institute (VMI). It was nice to stroll their nearly adjacent campuses. We settled for lunch at the Bistro on Main after we found that the Smokin Joe’s Barbeque restaurant we found was closed on Mondays. The taco salad I had at the bistro was better than the one’s I’ve had at other places. We found the town’s movie theater was playing Batman Begins so we decided to head back later in the day to see that. Before that, we went back to Tent City and relaxed a bit before taking advantage of free admission at the Lexington Pool. This pool actually had diving boards, so my dad and I dived for about 45 minutes straight. Some of the local pre-teens actually took a liking to us and were requesting flips, cannonballs, and can openers. It was fun for me because I hadn’t dived in at least a few years.

Later that afternoon we headed back to downtown for Batman, which both of us thoroughly enjoyed. Five minutes into the movie (which started on time, with no trailers attached — a miracle for a first-run movie in these parts) a quaint thing happened; the film stuck and we watched the frame melt. I can’t recall seeing something like that actually happening in my presence before. I suppose the big movie chains have technical advantages, but seeing as the movie started on time as opposed to after 20 minutes of previews, the 10 minutes it took to fix it still netted us positive time as compared to seeing the film in a megachain.

We arrived back at the campsite before the first rain of the tour did, and were able to settle into our tents just as the drops starting coming down. It stopped overnight and on Tuesday morning it was no wetter at the campsite than on the other very dewey mornings. We had resolved to only take one day off, and better that it was in the middle of the tour as opposed to the day before the long ride back. The 49-mile ride was pleasant, with a nice gentle climb to start, and a lot of downhill riding on the second half. My rear was still aching a bit, but my legs were willing to ride all day. We averaged about 12mph that day and were back in time to nap over the afternoon before heading downtown to get dinner at Smokin Joe’s. It was a great meal and we met another rider, John from Fredericksburg, VA, who had arrived shortly ahead of us, alone, so we ate together and conversed. His friend and roommate Ed from State College, PA, met up with us at the local ice cream shop and then we headed over to the Palms for a nightcap.

It was cool to meet new acquaintences over the course of the tour; we had light conversation with some of our neighbors at both Tent City locations. I should mention the friendliness of Don and Carol, friends who had traveled from Chicago to ride in the tour. They were older (60+ by my estimation, Don might have been in his 70s) but had a lot of energy and clearly enjoyed the soul-scrubbing properties that scenic rides and meeting new people provided. Don was a Navy vet who had a lot of stories about the many places he’d lived; when I asked him about his bike, a Panasonic (!) road bike he got for free for replacing a friend’s front door, he checked the computer and told me he’d logged over 22,000 miles on it. Amazing. I hope I meet up with some of these people again some day.

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We packed again on Wednesday morning and faced a 62-mile ride back to Roanoke, which had a lot of climbs but also its share of rolling hills. Once we arrived at Victory Stadium I acquired my patch, ate a little victory cake (which ironically was hard to eat after riding so long) and said goodbye to my dad. He was parked there, but my car and luggage was at the tent city site, still a 2-mile bike ride away. At that point Mother Nature decided she’d had enough and a downpour started about halfway there. The soaking rain felt great, but I didn’t want to stop and cover my handlebar bag, so I booked to my car and got the bike mounted up. After finding my luggage, getting a shower and clothes change, and saying goodbye to Carol and Don (who we seemed to bump into an awful lot!) I was headed home.

Overall it was a well-run tour from my perspective; it was my first one. My dad and I had a great time together and we both hope to return for BVA 2006; perhaps with some more family and/or friends?

I’ll update this entry later with links to Flickr’d photos and such as I sort them out. Enjoy!