If you’ve been following along for a couple of years now, you may remember one fun bit of trivia is that Hillary and I share the same birthday (June 13th!). You also would certainly know by now Hillary’s love of birthday smashfests, most notably, the 100×100 swim that occurs!
Since she had the birthday swim smashfest covered, we’ve expanded our horizons in the past few years with birthday bike smashfests as well. Involving more than just 3 hours and a pool, and often tricky to coordinate around racing and training schedules, we skipped last year. But with Leslie and me turning 30 this year, we knew that we would have to make an effort to put this one on the books again!
Two years ago, our birthday bike trip included a two-day jaunt across Skyline Drive. Easily the most iconic ride in Virginia….or, much of the East Coast, really, we got to introduce Hillary to the beauty of east coast riding! Of course, to turn 30, the most logical thing to do was to plan a 3 day trip.
The plan was hatched back in February I think, and by the time mid-april rolled around Leslie reminded me that we should probably start to plan for it. Step 1 to this was going to be to get Hillary to the East coast. Turns out, she already had a trip to Knoxville planned for May, so boom, we had our weekend! Step 2 was the route. Enter a few hours of time on google maps, googling “cycling trips east coast”, “cycling trips blue ridge parkway” and “multi day bicycle rides.” Eventually we circled back to our original plan of 3 days on the Blue Ridge Parkway. After playing with a few distances as potential starting points, a route became clear: it was exactly 300 miles from Boone to Afton Mountain, the exit of the Blue Ridge Parkway down to Charlottesville. And with that knowledge, one-way rental cars were booked, hotel rooms along the way secured, and boxes of items we would want overnight at our stops mailed!
Leslie and I arrived in Boone within minutes of Hillary’s arrival. Of course before anything else we had a hill repeat session to smash. Don’t worry – an appropriate hill in Boone was not hard to find! Then we headed for the sendoff dinner at Hob Nob Farm Cafe. We checked our bikes over and then got to bed. After learning a couple years ago that noon is not the best time to start a 120 mile hilly ride, we planned to get up and at ’em early the next day!
But the best laid plans were put on hold when we woke up to a chilly 40ish degrees. We postponed ourselves one more hour before it warmed up to a comfortable riding temperature (keep in mind we had minimal clothing with us!!)….one last check of the bikes and…..a bolt breaks! Woops, we got a little crazy tightening Hillary’s seat post. Thank goodness for the age of the internet, as we were able to quickly locate a Lowes and head over to get that snafu fixed up!
We hit the road by 10:45 (still over an hour ahead of the other year! ha!) and rode off in search of the Meadows of Dan, about 110 miles away.
The Blue Ridge Parkway truly is great riding. Nice road surface, minimal traffic, and gorgeous views help to take your mind off of all the climbing that you are putting in to get these rewards! The beauty of the parkway was in full effect during the 3 days of riding, and both of our stops at Woodberry Inn in Meadows of Dan and Peaks of Otter Resort could not have been more perfect for the trip. Each had a restaurant and bar attached (the last thing you want to do each night is have to pedal to a restaurant!!) and had some welcoming staff and company to chat with and hear stories from.
During the ride there were a lot of pedal strokes. A lot of powerbars consumed (and poptarts, and PayDays!). Some ups and downs as we faced unexpected 10 mile climbs, had to go 10 miles longer than we anticipated without water, and one unanticipated detour for repairs on the parkway. But those parts become just a blur and what I remember, similar to the last trip, is the laughter. From our “oh shit” giggles when the first bolt broke, to the times I was laughing so hard at stories we were telling that I could barely keep my bike upright, no amount of climbing or miles would ever want me to miss those moments. I would encourage anyone who has thought about this kind of a trip to DO IT! Pick a route. Send boxes with food and throw away clothes to a hotel mid point. Dupe a friend into coming along. And just enjoy the unknown of the roads ahead, relishing in the hours where you have nothing else to do than ride a bike.
And of course, you could also do it the Hillary way which involves forgetting to send overnight clothes in your boxes and thus riding with your Michele dress and flip flops all 3 days. As if I didn’t love that dress enough I am SERIOUSLY impressed by it now that I watched it hold up to 3 days in a jersey pocket coming out wrinkle free each evening!
After the trip I got to show Hillary around my Charlottesville stomping grounds for a day or so. It’s always super helpful to have her see in person what I have access to for training.
And, if you’re wondering, yes we did get back on our bikes Tuesday as well. As Hillary put it “It’s like the Tour….you just have to keep riding now.” HA! Always an adventure 🙂 Until the next birthday!!