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9.3.8 PAC tours across the country 93 Part 8


This article is from the Misc Bicycles FAQs, by various authors.

9.3.8 PAC tours across the country 93 Part 8

Day 22 - Buckhannon, WV to Harrisonburg, VA. 133 miles, 10830' - HARDEST day

The day I'd been dreading for 4 months, since I'd gotten the itinerary
was now upon us. We were now crossing the Appalachians. It was just
like Wisconsin, up and down and up and down, except we gained 1000
feet each time instead of 50. The morning started out very foggy, and
I started out very early. I was glad to have my taillights and bright
clothing as I rounded blind corners in the fog. The coolness of the
morning was welcome, but heat would come soon enough. We had
experienced amazingly good, cool weather throughout the trip, but that
was about to end.

At least the scenery was getting better. At the second snack stop, a
photographer from Bicycling got a shot of me trying to eat a melted
Payday with mountains in the background. He asked if the scenery had
been this good throughout the trip. "Not for the last week," I told
him, but the first week was breathtaking, and it was getting to be
nice again. I was really getting tired of seeing nothing but corn and
the word BLACKBURN on the back of riders' seat packs.

Richard and I began riding together for a while, stopping occasionally
to take pictures of the again scenic mountains. Both of us were
feeling a little more energetic because our surroundings were familiar
and we were close to home, but this was a long day, so we just tried
to take it easy.

With all the climbing, I spent most of the day riding alone, although
I was usually within a mile of other riders. Climbing is just
something I have to do by myself. I can set my own pace and not hurt
myself. Of course it also means if I run out of water there is no one
to borrow any from. And that's what happened. I kept my eyes open for
a store, but saw none. Just as I was about to go knock on a door, the
sag vehicle went by. I flagged them down and got some water. It must
have been hot for me to go through a whole Camelbak in 30 miles!

I stopped at the next town for a frozen yogurt and soda before the
final climb of the day to the Virginia border. I know that dairy
products are hard to digest while riding, but I also knew it would
cool me off a lot. I then began the long slow climb to Virginia.

About half way up, I saw Ann and Dan taking a break and leaning on a
guard rail just before a really wicked looking switch back. It looked
like a great plan to me, so I joined them for a bit. The break was
great and starting back up again wasn't as difficult. A couple more
miles of switch backs and I saw Mike and Karen at the snack stop next
to the Virginia State line, and it was a beautiful site. This was our
last major climb of the day, and a fast screaming descent would

I said last major descent because we still had a few more little
climbs, including the final steep climb to the hotel, which put my
altimeter exactly at the advertised climbing.

The U-Haul, just as it had on our trip over the Big Horns, had trouble
climbing the hills we did, and finally died. I was fortunate enough to
be on the massage table, when the new truck arrived and help was being
solicited to unload the old, and load the new. Phil made my massage
last just long enough for them to get everything out of the old truck!

I noticed a Waffle House just below the hotel and got my heart, or
rather stomach, set on waffles for dinner. I used to stop at these
places all the time when I lived in the south, and love them. The
Pecan Waffles are great as is the entertainment from the waitresses.
There aren't any in the northeast, and I really, really wanted a
Waffle House waffle. My dinner companions wanted to go for Mexican, so
I had Fajitas as appetizers, then waffles, then frozen yogurt. I think
if I'd suggested another place, John would have kept on eating, but we
decided we had indulged plenty. Hey, almost 11,000 feet of climbing. I
can indulge!

Day 23 - Harrisonburg, VA to Ashland VA, 123 miles, 4500' climbing.

Earlier in the trip Gerry Tatrai, who had just won RAAM dropped by on
his way to Michigan with his race mechanic. He left his RAAM winning
bike, an Allsop softride, in case anyone wanted to try it out. John
decided to give it a go, and set it up the night before.

We started the day with our last major climb of the trip. Ray had been
having trouble with his back and had only been riding half days. I
suggested he could noodle along with me and probably make it all day.
We decided to try this, but he didn't want to leave early. Knowing we
had a big climb first thing, I rolled out at my usual time, figuring
Ray would catch me by the first stop.

I waited for a long time at the first stop, but then got nervous about
the rest of the day, and rolled out, expecting him to catch me at the
second. But I guess I was feeling better than I realized, and I didn't
see him until lunch. While at lunch I noticed John was moving pedals
around. Apparently Gerry's handlebars could not be adjusted to suit
him, so he was trying Lon's bike, which was identical, except for the
stem. On this bike, he could get the handlebars higher. He was really
enjoying the Softride, so I suggested that he ask Lon if he could use
it on the qualifier. But Lon had already offered, which obviously
meant that Lon felt John had excellent chances of doing well. We ended
up jockeying back and forth, as John had to make several adjustments
to his seat position. At one point I looked at my cue sheet and
noticed that we would be passing through a town named Bumpass. This
was an ideal photo opportunity, and I had to get a shot off John on
the Softride in front of the Bumpass sign.

The next day was our final day, and while most of us were glad to be
this close to the end, we were also a little sad that it was almost
over. I realized that I had not asked Susan to ride her tandem yet,
something I had really wanted to do. She said that she never got to
ride the last day, and decided to ride in the morning. I put my pedals
and seat on her bike, and got things set up for my ride with yet
another RAAM champion.

When John planned his trip over from Ireland, he had arranged to do
some work here, so he could stay around and ride the qualifier in
Illinois a couple of weeks after PAC Tour. I had helped him put
together a crew, consisting of Ray, Robert and Mike. I suggested that
Ray spend some time with Joanne getting some tips on crewing. So John
and Ray went off to dinner with Pete and Joanne to do some RAAM
qualifier strategizing.

After dinner, John, Nancy and I headed off in search of ice cream. We
decided to find a supermarket with Ben & Jerry's since there was no DQ
around. After a long walk in search of an open store, we hit pay dirt,
but kind of forgot about spoons. Nancy showed resourcefulness, using
her lid as a spoon, until we found forks at a Taco Bell.

Day 24 - Ashland to Williamsburg, 81 miles, 1500' climbing.

This was it, our last day. 81 miles to the beach and I would have
ridden my bike coast to coast, over some incredibly difficult terrain,
in just 24 days. I was so happy that it was almost over, but in a way
it was anti-climatic. It was the West Yellowstone day, and the Big
Horn Day, and the 11,000 foot day that I remembered feeling victorious
on. They were the days that I felt like I'd accomplished something.
This was just a short little ride to the beach, and then it was going
to be over.

I was excited because my parents were driving up from NC to meet me on
the course, and I hadn't seen them since last year. I was excited that
this 20 year old dream of riding across the country was about to be
fulfilled in the place where the dream began. I was excited that the
next day I could rest. I finally realized that I had just undertaken
something very few people ever consider, and I was about to
successfully complete the ride.

But I was also a little sad.

No time for that though. Susan and I had a ride to do. We rolled out
with Susan warning folks to get out of the way, since a girl-driver
was coming through. Roberta joined us as we rolled through beautiful
rural Virginia countryside. We still had a little climbing to do, and
I noticed that Susan also liked to mash big gears, and didn't like the
granny either. We toughed it out over one little wall, and she
promised to use the left shift lever if we hit another.

At the first snack stop, I had to get back on my single, since Susan
had to work the rest of the day. But we talked Roberta into captaining
with Karen. A few quick pedal changes and they were off. Karen wasn't
thrilled with my seat, but only had to use it for 30 miles, and stuck
it out. Roberta did great in her first time captaining, and I couldn't
keep up with them.

I reached the outskirts of Williamsburg with a small group of riders
and were led off course by an errant arrow. We quickly realized the
error, and were back on our way. We passed our hotel and I saw my
parents waving and shouting on the sidewalk. I stopped for a quick hug
and gave them directions to the next stop, along with instructions to
use their camera.

We regrouped about 5 miles from the beach for a group photo and to
make the assault on the beach together. Rebecca had talked John into
doing the final leg of the ride on the tandem with her, and they led
out the pack. We finally reached the beach and headed down to the
ocean with our bikes for a dip in the water. Jellyfish kept me from
going too far out, but I did get my feet wet. Lots of picture taking
and hugs and congratulations followed. A lot of people had family and
friends come out and meet them and it was really a fun time. The folks
sunning themselves on the beach were a little alarmed, but I enjoyed

We then rolled another mile down the road for lunch, but not before
stopping at a local pub for a beer, and it was a cold delicious beer!
I hadn't seen my folks in almost a year, so we spent lots of time
catching up, in between introducing them to my new friends. Of course
my mom told me I was too skinny, but I told her I'd ridden from Dairy
Queen to Dairy Queen trying to do something about it.

The cue sheet said the ride ended at the beach, so I accepted a ride
back to the motel with my folks, where people were packing up bikes
and getting ready to go home the next day. The final banquet that
night was really great as each rider was presented with their PAC Tour
plaque. The plaque had two pegs on it, for hanging one's hats and
gloves. Lon believes in utilitarian things.

The final rider called out was Richard Lawrence, the oldest rider to
ever complete PAC Tour. Richard was greeted with a standing ovation as
he accepted his plaque. One of the things that had motivated me to do
this ride was the knowledge that I might not always have a chance to
do everything I wanted to do, but Richard also showed us that it's
never too late to start.

Four weeks later

Well the saddle sore is gone. Most of the bad memories have faded, and
I remember how much fun I had and how great the people were. I'm
really enjoying my wonderfully short daily commute, but I'm still
doing long rides too. In fact, I've done 6 centuries since I returned
and have a couple planned for this weekend. Now, when people ask me
about my vacation, I enthusiastically respond that it was great. And
when John asked if I would do the central route with him next fall on
the tandem, I said yes. I definitely had more fun when tandeming, and
I don't think my single bikes are going to get much mileage next year!

Copyright 1993 Pamela Blalock


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