From: Joel Spolsky
Date: Mon, 1 May 95 20:56:08 -0400
To: everyone
Subject: Virginia is for soggy bicyclists

Hi! This time I am in Blacksburg, VA (get out your atlases), home of Virginia Tech which was kind enough to put some nice PowerMac's with Internet stuff in the library. Since you last heard from me I had about four days of climbing. It seems like it was completely uphill, but actually, there were these short little downhill patches every once in a while to prevent my going into orbit.

The Blue Ridge Mountains

On leaving Charlotesville I rode past a zillion family farms (theme of the week: cows 'n' horses) inconveniently situated on very hilly terrain. Then, the town of Afton (pop. 1) with the most killer uphill climb you've ever seen, complete with ALL CAPITAL LETTER WARNINGS ABOUT HOW STEEP IT IS on the map. Anyway I survived that and felt like I could do anything, but there was a Howard Johnson's strategically placed at the top of the hill so I stopped for the night and watched three movies on HBO. This was at the northernmost point of the Blue Ridge Parkway, by the way, which is a very nice and completely pointless road that goes along the top of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Somehow I imagined that it would be straight and flat (well, it looked that way on the map) but -- we all know that Mountains Aren't Straight and Flat! In fact it was mostly uphill, again. I said that the parkway was "pointless" because it doesn't go anywhere, and it doesn't go from anywhere, so its main purpose seems to be to allow zillions of retirees in big motorhomes to cruise up and down in October looking at the gorgeous Fall Folliage. Actually the views are quite nice. After watching a TV special on PBS about some guy trying to go from Pole to Pole through Sudan, getting stuck in the mud with his landrovers on the main highway to Ethiopia, which was really just a few treadmarks through the mud, the presense of a high-tech, grass-edged, corps-of-engineers designed mountain two-lane asphalt-topped highways from nowhere to nowhere strictly for the sightseeing benefit of the RV class seems a bit extravagant.

Getting down from the Blue Ridge was *supposed* to be fun - a 56,000,000 foot descent in about 250 yards of road. But as it turns out, the muscles that you use to hold onto your brakes are not normally exercized as the part of a standard Nautilus circuit so this was much more difficult than anticipated, and I now have achy muscles in places where I didn't think I had places.
A typical country store

The other side of the Blue Ridge (aka the Shennadoah Valley) was much poorer. The price of Dolly Madison Cherry Pies dropped below 50 cents in the (dilapidated) general-stores-cum-video-rental-outlets (where you can also buy permits to kill assorted wild animals). The "family farms" became trailer homes with big piles of collected rubbish (broken down 1952 trucks, for example) stacked up outside.

Much to my embarassment, I also found myself pedaling along the same route as the Tour DuPont (a giant bicycle race) about 10 minutes before the tour was supposed to come through. The only reason they hadn't pulled me off the road is because, having two wheels, I kinda looked like I belonged to the Tour. Finally a sheriff had the foresight to make me wait be the side which is a good thing because otherwise you'd be reading in the paper about how Lance Armstrong, the American from the Motorola team, *would* have won stage 5 of the Tour DuPont if it wasn't for a bozo with panniers trying to ask him questions. Anyway I finally figured out that the entire population of Troutsville, VA (pop 200) did *not* really come out to main street to wave *me* on, and Lance did win stage 5 as well as stage 6.

The Tour DuPont

I stopped in Roanoke for the night because I didn't have enough daylight left to get any further. Roanoke is a dumpy little SimCity with little reason to exist except to serve as a Generic City in case John Sayles wants to make another movie like "City of Hope." So I won't comment any more on that. Today, I cruised through the Roanoke Valley... actually it was very hilly, with beautiful mountains on either side and quaint little farms with lots o' cows 'n' horses and the occasional farm cat. Theoretically, according to the route, I should have gone to Christiansburg, but the map also showed Virginia Tech in Blacksburg and it was starting to rain and I thought -- hey! Internet terminal! and here I am :-) So I continued on 785 to Blacksburg, which turned out to be about 3 miles of solid hell, which translated to about 2 hours of climbing. You know how when you're climbing a mountain it always looks like the top is just around the next corner and it never is? Well that happened to me all day. :P Oh, and, what do you know -- you can get Caffe Latte's in Blacksburg.

Cows are our friends.

All the best,

Joel

PS. My sister just had a baby boy! 8 lbs and all are healthy. J

why are there so many trampolines in Kentucky?
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