We saw a bear today! Even though we are in bear country and we knew they are around us, we didn't actually expect to see one. We were riding along a quiet country lane alongside Gravelly Ridge, still in the Appalachians, it was about 4 pm. We heard a rustle in the bushes, looked over and a black bear was about 25 feet ahead of us, where the bushes meet the road. By the time we saw him, he 'd already seen or heard us and turned around to go back into the forest. I stopped as soon as I saw him and we both said at the same time: 'It's a bear'. We couldn't believe it. It was an awesome sight and we both got a good look of him. We are glad he made the decision to scamper off into the bushes though and we are also glad we weren't a few seconds ahead of ourselves when he might have already been in the road, and we could have gone straight into him! From that point we talked a bit more continuously as we rode, so if there were any others they would hear us and move away.
Today also marks us moving on to the final map in the series we have which have gotton us across the country. The entire route is split into twelve maps, so this feels very significant. From the start of the day, we had 369 miles to go – in less than a week we will be in Yorktown, on the Atlantic coast.
It was a good days riding today. We took a few shortcuts here and there and paralleled highway 81 for much of the day, but as mentioned were still on rural roads with little traffic. We also had our first unfriendly driver which was a shame after getting so far. American motorists are really not used to dealing with cyclists, and we can tell that when they overtake us, it feels like are the first cyclists they have ever come across in their lives. They often give us way more room than they need to, as if they are so afraid of coming too close. This of course is not a problem for us, and we are very grateful. Today though, when on a very winding road, one driver came up behind us right on a sharp corner. Of course we were not going to stop on a corner for him to pass as this could have been dangerous for him to overtake us then. So we kept going for a bit until there was a straight bit of road where he would have a good line of vision. As he went past, he gave us the finger out of his sunroof. How pleasant.
Other cyclists have told us they've occasionally got hostile treatment from drivers eg driving too close, beeping their horn aggressively or shouting abuse at them as they went past, but we have always thought we would lucky in avoiding this. We also discussed the possibility that as female cyclists are particularly rare on these roads, that perhaps the sight of one, suddenly brings out the gentlemen in these patriarchal drivers. Fine by me, not getting shouted at and mowed down by a hillbilly in a rusty Chevy is always top of the day's agenda.
We arrived in Troutville about 6pm looking for the baseball park where we had hoped to camp for the night. We found the park but weren't sure if it was the right place. But sure enough a friendly stranger in the form of Carlene bounded over, and showed us where we could pitch our tent. Later on, Cecil, the park keeper also came over to make sure we were alright, and had water etc. He also warned us that a couple of noisy trains would go past in the night as the tracks were right close. Sure enough, that roaring siren that we hear quite often, delighted our slumber at about 2 am in the morning. American trains have a horn on them which is second to none in alerting you to it's presence.
We ended our day with our camp style fajitas, a version which if not entirely true to the original dish, still manages to hit the spot when we are hungry after a day of riding.