Riding the Tour de Skyline Drive

I had originally planned to leave on Friday, June 5 but bad thunderstorms were predicted and actually occurred. So I left on Saturday, June 6, and had my wife drive me twenty miles up Route 60 to Providence Forge to start. It was overcast and looked as though it might rain any minute. My destination for the day was Mineral, Virginia, where bikers are allowed to camp behind the volunteer fire department.

The route I was on took me through Ashland where the Strawberry festival was in full swing. There were people everywhere! I stopped for lunch at Homades By Suzanne where I had to wait in line for about a half hour. The food was well worth the wait and the Cheesecake was to die for!!!

I then headed on to Mineral and arrived around 5:30 PM. The volunteers let me use the shower and I set up my tent accross the parking lot. There was a small barbeque pork restaurant close to the fairgrounds where I was camping and it really hit the spot. After chewing the fat with the volunteers at the firehouse for about an hour, I hit the sack about 8 PM. Right after turning in I heard a quiet commotion outside my tent and finally, someone with a British accent asking me if it was OK to camp here. I exited my tent to see Katie and Greig, two crosscounty bikers that I had met in Williamsburg the Wednesday before. Their blog is Westbound Brits on Bikes! at http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/?o=3Tzut&doc_id=4992&v=15x

The trip to Front Royal on Sunday was going pretty good till late in the afternoon. I had stopped in Culpepper for lunch (nothing to write home about there!) and really enjoyed the scenic ride up route 522 through Flint Hill until I reached the mountain that I didn’t expect. I had stopped to rest twice after Flint Hill, the second time at a very small general store where the proprietor explained thet the summit was another mile and a half up the road and “…then it is all downhill to Front Royal.”

As I entered Fron Royal, I turned right to head over to Route 340 only to discove a short but very steep hill. It about killed me but I was just a few short miles from the campground for the night. I stopped and got a few bottles of water for the next day and headed down Route 340. I had to traverse a few small hills and then as I approched the turnoff to the campground, another short but steep hill. This hill got steeper after the turnoff!! Then there was about a half mile stretch that wasn’t toobad and as I made the turn into the campground itself, it got very steep again! This time I had to get off the bike and push it up to the store to check in.

I set up camp, showered, did what little laundry I had and went to sleep at 8 PM. The next day I awoke to a beautiful day and felt very refreshed. I ate breakfast and headed back up 340 to the entrance to Skyline Drive. It was uphill from the minute I turned off 340 and I noticed that there were a lot a flying insects as I paid the Park entrance fee and strated the long climb up the mountain. I was averaging about 4 mph for the most part. Whenevre I would stop to rest (which was frequent) the insects would swarm me. I sprayed my head and body with Deet and It didn’t appear to do any good. I had to keep moving. I had emptied my camelback by the time I got to the Dickey Ridge visitor center which is only 4 and a half miles into the park!

When I got to Matthews Arm campground, 22 miles into the days trip, I was beat and the insects were horrible!! Although it was only 2 PM, I was exhausted! I got a site for the night and crawled into the tent to escape the bugs. Again, I went to sleep very early and I woke up with my back aching horribly. I decided that it was time to throw in the towel and have my wife come get me. Only problem was – no cell coverage. Fortunately, there was a payphone in the parking lot. Oh and one other minor issue – a bear was on the other side of the parking lot! In the many years that I have hiked in the Shennandoah National Forest, I have never seen a bear!

The bear walked on down a trail and I called Kathie. She would be able to get me on Wednesday, which meant I had to spend another day at the capmpground. That would give me time to replan this trip for another try in the future!!