And there they were. The mountains. I was so happy that I stopped cycling around 20 km before they began the day before, because I’ve realized that it’s about that distance it takes for me to warm up my legs in the mornings. I cycled until the incline began and then took a small energy break. The climb wasn’t very steep at first, so I was feeling extremely confident. That would change.
After a while the mountain got a whole lot steeper. Just as I was feeling confident that I would be able to cycle the entire way up, I came around a bend in the road and at that moment it got so much worse. I tried cycling but had to stop and start pushing instead. And then I pushed. And pushed. And pushed. At every bend I just hoped that it would flatten out a bit, but it never did. I pushed for more than two hours with no relief.
At one point a car stopped next to me, and I was so sure that they would offer me a lift. But he just wanted to warn me about snakes by the side of the road. Well, thanks for that. I just stared at him…
After a few hours I made it up to a rest stop and could finally sit down. I had seriously never been so sweaty in my life, I was completely soaked. A family was there too, and they got really excited to see me. We took pictures and then they offered me water and chips. I could seriously have cried. So I sat down and watched the beautiful view and had some chips, it was perfect.
But I wasn’t done. There was more climbing to be done. I’m so glad I’m wearing Keen sandals and not ordinary cycling shoes, I would never have been able to walk up that mountain pushing my bike otherwise. It was also really nice weather, just 20 c so that helped a lot. I did have an energy shot that helped too.
After 6 hours and about 65 km I was finally in Banner Elk where I had planned to stop for the day. I immediately decided to take a rest day there tomorrow, that hike up the mountain was so hard on my body and I was so exhausted.
My rest day in Banner Elk was amazing, it’s such a beautiful little village high up in the mountains. I took a walk, I had to walk beside the road as usual but I don’t mind. If I didn’t walk there I’d never make it anywhere if I don’t want to cycle.
This morning I was ready to hit the road again, this time I’d finally make it to Tennessee and down from the mountain. Yes, of course there were some hills as well, but for almost 65 km it was mostly downhill riding. Amazing! I love going down much more than I do up, that’s for sure. And google maps lead me to some beautiful cycle paths, I was a bit resistant about going off the main road but it was so worth it!
I cycled 112 km today in 6 hours, which I feel pretty good about. The heat wasn’t too bad, 31 c at most and I was truly enjoying myself today. And yes, then I got myself a hotel room, took a swim in the pool and now I’m just enjoying my first afternoon in Tennessee. I’m only 280 km from Berea, Kentucky now where I’ll join the Transamerica Trail. It will be weird to actually meet other cyclists…
See you soon!