Bleak Expectations…. Catawba VA to Fort Chiswell VA

By Terry

Last night’s life saver turned up trumps again this morning … fresh coffee and egg ‘biscuits’ (‘rolls’ to us Brits) made to order. Fab. And they had those rare and elusive items: a butane canister and some non-meat noodles. Now we are cooking with the proverbial! Well, we at least have the option to when we get caught out by the distances and terrain.


The Appalachians are beautiful but the views come at a cost – your legs!

Payback time today for yesterday’s last 5 mile slog uphill … best part of twenty sunny miles downhill in the relative cool of the mid-80’s, along a beautiful lush valley with the distant mountains framing picture perfect farms and houses. Then the disappointment of Christianburg … we haven’t quite got the hang of the fact that the life of small American towns is now based on the car-centric outskirts, often leaving the old centres cut off from through traffic and thus life. Not a latte to be had … not even in the railway station – turned toy museum. (We did later discover from Jerry and Jonathan that if you venture slightly further into town (and off-route) caffeine is to be found!)

Truck sign

Enough said. And her truck was big – didn’t get a clear view of the other end though…

The plus-point of leaving the town is that we’re now on Map 2!  The American Adventure Cycling Association provides 12 maps making up the TransAmerican route. Now just 11 maps and four thousand miles to go!

Several ‘towns’ and lots of miles later, whilst struggling up a hill and daydreaming about a plate of steamed brussel sprouts with grated nutmeg (getting veg here seems to be about as difficult as cycling across America) we came across Jerry and Jonathan whom we’d last seen in Mineral fire station a few days back.

Fort Chiswell

Not exactly the view we were hoping for after 70 miles of cycling. The truck stop at Fort Chiswell.

They were pouring over maps after spending last night in Catawba sleeping in a barn with alpacas (check out their blog (see links) for some great photos)  and ditched the idea of camping tonight in favour of a hotel … they had heard about thunderstorms due later with four inches of rain and flash flooding. Seemed prudent to follow suit … so follow we did, for the next twenty odd miles, along swooping roads with joyous downs and heart attack inducing ups … to a massive interstate intersection with all the hotels and food outlets you could never want.

Showered, shaved, full of hope and walking a little funnily, we ventured forth to find dinner and chanced upon a small Diego Rivera painted Mexican restaurant. Being completely empty didn’t bode well … but it served up the best food I’ve had in the States … with vegetables and beer! Result or what. Such a change from the 50% dough, 50% sugar diet of late.

The Bleak Expectations isn’t a reference to the Radio Four comedy programme, in fact it’s not funny at all … it’s my 60th birthday tomorrow and unfortunately it looks like I’ll be spending all of it in this hotel room due to the massive inclemency of the weather. It could be worse though I suppose … Paul and I at least enjoy one another’s company (but then again he could just be saying that … I now know how good a liar he is) and we are really bonding …. I even got him to rub lotion all over my sunburnt back the other night … although he did kick off a bit and insist on wearing surgical gloves.

Today’s mileage: 72.19

Total Mileage since First Landing:  498.45

Here’s today’s Garmin report:

Written by Paul


  1. We are shacked up in Christianburg. Avoiding the rain on our rest day. Hope to cross paths again? Love them Virginia hills.

    • Hi guys! Good to hear from you. Yes the Virginia Hills just keep on giving don’t they? In the end we gave up predicting what was the last one because there was always another. We’ve been at Fort Chiswell all day while the rain came down – basically a huge truck stop.

      Don’t know if you’ve met them but two chaps called Jonathan and Gerry are also here, raised in. Terry and I plan to head to Damascus tomorrow, although there is a big hiking event on so not sure about where we will stay – have emailed the local church which allows some overnights.

      If you end up staying at Chiswell Ft (although expect you will go past apart from weather) we stayed at the Super 8 for 60 dollars.

      Good riding and may see you in the next couple of days

      Best wishes

      Paul and Terry

  2. Just a double take to make sure we connected?

  3. Hi Paul, Terry,

    Looks like your having a great time, in that great big country. I can’t believe you are over 10% done already. Reading your blogs is beginning to make me look forward to the Cornwall trip, I finished rebuilding the bike last night not bad with two days to go. Its always a bit of an anxious time but I suppose you will know all about that.

    Good luck and stay safe.


  4. Paul, how churlish of you to put on rubber gloves to apply lotion to Terry. Give it a couple more weeks and I reckon you will be doing it unprotected, and the lotion

Leave a reply