June 7, 2006
Whoo-hoo, I’m writing from beautiful Damascus, Virginia! As a crossroads of the TransAmerica Trail, the Appalachian Trail, and the Virginia Creeper Trail… and host to the annual Trail Days festival, Damascus is one of my most favorite little towns in the world. It’s been my first psychological goal of these past twelve days – to get here – and I’m here!
I woke around 7am this morning, and was packed up and in the saddle something like ten minutes later. I think that’s a personal record for me so far. Of course it was due to a little extra motivation – I only rode five minutes to a local place for breakfast, called Virginia Heights.
It was a one room restaurant with a single waitress running the show – and she did an excellent job – chattering everybody up and getting the job done at the same time. It seemed to be a room full of regular customers:
“Hi Joe, how are you this morning? Where were you yesterday, all the guys were asking about you! Hiya Jerry, coffee? Oh, you’re just here for your eye drops!” …as Jerry sits next to his presumed doctor, who appears to be writing out a prescription.
I had four biscuits with gravy, three pancakes, two sausage patties, and four cups of coffee. I was all ready to go, thinking that it would be an 80 mile ride to Damascus. Most of the morning was along the farm roads that I’ve been writing about. I had a headwind to deal with for a little while, but all that coffee cut me right through it. Blue skies, and I had 30 miles behind me by noon.
I stopped in Troutdale at a general store/restaurant called The Trading Post – a really small local affair. There I had two cheeseburgers, a hot dog, and 20oz. coke. I’m living it up and eating well in restaurants today to celebrate getting to Damascus. Inside The Trading Post there were some local farmer-types talking about dirt, literally! I heard one guy say, “Now I may be goin’ color blind, but I seen all different kinds of dirt there – brown… and some veins of red.” And the other guy responded, ” I bet ya got some black too up the hill out by them rocks.” …and the conversation went on like that. It’s a shame I don’t have the budget to eat in restaurants every day, because it’s a great way to meet the locals.
I took a look at the map, and realized I only had 20 more miles to get to Damascus… making today only a 60 mile day, as opposed to 80! I must have miscalculated last night. That was a great surprise! …like when your alarm clock goes off and you get up to go work, and then you remember that it’s Saturday!
I was warned by a few people that the last miles into Damascus are hilly. I disagree. There’s no “hills,” but two mountains instead. They were both gradual, long climbs on shady wooded roads, so no big deal. This took place in the vicinity of Mount Rodgers and (I imagine) the Grayson Highlands. Mount Rodgers is the highest peak in Virginia. Each climb was rewarded with a sweet descent that followed. The final miles into town were all downhill, hugging a cascading, winding mountain stream, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
In Damascus my first stop was at the Post office to pick up my mail-drop. My parents sent my new prescription glasses that I ordered before the trip, and they’re great – those new transition lenses that change into sunglasses. Originally I was going to go with my contact lenses and regular sunglasses, but decided on my practice tour that contacts were too much of a daily hassle.
After that I checked in for the night at the church hostel, called “The Place.” Not housed in the church, The Place is a stand-alone structure where most rooms were converted into bunk-rooms. I’ve stayed there while backpacking in the past, and today I met some AT hikers staying overnight too. I suppose you could say that they’re walking in my former shoes.
I took a shower, hit up the laundromat, and washed my clothes with detergent – for the first time this trip! Up until now, I’ve just been wringing them out in water and drying them with sun and body heat. I met two more AT hikers at the laundromat – they were from Manchester, England.
One guy I hiked with for a few days in 2001 (Trail name: The Sheriff) liked this town so much that he bought a local business, the old Sidetrack Cafe, and made it into his own Mexican place – The Baja Cafe. I stopped in there to say hello, but Sheriff was over in the next town, Abington, doing some work preparing to open a second Baja Cafe! I hung out there for a few hours, had a steak quesadilla, some beers, and got to upload a bunch of my pictures. I’ll catch up with Sheriff tomorrow – I’m taking a rest day here.
Then it was back to The Place where I hung out with the hikers for the rest of the night, including Johnny from New Brunswick, Canada. Conversation sounded like, “The other night at this shelter there were all these mice, so this dude put out a little peanut butter to bait them. All of a sudden he whipped out this big knife – not like a Swiss Army or anything – bigger. All of a sudden – WHAM! – skewered the thing!”
And another hiker adds, “Then he was about to cut off its head – right where I wanted to lay out my sleeping bag – and I was like ‘Dude, stop! You’re gonna get blood everywhere!'”
I had a 14oz box of peanut butter cream cookies, two Little Debbie fudge rounds, and a bag of popcorn tonight, and went to bed a little hungry an hour later… so now go ahead and recap everything I ate today, so I don’t have to type a list. It was a lot. Normally at home I weigh 180 lbs. Today I weighed in at 170. Life is good in Damascus.
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Google Map Route may not be 100% accurate.