Monday, March 31, 2008

Lost in Richmond

I looked out of the window in the morning and while the ground was wet, it wasn’t raining. The temperature in the morning was already warmer than the high for the previous day, so I had high hopes for a good day on the bike. I was hoping to have a big day so I started out at an aggressive pace. I slowed a bit when I came to the town of Smithfield, home to Smithfield Foods, best known for their ham. While I didn’t get any scents of cooking ham as I rode through town, I did get a whiff of the hog confinements. Not nearly as pleasant. It is just a reminder where our food comes from. Most people take for granted that they can go to a supermarket and pick up a ham, without thinking about, or wanting to think about where it had come from.

The hills had officially started. While I wasn’t in the mountains, the hills required some work to climb. I would ride over the steady undulations all the way to Richmond, VA. I was also getting to the area that was heavily involved in the Civil War. The State of Virginia was not shy about putting up historical markers all over the place. The seemingly had a historical marker for any and everything that transpired prior to 1850, regardless of how significant. Early on in Virginia I had stopped at nearly every historical marker, but I had to forego my breaks, as it would take three hours to cover a mile. I probably don’t need to know that it was in 1637 Isle of Wight County received its name, being changed from Warrascoyack.

I rode through some towns with less than common names: Bacons Castle, Yellow Tavern and Rushmere. As I rode through the town of Rushmere, VA I could not believe that I didn’t see one thing using a play on words and calling itself Mt. Rushmere. It is what I have come to expect of America.

As I rode along I was heartened when I began to see patches of dry road. For a brief moment I also saw the smallest patch of blue in the sky, but unfortunately, it wouldn’t last for long.

When I arrived in the city of Hopewell, the trees were replaced by smokestacks. A pungent odor also came across my nose the second I hit the city limit. I would have preferred riding along with a dirty sweat sock over my nose. The only thing I wanted to do in Hopewell was get out of Hopewell. My negative thoughts brought a drizzle. I just hoped it stayed as one. In my estimation, Hopewell is to Richmond, what Gary, Indiana is to Chicago.

I rode along in a daze and I was ten miles beyond where I was supposed to have to turned when I finally realized it. I blew right past Richmond. I took a detour and approached the city from the southwest instead of the east. It wasn’t the worst thing in the world, but I did tack on a number of miles to my day.

I did eventually make it to Richmond and promptly become totally lost. I followed a bike route sign as opposed to sticking to my plan and was completely turned around. I ended up in an area of town where I had no business being. I made a quick U-turn and tried to get back to the center of town that seemed safer. I wanted to pull out my laptop to check the map, but it wasn’t happening. Not in that area. Three urban youths on bicycles decided to mess with me. I sped past them only to listen to threats being yelled at me. I was able to make a few quick turns to lose them. Had the circumstances been only slightly different, my day may have ended up wallet free, or worse. I just kept riding until I found a place I could pull out my laptop and check my map.

Once I escaped Richmond to the north I hit some real hills. The hills were large enough that I was coasting down the backside at 30MPH. It was one hill after the next. Each time I got to the top of a hill I was hoping for a change, but it wasn’t to be.

In the afternoon the real rain began. The on and off drizzle turned to a steady rain. I once again donned my plastic bag rain gear and continued on. This time when I came upon a hotel though, I decided to stay they instead of just drying off. I was growing tired of taking an hour to clean my bike each night, though it has to be done. I probably have around 10,000 miles on that bike and it is still going strong.

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