So I'm here! In Durham, NC! 2 months ago, as I set off from my uncle's place, I didn't imagine the things I would see and do. I'm so happy that I was able to push through all the little problems and issues that came up and get all the way to my originally intended goal.
I've been pushing myself more than usual for the last few days, but I've felt great throughout. I did 110 miles today! With significant uphills too. Then again, I wasn't ready to do a small 50 mile day today and push the trip another day! It's funny to contrast today with my second day on this trip, where I felt like I wasn't going to be able to make the 60 mile ride! I've certainly grown stronger since then.
The last few days had a significant amount of urban riding, and I was continually reminded how different riding in the city is compared to the country. There were a few times when roads were filled with traffic, but for me, the bigger problem has been navigating in cities. I keep missing my turns and then have to figure out how to get back to where I need to be.
There are advantages to city riding too of course. Elizabethton had a beautiful trail that took me almost all the way up the Appalachians on a scenic, gentle slope. And I hit bits of trail in North Carolina too.
I've been getting a lot of help from people along the way for the last few days too.
At Bean Station, the Inn Manager, an Indian, was really intrigued by my stories. We spent a bunch of time talking about my trip and how he got there and started doing what he's doing. He used to be a software engineer at Northrop Grumman! He decided at some point that he wanted to slow down a bit, so bought a motel along with a bunch of friends and now runs the place! Pretty cool! He even cooked me some authentic indian food and didn't charge me for the room!
As I was riding from the Tennessee-North Carolina border into Boone, there was a huge storm approaching from behind. The road was narrow and there was thick forest on both sides, so I rode on, figuring I was going to get drenched anyway. Just before the storm got to me however, this guy pulled up next to me and asked me to get in! I told him I was ok, but he insisted. He said the storm was going to be severe and riding in it wasn't safe. He seemed genuinely concerned. So I stopped. We loaded the bike and I got in. He rode me all the way up to the nearest gas station and dropped me off there. The storm that followed was absolutely huge. I was so glad I wasn't halfway up the hill in the middle of nowhere at that point!
I stayed at two warmshowers too, both of whom were very nice. One of them happened to have his birthday the day I was there, so I joined his family in the birthday celebrations, and had some delicious ice-cream cake.
The last two days have been pretty annoying. The day before yesterday, I broke a spoke, which I was able to fix because it was on the non-gear side.
Yesterday I broke another one! On the gear side! I had no option but to put on a FiberFix and keep going. But I didn't secure it properly and a few miles in, the wheel had gotten seriously bent to the point it was touching the frame! I stopped and redid my FiberFix. I knew there was no way I could ride like this for 150 miles more to Damascus (the closest bike shop en-route).
I checked for other cities with bike shops around and found London, 26 miles to the south, but the shop was closed on Monday and opened only at 12 today. At least that's what Google said. Anyway, there was no other bike shops around so I went there and checked into a Motel for the night.
I woke up, waited till 11:30 AM, and then went to the shop, only to find that it was permanently closed! There was absolutely no other bike shop for several miles! I tried desperately calling a few motorcycle shops in the city, but none of them could fix bicycle spokes. In a last ditch attempt, I messaged a Warmshowers host about 10 miles away to see if she had any ideas about what I could do.
I did not expect what happened next. Rebecca (the WS host) went far out of her way for me. She called friends in London, but no one knew a mechanic with the tools. So she drove up, scooped me and my bike up and took me to the only bike shop in Corbin, 17 miles south. The mechanic wouldn't come in until the evening, so I had to wait around until then. The people at the bike shop were amazing though. Tom, the owner even invited me to dinner, and we all had a great time. Jeff, a friend of his, even payed for my dinner! Amazing hospitality to a biker, who is lost in the middle of nowhere. When we got back, the mechanic Ken had already started working on the bike. He fixed the spoke, trued the wheel, adjusted the derailleurs and made some other small adjustments. All in all, the bike felt solid again. Tom charged me 70 bucks for all that. A little steep for just fixing a spoke, but considering the pickup, dinner and tune-up, I guess it was alright. I am staying with Rebecca tonight. Hopefully, I can get out early tomorrow and get some solid miles in.