Monday, June 26, 2017

New River Trail

Over Memorial Day weekend I met up with Mom and Dad in Southwest VA to ride The New River Trail

We had a 2 hour early release from school so I was able to leave Northern VA by 1:30! There was no traffic on 66 and soon I was heading down 81. I stopped at the Ft. Valley Garden Center and Cafe in Woodstock and got a salad for dinner.  Then continued down 81, thinking I'd stop at a rest area and eat later. 

I was almost to Roanoke when I saw a traffic sign that said "Roanoke, 30 miles, 81 minutes".  What?!?? Almost immediately traffic stopped. I made a quick decision to bail out onto US11 and continued south with no traffic.  Only catch, there are no rest stops for dinner on US11! But I got really lucky, as I passed through Troutville I saw a city park and pulled right in.  The park was really nice with plenty of picnic tables, swings that looked like chairs, and a short paved walking trail! It was a lovely spot to eat, stretch my legs and swing! It was a lovely evening but I knew I had to get back on the road or I'd never get to the campground. 

I encountered more traffic around Radford, but soon I'd made it to the Ft. Chiswell RV Resort  only about 30 minutes later than I'd planned! 

The weather forecast for the weekend wasn't very good - storms Saturday afternoon and an 80% chance of rain on Sunday.  This could mess up our plan to ride 30 miles on Saturday and 20 on Sunday to finish the trail! 

We headed out early Saturday to get the ride in before the storms.  After some confusion we ended up parking the van at the Foster Falls trailhead and then drove to Galax which is the end of the trail. Mom was going to drive the jeep back to the campground so we didn't have to go back to Galax.

The trail started out really nice. Shaded, by a rushing creek. It was cool and lovely! About two miles in another biker came up and was chatting with Dad as they rode. I was enough ahead that I couldn't really hear them, but they were chatting away.  Soon we crossed the New River and reached the Fries Junction.  Our new friend Don had been planning to turn around and go back to Galax at Fries Junction, but I guess he liked us because he kept riding with us.  He rode with us all the way to Foster Falls and then had to ride back! (Total ride 44 miles! He'd only been planning to ride about 12!)

Bridge over the New River 

After we crossed the river the trail was less interesting, but still nice! The trail surface was wide and smooth. We stopped twice for snacks and bathroom and soon we were pulling into Foster Falls.  I was very glad to be there because I'd filled my hydration pack from the RV and it had a distinct RV Antifreeze aftertaste.  RV Antifreeze isn't toxic, it won't hurt you to drink the water, but it didn't taste very good so I was glad to get some cold fizzy water in my van! 

Both Dad and I calculated the mileage from Galax to Foster Falls and we both came up with close to 30 miles, so we were surprised when we arrived to find that it was only 22 miles.  What? How'd we both do the math wrong? Turns out we accidentally put the distance to Fries down a spur trail in our mileage, we didn't go to Fries! So, he we were, done with the days ride at 1:00, the sun was shinning, no sign of rain, yet.  So, we decided to keep riding! We texted Mom to come pick us up in Pulaski - the other end of the trail, we'd ride all 50 miles today.   

The thing with biking is that I can go a long ways before I get done, but once I'm done, I'm done.  Usually that happens around mile 30-32. Before that however, I'll agree to ride a significant distance! So, it didn't surprise me much when 11 miles from Foster Falls I started rethinking our plan to go all the way to Pulaski.  We texted Mom and asked her to meet us in Draper. That would only cut off 7 miles, but it was the only road crossing.  

I made it till about mile 40 before I had to take a walk break for about a mile! 



Fun fact about the New River, it one of the only rivers in the country that flows south to north! It starts in the mountains of North Carolina, then travels through Virginia, and West Virginia before joining up with the Gauley and the Kanawha and dumping into the Ohio. 

Once we made it to Draper, Mom was there waiting and we went back to the campground, got cleaned up and headed into Wytheville for a yummy and interesting dinner at The Log House.  As we were finishing up dinner a small storm rolled through and it rained a bit when we got back to the campground. 

Sunday, the day we were expecting an 80% chance of rain, dawned sunny and warm! Not a cloud in the sky.  So, what were we're going to do? We'd already ridden as much of the trail as we felt we needed to.  

After a lazy ceampground morning we headed over to The Mansion at Ft. Chiswell for lunch and a tour.  It was interesting and the ice cream after lunch was really yummy! 

In the afternoon we drove up to Claytor Lake State Park to check it out. Dad and I went on a short hike while Mom took advantage of the good cell signal a sat in a gazebo by the lake and made phone calls. Fun fact, Claytor Lake was formed by damming up the New River! 

After we were done at the lake we drove back via Pulaski to check the town out. Not much there. We did take 11 rather than getting on the interstate and went over a big mountain with a pullout at the top.  Then we headed back to Wytheville for pizza at The Italian Garden.  It never did rain a single drop! 

Monday I had to make the long drive home. I'd considered going up the Blue Ridge Parkway but decided it would take almost twice as long as 81 because it was further mileage and the speed limit was significantly slower, so back up 81 it was.  I did stop for a quick visit at Natural Bridge State Park   It was a nice walk and cool to see the bridge.  After that it was directly home with a stop at Wegmans!