05.21.11 – villeburgnatiboro

It was a cold and rainy night…okay it was actually 8am but it really was cold and rainy when we left Jessica and Mark’s house in Lewisburg, WV. Lewisburg is in southeastern West Virginia and still very close to the Appalachians so the hills are still pretty big and steep. Our goal was to make it to Fayetteville where the New River Gorge is located along with one of the country’s most notable bridges. But with the rain, dogs and hills we found ourselves exhausted with still another 20 miles to go. During the ride we walked up several hills similar to the Manayunk Wall in Philadelphia, PA and traversed what could only be described as a creek bed with a road name. What’s more is that the rain actually MADE it a creek bed!

Why did we go thought all of that? Well up to this point, Hannah and I have been relying mostly on the bicycle routing feature in Google Maps. We first try to find good local knowledge of the road, preferably from a fellow cyclist or bike shop in the area. When that isn’t available (and it’s definitely not available in southern WV), we’ll take other local advice but with a grain of salt. Since there was relatively no local knowledge to be provided, we relied on the bicycle feature to map out the “best possible route” for that day. It became painfully obvious that Google’s idea of a road is simply if it’s been named. After a muddy trudge along the so-called road, we vowed to more thoroughly check out routes and stick to more populated areas whenever possible.

It was a relief to come upon Babcock State Park, just outside of the New River Gorge National Park. A super nice ranger helped us weigh the options of continuing to Fayetteville or camping at Babcock. It wasn’t a tough choice when he mentioned there were showers. For $22 we got electricity, showers, and a safe campsite where I was even able to do a little laundry (sometimes I say laundry when really I mean hand washing my clothes while I shower). We had the most amazing Chili, Mac & Cheese dinner and called it a night.

The following day was a pretty easy ride up to the New River Gorge bridge that would take us into Fayetteville. Before reaching this bridge, however, we happened upon the campsite that we had planned to stay at the night before and boy were we happy to have stayed where we did. While we didn’t see the campground itself, we were greeted by the owner who also owned the convenience store next door. The way he seemed to run both the campground and store made it seem as if he relied mostly on his dogs to be the alarm system and security. He was very helpful in directing us to the bridge but he just didn’t seem cut out for the title of campsite owner. Next to the campground was a lot full of cannibalized cars with several Coon Hounds leashed precariously to the scraps. Having this next to our tent site would have made it very difficult to sleep. Moving on we came the bridge and had a great time crossing it while peering down to the New River over 800ft below! The video of the crossing will hopefully make you feel the excitement we had at that moment.

Fayetteville seemed like a really great place and one that we wish we could have spent more time exploring especially since there was a beer tasting that day. We stopped at a New River Bike Shop owned by Andy Forron. His small shop is really well put together so while we went to a sandwich shop down the street, he gave our bikes a once over. Upon returning to the shop Andy offered us a 32oz bottle of the local beer for us to take with us. We were super psyched to be able to try the beer after all even if it wouldn’t be in the company of our new friend. We left the shop and headed for Charleston, WV. We were told to expect a mountain outside of Fayetteville but when we got to the top of it, we were surprised at how easy it was compared to earlier climbs. Perhaps we were getting stronger after all. The ensuing descent was amazing and no words can explain how fun it was so check out the video. At about 5pm, after a long day of what turned into a windy and uneventful ride, we got an email from James Richards (through Couchsurfing) who agreed to put us up for a night at his house. Both he and his dad are on Couchsurfing and apparently his dad was the first one to join, which I find interesting because I’m used to meeting younger people on there. As luck would have it, they were also fans of interesting beer so we shared our newly acquired brew with them, ate some amazing homemade meals and had fantastic conversation. Did you know that alcohol stunts nerve growth? Well, you do now.

The rain did not let up at all the following day. We headed out pretty early and made good time to a town called Hurricane (pronounced Hurricken). During a rest stop at a random gas station we met Osh, the mid forties owner of the store and station, and originally from Philadelphia. To make things more interesting, he studied mechanical engineering at Drexel for a semester while studying inside the taxi he drove for work. Osh and his buddies hooked us up with some coffee and Oh Yeah! energy bars. We hit the road again, in the rain, and ended up in Gallipolis a few hours later. The last stretch getting there was pretty intense. It was a two lane road, small shoulder, raining, and moderately filled with cars. For 12 miles (1 hour) my job was to cut through the wind and hers was to keep track of cars. The only things we said were “Car back” and “Yuh!” Oh and to get from one side of the river to the other we “enjoyed” a shoulderless highway bridge (in the rain) but luckily there were several lanes per side so the cars stayed well away from us on the bridge. Again Hannah’s dad, Don, came through and got us a room at the Hampton Inn. Having been rained on for 8 hours I don’t think we ever wanted a hotel room so bad in our lives! Thank you so much, Don.

The next day went pretty darn well. We took US-35 pretty much all the way to Chillicothe to avoid windy, hilly, dog-filled back roads and I’m pretty sure it was mostly downhill! Averaging 12-15mph we made it to Chillicothe (65 miles) in less than 6 hours with a couple stops. Again we stayed at a hotel thanks to Don Johnston and enjoyed Buffalo Wild Wings! I had no idea Bdubs was anywhere but WNY. I’m pretty sure Chillicothe has absolutely no local small businesses. It’s pretty much a town made up of every single chain restaurant you can imagine. This Bdubs had a beer I’ve never seen before – Chili Beer. Yup, it’s a lager with a whole chili inside. Now I don’t do well with spicy things but I couldn’t not try it! Let’s just say it didn’t help to quench the wings that I ordered.

After a great night’s sleep, a free breakfast, and another broken wheel nipple, we headed to Hillsboro, where John and Heather live with their children and horses. They own a beautiful little house with a pool and several acres. Their farm facilities include a horse barn and a really cool indoor arena for winter riding. Their children are absolutely adorable. Their names are Toby, Layla, Beans, Peanut, Mickey and Boogie! Toby, Layla and Beans are outdoor dogs and the rest are super hyper adorable Chihuahuas. My favorite was Boogie but Hannah loved Peanut. By now, Toby has probably gotten a nice clean shave because as you can see in the pictures, he’s picked up quite a bit of his surroundings…literally. The following day we had an uneventful ride into Cincinnati where we planned a weekend of rest.

Cincinnati was a much needed rest. We stayed with Hannah’s family and for a moment it felt like a home away from home. Over the course of the weekend we dropped off my bike to get my wheels re-tensioned, ate at some great restaurants and went on a historical brewery tour of Cincinnati. I had no idea how popular Cincinnati used to be for brewing. The old buildings and caverns had some very interesting architecture and I learned that the six pointed star, which is often associated with Israel, is also a symbol of the six facets of brewing: Yeast, Hops, Malt, Wheat, Water and the Brewmaster. Forecasted thunderstorms kept me in Cincinnati on Monday and it wasn’t until Tuesday that I set off for Oxford, OH.

One last thing, the reason this post is called villeburgnatiboro is because Hannah always mixed up the town names of the places we stayed. Instead of Lewisburg, she said Lewisville and instead of Fayetteville she said Fayetteburg or other unique mutations. I believe it’s only a matter of time until she puts them all together and says villeburgnatiboro!

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