Day 102

Today, even though I am still not following any scenic bike trails, I have to say that I am quite impressed with the road. Highway 40, which takes me all the way to Havre de Grace, has a very wide shoulder. It is systematically marked as a bike path and there are plenty of bikes signs along. The path is sometimes wider than the actual lane and… it’s ALL FOR ME! I feel like dancing and singing. I’m a happy camper and I am on FIRE: going sooo fast. And then, the best comes when I pass a 10-km traffic jam. The cars are not moving, not even a bit, whilst I’m joyfully cruising by. I want to shout “YOUUU SUCKERS!” at the drivers as I pass them all by. But I don’t. No, for I don’t like to see peopl

Taking over the White House

I take a rest day in the capital in order to stretch my legs and take some culture in. And also, as it’s the obvious LOGICAL next step to anyone who’s cycled across the country: to take over the White House. The culture is great. I visit the Renwick Gallery, the Hirshhorn and the National Portrait Gallery. The Renwick is my favourite, with not only some exceptional pieces of art that totally speak to me, but also videos of artists ACTUALLY speaking to the audience and explaining their art. In a totally FUNNY way. My second fave is the Portrait Gallery with the “Experience America” exhibition. All of a sudden it all seems so… RELEVANT. I see pieces by artists I’m familiar with, but this time,

Day 101

Oh, how far have I come from the scenic, calm, tiny roads of ACA bike trails. Very, very far. First challenge of the day: get across the Potomac River Bridge that does not allow cyclists on. Easy: hitch a ride. Second challenge: not abandon riding on a 4-lane highway and get a lift instead. Cars are speeding but as long as I have some shoulder, I don’t care. I do care however whenever they honk at me. It makes me anxious and nervous. It makes me want to disappear. At some point there’s some road work on a 50-metre stretch so I need to get onto the actual lane. The drivers start tooting. It’s so stressful. I hate it. C’mon guys, I am so smol and easy to pass. I am not taking up that much of y

Day 100

Time to venture into the East Coast jungle. Many have warned me against the overpopulated roads and crazy drivers so I am pretty anxious about the upcoming ride. I will not be following a bike trail anymore, so people might not be used to sharing the road with cyclists. Let’s wait and see. Getting out of Yorktown is misery. I’m on a four-lane highway and it’s time to take my high-visibility fluorescent jacket out, don a helmet and turn the rear light on. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be enough to fend off the crazy. An hour into my ride, a van gets behind me and starts tooting. I make the arm signal for them to pass but they won’t. They drag themselves behind and keep honking. I have now

Day 99

There is only one thing to say about today: I have cycled across the United States!!! Veni Vidi Vici

Day 98

To do today: cross the continent by bike. Once I get to Yorktown, I will have cycled across the United States, without money and with a breathing machine in my panniers, all by myself, like a big girl. Well, turns out that if you get in the saddle at noon and take an hour nap in a hammock by the road, you don’t make it across the country. At 7pm I am on the outskirts of Williamsburg, eating a protein bar and it’s getting really dark. A car pulls over and asks whether I need assistance. “Nah, I’m all right. Just having a snack before I continue.” “You’re going to Yorktown? That’s precisely what I want to do with my son next year, but in the opposite direction.” “Cool! So, you *have* heard of

Day 97

Today’s road is flat, bike-friendly and easy. Not much to report, really. Apart from one societal issue I have noticed. Ever since I left San Francisco, I have not seen a single black person in the whole of the US. That is, until I got to Charlottesville and went through Monticello. It seems that the road is now taking me through Black American communities where the only white person is… me! This made me realise another thing. The racial break-down of the cycle touring community. In the past 4 months, I have come across: - 3 Asian guys (one Chinese and two Japanese I think). - 2 Hispanic boys (brothers from Columbia). - 0 Black people. And 5 fellow single ladies. It would therefore seem, tha

Day 96

I don’t really have much to say about the road. 88 km of asphalt going east. Voilà. You know everything. No, today, the trail takes me by Monticello: Thomas Jefferson’s plantation (or residence, in plain English). I enquire about a visit but it’s $28 and lasts for over 2 hours and I have neither the money nor the time (it’s already 1 pm and I have 80 km to do before it gets dark). And even if I did have the money, I find the ticketing steep: even the 5-century old Versailles Palace, which is not only older but also bigger, is cheaper to visit ($24, if anyone asking). And, and… Jefferson actually tore down the first version of Monticello after his visit to Paris and decided to rebuild it taki

Day 95

My yesterday’s efforts are rewarded early on this morning. First, I’m greeted by the Sun: shining strong, shining through. The terrain: it has finally started veering towards more of a descent than a climb. The views: I’m atop one of the most beautiful passages of the Blue Ridge Parkway and I’m taking it in without moderation. But to each long climb is a disproportionately fast descent and so I’m making my way down in no time. One important stop on the downhill is the Cookie Lady’s house. The former home to June Curry – a wonderful lady who assisted cyclists on the TransAmerica Trail from 1976 until her death in 2012. It is estimated that some 14,000 touring cyclists enjoyed her hospitality

Day 94

I am sooo anxious. About the climb. I procrastinate however I can: I take hours to eat my breakfast (a double one!), I stop for an hour at the visitors centre on the way out of town, I sit by the side of the road for over 45 minutes to call up my office. Anything BUT the mount. After an eternity of agonising, I make it through and up onto the Blue Ridge Parkway however. And I’m out of water. I wave at a car. A woman stops and replies to my query with a question: “You must be from somewhere down under, aren’t you?” She parks on the side, pulls out a folding chair and we sit down for a chat. Sharon is 68 years old and has been on a road trip for the same amount of time I have: since mid-May. S

Day 93

This morning I am enjoying my last downhill ride before the FINAL & LETHAL mount of the TransAm. Today’s plan is to get to Vesuvius – a town at the bottom of the hill – in order to be able to climb the monster early in the morning. During a break at the library, I send an email to a mailing group I have been added to. A couple of moments later I get a reply from Justin – a fellow TransAm biker who has been following me ever since he saw my yellow card in Cooky’s Café back in Golden City in Missouri. He says that he’s been telling people about my trip (thank you Justin!), especially women who are curious about bike touring but nervous about the cost or going solo. And that they inevitably fin

Day 92

Sean lives north of the centre of Christiansburg, close to the trail, in a residential area. Upon departure, I have to decide whether I want to go back in town to get some breakfast or whether I am pushing it to the next one. I choose the latter, for the town of Christiansburg is hilly and I am lazy. Yes, I prefer to risk dying from hunger than going twice up and down the hill, if I don’t have to. Good people are not far though, so die I not and can fully enjoy the crispness of the morning with a full belly. I regularly forget how wonderful it is to leave at dawn, ride through the brisk air of sunrise and have half your mileage behind you before lunch. For I am not your ordinary cyclist who

Day 91

Ouch. The morning is tough. When will I learn that I am not 20 anymore and should not be partying like a wild animal?! Yes, we did go to bed at a reasonable hour but I’ve had two beers too many: 2. I guess that with the amount of physical activity I am doing these days, the alcohol must be metabolising differently. It seems to go straight to my muscles and make me suffer. My own fault. Today’s stretch of the trail consists of rolling hills that some believe are steeper and harder than the Ozark ones. I beg to differ. I get them behind at a reasonable pace and get to Christiansburg right on schedule. Tonight I am staying with Sean, an ultra-through-hiker: he’s ultrafast and packs ultralight.

Day 90

Today’s ride is perfect. I hesitate, at first, but finally do go for the cinder-and-crushed-gravel-covered Virginia Creeper Trail alternative up my penultimate climb of the TransAm. And it truly is swell. I ride through the forest, along and across the streaks, sheltered from the heat by the beautiful foliage of the Chestnut Mountain. But don’t just take my word for it. See for yourself: Riding along the Creeper Trail reminds me of my hike across the Pyrenees. Of how I loved being this deep in the nature and not seeing one bit of asphalt. For there are no roads, no shops, no pylons in the forest. It’s just you and Mother Nature. The morning ride in the woods makes me remember all that. Going

Day 89

Oh my gosh. The ride from Rosedale to Damascus is an absolute BLISS. The hills are minimal, in the first place (and that’s always a joy), and, second, the views are SPECTACULAR. I’m going through countryside rollers and autumn forests. And it feels like I’m just cruising! Today’s not the longest of a day because I decide to stop in the first town with a bike shop because my ride needs to see the doctor. Mike, the mechanic who takes me on, is not able to reproduce the issue I’ve been having, but it might be because he’s already fixed it when adjusting the breaks. Everything seems to be working, so I’m relieved, happy and good to go! I leave for The Place: a shelter provided by the city of Dam

Day 88

After, yet another, 12-hour night, it’s one of Sandy’s grandkids that knocks on my door to wake me up. Tired as I was, I forgot to set my alarm clock the night before. Today, finally, I feel rested and ready to take those hill head on. Every single person I meet though, scares the sh!t out of me by sharing how bad they feel for the beating that I am about to take… Way to encourage cyclists, guys! Yes, the hills go up. Yes, they are steep. Yes, I hate them. Yes, I am tired. Yes, I walk parts of them. Yes, I stop every 15 seconds to take a break. BUT, I also DO make it across EVERY SINGLE one of them. VICTORIOUS. Because, even though they’re tough and painful, I am also persistent and I never

Day 87

Each occurrence of my bike breaking down takes a huge emotional toll. I get particularly stressed because as far as finding shelter and food has become my second nature by now, finding a moneyless way to repair my bicycle is still level ++hard. Also, as I am getting more and more tired, talking to people and engaging in relationships is becoming more and more challenging. Money, certainly, has some unquestionable advantages: it allows you to save time, spares you from engaging in anything if you don’t feel like and ensures the answer is (almost always) “yes.” Without money, on the other hand, you have to engage, explain, convince and be prepared to take a “no” for an answer. Once, twice, thr

Day 86

There’s a song that goes: The hills are alive With the sound of music! Obviously, the lady who sang it (Julie FREAKING Andrews) did not have to sweat riding up them and was oblivious to their treacherous nature. Otherwise, believe you me, the lyrics would have exhibited a different ars poetica. I hit the top of my morning mountain, tired but also happy and proud of myself, and get excited at the downhill ride. Unfortunately, I forget to take into consideration the lower September temperatures (autumn is on its way!) and I FREEZE to death. I mean, whilst riding down I am literally thinking that I am so cold that I would have preferred to continue climbing than to cruise downhill. CRAZY! I sto

Day 85

I wake up today in an unusual way: the power in the flat is out and my breathing machine stops working. Not the best way to start the day but sure as hell efficient to get anyone out of bed. It takes over an hour for the current to flow back into the cables and when it does, Mae offers to make us pancakes. That is, if I’m not in a hurry and willing to linger on a little longer. Are you kidding?! American pancakes for breakfast?! I have NEVER had pancakes in the morning in my LIFE, not even as a child, so where do I sign up?! As far as the road itself is concerned, it’s the continuation of hills and climbs and mounts. I actually feel like a bi-polar schizophrenic: I’m depressed whenever there

Day 84

Damn, these Appalachians are some no-kidding mountains. The hills I have to cross may not be as high as in the Rockies but they are sure some steep sons of b!tches. I need to push my bike up quite a few of them and, most often, I glide down as I walk. Humiliating. On tops, the wear & tear is starting to take its toll on me. I am tired. Tired, worn out, run-down, done, finished, wasted, dead. The level of my exhaustion is so high that when I take a breath whilst sweating up a climb to shout “kill me!”, it turns out I am too tired to let any sound out. It’s actually quite depressing not being able to curse as one pleases. I do make it to my destination though – Hazard – where Mae, my WarmShowe