Ride C2C #4 - Day 17: Lexington to Afton (the Cookie Lady’s House)

Jul 09, 2023

Day 17 Date: 7/9/23
Day: 17
Route: Lexington to Afton (the Cookie Lady’s House)
Miles: 51.18
Total Miles: 680.71
MyZone MEPs: 706

“The Big Climb”


Today’s ride was the “pinnacle” of our route - we thought it would have the toughest climbing and the best views.  What we did not expect was to be caught in a rainstorm, to be soaked to the bone and edging on too cold to ride.


Note- the GPS missed a good chunk of our ride today – you can see it where the straight line is on the map. Our elevation gain was more like 4400 and mileage was something over 51.

A view of sunrise out our hotel room window.

After a restful sleep, we ate a quick (complimentary) breakfast on the 2nd floor at the Gin Hotel in Lexington of oatmeal & orange juice.  They need better coffee.

We gathered our bikes from the hotel's ballroom and hit the road at 7:30am - both of us a little anxious about the climb to come.

Sunday morning and it is quiet. Ride down through the downtown town and exited from Lexington on Highway 11 which took us through the Virginia Military Institute many buildings.


We turn off on 631, another small whiny road but with a big hill up then down to the Maury River. Then turn on S. River Rd. (608) and follow the River for 14 miles.

Steady easy climb, 11 to 13 mph, almost no traffic, cool with cloud cover.

Stop a few times to snack, to pee, to relax. This is stellar bike riding.

We get to Vesuvius (no sign for this town)

and pull our bikes up to the abandoned building. Doug tightens up my brakes, we have a Gatorade and the delicious homemade granola from Shannon at The Oaks Victorian Inn, and off we go for the big climb.

The climb is 3.7 miles long and goes from about 1400 feet to the Blue Ridge Parkway at 3200 feet.

we enter into the George Washington National Forest.

It starts out at 4 to 6% but then turns it up with lots of 7 to 9% climbing and many 10 to 11% that we rode.

So steep!  Now, we didn’t ride it all - we did walk & push our bikes a few times for the 11%+++ parts. 

We have gotten stronger because we couldn’t have written this before.

About 40 rpm in the bottom gear just chugging up the hill – faster than walking, but not by much.


As we climb the weather sets in with heavy clouds, winds, and sprinkles of rain. 

There are not too many cars on this beautiful winding steep road. Our legs are definitely feeling it!.


We finally crest and go under the Blue Ridge Parkway, Hooray! 

The clouds are black and the rain starts coming… I can’t find my raincoat so I’m tearing my bags apart while Doug makes us some peanut butter and honey sandwiches.

We both laughed heartily at the thought of me wearing a garbage bag flip flapping in the wind because that’s what I thought I have to do. Thankfully I found my coat.

Doug & Robin VS. Vesuvius ROARRRR Doug & Robin Win! (A vamp from the Dinosaur book - see Christiansburg)

Now it is windy and raining and we are getting cold after being so sweaty from the climb up.  We hear occasional booms of thunder…We get riding again and the clouds settle in so we can’t see any of the views :-(


Will you stop at our first overlook, but it was all blocked by trees! This is what we thought about that

We ride on in the rain. What a bummer this supposed to be the pent ultimate part of our trip cruising along looking out over Shanandoah Valley on one side and the tide lands on the other, but no.

We can’t see much of anything. There is more up and down and I thought that there would be an every time we go downhill the rain feels like little BB’s hitting your face and we are freezing.


Get sweaty riding up, then freeze on the way down. We stopped at a depressing little picnic table wow it is pouring rain and we can barely eat and drink because we are both so cold. And Doug‘s left knee is very painful from all the slow chugging up the hills. But the road is lovely, there’s very little traffic as we go along


After 10 or so miles, the rain finally lets up a bit. We are still soaked to the bone but it’s Much nicer out and we have a tail wind. 


We're cruising downhill. Doug's in the front and I'm right behind and no more than 75 feet in front of us, a black bear comes out of the forest on the right side of the road, heading across the road.

Doug starts yelling, whoa whoa, to scare the bear and warn me.  I join in and we're both hard on the brakes. The bear looks up with a big long, tan nose, sees us, does an immediate U-turn and leaps back into the woods. I don't know who is more scared… Us or the bear.

Beautiful animal, that couldn't have been more than 30 feet away from us as we breezed by.

-- sorry, no picture, this all happened way too fast--

This is Our second bear sighting on our cross country trip with the other being in Rockport Washington. 

We ride past Reid’s gap and there’s a little blue sky approaching from the south west, but we still need to keep our coats on. 

There is lots of downhill that goes by much quicker than the smaller appeals. We get to a nice overlook at 3200 feet looking out west over the great Valley. The sun is out and we take our coats off to dry off a little as we relax on the Rock wall.


Now we are doing what we had hoped for… Cruising with blue sky overhead with rolling hills And a tail wind all with magnificent views. Yay!

We stop at the humpback rocks visitor Center that has nice exhibit with “mountain life“ and I am fascinated with the Montgomery Ward catalog from the early 1920s. You could buy anything! A corset for $.49, a wagon carriage (not painted), or men’s wrist watch.

We met a nice guy who was admiring our bikes.  He was with his family on vacation and said that he rode his bike over the alps before he was married and had kids… and he hopes he can do something like that again.


we were actually exiting the blue ridge parkway here, but there wasn't a sign in the place that we started.

Back on the bikes for the last 10 miles that includes a 6% climb and then lots of downhill to the end of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Then we head toward Afton based on the route to get to our accommodations for the night that I plugged into my phone.  It was all steep downhill - but on a gravel road!


We stopped at the top to ask an old gentleman sitting on his 4 wheeler ATV if the road connected to Afton and he said “Oh yeah, just take a hard left at the Y” So we ride at trashed gravel road that is clinging to the steep hillside with a beat up house here and there. Both our butts are really hurting by now but sure enough we meet Afton mountain Road which is paved and right around the corner is the Afton bike house otherwise known as “the cookie lady’s house”.


June Curry started offering cyclists water and cookies beginning in 1976 when the trans-American cycle route opened and there were (and still are not) any services in Afton.  One article said that she helped over 12,000 cyclists - later offering overnight accommodations in addition to the cookies.  She passed away in 2012, but her house was purchased by a friend and remains open to cyclists as a refuge.  Donations are appreciated.


The house is a tribute to all cyclists who have passed through with momentos posted on the walls and hanging from the ceilings. 

Doug and I are the only ones here and we have an option of 7 couches to sleep on!  It kind of reminds me of a cross between a college house and musty cabin. 

No showers, so we splash off with water from the sink and I simply have to sweep up.  So many cobwebs and spiders!


We head outside for the fresher air and have an appetizer of sliced apples and beef jerky while we write and re-think the remainder of our trip.  Dinner was Dinty Moore beef stew and mashed potato's.  Yum!



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