What we had on this trip was intention. Simply stated, we were out for a good time. We wanted an ’80s outdoor adventure-comedy experience, think White Water Summer, and The Great Outdoors. What these movies do so well is hide the arduous stuff, and instead focus on eating hot dogs, drinking a few thimbles of wine, teenage love, animal hijinx, and plain hanging out. With this in mind, our first morning wasn’t a crack of dawn deal. Did we languish? Did we bumble? I will say we paced ourselves, I will say that our final destination was unknown, I will say that in the morning rain came down upon us. We’re a hearty bunch and we’ve all been in rain before; we’ve ridden through it and we’ve struggled in it. That experience is precisely the reason none of us wanted to start our Virginia ride in the rain. And, like all things in this world, we knew the rain was temporary, that all things pass—so rather than commit a novice move and rush headlong into this southern gale, we chose to wait it out.
That doesn’t mean we just sat around our motel; nah we sat around Eats, the Blacksburg co-op and place that is, as far as I can tell, pretty much the coolest store in Blacksburg. They have all the co-op stuff:
- organic nuts
- organic juice
- organic crystals
- organic tapestries
- organic crystals
- organic arrowheads
- organic salt
- organic sand
- other organic stuff
They also have picnic tables out front and an awning overhead so that all those pesky little raindrops were rendered ineffective. Eventually, as predicted, the rain stopped and we got on our way. Notably, one thing that Eats did not have was wine and/or beer. Since our plan was to spend a substantial portion of this trip engaged in campground activities rather than pedal turning activities, it was agreed that it would behoove us to purchase a few beverages to complement our foodstuffs. We’re not a group of lushes, but we wanted to appreciate the finer points of camping, so we stopped by the 7-Eleven on the way out of town and stocked up on some quality red wine and a box of beers.
After making our purchases I decided to impress everyone with my ability to open a bottle of wine with my shoe. And impressed they were! Even the 7-Eleven owner was impressed, storming out of the store to scold us for the racket I was making: the shoe move requires you to place the butt of the wine bottle in the heel of your shoe, which you pound against something solid in order to create a concussive hammer that punches the cork out, and I had been spending the good part of ten minutes hammering it against his building. After taking account of my mysterious technique he offered me a wine opener free of charge. That’s fate, that’s manifesting reality, that’s the result in a an unfailing belief in providence.
After loading up our gear it was off to the hills, where we bullied our way through an upscale suburban development, got hemmed in without access to our sought-after fire road, made Sarah sweet talk a geriatric man into giving us local knowledge about how to get to said fire road, rode a little farther, concluded that the fire road must be just on the other side of a housing development, decided to once again do a little bit of light trespassing, hiked through said property, discovered the fire road, and continued riding.
Overall this was a pretty smooth experience, and while the fire road was wet, greasy, and scattered with puddles, we had moved from the urban to the pastoral in just a few steps. If you pressed me to describe our riding experience on this road in one word I would give you “tranquil.” Sun filtered through the thick trees, gauzy yellows and stark whites ricocheted off off the trees as they winked in a stuttering breeze. The road itself was an undulating affair, rises and troughs chasing each other like a dog after it’s own tail. Eventually Chris signaled that we were to turn on to some singletrack and from there we plummeted down the backside of the mountain.
The singletrack was wonderful. Roots, drops, berms, rocks, reggae; all glazed with the slick slim of a fresh rain, slippery but only just so. We bounced down the hill, ping-ponging (table-tennising?) at the beck and call of gravity. Yes we stopped to take photos. Yes Moi lost a few beers. Yes Benedict was as graceful as a swan. And yes, by the time we hit the access road at the bottom of the hill our temples ached from grinning.
“We had made the right decision, we were exactly where we were supposed to be doing exactly what we were supposed to be doing.”
Then it started raining. But who was in a rush? Most of us took shelter in the canopy of the forest and after fifteen minutes or so the rain retired, revealing a empty road that took us to our “hub” site, Boley Field Group Campground. Unoccupied and out of cell service we decided to risk it—so what if we didn’t reserve our stay, what’s the worst that could happen? Some Boy Scout troop gives us the boot? Not likely. I’d like to see some tenderfoots square off against Buck Wild, it’d be a slaughter.
So we camped, we thimbled, we cooked, and we slept. Thus we passed a night in the hub.