Folded, eroded by water, and steep. The roads are anything but straight in eastern Kentucky and western Virginia.
Lael called this morning as she passed into the twelfth and final state on the historic Trans America Trail, the beginning of a series of larger climbs through the deeply folded Appalachian Mountains. She was breathing hard, riding one handed uphill with the phone to her ear. The next hundred miles may be the most mountainous of the entire route, although the climbing doesn’t end there. The Trans Am doesn’t descend out of the mountains and onto the gently sloping coastal plain until three hundred miles from her current location. She just crossed the Russell Fork River in Kentucky, and soon thereafter passed into Virginia adjacent to the Breaks Interstate Park, one of the only interstate parks in the country. The region boasts a canyon as deep as 1600ft, one of many natural features I’ve heard billed as “the Grand Canyon of the East”. As we ride north from Virginia to New York, we may take in the rail trail in the Pine Creek Gorge of northern PA, often called the “Grand Canyon on Pennsylvania”. I’ve also visited Letchworth State Park in Eastern NY, also called “the Grand Canyon of the East”. Here are a list of other deep river valleys which stake the same claim.
Once out of the mountains, there are about 200 miles to the end. Lael knows that her strengths include her ability to climb. At the moment, she is healthy and rested. She did, however, take a short night of sleep last night, bedding down for about 2.5 hours. In doing so, she put some miles on both Evan and Steffen. Evan trails her by 50 miles, and Steffen is now only 28 miles ahead. With just 500 miles to go, the tension builds. Lael’s energy levels remain high; she maintains an exuberance which first emerged after the extreme heat of Kansas passed. She is excited to be finishing soon, and was thrilled to learn that I am already in Atlanta, boarding a plane to Virginia.
Follow the Trans Am Bike Race 2016 at Trackleaders.com.