A big bowl of crunchy gravel for breakfast on some sweet steeds in the mountains of Floyd County.
Floyd County, Virginia- a little, one stop-light, banjo pickin' town, nestled in one of the furthest corners of our state, and home to some ripping gravel and asphalt riding. Early October we here at Freewheelin' found ourselves craving a ride out of town, so we threw our gravel bikes on the back of our truck, said a happy goodbye to the beach and booked it to the mountains.
We decided to make a weekend of it, and get two days of riding in, while taking it easy enough on ourselves, with some 30ish mile loops- you gotta save some time for exploring the town too, ya know? Saturday morning started with the Tour de Dirt Lite Route (thanks to whoever P. Sully is), a 36 mile loop featuring 45% paved roads and 55% unpaved roads. Starting out the first morning from the only hotel in town, we found ourselves quickly enough on the clay and gravel roads we were after, and instantly powering into the ride. Routes tucked in the Blue Ridge Mountains like this obviously lend to plenty of climbing, and that's a lot of what this ride was. Hitting max grades of about 12% and with a total of 3,322 ft of climbing, our road trip-stiff legs (more so mine) required a few more water stops than usual and appreciated the couple of easier cruising sections, but oh boy lemme tell ya, was it a stunner of a ride. Winding asphalt roads were barely trafficked by cars, the dirt and gravel was packed and smooth, the scenes couldn't get any more bucolic, and there was no shortage of rolling sections that made you feel like you were straddling a launching rocket.
The end of the ride finished with climb after climb, which always feels kind of rude as a finale, but we lucked out with a pretty stellar reward. As the last climb plateaued, the scene opened up to a scoping, birds eye view of the whole town of Floyd, and led into a curving and speeding descent into town.
Once back into town, we dropped the bikes, found a funky little outdoor dining spot and inhaled a burrito and some other snacks, washed down with icy tall boy PBRs of course. We ended up spending the rest of the day and evening meandering around town, catching mountain music jams in the country store, getting sodas from the soda shoppe, checking out the local shops, and of course, eating more food. We capped off the night at the only bar in town with a late night cocktail, a kitschy speakeasy.
Sunday morning- the day we had to get back on the road, but not before getting in another ride. We opted for a ride along the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Rocky Knob Classic. Mostly paved, we found ourselves on roads that were a tad more trafficked, but still just as scenic and quiet. And as the day before, it was a pretty instant launch into climbing...which led to more climbing, and more climbing. We started out from downtown and climbed up to Rocky Knob, with our reprieves being some small descents and some really fun rolling sections to kick up the momentum, revving and strengthening the pace for a while. Otherwise, we hit some decently long sections where there's nothing to do but steadily spin and slug like a snail up a steep, steep hill. The amount of times I found myself repeatedly singing in my head "Movin' Right Along", the song that Kermit and Fozzie sing as they set out together in Fozzie's Studebaker for California in the Muppet's Movie, should tell you the extent of extended climbing. But, with warming up from the day prior, we were finally in a better, more synchronized groove, cruising steadily at a great clip, and feelin' pretty freakin' groovy.
The Rocky Knob scenic view was the perfect time for a break. Hydrating and stretching with an expansive view of the whole valley, we had happily achieved most of the climbing, but with the most exciting portion upcoming. The second half of the route takes you into more quiet areas on more quiet roads, all while snaking and ripping miles downhill, getting up to speeds of about 38mph at times. Talk about being on cloud 9 and drooling like a dog with it's head out of a car window by the end. All in all, exactly the kind of weekend getaway we were after.
Bonuses: The discovery of a pickle juice electrolyte shot, which the freaks like myself will love. And, as we were driving back home on a tiny mountain road, hit one of those stretches where you feel like you're on the Wild Maus roller coaster that used to be at Busch Gardens, and that with cars and trucks, is not the most cyclist friendly. When we could, we pulled off, turned around, got to the top, and threw Erik out of the truck, on his bike, wearing some jeans and leather slip-on grandpa loafers. What happened, and what to expect: surpassing the speed limit, while pretty much getting horizontal in the turns that are practically vertical themselves. While we won't recommend doing something dangerous like that....definitely take the time to turn your vehicle around, get dropped off, and have some fun.