Posted by: robinson2000 | August 14, 2012

Punctures Galore in Virginia

11th – 12th August

Our day began a little earlier than expected, when at 5am a huge clap of thunder woke us and signalled the start of a good downpour. We both bolted out of the tent as fresh as daisies in our underwear and gathered up our valuable clothes that had been drying through the night. The thunder and the rain seemed to be a running theme over the next 2 days as everyday brought a huge thunder storm and a deluge of rain. We snoozed until 8am before going through the usual monotonous routines of showering, dissembling the tent, and loading the bikes carefully with our dodgy panniers.

We found a good breakfast diner where a smiley chap took my order of pancakes, scrambled eggs, coffee, and a cream cheese bagel. We had planned a 75 miler that took us through Richmond, Virginia, then headed east along the James River and finishing with a short ferry crossing to our campsite. The day started brilliantly as the road down to Richmond was fast and we also managed to pick up some precious cooking fuel on the way. What made it better was the lady only charged me for one of my two fuel canisters and Chris got charged for both of his. Chris hadn’t had a particularly good day so far because when he went to load up his bike, he found that a crucial part of the pannier frame had sheared off, meaning that more string and gaffer tape was required to hold it all together.

Cycling through Richmond was nice as we passed lots of statues of Generals from the Civil War and beautiful boutique houses. It was also the last chance to grab some supplies for the next leg of the journey as we were entering the rural countryside and services were few and far between. Shortly after exiting Richmond we cycled through some battlefields that were fought over by Confederate and Union forces. At the 45 mile mark we pulled into a tiny dwelling called Charles City, which really wasn’t a city as it had about a dozen buildings. We found a bar/café called the Courthouse Grille where we filled up on food and chatted to the friendly locals about our ride. Virginia was turning into the best State that we’d ridden through thus far as the folks were so friendly.

Upon leaving the joint, as if it had been waiting for us around the corner, a huge thunder and lightning storm rolled through and turned the roads into rivers. We turned heel and strode back into the bar where we ordered a couple of coffees, which they gave us for FREE, and waited out the storm. By 5pm it was barely raining so we donned the waterproofs and ventured out. The skies were looking pretty aggressive and within 20 minutes of leaving we were soaked through but we made good speed.

They say bad things come along in three’s, and today was no different. At the 65 mile mark, whilst crossing a bridge over the Chickahominy River, Chris’s pannier frame decided to call it a day and sheared away from the bottom part of the bike leaving it hanging precariously to one side. We had to stop on the exposed bridge to secure it somehow just as a red pickup truck, flying the USA flag wheel spun from behind us and pulled over. Two white guys jumped out, one sporting a few tattoos, the other with crazy eyes, and came over to us. The smaller one was actually quite friendly and said he had a mate down the road who he would return with to help, but his buddy just stared at us, looking quite menacing. He then shook our hands and said “you will be here when we get back right?”, and off they went. As soon as they were driving away, I asked Chris if he trusted them and quick as a flash he said “No”. Something didn’t feel quite right about the whole situation so we both decided to head for the campsite just a short distance past the bridge to be on the safe side and to fix Chris’s bike. Within the first 10 metres of pushing off I realised something wasn’t right and looked down to see I’d blown out my rear tyre, which was now completely flat and I was just riding on my rims. We dragged our sorry looking bikes into the campsite and pitched up in the pouring rain. We both felt quite down about the situation with the rain compounding our frustration as we had to sit in the tent and wait out the storm, both starving hungry. Eventually it subsided, so at 9pm we were boiling up our soup and pasta under torchlight and discussing how we would continue with our journey.

The next day we got up early as we both needed to make repairs to our bikes. By 9.30am we were ready to leave the campsite and begin a short 7 mile ride to the ferry that took us across the River James. As we passed the campsite office I heard the unpleasant hissing of air as my rear tyre deflated within seconds. I had only replaced the tube an hour ago and it’s an absolute nightmare having to unload the bike to remove the wheel. After some chosen curse words and a bit of faffing around, I replaced the newly punctured inner with my last brand new inner tube and pumped it back up. I literally couldn’t believe my eyes as within seconds of fully inflating the wheel, I heard the rush off escaping air again! 3 punctured inner tubes in the space of 12 hours! Now I was really fuming and in a fit of anger, I frisbeed the entire wheel 20 ft. into a nearby meadow. It was obviously a completely pointless act, but it made me feel a lot better as I trudged around the fence to retrieve my wheel. I repaired both inner tubes under the scorching sun and waited patiently for the glue to set. Again, I carefully checked for any sharp edges inside of the tyre and then inflated the inner tube inside of the wheel to 110psi. Just as I was sliding the wheel back into its fittings, the same thing happened again. I was secretly livid at this point, but put on a calm exterior as I had already lost face with a number of onlookers who saw me hurl my wheel into a field. With reluctance I went through the whole procedure again and this time it actually worked. Success, only took 5 attempts!

The ride to the ferry terminal was lovely as we followed a bike path all the way to the terminal. We boarded in minutes as the ferry setoff for a short 20 minute crossing over a very picturesque river scene. Upon exiting the ferry, we rode a short way to a grocery store where we spoke to a true southerner with a wonderful accent. Chris still needed a bike shop and the nearest one was in a town called Suffolk, about 30 miles away down Highway 32. We pedalled furiously for a couple of hours and arrived outside the closed shop about 2.30pm. It was a Sunday so we expected as much, but the annoying thing was it didn’t reopen until Tuesday. After a bite to eat and throwing caution to the wind, we turned our wheels south as started pedalling towards our chosen campsite, a small State Park 25 miles down Highway 32, just into North Carolina. The road was terrific and we flew down it at an average speed of 15 – 17 mph through swamplands and old derelict houses. At just after 6pm and completing 75 miles, we rolled into our campsite just as the heavens opened and we were forced back inside the tent to wait out the rain.

Total Mileage : 1216

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  1. Hi BRB, glad you’re still with us – never trust a crazy-eyed tattooed trucker -you did the right thing there! Your blog is great – much better than the book I’m currently reading, I’ll look forward to your next post. Oh, and the next 3 weeks will be more of the same for me – still working, maybe teaching isn’t such a bad career after all! Anyway congratulate the Americans on their fantastic results at the London Olympics they won with 46 Gold Medals, China second with 38 and we were third with 29 – not bad eh? And I think you were the only English guys on bikes not to be wearing Bradley Wiggins’ sideburns – didn’t think of packing them did you? Keep safe, BRO.

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