May 22-23, 2021
Abingdon is a small, historic town tucked in the Blue Ridge mountains of southwest VA and a favorite destination of many. A two hour drive separates us from this charming town with a handful of trendy eats, a few cute shops (if you are into that) and a developing artsy vibe. More important to us, Abingdon is home to the historic Barter Theater and the location of mile 0 on the VA Creeper Trail.
We have bicycled the VA Creeper a number of times, usually with friends and usually combined with a weekend of eating and theater. Over the weekend of May 22-23, as public mask mandates were mostly cast aside, we thought it “safe” enough to take my new gravel bike for a weekend on the Creeper and possibly a stop or two for a “not in our kitchen” restaurant meal. It has easily been two years since our last visit.
We arrived in Abingdon at lunch time. Jack’s 128 Pecan was on John’s mind and he did not stop until we were parked in their lot. Our concern about the effects of Covid on the business were alleviated when we discovered128 Pecan was not only open but had a brisk Saturday lunch crowd. As always, we experienced good food and friendly service. Eating a light meal pre-bicycle was on our mind but we ended up sharing an order of jalapeño hushpuppies and each eating a chicken cobb salad. Too much food is what happens when you sit down at the table really hungry!
Our second stop was to check-in at the hotel, a five month old Holiday Inn Express. The HIE is located in a new development on Cook Street. Included in the development is a modern, clean grocery store (you will understand this comment if you have ever shopped at the Kroger on Cummings St), a Starbucks (no, not a fan), a Pal’s (an upper East TN favorite for quick, cheap, questionable fast food), a small Italian restaurant and some other stuff. We were disappointed to learn that our room was not ready but not really surprised as we were ahead of check-in time. We scurried into the lobby bathrooms to change into bicycle clothes. The afternoon was slipping by and we had 15 or so miles to ride.
With some varying degree of success, I attached my phone to the handlebars and took photos. It is not an auto setup so I had to press the button while moving-the phone moves, the snap button doesn’t respond immediately…. I like the idea and may try to work on it. John much prefers the handlebar setup to stopping for photos, but non-moving photos are sharper and better.
We rode a mile or so beyond the Alvarado Station and turned around and headed back to Abingdon for a total of 19.28 miles, 480′ elevation. We likely could have have ridden the roundtrip to Damascus but this was John’s second time on his bike this year and most of my bike mileage has been on a trainer so we were not willing to push it. Besides, with the shaking from the limestone surface, my seat post kept sliding down. This is my (our) first carbon frame bike and the tools to make adjustments without cracking the frame are different from the tools we owned. I had to stop every 4-5 miles so John could tighten the seat as far as he was comfortable, then the process was repeated. We have since purchased the correct tool.
We arrived back at our hotel by 4:30. Along with our duffels, the bikes went to the room. The surface of the Creeper Trail is crushed limestone and cinders so what a mess for us and the bikes! Showers could not happen fast enough but the bikes had to wait. Happily the hotel did not have a problem with bikes in the room.
The night’s sleep was restless. We couldn’t get the room temperature low enough to compensate for the winter weight bedding so getting up Sunday morning was a relief. Our plan for the day: park in the Damascus City Park and ride toward Abingdon.
We rode 15.07 miles out and back with only 177′ of elevation gain, again maybe duplicating a mile or so from the previous day. By the time we completed the day’s ride, I was starving, reminding me that taking “real” food on the trail is important. We stopped at Pal’s for lunch and wish we hadn’t. All in all, we had a great weekend on the Creeper Trail!