• gfeldstein

Day 31 Clarksville, VA to Durham, NC 57 miles 2,382 feet

By the mid 19’th century, Clarksville was producing more manufactured tobacco than any other establishment in Virginia or the Carolinas and it currently claims the title of the oldest continuous tobacco market in the world. Today however, Clarksville is more known for its boating and fishing. Set on Kerr Lake, also known as Bugs Island Lake, it is the only lakeside town in the State of Virginia, and attracts 80,000 visitors annually to the Virginia Lake Festival, known locally as Lakefest. Riding through town in the early morning, the “downtown” buildings resemble many lakeside towns I have visited in upstate New York. Their grand Presbyterian Church dates back to 1832.

There was a moist chill in the air as I rolled through town so I donned a light windbreaker. The forecast was for overcast skies with some mist till 9AM but no rain, so I left my raincoat in the luggage van. I left the downtown area and as I rolled through the residential areas I noticed newer “vacation homes” interspersed with many historic homes, some in the process of being “updated” but most in their original condition.

About 5 miles into the ride the moisture turned to what we call “heavy mist” in San Francisco, in other wards, it’s raining hard enough for your windshield wipers to turn on, we just don’t want to admit that it is raining. My glasses became so wet that I wished that they had windshield wipers of their own. Just as I crossed the state line into North Carolina, the weatherman welcomed me, as the skies opened up. Now, instead of windshield wipers, I wished I had the car. The deluge continued for about 20 minutes. Without leg warmers or a real raincoat I was starting to get cold so I hopped out of the saddle and hammered to keep warm. The rain lasted for about 20 minutes and 20 minutes later I pulled off my rain soaked windbreaker then hammered on to dry up and stay warm. From Clarksville to the outskirts of Raleigh, I don’t think I saw more than 3 traffic lights. The terrain was similar to yesterday with a combination of farmland and forests. Many of the fields had already been harvested and were lying fallow. The only crops still visible were soybeans and feed grasses. This area is known for it’s tobacco but the only evidence I saw of that were scattered tobacco leaves along the embankments and an old tobacco kiln built out of logs.

I was most amazed by the shear number of manufactured homes I had seen over the last 2 days, more than I believe I have seen in my last 65 years walking gods green earth.

The only thing more ubiquitous than double wides were well heads. Most had long ago been automated with electric pumps, some were hidden under fake plastic boulders, while a few were left as they were originally built.

Owing to my rapid pace, I t was only noon when I arrived in Durham, way to early to check in to my hotel. I was feeling a bit randy so I thought about riding straight through to Raleigh and avoiding riding that stretch in the rain tomorrow. I spied a Burger King off to my right, which sealed the deal. A cheese whopper and fries would provide me all the energy I would need for the extra 45 miles. My girlfriend’s flight into RDI was due in by 4PM so I could leave my bike in Raleigh and she could drive me back to Durham. The ECG took us off road through Northgate Park were a live size replica of a Brontosaurus had been left behind after an exhibition many years ago as it was simply to large to move.

I followed the map on my phone through the myriad of paths along the Ellerbee Creek Trail. Looking up from my phone I noticed that my front wheel was just about to cross the top of a flight of 3 cement stairs. It was too late to brake, and even though I had never done this before, I instinctively stood out of the saddle, relaxed, leaned back and let the bike roll down the stairs. I definitely don’t recommend this, but it actually worked just fine.

I will save the story about my ride to Raleigh for another day, save to say I made it in plenty of time but we did not make it back to Durham in time for dinner with the group. I noticed that there was a 21c Museum Hotel, a small very upscale boutique chain in town. I have eaten in their restaurants in Louisville, KY as well as Bentonville, AR, so it was worth a shot. The Counting House, 111 N Corcoran St, Durham, occupies the first floor of a former bank and is filled with whimsical animal busts. The food was stellar, between us we had, shrimp crevice, summer salad, angle hair pasta, hickory smoked salmon, double cut suis vide pork chop, and creme brûlée with apple tart.

Eleven states down, 4 more to go.

Cumulative Totals

Miles 1,699

Feet Climbed 69,246

States Visited Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina

For more details on my route, see my Strava Link

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