BOBBY BRADY AND THANE WHITCELL – Day 4………Charlottesville to Venuvius: 62 miles

Saturday May 4, 2013

Bobby & ThaneWe woke up, ate breakfast and were on the bikes by 8:30. Each of us knew full well what this day might bring but not one of us said a word about it. Our goal was the tiny burg of Venissua. 62 miles away.Between here and there laid Mt. Afton. Between here and there laid the climbs of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Between here and there laid suffering on a bicycle like I have never endured before. Between here and there I found a tiny piece of myself that I had always hoped I could but never truly knew existed.

The roads leading west out of Charlottesville rarely flattened out for more than a few minutes at a time. It was a constant series of small to medium climbs. In my mind I was actually thankful for this. It seemed to me that maybe this was a precursor, the opening act to a much grander play. A play which would later be experienced in the mountains that we could see ahead of us all morning long.

I hit the base of Mt. Afton with fear, and excitement. Will I be able to will my body and this bicycle; my beautiful boo, to the top of this mountain and onto the climbs of the parkway. My goal, the thought I have had from the beginning of this entire journey, is to not walk up one single climb. Looking up at that moment the reality of it hit me and my thoughts went home to my beautiful family. I need them now. I need all the beautiful friends who have wished me will on this crazy ass journey.

I didn’t look at the time I spent climbing that mountain but I do know this. It was not measured in minutes but rather in hours. I have suffered before on a bicycle. Many times. I prefer to think of it as the true beauty of the sport we love. Often times at the end of such suffering I look back and say “that was brutally brilliant.

At the top of this mountain is a sign marking the beginning of the beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway. As I pulled my camera out to photograph the tears ran down my face. I, a 53 year old grampy, just climbed a fucking mountain on a bicycle and I was alive to feel the tears fall.

What I simply did not know is what lay ahead of us for the next 35 miles or so. This mountain was only the beginning. The cycling through the parkway would be an even larger test of my will and spirit and ability.
On every side of us was immense beauty like I have never seen.

Mountains and valleys so beautiful that I have no words to describe them fully. I thought to myself that this might be what haven actually looks like. I will forever be blessed with the images ingrained in my mind as I pedaled on.

For better or worse, the 30 miles of riding through the parkway meant continuing to climb. Many of these climbs lasting for over an hour. Only to be followed by another climb of the same magnitude.

Today I learned how to climb. I learned that beyond every switchback might lay another incline even steeper than the last one you just cussed out. Today I learned how to suffer. To truly suffer on a bicycle and to be absolutely honest. Rarely have I ever felt so blessed.