1. Your feelings toward road kill will be drastically different on bicycle than they are in a car. Instead of a sympathetic “awwwww” when you see a dead cat, deer, or groundhog (lots of groundhogs in Virginia), you will nearly gag and not say anything. You won’t say anything, of course, because you are holding your breath for as long as you can while you pass the carcass on the road. It’s even worse when you can’t see the animal, and have nowhere to direct your displeasure. The absolute worst-case scenario is riding up a hill, downwind from a carcass you can’t see (yes, you have a lot of time to make varying degrees of how terrible road kill encounters are).
Fun fact: a dead possum smells exactly the same as a dead snake.
2. You will go through a roller coaster of emotions, which coincidentally is almost perfectly coordinated with the terrain upon which you are riding. It’s quite simple. Click on this nifty chart I drew for a brief description.
3. YOU WILL EAT EVERYTHING IN THE VICINITY OF YOUR MOUTH. Food, drinks, and even sweets will all be shoveled into your mouth as fast as you can eat them. You may literally lick the plate clean. You will have a love affair with every meal, and then cheat on that affair with anything else that’s within range of your gullet. Food=good. Is it a coincidence it’s only one letter different?
4. Unless you’re from there, you will probably pronounce the name of the town incorrectly. How do you pronounce Wytheville? How about Honaker? Haysi? Seriously, pronounce the town “Bumpass” without offending anyone, I dare you. Whatever you think it is, chances are it’s probably wrong, and then people will look at you funny because they have no idea where you’re talking about. Ohhhhh, you mean Berea? Yes, I meant Berea, not Berea. The way I said Berea was just silly.
5. If this is your first tour, you will overpack. We were stubborn, and refused to believe that we would send anything back. Fire starter blocks? Yes, of course we will use them. To date we have had exactly zero fires. What? You mean you DON’T want to start a fire when it’s 90 degrees outside? We ultimately sent back some things. 20 pounds worth of things, to be exact. You can read more about it on our Damascus post.
6.There are still dry cities in America. By dry, I mean they DO NOT HAVE ALCOHOL. Apparently prohibition happened in America, got repealed, and then no one remembered to tell Kentuckians. It’s just weird that in a state that makes so much bourbon there are still so many parts that don’t allow alcohol. Not that we’re the biggest drinkers, but there’s nothing quite like a frosty beer after a long day of kicking your ass in the sweltering heat of Appalachia. Hey kids, don’t drink if you’re under 21. Just felt I had to make a disclaimer there.
7. Some people will just not be able to understand why you’re biking across the country. Even after you explain to them in abundant detail the enjoyment, they will continue to blankly stare at you as though you’re explaining the plot of “Inception” in pig Latin.
8. A town is not a town unless it has a Dollar General. Routinely you will see a dot on the map, then you will assume that there is some sort of civilization in that area where you can re-stock on supplies, water, or take a break while eating. But you will be wrong. These “towns” are no more than several houses a few hundred feet apart, where the “downtown” area is a post office and an antique store, both of which look closed. However, if there is a Dollar General, you can at least expect to find somewhere to re-fill on anything you’re lacking. Unless what you’re lacking is self-esteem. They don’t have that there.
9. Bugs will hit you in the face a lot. It seems obvious, but you don’t think about it until you are going down a hill and have a bug explode on your face. Yeah, it sounds dirty.
10. People are amazing. I mean, you hear about the great places you can stay and the nice people who run the great places you can stay, but every other person in between is just as awesome. You would be surprised how eager people are to help us out and do everything possible to make our time in their town as painless and hospitable as possible. We have had people drive us to the store, buy us food, donate money, offer us a shower, give us bed sheets, embroider our names on t-shirts, wash our clothes, let us sleep in their camper, and even give us a bag of candy. When they ask us about what we’re doing, they become excited and immediately ask if we need anything. Not because we ask for it, but because they want to do it out of the goodness of their hearts. We owe a lot of thanks to many people, (like Matthew Olin day, a former touring cyclist who kindly took us in for the night and helped us out more than you could imagine) and there isn’t enough time to thank them all, but we can only hope to pass on the hospitality in the future to someone else.