04 July 2010

Back to the trail

Rockwood is a pretty little town with a quiet little Main Street - much of it residential - and a bike shop right next to the trailhead going on northwest. But that was for Sunday.

Saturday night, we rode to the store on the east side of the bridge and got sodas and ice cream sandwiches. I thought I might have died and gone to heaven when I discovered they had Diet Sierra Mist. I'd never been able to get it here. (Interestingly, right after I got back, Ed found Kroger had started carrying it.)I got a sandwich, too, but all things considered, I decided this was a night for eating dessert first. So I parked myself on the front porch of the store, in the dark, and ate my ice cream and rested my burning muscles for a few minutes. Then we mounted back up and rode, helmetless, up a couple of back streets to the Hostel on Main Street.

The hostel has a bike rack in the cellar, plus plenty of open floor space down there. They can accomodate at least a dozen bikes just in the racks, and if you have a kick-stand, there's more room than that. I was too tired to fool with the lock; I just parked Nellie Belle and walked out. As it turns out, there was no need to worry - everything was fine the next morning. (And there's apparently an alarm on the doors, as we discovered shortly...)

The shiny kitchen in back, with vintage coffee mugs and mixed china in the corner cabinet, was a quiet haven for eating my sandwich, drinking my "happy surprise" soda, and reading a book for a bit after a hot shower. Three showers in separate bathrooms ensured privacy and availability, and there was ample hot water for Bob and me, even though we were in adjacent bathrooms at the same time. No loss of pressure or hot. :-)

The front room had comfy old chairs, a whole wall of books - everything from Stephen King to romance novels to local history - and several puzzles, a card table, and a good ceiling fan to keep the air moving. The central, common bunk room had bunks for at least 12, and there were two separate "family" bunk rooms to sleep six or eight. Our one roommate for the evening was ready to crash about the time I got done eating, but I was able to go out to the front room and read until I wound down.

Unfortunately, the alarm on the back door kept going off at about 7- or 8-minute intervals. We tried resetting it, thought about smashing it, but before we got that desperate, Bob hit on the solution. Just like smoke alarms, apparently battery-operated security alarms start going off when their batteries get low. He popped the batteries out, and that was the end of that. (He put them back in the next morning, so the staff would be aware there was an issue and replace them. No problems at all on Sunday night!)

The train tracks run about 20 yards behind the hostel, which might be a problem for city folks. We grew up in Sylva, North Carolina, though. We never lived more than half a mile from the tracks from the time we moved there. (Sometime I'll tell you about the "No Trains At Night Motel.") And my kids grew up in Wendell, NC, in the same proximity to the tracks... My daughter and I were talking about it the other day, and we concluded that for us, trains at night are better than "white noise." It can take a night or two to get used to the rhythm of the schedules, but not if you're as tired as Bob and I were that night!

Sunday morning, we were the last out. Had a fun time visiting with the other guests who'd stayed Saturday night - a lone cyclist who hit it off with Bob (they shared an interesting philosophical discussion over coffee) and a family of five who were doing their first long ride together. They'd recently moved from New Hampshire to Pennsylvania and have a farm where they raise pasture-fed cattle.

We didn't hit our first snag of the day until we got to the (closed) restaurant where we'd thought to get breakfast. That's when I discovered my wallet was not in my seat wedge where it was supposed to be.

We'd decided to leave the bulk of our gear at the hostel, since we were staying there again on Sunday night, so we rode back to look there. I dumped out my panniers on the bunk, looked on the floor under the bed, looked in the bathrooms, the front room, the kitchen - looked in the refrigerator. We looked in the cellar. No wallet.

There was nothing left to do but backtrack. I was trying not to panic.

We rode back to the store the same way we'd come, scanning the sides of the road for my little red wallet. When we got to the store, I parked the bike, walked in, and said to the man at the counter, "We stopped in here last night, and I think I maybe dropped my..." and he was already reaching under the counter, grinning a relieved kind of grin. The night guy had found my wallet by the bike rack -- I'd dropped it in my helmet while I walked around the corner to eat my ice cream sandwich, and it had apparently fallen out. They'd checked the ID, so the morning guy knew who I was when I walked in. And everything was there - the cards, the cash, all of it. I could have hugged his neck, but I settled for buying some more ice cream and a cup of coffee.

Our Sunday ride was an out-and-back. I won't say this is the prettiest stretch of the trail, although I'm tempted, but I will say it's special. This is where we saw the most lush wildflower growth, crossed the most bridges over rivers, detoured around an abandoned tunnel, and got the majority of the best pictures. (See my Facebook album.) It was also a relatively easy ride - 21 miles out, an hour or more for a lunch break, and then back to Rockwood - with no really challenging hills. A good stretch for the second day.

Next up: the Sunday Lunch restaurant review (four stars), ice cream for dinner, and Monday thunderstorms and turtles.

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