Friday, August 11, 2006

Day 73: 64 miles, Jul 30

The climb out of Vesuvius was indeed tough, but I think it has been talked up a lot. I did it in about 45 minutes and was rewarded with the Blue Ridge Parkway. Once I began riding the BRP, I took my time. As the pictures show, it’s beautiful!

I didn’t want to delay too much, however, because today was the day I was going to meet a Trail legend, the Cookie Lady. Known as June Curry to non-cyclists, the Cookie Lady has hosted TransAm riders at her “bike house” since the inaugural ride in ’76. I had been hearing stories of her conversation and memento-filled bike house since Colorado and was quite excited.

Little did I know I was in for a special treat. When I arrived I was greeted not by Mrs. Curry but by Peggy Rennolds, an original ‘76er! Peggy was a riot to talk to and was, to me, as much a celebrity as the Cookie Lady herself. I must have asked a million questions about that first ride, which has always fascinated me. Peggy, as I quickly learned, was indeed a special cyclist – she did her ride with her four-pound poodle Pooh!

I spent over two hours talking to these two ladies, and I heard so many stories in those two hours I wish I had had a tape recorder. I did have to go before too long (my dad was expecting me in Charlottesville that evening), but wanted to express my pleasure in meeting them and offered to sing something. I explained to Mrs. Curry that I have sung opera, and she asked, “Oh, heavens, do you sing anything else?”

Laughing to myself, I thought one of Copland’s Old American Songs would be best and sang “The Boatmen’s Dance.” I am proud to say that she and Peggy enjoyed it and that Mrs. Curry commented she had never heard an opera singer before. I suppose it’s a rare thing to share something new with an 85-year-old!

It was one of those moments I didn’t want to end, and so, wanting it to last, I asked Peggy whether she’d like to have dinner with my father and me in Charlottesville that evening. I thought she and my father would get along well since they both enjoy cycling and both have lived on sailboats in the Caribbean. She agreed.

I met my dad, Don, where the route goes through the campus of the University of Virginia. He’s a big fan of Thomas Jefferson and was communing with Thomas’ genius when I found him. It certainly was surreal to meet my “Diddo” after riding 4000 miles. We went to the hostel room he had already rented, showered, and proceeded to the outdoor mall in downtown Charlottesville for dinner with Peggy.

Peggy was no less ebbullient with her cycling and sailing stories that evening than she had been in the afternoon. Though it was 30 years ago, she has a remarkably clear memory of her ride and recalls names of towns and locations of climbs readily. It’s obvious that her ride is still very much with her, and I can certainly relate. My Appalachian Trail hike remains a big source of daydreams for me. No doubt I’ll be processing this adventure for many years as well.

Thanks, Peggy, for the great company!

The picture is of the climb from Vesuvius.


Post a Comment

<< Home