Determined not to let the Virginia festivities slow down we hit up Blacksburg, college town home to Virginia Tech. First things first, we dropped by a local bike shop to have Joe’s wheel bearing worked on. Though quite humorous, the popcorn kettle sound emanating from his front hub required serious attention. In the bike shop a fellow by the name of Bret approached us, excited to hear we were traveling cross country. He had made a similar trip earlier in the year on the Transamerica route with some local folks. Turns out these same people were getting together for a little gathering that very evening. We grabbed Bret’s contact info and wandered over to the VTech campus to check things out while Joe’s bike was being worked on. The campus was quite the treat; unfortunately most people only know VTech from the disastrous shooting that occurred here two years ago in which 32 students lost their lives. Directly in front of the administration building pictured here we observed the memorial that recognizes those that died in this tragic event. Afterward, we scoped out the nearby duck pond (very peaceful) and one of the delicious dining halls among other highlights on campus.
Upon returning to the bike shop we picked up Joe’s now healthy steed and headed over to Perrin JR’s place, the reason we came to Blacksburg in the first place (Perrin is the Daughter of the Thompson‘s, the Montana Family that adopted us). Her and her three delightful roommates are VTech students that just happen to have a stripper pole in their front room. When we showed up they were working out (not on the pole - don’t worry, this isn’t going where you think it is). We got a tour of their place and I got to play Perrin in a game of tennis. She beat me without much trouble but my ego escaped relatively intact (unfortunately). Perrin was a great host, offering us all sorts of refreshments before giving us all a hug and sending us on our way to the bicyclist get-together we got word of earlier.
We arrived at Don’s house after checking in with Bret, excited to visit with a group of fellow cross country cyclists. The function that night was a housewarming party of sorts. A gentleman by the name of Mason was temporarily moving into the sag wagon (support trailer) that the group had used to transport gear during the latest cross country voyage. For this reason the shindig was coined the .5 party (.5 referring to the address of the trailer currently parked behind Don’s house). Don’s story is an incredibly inspiring one. His mother has been living with MS and he found a way to turn his passion for bicycle touring into a fund-raising effort aimed at battling the disease. His first tour was an unsupported one across the Northern Tier and since then he has coordinated two crossings with the mentioned support trailer and a larger group of people. Don tells me that he already has five people signed up for the next tour set for this spring - more info here. Anyhoo, we had an incredible time helping empty the keg of Pabst that night and visiting with all the awesome folks in attendance. We talked to Don’s boss who showed up, a hippie turned manager. He was quoted as saying “I grew up hating ‘the man,’ now I am the man.” I suppose you would have to see his driver’s license with his shaggy long hair to get the full dosage of irony associated with this statement. Kristen, one of Don’s terrific roommates, had a number of pets including a tortoise and a couple of foster dogs. Don also had an awesome salt water fish tank (pictured) complete with tropical fish, shrimp, and an abundance of beautiful coral. The .5 party is also where I met Sara, one of the most awesome gals you’ll ever have the pleasure of getting to know.
In the morning we awoke late (and quite slowly if I might add) to have Don prepare us a fantastic blueberry pancake breakfast. What a way to start the new day! The Nebraska Corn Huskers were in town for a football match up so we figured we might blunder down to the stadium and check out the tailgating scene. Fans were out in full force, not a single one of them sober. We didn’t walk 50 feet before being offered a beer, then another, then another. Needing to get some more food in our bellies by this time we stumbled into some gentlemen that had barbequed two whole pigs overnight. There were also beans galore, chips, and dessert to be had. These fellows had already fed close to 75 people I would guess. In the process of gorging, our festivities were interrupted when a few police officers ventured up with some questions. “We got a report that three bicycles matching this description were recently involved in a purse snatching,” said one of the officers. Another larger (read: porky) officer on bicycle eyed us simultaneously - it didn’t look like he had on bicycle patrol very long if you catch my drift. I nearly broke out laughing, thinking to myself how many bicycles on campus might actually resemble ours (loaded down with pounds of gear) and what terrific get away vehicles they would make at 12 mph. They ran all of our information and we came out clean (except for one hiccup with Joe’s record - did I mention he was running from something? Joking of course!). Having done their job for the day, the cops helped themselves to some food as well - seems like they could have saved themselves (and us!) a lot of trouble by just asking to dine in the first place. In the end we can’t complain, Blacksburg treated us ridiculously well.