Charlottesville to Rockfish Gap, Virginia. (32 mi.) Mile 290Granny gears to The Cookie LadyToday it was our turn to visit the Bikecentennial Trail's legendary Cookie Lady, but first, a ritual early morning trip to the closest bike shop, thanks to Northwest Airline's handling of our bikes. We hope all the bugs are now out of the bent chain rings.Breakfast outside Performance Bike Shop, CharlottesvilleOur weather has remained unstable with intermittent sun and showers. Much of this part of Virginia reminds us of home in the Pacific Northwest due to the high annual rainfall, except that there are hardwood forests instead of evergreens, the bird sounds are different, and when you get to a rural crossroads in the middle of nowhere, there isn't an Espresso stand.Wet weather, lush vegetation, ..... and one of countless small general stores along the routeVirginia is the most challenging state on the route for elevation gain (over 31,000 feet of climbing) and we ground away at it some more today. At the top of one tough climb, we met our first exhausted eastbound TransAm cycle tourer, slumped in the shade eating an energy bar. Normally we would not expect to be passing eastbounders until later in the summer, but he had been doing a small section each year, and was just finishing with Virginia. We all lamented the hills. "You'll like Kansas!," he said.The Cookie Lady, June Curry, lives near the top of a particularly challenging hill. Twenty-
six years ago, she told us, she and her father offered water to a tired cyclist, enjoyed the visit, and decided to put out a sign "Water for bicyclists" for others who followed. Today The Cookie Lady,now 80, has offered over 11,000 bicycle tourists water, refreshment, and a place to stay.We were moved by the generosity of this humble woman as we arrived at her place hot and thirsty. She showed us her "bike house", a bit like a combined hostel, museum, and shrine dedicated to TransAmerican cycle tourists. The rooms are filled with hundreds of postcards and letters from previous guests, newspaper articles, scrapbooks and memorabilia accumulated over the last quarter century. She has traveled vicariously through her guests, seen her generosity returned many times, and become somewhat of a celebrity, yet lives quietly by herself and describes herself as "just an old woman who lives up on this mountain".Outside at the Cookie Lady's Bike House - the original "Water for Bicyclists" greeting, and....Inside at the Cookie Lady's Bike House - memorabilia, news articles, and postcardsmake up a shrine to TransAm bicycle tourers.It was visiting The Cookie Lady that it finally sunk in that we are on a much bigger trip than we have ever been on before, in more than one way. The Cookie Lady took our picture and urged us to stay, but we decided to push on. We only made it a few more uphill miles though, before deciding to call it quits and check into the Afton Inn for the night. Here we had a steak dinner and met a group of cyclists from Toronto and Washington DC who were preparing to spend 5 days riding the Blue Ridge Parkway. They invited us to join them for a beer, so we spent a lively time with them discussing motorists vs bicycles, and Canadian vs US politics.