Dugspur, VA

Staying with hosts is a very valuable experience, independent of if they are friends or strangers. We are not in any of our way stations for much time. Not in any one long enough to do much in the way of exploring. Hosts provide context, a window into the place, ideas on what makes it interesting, why they moved there, why they continue to stay. What we should see if we were staying longer, and what we should prioritize in the limited time we have.

The day begins well. Bagel sandwiches and coffee at Mill Mountain downtown. Our hosts in Roanoke, Justin and Mattie, were going to sleep in, so we left to get breakfast rather than risk making a bunch of noise in the kitchen, even though they said it wouldn’t be a problem the night before. This trip is really making me value solid sleep, no way I am going to mess with theirs.

South on highway 221. Highway is such a big world for such a narrow road. Two lanes and a usable shoulder. Reasonable grades and smooth asphalt. Left turn onto Poage Valley Road. Also known as State Route 690. Now known as the vertical death march. From steep, to steeper, to ridiculous. 10-15% grades kicking above 20. At least that is how it feels as I hit points where I am having trouble turning the cranks over standing on the pedals out of the saddle. Stupid steep. With all boilers lit and all engines on full, Matti von Kessing, the European Dreamliner, slams into an iceberg and is cracked. Hull integrity is lost. Listing, he full stops, adrift at sea, waiting for rescue. A white F-150 tug boat drags him to safety while he patches his hull and recovers the flooded cabins. I tail the bumper of the truck until the grade swaps over to gravel and I slowly slide off the back. Enough torque to make it up the slope, but not so much that you spin your back wheel for lack of traction. A damp muddy uneven road. One that keeps going up. Each turn looks to be the last until you finish it and find another. Ad infinitum.

The tug boat drops the dreamliner off at the first top. I finally arrive and we continue on our cruise. If only it were a pleasure cruise. This is the last time we take a back country road. Matt is built for transatlantic steamlining, not billy goat scrambles.


Back on the 221, the grades are less severe, but the hills are endless. Scraggly apple trees, seemingly on their last legs, with few leaves and haggard branches. Loads of red fruit litter the ground around their trunks. Ignored by the cows, unpicked by the people, but much more productive than their sorry state would imply.

We have burnt our legs on the first sortie and the arrival of the 15-20mph head winds, gusting north of 30, set the stage for a day that just wouldn’t die. We arrive at the host house drained. A day of wreckage. I am thrashed, Matt is destroyed. If we had to end in Galax, like the original plan, we never would have made it. Fortunately, I had found a host in Dugspur, 26 miles closer.

David, our host for the night, is off the grid. Spring fed water, solar fed car batteries. Our place is a small single room guest house accessible by a plank bridge. Two DC powered lights, a wood burning stove, a toilet in a bucket (filled with sawdust), and most importantly, a bed.

A dinner of couscous with raisins and almonds paired with a huge salad, some of which was sourced from their lean-to green house. A dessert of cooked pears in a thick syrup of sugar and spices. Rain pounds against the roof. Hopefully the clouds will run themselves dry by the morning.