End of the Line: Blackburn Ranger rides the Creeper, arrives at the Atlantic

Along the Creeper Trail

On April 22, Ivan Kilroe left the Port of Astoria in Oregon on his TransAmerica ride. The final destination? Yorktown, Virginia where he arrived a little less than five months after he first started turning the cranks eastward. Here’s the final leg of his journey in his words and pictures.

Myself, Theron and Aussie Jeff departed from Damascus via the Virginia Creeper Trail. It was to be our final week to the finish line in Yorktown. The Creeper Trail is yet another delightful, once rails, now trails path that climbs gently for a few miles following Laurel Creek. It was a beautiful stretch of riding. It’s always a blessing to find yourself off the road in the quiet serenity of the forest, listening to the birds, the river and the sounds of tyres carving through the dirt. No traffic, no worries. Stop where you like, breath it in, look and listen.

Due to the quantity of roads out east, the route took us on a considerable amount of the less traveled and more picturesque back roads and quiet lanes. In the in-between and connecting sections we found a significant increase in the amount of ‘junk food junctions’ (a phrase coined by Jeff to refer to the high concentration of fast food establishments located at nearly all major road crossings). You’d be riding through what you feel is the middle of nowhere and then suddenly: McDonald’s…

It was still early in the afternoon on our route to Blacksburg, so with some time to kill, and a particularly inviting river and park on offer, we stopped off for an afternoon dip, followed by afternoon tea and biscuits (A Jeff special).

Camping near the creek.

On the road out of Blacksburg we were treated to some rather good riding. It had all the right ingredients: Minimal traffic, epic scenery and rolling hills knitting together tight and testing turns. We had a lot of fun on these roads, continuously drafting and overtaking each other.

We were nearing the end of the day and with no plans for camping we opted to pull into the next gas station for a break and to assess our options. It just so happened that behind the building there was a wealth of grass, two trees, a picnic bench and toilet facilities. In other words, a well facilitated camp spot (The road provides!). With permission from the owner, we set up our tents and got dinner ready. Yes, you could hear the roar of the highway in the distance, but we’ve probably all paid for worse…

The following day I wasn’t feeling too good, my legs empty, my head more dizzy and achy than usual and a strong desire to sleep. I struggled to do an easy 30 miles and only just made it to the small town of Vesuvius. With a tight time frame, Theron had to keep going whilst Jeff and I looked for a suitable place to camp. With little in the way of obvious options, we stumbled upon a friendly local who gave us a lift out to a spot he knew. It was idyllic! It came complete with a creek and an inviting plunge pool. It was a little tricky hiking down, so we had to discreetly stash the bikes at the top. It was the perfect place to spend the afternoon recuperating. I had a pleasant nap, a swim and another very civilized afternoon of tea and biscuits.

Overlooking the Blue Ridge

Vesuvius is most well known for its climb up onto the Blue Ridge Parkway. Just like the infamy of the dogs in Kentucky, the Vesuvius climb is a highly talked about section. It is most notable because of its steep grade that continuously ascends for roughly 7 miles.

In an attempt to dodge the heat, we got onto the climb as early as possible. It was indeed steep. In the cool of the morning and the shade of the trees, it was surprisingly enjoyable. I dropped her into a good gear and we rolled up with no problems.

The Blue Ridge Parkway was epic. Skirting a ridge line with surrounding views of the aptly named Blue Ridge Mountains. The plethora of surrounding wildflowers up there gives habitat to an array of large and beautifully decorated butterflies. We took our time on this stretch, enjoying the last views of the mountains before we began the gradual trend downhill toward the coast.

We ended the day off arriving at the famous ‘cookie lady’s house’. June Curry well known for accommodating cyclists and of course, her cookies! She died in 2012, but now her home and legacy lives on. I’m not entirely sure how to describe her unique home, but it now serves as an unusual combination of shrine, museum, and hostel. It’s amazing to see so much personality and love left behind by cyclists over the ages. Write your name, leave a ’thing’, a note, a word of wisdom perhaps.

From the Pacific to the Atlantic. A journey well earned on the Niner RLT steel.

She must have been a special woman. It’s a reminder of the impact we can all have if we choose to.

Our final day into Yorktown was a wet one. Heavy downpours continued throughout the entirety of the day. Despite the rain it was still very warm and so wearing the rain jacket wasn’t a viable option for staying dry. Merely another way of getting wet. The sweaty way. The rain does at least, keep you cool.

We did have the pleasure of an excellent bike path for the majority of the way there before transitioning onto the scenic Colonial Parkway.

This area of Virginia is full of Civil War history and we passed many a historic battle field before eventually arriving at the finish at the battle of Yorktown monument.

Theron had already arrived the day before and came out to meet us. We shot the obligatory end of trip photos, punched out a few high 5’s, collected our trophies and then proceeded to the pub for a well earned victory beer!

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For more info on the Niner RLT 9 Steel