When we started the morning on our normal a.m. schedule, we knew that at 9:00 we would be setting out on Ike, the yellow school bus for a bike ride. After morning chores, Jordan kindly set out sandwich fixings for us to prepare our noon meal. At 9:00 a.m. we were ready and waiting outside with our daypacks and Nalgenes, and within five minutes we were on our way.

At the bike-rental place we were each fitted with a bike and a helmet, and then headed out for a 35-minute ride on the shuttle to White Top Station. We familiarized ourselves with our bikes in the parking lot for a few minutes, and then started off down the Virginia Creeper Trail. We twisted through dense forests, looking over the side of the trail down steep hillsides, until we shortly reached Green Cove. We stopped there, and racked our bikes in the same spot where we had taken a break on my first expedition in January. We were taking advantage of the adjacent playground when I noticed Mr. Dan biking away, and learned that Edo’s bike had suffered technical difficulties when the derailer had come off and his chain had broken. After about 45 minutes, a replacement bike was delivered and we were back on our way.

At 1:40 p.m. we arrived in Taylor’s Valley, and met up with Mr. Kevin and Ms. Patricia who had arrived with our lunches. As I biked up towards the café, I had noticed the sign for “Ice Cream, Hamburgers, and World Famous Chocolate Cake,” and I thought to myself how much I would love a cold ice cream cone. Therefore I was elated when Mr. Kevin told us we could each get a few snacks from the café, and FMA would pick up the tab. While some preferred a bacon cheeseburger or hot dog, after deliberating in front of the menu, I chose a mint-chocolate chip cone, and a handsomely sized slice of their “world-famous chocolate cake.” I feel obligated to say that while the cake was very good (the icing in particular) it paled in comparison to the chocolate on chocolate cake Ms. Margaret had prepared for my birthday!

At 2:40 p.m., after a good rest and hearty meal, we set off again. Along the way back to Damascus we passed a few of our former campsites, as well as other natural points of interest. At one point, when we were approaching a bridge, Liam was riding next to me and we saw a man, ragged and tired looking, lying trailside on his foam mat, reading a book. His open pack next to him, and his look of utter fatigue caused Liam to mutter quietly, “Been there, done that.”

Seventeen miles and almost six hours after kicking into gear at White Top, The Bike Station in Damascus welcomed us back after a relaxed day full of fun and surprises.

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