A Storm's Brewing (USA Day 20)

Well, the ghosts haunting the halls of our German church chose not to devour our souls last night, so we woke, improvised a calorific breakfast out of scavenged oatmeal packets and hot chocolate powder and tumbled into a grey West Virginia morning. The wind was high, and the forecast told us we were due our only dry day before a week of thunderstorms, so making good progress today was essential.


Make progress we did, despite instant and persistent hills that we dispatched gleefully. Every so often, as we’d been warned, a nest of dogs would rouse and rampage down to the threshold of their gardens, barking some pretty rude words, if I’m honest. Very few actually came past that point, but whenever one did we calmly braked, stepped off our bikes and waited for the dog to figure out what species of sentient being we actually were. It works perfectly. They like humans. They hate unidentified rolling prey. The other advantage is that on many of these gradients you can’t guarantee outrunning an angry dog anyway, but at least in this case you can put two bikes between you and it as a sort of steel-framed barrier.

The hills refused to let up, but neither did our enthusiasm. At the top of a hill, surrounded by long-grassed meadows, we met a father-and-son pair cycle touring from Chicago to Philadelphia, who were covering double the daily miles we’re managing but looked a bit miserable. We swapped a few tips for each other’s respective oncoming afternoons and parted, wondering whether the added miles were causing the misery or the other way around. Either way, we’re happier doing our thing, and proved it by stopping for an hour’s worth of chicken and ‘biscuits’ (scones) at a roadside diner once we’d safely got over halfway.

One thing the lads had warned us about were the hills over the next forty miles, but honestly they weren’t a patch on the morning, and the road surface was far superior. Even with the rain falling and the landscape a gloomy hillock party littered with forests and corrugated iron, we skimmed across Ohio until we reached our destination for the night: Senecaville.

What’s in Senecaville, you ask? Well, we ask that too. We couldn’t find anybody to stay with, but its church has a great parking lot and Tiffany at the office let us pitch up there. Tiffany’s nice like that. The rain’s bucketing down now, but we’re cozied up with food to eat and books to eat, and hoping we’ll deal with tomorrow’s four thousand feet of climbing just like today’s. The thunderstorms won’t help.

Our full-time photographer wouldn’t fit in the tent so we had to settle for a selfie. He’s sitting out in the rain. It’s very sad.

Our full-time photographer wouldn’t fit in the tent so we had to settle for a selfie. He’s sitting out in the rain. It’s very sad.