Riding the Virginia Creeper

When your life is making you tired, sometimes you need to take a day off. It’s even better if you get to have a little friend time. So yesterday Regina, a friend of mine since high school, and I did a little bike ride on the Virginia Creeper.

The Virginia Creeper is a 34-mile bike trail that goes from Whitetop, VA down to Damascus, for about a 17-mile ride, and on to Abingdon for an additional 17 miles. Railroad tracks used to line the area and you can see signs of them on occasion.

We rented our bikes from Adventure Damascus Bicycles and they were very good to work with. The reservations were correct, well maintained vans, and friendly staff.

I have to admit something here. When I was a girl I never had a fancy 3-speed or 10-speed, and always used foot brakes. I have never advanced beyond that. I own a beautiful pink Schwinn that a friend gave me for my birthday one year. She’d heard me talk about my lack of “big girl” biking skills in the past, so when she saw one she bought it for me. I have cool friends.

I’d done the tide twice in the past and both outfitters I had used only used bikes with foot brakes. Evidently times have changed. This outfitter had all hand brakes. He tried to talk me into it, and almost had me, though I wouldn’t have been comfortable. Finally, though, he found a light pink one with foot brakes that seemed a bit fragile, but was way more comfortable for me. Whew! Crisis averted. (I usually rent bikes since I know these outfitters keep brakes well maintained.)

My pink bike for the day….with foot brakes

The drive to the top seems long….probably because we were in a full van. Fall is particularly busy for them, but it’s usually not very crowded during the week. There were far more kids than I expected. We found out from the families in the van with us that Charlotte (NC) had a teacher work day, which probably counted for most of them.

Once we got to the top, we grabbed our bikes and started out, What I love about the Creeper, at least the 17-mile portion to Damascus that we did, is that it is mostly downhill. It’s also in a glorious location in the mountains with beautiful scenery. Not only are there the mountains, but mountain streams and trestle bridges.

I let Regina take the lead most of the way and we went fast compared to most people. We did a lot of passing. Some of the steeper downhill parts are a bit bumpy, so if you go fast enough there is a bit of an out-of-control feeling. When we were talking about it later Regina said she preferred the peddling sections because it was a smoother ride. I loved not peddling, going fast, and feeling a bit out-of-control. This probably is a great description of the personality differences between me and my long time friend!

The leaves aren’t even close to peak yet, but starting to turn in some places. I figure in about two weeks it will be prime leaf viewing weather. Nevertheless, you will have gorgeous scenery along the way.

It took us around two hours to do the 17-miles. Most people probably took more breaks and traversed it a bit slower. There are bathrooms along the way, as well as a restaurant about halfway. I believe they are only opened seasonally, so check if you plan to eat en route.

After we finished our ride, we decided to try the Damascus Diner for lunch. I definitely recommend! It’s what we call “down home” cooking in our area. I ate hamburger steak with grilled onions, mashed potatoes and a salad, and the lightest and yummiest little biscuit. I knew that would be my meal for the day since I was driving back to NC. It was all delicious.

If you plan a trip to the area, I suggest you stay in Abingdon, a beautiful place. I have never stayed in a hotel or a bed and breakfast there, but have heard from others that they are really good. Some friends make regular trips.

I have attended many productions at the Barter Theater and definitely recommend shows there. Most of the cast are professional actors, many working there year round as part of the ensemble. I have my favorites that I look for from show to show,

There are also several places in the area that feature work of local artists that are worth your time. Before I left we ran by to see a show by the local photography club and their work was fantastic. If you are there on the weekend, check to see if their farmer’s market is open. You’ll find both the traditional and unusual.

This is such a gorgeous area, with many things that will catch your fancy. Put it on your list for a fun and relaxing destination.


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