Notes from Virgina, the state with never-ending rain

May 11, 2016

The hills seem never to end: sweeping 29-plus miles down only to crawl back up. My quads sting in the first 50 yards.  Little sharp pains attacking my quads like a nest of bees that were just cut off a tree. I bite my lip, knowing this familiar sensation. After 50 yards the quads turn into jello, and I lose control of them.  I try to keep the balance of my heavy handlebar, hoping sensation will return to my quads. After another few wobbly yards, they give in and accept the climb.  With each push up, the sensation becomes a routine, until I am on the top of the hill.  Now, the bee swarm returns and all my leg muscles scream out. I peddle fast in my lowest gear to get rid of the built-up lactic acid that is causing all the pain.

I pass over another bridge, past green pastures where horses and cows are happily grazing. The fields are covered with yellow dandelions. A perfect picture to hang in the hallway of an apartment or house. I keep cycling over train tracks, past a deserted house where the peeling paint has turned from a shade of white to a mud brown.  The door and windows are missing. A broken chair and trash is left on the porch as a reminder of its past life.  Another 4 miles, another set of tracks dividing a small town with maybe 30 houses on both sides of the tracks.  Trailers and small houses fill both sides. The inhabitants of the town try to keep a happy appearance, but the poverty is hard to hide. The small houses tell their own stories with their backyards, proximity to the tracks, and abandoned cars for sale in the front yard. The countless churches may try to lift the spirits.  I wonder about the per capita church ratio.

Food is sparse and full of nothing but sheer processed carbs. Wonderbread, Hershey ice cream, Gatorade and sugar-loaded cereals line the aisles of the supermarket and my dinner plate. We were offered sugary baked beans.  I was hungry and ate it. Missing deep down my pasta from Whole Foods with fresh tomatoes and a little bit of olive oil. Remembering all the food documentaries I realize how hard it must to escape unhealthy eating habits. It becomes clear to me what a luxurious life I am living in my Manhattan bubble. I have the freedom to choose from an endless array of any kind of food at any time.  It is expensive, but available.

I always heard southerners were "real nice" compared to Yankees. I saw plenty of Confederate flags on the doors of many homes, proudly waiving in the wind as they welcomed me in.  It gives me a few cold chills, and I peddle a bit faster.  Many homes are marked with big signs declaring that "This is Private Property" and "Do Not Trespass." The creek next to one such property runs freely and continuously, making turns where it has for years. I wonder what would happen if I cross this border.

The woman in the FedEx authorized store in Lexington gave me a bit of the cold shoulder when I asked for help with my shipment. She refused to sell me a box or give me a ground shipment label unless I used her services.  I am wondering if it would be cheaper for me to send it via FedEx 3-day service than to deal with her attitude.  Is she giving everyone this attitude or just me? The other group members said that everyone was really nice to them. Am I dealing with racism here? Am I this unwanted person here and the only reason she does not shoo me away is because of my money? I go to the store next door to change.  I ask the woman in the beauty parlor if I can use her restroom that is labeled "For customer's only."  I offer her money to use it and she says no, flipping her magazine page.

I guess this is "Welcome to the South."