Why do I climb? Many reasons: the calming single-mindedness of a steady rhythmic cadence, the frightening exilaration of a fast descent--and for the stories told in the rocks and trees at the overlooks.
The climb up Thornton Gap to the Skyline Drive in Shenandoa National Park is arduous but rewarded by a spectacular view. On this morning, the dawn air is cool and crisp as I begin the climb out of still slumbering Sperryville. It's seven miles and seventy minutes to the top of the Gap but I soak in the stillness and warmth of the rising sun; I pedal to a pace dictated by my thumping heart.
At the top, I stop to consider that here stood Francis Thornton who, in 1740, opened a passage between the Shenandoah Valley and the Piedmont region of Virginia. Here, too, stood General Thomas Jonathan Jackson, as he moved his "Stonewall Brigade" to engage a blue-coated enemy in the bloody Battles of Bull Run.
Here once thrived a now lost mountain culture, cut down in the wake of America's great fascination with the automobile. I mourn a little, then take up my ride and pedal on, enjoying the winding ribbon that only America's fascination with the automobile could provide.
"I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth." -Psalm 121:1,2