After leaving Dr. Thad's, we had some of the coldest nights of the trip. We woke up one morning with a thin coat of ice covering the inside of the rain-fly. After Roanoke, VA we left the safety of our maps behind and picked out own route.
The first major day off route started with a cold, but wicked fast descent off the Blue Ridge Parkway. I saw my fastest average of the entire trip, 31.5mph for the first three miles of the day. As you can imagine it quickly dropped.
Riding off route was partly more stressful, partly less stressful, and all around, kind of exciting. We picked our route by following as many of the thin, light gray lines on our Rand-McNally map as we could. We had heard of a North Carolina bike route that stayed near highway 158 and decided to head that way to find it. We found parts of it, but mostly used computer printouts to find smaller roads parallel to 158. The stressful part was finding food and water. With the Adventure Cycling maps we knew how far it was from own to town and where all the food stops were. Without them we just guessed and carried a little more water. The easy part was we never really had a set destination for the day. We pretty much road until it got dark and found a place to sleep; including an abandoned school, land that will soon see a rash of cookie-cutter homes, and what was probably a hunting club's deer killing/beer drinking land. It all worked out.
Off route people were even more amazed by our trip than those we ran into on the TransAm route. We were asked throughout North Carolina where we were headed and would get a lot of, "Wow, that's like 200 miles away!" Then we'd tell them where we started and left them speechless. I'm looking forward to planning my own routes in the future.