The Cookie Lady of Afton

Sometimes the very best adventures are those in your own neighborhood. Darkness was beginning to fall when I was recently walking through my neighborhood and met four bicyclists looking for a place to camp. They were obviously legitimate because they had wagons with lots of camping gear and wore helmets (serious bikers always wear helmets). As they were looking a bit concerned, I invited them to stay with us.

The weekend had a full list of needed accomplishments (mostly newsletter deadlines) that did not get done as my family and this adventuring group from Atlanta connected so well we just couldn't get enough of each other. All had a fun, relaxing, and memorable weekend. The rising magician in my family preformed his best tricks and then others joined in with theirs and everyone was well entertained the good old-fashioned way, with laughter, stories, questions and human interaction. My kids were so dazzled by the challenge these young adults were facing that they were on their best behavior. Our guests were so impressed with homeschooling (something they had never heard/thought of) that they had the kids teaching them about fossils, pi, and coin collecting! It was great. All I had to do was cook and visit.

These remarkable athletes taught me something I didn't know about my own neighborhood. In 1976, the BikeCentennial bicycle trail was established to link the Atlantic & Pacific oceans. Twenty-four years later, bikers from all over the world are still using this back roads trail to travel from Yorktown, Virginia to Astoria, Oregon. Amazingly, our neighborhood comprises a portion of this bike trail. Usually heading east to west, the bikers who pass through here are about to ride up one of the more difficult mountains of the trip (Afton). It is the first major climb of their 3,000+ mile journey. Nearby Charlottesville is the last stop for bike shops and gear/food replenishment for quite awhile.

Our guests stayed for two nights largely because one of them had a knee injury he was trying to heal before going up Afton Mountain. He finally agreed to let me drive him to the top of the mountain to give his knee a break (he can always come back and do that section). We followed the beautiful back roads of the trail leaving four hours after the rest of his group departed. The plan was to meet up wherever our paths crossed. They crossed at The Cookie Lady's house. Perfect.

I've heard of The Cookie Lady, June Curry - she's listed in the official BikeCentennial guidebook. I just never took her seriously enough. This 79 year-old woman is amazing. And her hostel is worth a trip to see. Twenty-four years ago, her father and uncle noticed bikers riding past (straight up with two more miles to the top) and needing water. They quickly put up a sign for free water and set up a hose near the road to make the stop easier for the bikers. The Cookie Lady noticed how hungry they were and started serving food and always cookies. When her uncle died, his house (which is near The Cookie Lady's house) was turned into a free (donations accepted) hostel for through-bikers and hikers. It is complete with a stocked kitchen, bathroom, cold shower, and plenty of reading material. There is even a big garage where guests may park & lock their bikes.

The house itself is a museum. Four rooms with overstuffed furniture and walls plastered with a collection of 24-years' worth of postcards, letters of thanks, newspaper clippings, bicycle memorabilia, etc. from all of the Cookie Lady's thankful guests. Mrs. Curry photographs everyone who stops. There were piles of scrapbooks of photos of her visitors from every state in the US and over fifty foreign countries. The Cookie Lady is delightful; full of energy, happy to chat (with a wealth of great stories), and respectful of the biker's need for some space. Whatever the need, June Curry wants to help. Her hospitality was an inspiration. We need more people like her.

The Cookie Lady's house makes for an interesting and stimulating field trip. Be sure to call in advance at (540) 456-6968 to assure that you will see the inside of the house when you visit. You don't have to arrive on a bike. The Cookie Lady welcomes all.

Mary Wilson...

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