The question of the day today was: “should we stay for free at a church in Marion, KY….or camp 12 miles further (per the itinerary.and for $30) at Cave-in-rock?”
Choose the former!
The scenery from Hodgenville KY to Marion KY looked eerily similar to highway 11 in VA. Corn fields, rolling hills, small farm towns.
It was the land of hot-rod old cars though. My favorite was a bright green old mustang convertible. My aunt Joey had a green convertible named “green bean”…or string bean?… I loved riding in it and when I was little I would tell her to “Go, Jo, Go!”. The things I think about on the road….I digress…
Some farms had Perdue No Admittance signs. Those farms had particularly song aromas. I asked Jacob if that was the stench of slaughter. He said “no, that’s chicken poo”. Ok.
We ate lunch at a nice air conditioned cafe called Jeri’s.
As we climbed a pretty steep hill after lunch, we noticed a slow moving something at the top. I had no idea what it was. Ahhhh, it was a tandem recumbent bicycle. Cooool. That would never work for the R&J duo, or really R and anyone. I would go nuts!
It got really hot 12 miles outside of Marion. Good thing we were stopping early, because I was getting overheated. It felt like we were in a steam room (a really hot one like they have in Iceland!) AND we were blow-drying our hair. There was a significant head wind, of course, that was hot like a blow dryer!
We arrived at the Marion United Methodist Church and met pastor Wayne around 4:30. He was super welcoming and he told us there was a slight fee to stay there… Jacob assumed we were about to get baptized…haha… The fee was getting our pics taken and signing the guestbook. We read about other cyclists who have stayed at the church recently (including the cute one from a few days prior!!), some who we already met on the road and some who we may meet in the road soon.
We stayed in the “kids hall” so the water fountain was miniature. Jacob made a short joke about me…meanwhile there were no less than three other ladies within ear shot who were all shorter than me. Oops!
We decided to hit the town for an Italian dinner. This restaurant had a picture of Guy Fieri on the wall, so it has to be good, right? Local organic produce. Yummy home-made everything. A great surprise for small town IL.
Back at the church I iced my knees and did lacrosse ball rolling for my upper back.
Today we saw the best street name yet: “Fishtrap Derbymine Rd”. We agreed that it sounds like a pair of rock bands who would open for the Stones so we both started speaking in british accents and pretended to be the announcers of the show.
We biked into a new time zone today! We’re biking back in time.
Day 11 brought some struggles.
We slept at the LaRue County Park which was super fun actually!
However, dogs barked pretty much all night. Good thing I packed ear plugs!
Woke up around 6 a little dewy…slept on a tarp but the top of the sleeping bag did still get wet. Doh.
I got breakfast going while Jacob finished true-ing the wheel from the previous night. Then I hear “$#@&$!!” It broke again! Arrgh.
So he started over, meanwhile I ate, packed, and started pumping my tires. What did I find? “Oh look at that, Jacob, my rear tire is flat! Hahaha”. “@&$##&!!!”
So we got a late start. 8:30a
20 miles in, same tire of mine went flat again. When we were fixing it, Jacob asked if I had a tick…since I’d been clearing my throat a lot. Ummmm, no, and I got slightly (a LOT) offended. He apologized and we rode on.
Another 5 miles and I got another flat. Instead of patching it this time I got a new tube. This time it held.
We went over a few rivers today. We chanted “Down by the river I took a little walk!!” (know that old swimming cheer?), and “I live in a van down by the river!!!” (Chris Farley?)
We snacked on chili straight from the cans.
KY does not pay for street signs or cell phone towers. However, Jacob says the governor’s brother must own a rumble strip company because they are everywhere! All different kind too. All annoying to cyclists.
We raced the sun to our lodging for the night. 101 miles logged.Saw a nice sunset on the bike and got to sleep at the Utica volunteer fire department building. It was so cool! Shower, kitchen, laundry. The trifecta! We were in heaven.
Church sign of the day was quite a propos: “Fire Safety Tip: stop, drop and roll will not work in Hell”.
Slept in our sleeping bags on top of mattresses. Inside and dry.
We were fresh off a rest day and ready to go! Jacob secretly delayed getting ready in order to hit the continental breakfast which opened at 7.
Out the door at 7:20.
My bike bit me.
I messed up the directions from the hotel to the bike route. Uggh. Took us a bit out of the way, but with teamwork we managed.
The first 80 miles of today were CAKE! We flew. Hills were rolling thru farms and small towns, but they seemed like babies compared to the VA monster mountains.
We stopped in Perryville for a rest and talked with some nice cyclists who are training for a bike ride across KY.
The last 34 miles of the day were hard. Really hard. My quads hurt, especially the left one.
We made it to LaRue County Park at dusk. The city (also the birthplace of Abe Lincoln!) allows cyclists to camp for free and use the restroom facilities. Very kind. Of course immediately upon arriving, Jacob breaks a spoke. I cooked bacon and eggs for dinner while he fixed it.
The park is an athletic facility for baseball, tennis, basketball, soccer and swimming. I asked Jacob if I could sleep in left field with Bryce Harper. He said “go for it”, but I reconsidered and opted for proximity to bathrooms and shelter (pavilion) instead.
I did sleep under the stars. Pretty night.
Church sign today “What can this sign say to get you here on Sunday?” Can’t repeat what Jacob suggested, so use your imagination.
This was the longest day yet. We logged 114 miles. Tiiiiired. Tomorrow will be long too.
Woke up at the nice, civilized hour of 8a. Caught the carb-it-up continental breakfast at the hotel and inquired about the closest post office. In a sweet KY accent “oh ma’am I’m sorry, it’s on the other end of town and only open a half day on Saturday”. I sped back to the room, grabbed about 12lbs of our surplus gear that we wanted to ship home (stuff we didn’t use much, radio, hammock, clothes, electrical plugs) and I hit the road. WALKING. You are dead wrong if you thought I would put my butt in the saddle on my OFF day!
3 miles to the post office.
2 miles to Berea coffee and tea Co. (I got a little lost and my cell phone was dead but I found it.) Saw a church sign “Why be pessimistic? It won’t work anyway!”
I spent the day relaxing, texting, emailing, reading, writing, talking to strangers (and not Jacob, no offense!), and eating yummy food and drinking superb coffee. I did still feel “hazy” and lethargic. Tired but kinda in a good way.
I walked around the campus of Berea college and did some stretching in their version of “the lawn”. A very cute city, it is the folk art capitol of ky.
I talked with my sister Caroline on the phone for a while…I miss her and you other family members and friends so much! …and then I made my way back to the hotel.
2 miles back:)
It was actually good to use my legs a bit differently. Walking felt ok.
Jacob and I ate dinner at Cracker Barrel (ate some decent chocolate cake for dessert) and then watched Men in Black at the hotel as we soaked up the remaining restful hours. Ahhhhh rest.
Woke up at 5:30 in the super sleezy Daniel Boone motel. I knew we needed to leave as early as possible to make it to Berea by dusk, so I woke Jacob and got him moving. We started biking at 7a. Thick fog turned to thunderstorm. We were in “rush hour traffic” in rainy Hazard, KY.
Luckily it was a quick shower and then passed on by. Jacob stopped at the top of a hill to put ON his rain jacket, then stopped at the top of the next hill to take OFF his rain jacket. Haha.
At a convenience store we met a 16yo red headed kid who told us all about the sports he plays (soccer is his favorite) and how he can ride his bmx bike all the way to Chavies to see his girlfriend when his truck is broken (we have doubts, and think this is a “big fish story”, but he was nice).
We hit the Buckhorn hills pretty early in the day. This one was a little painful because it had three separate ridges at the top.
We stopped for food…grilled chicken big salad!…after the descent at a nice trailer/food truck/dairy bar. Jacob stretched his aching back and we met a nice man who makes bird houses. He told us all about them, and we ate
at cute colorful picnic benches next to horses.
After food, we met a very cute cyclist, Chris, going east solo. His brother was supposed to join him but bailed at the last minute. He is from C Springs CO and is actually moving to DC in the fall. (attention single 20-something ladies!)
Jacob and I made great time this morning, although Jacob continues to battle nats going up hills. I tell him to “be one with the bugs and embrace them” and “I love nats! Harper, Stras, Gio!” but he swats and curses them to no end.
At a food stop, we met another east bound solo cyclist heading to VA beach. He wanted to get there quickly to catch his Dad before he leaves on a business trip in a few days. He had a trailer attached to his bike and sometimes walks his bike up hills. This is crazy talk! We are worried about him and the VA hills. He is confident because he has “already done the rockies”…but VA hills are quite different, we hear.
We then made it to Big Hill, KY. We were lucky enough to get to go DOWN it. It was spectacular, magic, majestic, fast…just epic.
At the bottom I had my first flat tire of the ride. Quick fix and 10 miles to Berea KY. Loooong 10 miles. Made it and crashed in to the hotel. Ate at the Mexican restaurant across the parking lot. Wanted a margarita reeeeaal bad. Found out that Berea is a DRY county. Effn@$&#%!!!
Might be for the best as I know I was pretty dehydrated. Grrrrr nonetheless. Hit the sack.
Total trip mileage do far is 659.
We made it to our first rest day! Yeeeehaaaw!
It rained a little overnight at Breaks Interstate Campground. We stayed mostly dry this time. However, I didn’t sleep well (was woken a few times by Jacob unknowingly pushing me in his air mattress) and in the morning I found out that a raccoon or some other critter made it in to my panniers and destroyed my “greens powder” and cocoa powder. Uggh!
I woke Jacob at 6:15 and we cooked breakfast, loaded up, and started moving at 8a.
We found Kentucky! Jacob had been waiting for that moment to say bye bye to VA. We celebrated at an overlook, took pictures and tried not to fall down the slippery stairs in our bike shoes.
KY is coal trucks and miners domain. I started singing “hi-ho hi-ho it’s off to work I go”. They do go around us bikers, but don’t think they’re too happy to have us on their road.
We rode down a few small roads along a creek. We figured out that we were in trouble when the water flowed in the opposite direction. Hills a’comin. This happened a lot.
At the top of one hill, as I waited for Jacob, a man stopped his car to give me a pomegranate V8 energy drink. “You need this more than I do!” It was delicious! I took a picture of Jacob in front of the “Last Chance Beer and Liquor” store.
We did get a lovely downhill after that climb. We talked like Sesame Street… “this downhill is brought to you by the letters J E S U S!” (lots of churches)
We were in the middle of NO where at 2pm. I did the math in my head and didn’t think we’d make it to our next destination of Hazard KY. So we started to book it. It was hot. Can you guess what happened then?? Jacob busted a spoke at the beginning of a climb. No bueno. It was at this point that he also said “my legs have straight-up never been this sore”. Great. Well, he fixed the wheel, we kept moving and got about 20 miles from our destination at about 5:30p.
We then ran into a group of 5 British cyclists biking east who gave us some advice. “Go Rt 80 the whole way to cut out the turns and windey road. 80’s a nice road, wide shoulder, along a creek.”
At the end of the day, Jacob no longer trusted British cyclists. The shoulder had rumble strips and the hills were aggressive. Who cares though, we made it!
As soon as we saw the Motel in Hazard, KY it started raining. This motel was sketchy to say the least. It took forever for them to decide which room to give us that wasn’t “all tore up”. Hmmmm. Too tired to care!
Today I learned to climb “as slow as possible”. Like, if I think there’s any way I can go slower up an ascent, I tell myself “you should probably do that!”. I sang “When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again” as I climbed…don’t know where that came from, but it had a good rhythm in my head. We did close to 90 miles. I ate tuna, tortilla, avocado and veggies for dinner then immediately got in bed, lights out! A very long, good day.
Woke up st the Super 8. Hit the continental breakfast when it started at 7. I made Jacob sit st a different table than me…hope he want too offended…they were “Robin sized” tables!
We took route 80 back to the bike route 76. We did three sizeable climbs today: Hayters (biggest), Big A Mountain (coolest name), and Breaks (toughest since it was at the end).
At the start of Hayters we saw some other xcountry bikers going the opposite direction with their final destination Yorktown VA. They were retirement age on road bikes with a van support vehicle. Fancy.
Before we “really started” Big A Jacob asked if we had already reached the summit. Ummm no. You could not miss that summit. On the descent, 2 big dogs attempted to attack my tires. I used some tactics Melinda taught me from Egypt to distract them and escape unscathed.
We stopped at subway in Haysi before tackling the hill to Breaks.
As usual, this campground was also up, down, up, down off the main road. We barely made it to our tent site before it started pouring down rain. It had been thundering for probably 30 mins already.
We were lucky enough to grab a site next to a nice lady with an RV. She invited us in for burgers and peach pie. Yes ma’am! We got out of the rain and she actually let us use her tent so we didn’t have to set up our own in the mess. Phhhew.
She is a mother of one biological daughter, 4 adopted daughters, 4 adopted sons, and has raised 16 foster kids. A kind soul. Her 90 year old sharp as a whip mother and adorable 8.5mo old foster granddaughter Payton were also in the RV.
One church sign we saw today: “How do you spell happyness? (sic) It’s Jesus”
We were fed and in sleeping bags by 9p. Jacob fixed my camp pillow…it had a leak but now I can just fill it up with clothes instead of with air. Works great.
When I asked Jacob what cool things happened today he said “I can’t remember anything that happened today except the mountains”.
Woke up at 5:15 to a super foggy morning in Radford at Mick’s magical house. Tried to figure out the American Cycling Assoc map but at that hour it was really confusing…we made do after coffee. Said goodbye to our gracious hosts. I hope we keep in touch!
Stopped at Wade’s supermarket for breakfast and to fill water bottles. We finally hit the road at 8 when Jacob exclaimed “2nd star on the right and straight on til morning!”.
First part of the ride we hit Draper mountain. Long step climb and the worst part was the lack of view at the overlook due to fog. Oh well.
We found some construction on Rt 11 and the traffic worker said “aint never had to stop no one on bicycles before!”
Turned back on to the historic bike route 76 and found the most gorgeous cascading hills and farms. Small quiet road 654 was my favorite.
We stopped at an apple market at the top of a hill. I got an apple for a snack and veggies for dinner. Jacob was a bit tired and took a 3 min nap. Totally revived him, thank goodness!
We then rode (KILLED) 30 miles mostly descending, both of us felt strong. We found a cadence that worked for us (at least on the down hills).
At one point when I was waiting for Jacob for a minute our two, I start hearing carnival the music to the “Do your ears hang low?” song. Then 30 seconds later I see Jacob leading an ice cream truck down the road!!! (what??) I thought this was the funniest thing ever…piper of ice cream.
There were no warm showers hosts available in the area and no campgrounds, so we Super 8’d it.
Did laundry, cooked and ate dinner and were in bed by 9:15. No mechanical issues and dry conditions. A GOOD DAY!
We started out in Buchanan VA. Our stuff *mostly dried out…athough it was raining outside! We woke up at 5:30, and started the day warm and dry.
Stopped in Troutville at a small grocery store for a bathroom/snack break and signed their “hikers and bikers guestbook”. Passed a church named “God’s House”.
Rode thru Roanoke. It’s huge! Took forever to get past the traffic and stop lights. Who knew? We also had a slight detour when we missed a turn. No biggie, got back on track quickly. We then hit Christiansburg mountain. Yikes. 14 minute climb at my lowest gear. Not easy. We stopped for subway afterwards which tasted delicious. Also Jacob called Mick from the warm showers website. Lucky us, he was willing and able to host us for the night. We just had to make it to Radford about 23 miles away. No prob! We hit the ultimate jackpot with or host family. His house is awesome. There’s a butterfly tree in front and it backs up to the river. Mick’s wife, Lee, cooked soup for dinner. We ate out on the deck with them and their other houseguests and we talked with them about our adventure as well as their own. Mick has done the xcountry ride twice. Once each direction, of course. He’s also biked from Radford to Boston to met Lee for a wedding…just cuz:) Their basement tenant Tom works at a bike shop and has also done the xcountry ride. He gave us some sound advice on biking and staying sane. Very cool folks! Crawled in our sleeping bags with full bellies feeling grateful for the kindness of strangers. Amazing.
Well, it rained. ALL night and then all day. Jacob woke me up at 4:45a. Tent was soaked thru and I was sleeping in a puddle. Spent the first hour drying clothes and packing up.
Had to climb up a half mile steep to get out of camp. Jacob’s spirits were very low but he pulled it together and we made it to 7-11. The brazilian dark coffee tasted A-mazing and felt better even though we were wet.
Rain started to die down a little after noon. We ride thru Lexington and took a pic at the VMI track.
Day three had 3 broken spokes total. One bright spot was a store at the top of “Fancy Hill”. We picked up a tomato and bacon for dinner and cheese for Jacob’s snack.
Had to cut the day in half due to rain and the broken spokes. Called it quits in Buchanan and checked into a motel to dry out the gear. Beautiful view of the mountain over highway 81. Jacob worked on the bike while I cooked dinner. Then I slept like a rock! Tomorrow will be better:)