Monday, July 31, 2017

So Much for an Early Start

Day 58 - 7/31/17 - Booneville, KY to Hindman, KY - 67 Miles

Average Speed - Slowest day yet

Lodging - Hindman First Baptist Church Youth Center - free

I had a long day ahead of me in the mountains.  So I decided to get an early start.  As you can see by the above pic, the weather had other ideas.  These narrow, winding mountain roads naturally limit visibility, the fog exacerbates that.  I did the only thing I could do...adapt...I rode to a nearby cafe and enjoyed some french toast, sausage and coffee.

It was still foggy when I started out, but soon enough the fog cleared

As I suspected, today turned out to be a long day in the saddle...67 miles...over 7 hours riding time...8 climbs...countless hills...5918 feet of climbing!  While I am tired, overall I feel good.

I lost count of how many dogs chased me today.  I've gotten to the point that I don't fret it.  I just deal with each one as they occur.  There was one encounter that I found particularly troublesome.  I was on a small, winding county road waaayyy back in the sticks...

I was worried that maybe I had missed my turn.  I passed by this house, which was right on the road.   The owner was sitting on the front porch.  As soon as I passed by I heard him say, "go boys" and his two dogs lit off the porch and headed for me at full speed.  I stopped pedaling and yelled at them to go home and they both stopped in their tracks.  I guess I spoiled the fun of the owner, so he whistled and called them back.  Unbelievable!

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Reunited with Mountains...NO DOG!!!

Day 57 - 7/30/17 - Berea, KY to Booneville, KY - 51 Miles

Average Speed - See below pics of mountains

Lodging - Camping First Presbyterian Church - free

My breakfast this morning started with this.

There was a row of blackberry bushes just 50 feet from where I pitched my tent last night.  I helped myself to a handful and this morning I added them to my frosted mini wheats.  Delicious!

They say that Berea is the gateway to the Appalachians.  5 miles outside of town this morning, I found out why.

I've been out of the mountains since I dropped down from Hoosier Pass in Colorado.  It's good to be back, kinda.  I much more prefer long climbs where I can find a comfortable gear and get in a zone; versus the short, choppy rolling hills I've been enduring in MO, IL and western KY.

Before closing, let's talk a bit about dogs.  All along the trip, I've run into folks that ranted about the dogs in KY.  I've been riding in KY for 5 days and I hadn't been chased by a single dog.  I was beginning to think all these folks were exaggerating the issue.  That is...until today.  Not only is Berea the gateway to the Appalachians, it is also the gateway to dogs gone wild!  I was chased by half a dozen dogs today.  I was prepared for them...

My dog strategy is:
- do not participate in the chase - that's what most of them want anyway.  I simply stop pedaling.
- with a firm voice yell NO DOG!!!
- if they continue to pursue, I blast them with my horn.
- as a last resort, if I feel endangered, I reach for the mace.

Today, the stopping pedaling and firm voice worked everytime.  Let's hope that trend continues!

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Almost Chilly

Day 56 - 7/29/17 - Springfield, KY to Berea, KY - 63 Miles

Average Speed - Need to factor in the winds

Lodging - Camping behind fire station - free

This morning when I pushed my bike outside the motel, I was pleasantly shocked with how cool it was.  I was tempted to put on my wind breaker, when I recalled the stifling heat of the last several weeks.  Ain't no way I was gonna block any of this cool wind.  I relished in it for most of the day.

Today's ride was uneventful.  More rolling hills through scenic, rural Kentucky.

I am camping behind the local fire station.  The lieutenant that showed me around casually commented that tomorrow I ride into the mountains.  Really?  Did he have to say that?  Can't I be given the luxury of relishing in completing another day without worrying about tomorrow until tomorrow?  Now I have to worry about tomorrow tonight...

Friday, July 28, 2017

I Got Wet

Day 55 - 7/28/17 - Elizabethtown, KY to Springfield, KY - 54 Miles

Average Speed - Nothing to sneeze at

Lodging - Springfield Inn

Today it misted, drizzled and rained on me pretty much from start to finish.  It was a pleasant change to be wet from precipitation instead of wet from perspiration.

After a wonderful night at Ralph and Pam's home, I was back on the road at 7:30 AM.  About 10 miles into the ride, I reached down to shift to my granny gear and nothing happened.  My front derailleur was completely frozen.  No was stuck solidly on the middle chain ring.  Knowing the hills that awaited me, I knew this was bad.  Scanning the map for bike shops, I realized that there weren't any in my foreseeable future, I knew this was bad.  The first town I came to, I stopped at an auto store and bought some WD-40.  I sprayed the derailleur down liberally and tried working it by hand, it barely moved, I knew this was bad.  I finally gave up and started riding again giving the lubricant time to do its magic.

Just outside the town of Loretto, I came across this eerie site.

There were dozens of the huge black buildings on each side of the road.  Was this some kind of secret military facility?  Negative.

These are storage warehouses for barrels of Maker's Mark bourbon.  Just think, in these buildings, with each passing day and year, millions of gallons of bourbon is slowly aging and becoming smooth.

As I neared the town of Springfield, the rain really started in earnest and so...being wet and dealing with a stuck derailleur, I decided to get a motel.  I've been riding 70ish mile days for a while now and I was glad to be stopping at 53.

After getting all settled in my room, I spent a couple hours working on freeing up my derailleur.  I'm happy to report that I got it working again.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Logging Trucks and Amish Buggies

Day 54 - 7/27/17 - Fordsville, KY to Elizabethtown, KY - 69 Miles

Average Speed - I passed an Amish Buggy

Lodging - Ralph and Pam's (touring couple I met in WY) house - Free

So before I get to today, let me tell you a story about last night.  As you can tell from my previous post, I stayed in a county campground outside Fordsville.  I was the only one there and it was out in the country, away from any civilization.  That was bit disconcerting by itself.  Anyway, as darkness approached I climbed in my tent. As I was laying there a truck pulls up to a nearby dumpster and starts to throw away trash.  They were there quite a while and it was a little uncomfortable.  After a bit, the truck backed out and pulled away.  I breathed a sigh of relief and promptly fell asleep, only to be awakened an hour later by another truck, without a muffler, pulling up to the pavilion I pitched my tent under.  They must have stayed there for the better part of an hour.  Once again, I lay in the dark waiting, with all senses on high alert.  They finally started the engine and pulled away.  I once again breathed a sigh of relief and fell alseep, only to be awakened a couple hours later (1 AM in the morning) by another car pulling into the parking lot.  This is when things got interesting.  Soon after they pulled up, I heard voices.  It was a guy and girl talking as they walked in a big circle around the pavilion.  After completing one loop, they started another, this time they were just outside the pavilion.  I could just make out their silhouette.  About 3/4 of the way around, they stepped under the pavilion where I lay in my tent.  At this point, they must have noticed something and stopped just 10 feet from my tent.  I heard the girl whisper to the guy "is someone here?"  I responded, in a deeper voice than I intended,  "just a man trying to sleep".  I must have scared the living crap out of them because the girl screamed and started running.  I apologized for frightening them and they went on their way.  They must have continued walking and talking in the park until 3 AM.  It was long night.

Anyway, today was a very nice ride.  There were some big hills, but it was overcast and a lot cooler.  That made all the difference in the world.  About 30 miles into the ride, Ralph, a guy I met back in WY, came riding from his hometown (Elizabethtown) to join me.  We rode the last 40 miles together.  I am staying at he and his wife's (Pam) home for the evening.

A couple pics of the traffic I encountered today.  It took a while, but I was able to chase down the horse drawn buggy and blow by them.  That's the first vehicle I've been able to pass this entire trip.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Land of Dry Counties

Day 53 - 7/26/17 - Clay, KY to Fordsville, KY - 71 Miles

Average Speed - It seems to keep dropping the further I get across the country...I think

Lodging - County Park - Free

A cold beer or two after a long, hot day riding is like a little taste of heaven.  No matter how hard the day is, when I take that first sip, I sigh and think..."you know it wasn't all that bad".

So far, I'm batting a thousand when it comes to picking overnight towns that reside in dry counties.  Oh is what it is...but it sucks!

Once again I was on the road early...
I've passed through a lot of farmland on this trip and seen all sorts of crops.  Today the new one was...

The ride today was nice.  The hills continue, so I just focus on climbing one at a time while ignoring the speed display on my cycle computer.  Otherwise, I get frustrated and start yelling.  That's not very productive.

I've taken to setting up my tent in picnic pavilions...

There's some practical reasons for doing so.  First, I dont have to set up a rain fly so it is cooler at night.  Cooler being a relative term.  Second, the tent stays dry.  There have been storms passing through the last couple evenings, in fact it's storming as I type this.  I hate packing up a wet tent.  Third, it is easier to pack up in the morning since there are no stakes or rain fly.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Look out Virginia...I'm Right Next Door

Day 52 - 7/25/17 - Eddyville, IL to Clay, KY 67 Miles

Average Speed - That ferry ride brought it down

Lodging - City Park - Free

Today I took a ferry ride across the Ohio River.  In so doing...
The Final Jab

The penultimate state.  It is hard for me to get my head around it.  I"ve pedaled across 8 states.  In some ways it went by so fast and in other ways it seems to be taking forever.  I'm ready to get home!  This trip has been amazing, but Im tired...physically, mentally and emotionally.

However, I still have 2 states to finish and more things to experience and discover.  So tomorrow it's put my big boy pants on and  pedal!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Rolling Hills and Barbed Wire

Day 51 - 7/24/17 - Murphysboro, IL to Eddyville, IL- 63 Miles

Average Speed - I couldn't seem to move it

Lodging - Hayes Canyon Campground - $15
Who woulda thunk that there were so many different kinds of barbed wire.  Goes to show, you learn something new everyday if you keep your eyes, ears and heart open!

This morning I couldn't drag myself out of bed.  I guess that 87 mile day yesterday wore me out more than I thought.  I finally got on the road around 7 AM. 

The hills aren't as steep as in Missouri, but they be a plentiful.  Overall today was a pleasant ride.  The roads were nice and the traffic was minimal. 

These 60ish mile days are ideal, I need to try and keep my mileage to that and stop trying to push it to bigger days.

Tonight I'm staying in an actual campground.  This is the first time I've paid for a campsite since Colorado.  There's no pool either.  I miss Kansas!

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Crossing the Mighty Mississippi

Day 50 - 7/23/17 - Farmington, MO to Murphysboro, IL - 87 Miles

Average Speed - I'm really getting tired of tracking this stat

Lodging - America's Best Value Inn
Today I crossed a couple milestones.

First, I crossed the Mississippi River and with that, I'm now in the eastern part of this country.

Second, upon crossing the river I entered Illinois, the 8th state of this trip.
Nothing but Net

As you can see by the mileage and the milestones, this was a big day.  The first half of the ride was hilly, while the second half was flat.  I think the second half was the more difficult, owing to the heat and the fact that there wasn't an iota of shade!!  The sun beat down on me relentlessly.  For the last half, I chose an alternate route, which was called the Mississippi Levee Alternate.  I'm envisioned riding along this levee with idealic views of the river...NOT...I didnt even see the stupid river.  I found myself out in the middle of nowhere...among one lane, poorly marked roads...trying to find my way...did I mention the unrelenting sun that beat down upon my pitiful head???

Not wanting to paint a doom and gloom picture, there was one bright (poorly chose word..since every pedal stroke was "bright" under that God forsaken sun), there was one oasis of respite along this alternate route...
The map showed a restaurant in the tiny town of Neunert, and low and behold, when I rode by, they were open!  I staggered inside, starving, thirsty and spent.  The two ladies working inside treated me like royalty.  I drank glass after glass after glass of ice cold water!!  I ordered the Reuben sandwich with potato salad and in short order devoured every morsel if this delectable treat.  They even filled my water bottles to the brim with ice and water.  All of this for the sum of 7 bucks and some change!!!  I left there a new man...thank you ladies...or were they angels?

Saturday, July 22, 2017

I'm Sleeping in Jail Tonight

Day 49 - 7/22/17 - Ellington, MO to Farmington, MO - 61 Miles

Average Speed - I pedaled the whole time

Lodging - Al's Place Hostel - Requested Donation of $20
The city of Farmington converted the 2nd floor of the old county jail to a hostel for Transam Cyclist.  What a jewel.

Today was an easier day than yesterday.  There were less hills and they weren't as steep.  I didn't have to push my bike...WooHoo!

Friday, July 21, 2017

Early Mornings...An Answer to Prayer...Simple Lodging

Day 48 - 7/21/17 - Houston, MO to Ellington, MO - 71 Miles

Average Speed - I pushed my bike up several hills.

Lodging - Route 76 Bike Hostel - Free (donations accepted)

I like riding in the early morning.  It's like the countryside is just waking up, but hasn't yet wiped the sleep from its eyes.

Today I hit the big or should I say steep hills of MO.  For the first time on this trip, there were a handful of times that I couldn't spin the pedals another revolution and was forced to push.  I'm not upset about it, when riding a fully loaded touring bike, pushing is part of the experience.  It's not a pleasant one, but an experience all the same.  I'm riding through the  Ozark National Scenic Riverways and the scenery does not disappoint (that is when my head isn't down pushing the bike).

This afternoon I underestimated the amount of time it would take me to ride the last 26 miles.  Why?  Reread previous paragraph about steep hills and pushing.  The map showed a NPS campground that was to be my water resupply point.  Imagine my shock when I got there and it was closed.  I had one bottle of water left and 14 miles to go.  The temps were hoovering close to 100 and there was more pushing to be done.  I prayed a silent prayer...God I need some help here.  About 5 minutes later a rider catches me from behind.  He is with a church group that is riding across the country.  He gives me some of his water and then alerts his support group a couple miles further up the road.  They have water and ice waiting for me!!!!  Coincidence?  I think not.

The Chamber of Commerce here in Ellington provides this amazing little place to stay.

The room is maybe 15' X 15'.  They provide cots.  A bathroom with a shower.  A small fridge.  The best part...a window AC!!!  The last few nights I've been laying in my tent sweating profusely.  Tonight I have my own little piece of air conditioned heaven!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

It Is What It Is

Day 47 - 7/20/17 - Mansfield, MO to Houston, MO - 67 Miles

Average Speed - TBD

Lodging - City Park - Free

I was on the road shortly after 5:30 this morning.  I could continue to drone on about the heat, humidity and hills, but, what's the point?  It is what it is!  Let's focus on something I can control...

Enjoying the ride...

Once again, I'm staying in a city park and within a stone's throw is the community pool.  I spent the afternoon lounging and swimming and eating freezer pops.  Ain't nothing wrong with that.

The last couple days I've been riding and camping in the company of the couple from England (David and Jess) and Seth from CA.  I've really enjoyed their company.  In the evenings we sat around the picnic table and enjoyed a couple cold beers and talked.  I suspect tomorrow we will be going separate ways.  They are riding a short day tomorrow and taking a rest day the following day to enjoy a river float.  I will be pushing on!  I am saddened to part company.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

When the Route has Other Plans

Day 46 - 7/19/17 - Ash Grove, MO to Mansfield, MO - 49 Miles

Average Speed - Higher than yesterday

Lodging - County Fairgrounds - Free

While I enjoyed my rest day thoroughly, it was good to be back on the bike.

This pic captures well what I faced all day today.  The hills are challenging and I had to scale back my expectations of speed and distance.  I must admit though, the curves and hills are a nice change from the long, straight, flat roads of eastern CO and most of KS.

My initial plan was to ride to Hartville, which is another 27 miles down the road, but the high temps and terrain had different plans.

I think the 70+ miles days are over for a while.  I'm finding that it's much less stressful, mentally and physically, when I'm flexible regarding my schedule and just accept what the ride hands me.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

True Rest Day

Day 45 - 7/18/17 - Springfield, MO to Springfield MO - 0, none, zippo, nadda Miles

Average Speed - N/A

Lodging - Staying with Family - Free

Finally, after 44 days of climbing on my bike and was...a day where my butt never touched the saddle, my feet didn't clip into the pedals, my head donned no helmet, my hands were free of gloves and spandex lay idle in my bag.

Though today didn't include riding, it was a busy day.
I showered my bike with some much needed TLC.  After a good washing, I replaced the rear tire that I split back in Wyoming.  I was amazed at how worn the thread was on it.  I installed a new chain and handlebar tape.  Finally I made adjustments to the brakes and derailleurs and then tightened all the nuts and bolts.  Mechanically my bike is fit and ready to tackle the rest of this country.

It has been awesome being with family.  Mary and Eric have been awesome hosts.  Thank you both so much and Mary I want to specifically thank you for...the spaghetti dinner last night...the local and organic chocolate milk...driving me around...the filet mignon dinner tonight...the chocolate meringue was all very kind and thoughtful!!

I Use to Love Roller Coasters

Day 44 - 7/17/17 - Pittsburg, KS to Ash Grove, MO - 72 Miles

Average Speed - It took a beating today

Lodging - Staying with Family - Free
Bull Fog

I started riding at 5:30 AM.  7 miles later, I bid farewell to Kansas and hello to Missouri, my 7th state on this tour.  Missouri didn't say hello in return until later in the day.  I'll get to that in a bit.

As I was taking the above photo, Seth, an east bound rider from CA, came up behind me.

About 35 miles into the ride I came to Golden City and the world renown Cooky's Cafe.  What is it renown for you may ask?  Pie...
My First Piece - Chocolate

My Second Piece - Blackberry

They had both just come out of the oven...they were warm, fresh and melted in my mouth!

After Golden City was when MO welcomed me fondly with countless roller coaster hills that will be my joy ride for the next 4 or 5 days.  I use the term "joy" loosely here.  They might truly be a "joy" if the uphills had those clicky chain things that would pull me to the top...but they don't.

In Ash Grove, Mary, my sister-in-law (Lori's sister), picked me up and I'm going to spend a couple nights with her and her husband Eric.  They live just outside of Springfield.

So tomorrow will be my first day NOT riding my bike on this trip!!  I may not even look at it:-)