Day 9 - 9/9/11 (53 miles)
Well, you can imagine how disappointed we were when we awoke to light drizzle and wet streets outside our hotel window. We had intently watched The Weather Channel, ok, and a bit of the US Open, before bed last night, and all of the reports, radar, satellite, and crystal-ball analysis stated that the morning would be clear and dry.
In spite of the disappointment, and unspoken consideration of hitch-hiking, we decided to get on our way quickly. So, after a speedy, yet solid, breakfast, we started pedaling the last 53 miles of Chapter 4. The road conditions were similar to recent days - coal trucks (albeit fewer of them) spraying water and grit, beautiful cliffs and trees, and vast expanses of Kudzu. It was great to be on a divided 4-lane road since the Virginia engineers apparently misread the plans and instead of shoulders with “rumble strips”, they installed “rubble strips”. Just outside the white line, it was all gravel, no pavement. Andy was amazingly able to keep us upright and on the white line!
About an hour into the trip, we stopped for a break by the side of the road. We'd just passed a massive coal plant, and had expected a town with the usual mini-mart, but instead found a non-operational Marathon (the second one, so, perhaps they'd over-expanded?).After a quick break, we pedaled the next 4 miles and found a Burger King, complete with Retired Dudes Coffee Club, where we enjoyed some oatmeal and The Dudes recommendations regarding our route.
Back on the road, the terrain became even more hilly, which, given the hilliness of the last few days, made for challenging pedal-time. We were grateful that the rain stopped about the time we arrived at BK, and as we continued the roads actually began to dry. This section was narrower, but less busy, and absolutely gorgeous to ride through.
While Kentucky was identified by the vast displays of yard statuary, Virginia is identified as “the road-side-sale” state. At almost any wide stretch in the road, unless there's a sign forbidding it, at least one or two cars would be pulled over, with an array of various merchandise for sale.
Within about 5 miles of our ultimate destination, with serious hill-climbing behind us, and at least two known climbs ahead of us, we stopped at Fast Gas in Greendale for a brief respite and necessary supplies - Starbucks Frappuccino, crackers, and a Virginia map to begin planning Chapter 5. The two clerks apologized that they didn't have any seating, and offered us the piles of 50-pound sacks of dog food in the back corner of the store for us to sit on. It worked out beautifully.
While we rested, one of the clerks, Rachael, asked if we'd heard of Fried Pie. Since neither of us were familiar with the culinary delight, she explained that she creates the treat by shaping pie dough in a circle, adding some topping to one side, and then folding the dough in half and sealing it with fork-tine presses. Then, and this is the special part, the pie is either deep fried, or pan fried, depending on the equipment available.Upon conclusion, she presented Andy with a coconut fried pie as a gift, and Kim snapped a picture of the official presentation.
We decided we should accomplish the remaining miles before digging into the pie, so we continued on Highway 58, climbing up, and up, and up the two remaining hills, and enjoying one especially long coast downhill, before entering the edge of Abingdon, VA, and working our way through road construction and heavy traffic.
We made our way to Wolf Hills Brewery and met-up with new friend Josh. In an amazing twist of fate, we met Josh and his wife, Laura in July, at the wedding of Kim's fitness guru, Dave Eubanks. Laura is Dave's sister. At the wedding reception, as Andy and Josh talked, stories of the bike trip emerged, our route evaluated, and Josh realized that we would be close to their town at some point on the trip.
Josh had helped us make contact with the local bike shop, Virginia Creeper Trail Bike Shop (named after a particularly slow train, whose tracks are now a biking and hiking trail), which is very close to the brewery where Josh is the head brewer. So, we delivered the tandem to the shop and they'll perform needed maintenance and store the bike until we return for Chapter 5, which we're planning to do in April 2012.
After getting the bike safely cared for, we had a quick bite of lunch at Trail Cafe, across the street, which had excellent turkey club sandwiches and yummy black bean and corn soup. Then, Josh and Laura graciously drove us to our rental car pick-up in Blacksburg, and snapped this photo of us with the Biker-Hokie statue, which, as you can probably guess, is one of many decorated Hokies throughout downtown. A perfect location, thanks, Laura!
And, with that, and 3,030 miles behind us, we'll close the door on Chapter 4.
Day 8 - 9/8/11 (65 miles)
We woke this morning to cloudy skies, but NO RAIN. We were elated! After a very basic breakfast, we got an early start since The Weather Channel warned of afternoon showers. We stopped at the nearby Auto Zone for some WD-40. The clerk opened 10 minutes early to help us, and gave some details of the road ahead.
Today was very similar to yesterday in terms of trucks, road conditions, hills, and scenery, but completely improved in the weather category, visibility, and riding comfort. Our shoes were dry all day, yeah! We made quick progress along highway 15, and decided to take a break at Scoops. The clerk/baker/ice cream server was very friendly, and the cookies were warm and yummy.
Back on the road, after 14 additional miles, we stopped at Isom for some early lunch at the Double Kwik. While there, we talked with the super-friendly staff at the counter, who asked lots of questions about our trip and told us about the upcoming hills as we enter Virginia. Then, as a very special and unexpected event, Renee, one of the clerks, presented Andy with a University of Kentucky decal for our car. Andy assured her it would join the other college stickers on our Subaru representing where our kids are being educated, especially since we've been well “educated”, particularly regarding rain and hills, on our ride through Kentucky.
Then, the adventure began. Renee had warned us of “the big hill” going into Virginia, but not the two, equally nasty ones, after that. We began the first climb at the very edge of Kentucky, in Payne Gap. It was a three mile climb from there, on an 8% grade, through what is called Pound Gap. Every time we turned a corner, we saw the road continuing up, and up, and up. It was a serious workout.
Finally, we could see the light at the end of the climb, which was actually our favorite oasis, Marathon mini-mart sitting at the summit and on the state line. At this point we took a short break, some photos, including one notifying us that we were now on The Country Music Highway (which almost made Kim head back towards Kentucky). Then, the clouds broke, and after four days of not seeing our shadow, we felt the warmth of the sun, which Kim took as a sign to stay on the route.
The best part of the stop was that we were now headed downhill. Given the excellent pavement, we tucked down, set the bike on “cruise”, and attained a new, all-time, speed record of 52.6. Needless to say, the down went much more quickly than the up, and before we knew it, we turned another corner and saw 8%-grade-climb number two. This version was “only” about a mile and a half, but still not fun. The cars and trucks were very kind, giving us plenty of room and friendly waves and beeps to encourage our progress.
After the second downhill, with only a couple of miles to go to reach our destination of Wise, it was more than a bit disappointing to find ourselves on climb number three, which was about the same as the second climb, only even less fun. The only reward was seeing the sign for tonight's lodging as we coasted downhill.
We enjoyed “linner” (combo of lunch and dinner) at Reno's, a steakhouse next to the hotel, and got ourselves ready for the final day of Chapter 4, the 50-mile ride to Abingdon.
Day 7 - 9/7/11 (62 miles)
Today was the soggiest day of riding either of us has ever experienced. It started as a continuous, but tolerable, drizzle, and end-up as a downpour for the last hour-and-a-half of the ride. We headed out at about 8:00 after a decent breakfast at the hotel.
We spent about 60 miles on the Hal Rogers Parkway, with sprays of road mist and grit, every two minutes or so, as coal trucks passed by. The road was good, with beautiful scenery that reminded us a lot of Oregon. We did a long first stretch of about 22 miles and stopped at McDonalds - aka McCafe - for some oatmeal.While there, Andy had a great discussion with The Retired Dudes Coffee Club, which was very similar to one he visits in Penn Valley Thursday mornings, and in almost every town we've been through on the trip.
With their confirmation of our route on the Parkway, rather than the more narrow and twisty side-roads, we headed back out into the drizzle. All along the way we'd noticed a serious vine growth over just about everything - please, see the panoramic photo. The Dudes confirmed that this is Kudzu. It was introduced from Japan to “prevent soil erosion”. And, while it is clearly accomplishing that, it may have broader aims, and, again according to The Dudes, nothing will kill it.
After another 14 miles we stopped in a small town at a defunct Marathon mini-mart, and while we rested under the cover, we noticed a huge green bug, and snapped a photo. This reminds us to mention that the grasshoppers in Kentucky are the largest we've ever seen - over 3 inches at a minimum. Unfortunately (for them), a few have tried dive-bombing us by flying into the spokes, which has not been successful.
Continuing on, serenaded by the sound of coal trucks, and Kim's repetitive shouts of “big-rig back”, “car back”, and, vary rarely, “clear back” we wound our way through the forest. Andy, as always, kept us safely out of broken glass, traffic, and rumble-strips.
At last, within just a few miles of our destination, we climbed a long hill, in a steady rain. We're going to invent wipers for glasses. Then we spotted a Super 8 motel, conveniently located next to a Taco Bell. Who could ask for anything more? We'd arrived in Hazard, our last stop in Kentucky. And, just in case you're curious, yes, it's the town of Dukes of Hazzard. The show's creators had to add the extra “Z” and based the series in Georgia to avoid legal issues, but, Hazard, Kentucky was the true inspiration. Of this, we can attest.
Day 6 - 9/6/11 (59 miles)
After a relaxing evening, and waking to the sound of rain on our hotel window and trees and bushes tossing in the wind, we decided to go to breakfast, and consider our options for the day. Finally, at about 9:00 we decided to just go for it. We rain-proofed our gear as much as possible, using several laundry bags from the front desk.
Here's a quick rundown of the situation:
Wind up to 25 mph
Temperatures in the mid 50's
Hilly, curvy roads
Dump truck after dump truck of gravel for road construction in the distance
Does that make you want to ride a bike? Well, we weren't too eager, but we decided to give it a try, with the caveat that we'd seek alternate transportation if we felt it best.
Given the active traffic, it was another great validation of the tandem system. With Andy keeping us out of the rumble strips, out of the broken glass, and a safe distance from any traffic; Kim played navigator and announcer regarding inbound cars and trucks, opportunities to steer around driveways, etc, and provide friendly acknowledgement to fellow travelers that their presence was known, and their patience in passing appreciated.
After over an hour of pedaling, we stopped by the side of the road to rest, dry our glasses and mirrors, and catch our breath from the hilly terrain. Here, in the Daniel Boone National Forest, the sandstone cliffs and zillions of trees were beautiful, now that we had the opportunity to look at them.
We then continued our pedaling and after about a half an hour we noticed signs for “Road Construction” and “Blasting Zone”, and a detour which included shrinking the four-lane road to a two-lane road with very limited shoulders. We pulled into the transition area and considered our options. As we discussed driving down the paved section of the closed road, a pick-up truck associated with the project pulled along-side, and confirmed that we could use the road as the project (including the blasting!) was delayed by the rainy weather. The first positive outcome of rain!!
This made for about 3 miles of totally blissful riding on new pavement with zero traffic. We were sorry to see it end, but, it did. Then, for about two miles as we entered the town of Mt. Vernon, we navigated a narrow road with plenty of vehicles, pulling to the side as needed to let a string of traffic go by. Then we noticed our first Kwik Mart of the day.
The owner and the staff person were wonderfully friendly and welcoming, encouraging us to help ourselves to free coffee, and stay as long as we liked to dry out.And, the owner was the best direction-giver we've encountered. Clear, concise, with just enough detail to paint a solid visual in our thought. You've probably guessed that they are our MVPs for today! One of the customers asked about buying a tandem for he and his wife, since it looked like “so much fun”. After about a half an hour we felt ready to tackle the last 27 miles of today's journey.
While chilly, the rain had turned to sprinkles, and the road The Excellent Direction-Giver had recommended was a perfect way to go - ok, it was pretty hilly, but almost no traffic, lovely landscape, and excellent pavement. Before we knew it, we were approaching the outer limits of town, and as we pedaled by a towing company we shouted to a couple of drivers in the yard, “how far to London? They guessed correctly that we meant London, Kentucky, our stop for the evening, and we were delighted with their response “5 miles”!
Soon, we were able to see the hotel, with a nearby McDonalds for a late lunch (have we mentioned that the oatmeal is delicious?), before we climbed the short distance to the hotel. There we were welcomed with warm cookies, hot showers and the ability to connect to the internet and catch-up a bit with the rest of the world.
Day 5 - 9/5/11 (72 miles)
Weather-wise, this was our most unpleasant day of travel for the whole trip. While it appeared to be clearing when we started, it rained (between sprinkle and downpour) 99 percent of the time during the 72 miles we pedaled.
The night in the cabin was dry, which is the highest praise we can offer. After a not-so-restful night on the circa Abe-Lincoln's-birthdate mattress, we had a quick breakfast consisting of the items we purchased yesterday - cold Spaghetti'os for Andy, mixed nuts for Kim, and canned peaches (in heavy syrup) for both. Despite the rain, it seemed like the best idea to head towards Danville and see how it went.
Our first stop, after riding through beautiful, if soggy, rolling hills, gorgeous deciduous forests, and past many lovely homes with manicured lawns and impressive collections of yard statuary, was a liquor store located on the line between a "dry" county and a "wet" one.
The store manager, Patty, was our MVP of the day. As a retired Hallmark employee, who'd worked only for the Kansas City based card company since graduating from college, she maintained the store in the same crisp, clean, and inviting manner as a Hallmark retail shop. She was very helpful with directions and road conditions to our next stop, and even treated us to an orange juice and Gatorade. Since Andy was driving, he resisted the other inventory. When she learned of Andy's past life as a brewer for Sam Adams, and the creator of their Octoberfest offering, she asked him to autograph a case for her to share with the store owner.
Back on the road, the sprinkles turned into big drops, the wind picked-up, and we found ourselves riding into a pretty stiff headwind, which would last the rest of today's trip. The road became even more hilly, but the scenery was still excellent, and the dogs friendly, or tethered, or, perhaps smart enough to stay out of the rain. One of the things we keep forgetting to mention is the interesting quilt designs we've seen painted on many barns, garages, and even volunteer fire department buildings. It's as if they've taken a square from a quilt and painted it in large size, most at least 6 x 6. We're curious if they're family-specific designs, or just something the property owner likes. Any ideas?
Our next stop, suggested by Patty, was to be at a local bar/restaurant in Raywick, but we got there before it opened, and ended up in the town park across the street, very grateful for the picnic area cover to give us a break from the rain. After some stretches and snacks we continued on along Highway 84 to Lebanon.
Once there, we found a lovely Marathon mini-mart, with the highest posted health department score of 99. The person at the counter was extra friendly, gave great directions, and Kim was thrilled to find hot chocolate (on September 5th!). We took some extra time here to try and dry out a bit. We also added leg-warmers to our outfits as the temperature had dropped into the low 60's, and would stay there for the rest of the day. Just in case you're keeping track, that's a 40 degree swing from just two days ago.
Our next stop was another friendly Marathon mini-mart with two staff people on duty. We were greeted by a man at the counter who said, "You sure made it here quick, I passed you on the road a ways back". We again camped at one of the tables, took turns going into the restrooms to stand as close as we could to the warm-air hand-dryers, and got ourselves ready for the last 18 miles.
The final stretch was along a busy road, with serious rumble-strips, and a fairly constant stream of traffic as folks returned home from the holiday weekend. Kim sounded like she was on auto-repeat, "car back, car back, car back". As in all previous days the drivers were very friendly and courteous, moving to the left when possible, or slowing down to wait for a safe opportunity to pass. Each received the standard super-friendly wave from VP of Public Relations, Kim.
As we came into the outskirts of Danville, the directions to the hotel seemed a little goofy, so we stopped as soon as we could and asked some folks for help. It turned out that we got even goofier directions and took the long way around until we finally, after a phone call to the front desk, found our way to the inn.
After HOT showers, a taxi ride to (and from) Applebee's, and a round of laundry, we're warm, dry, well-fed, relaxed, and ready to see what tomorrow brings.
Day 4 - 9/4/11 (58 miles)
After a not-so-comfy night's sleep at the Pine Tree Inn, due to lots of holiday party traffic, fireworks, and general restlessness, we woke early. On our way out of the motel parking lot we bid good-bye to our Indiana friends from yesterday who were enjoying the cool, 6:30 AM breeze and sunrise, along with their "sodas".
We went back to The General Store (which opens at 5:30 AM everyday) for breakfast. The omelets and toast were well prepared, but the water was so pungent that we drank from our bike water bottles. The service, however, was quite friendly and prompt.
The route for the day took us through lovely rolling hills full of trees, more corn and soybeans, and for both of us, our first sighting of tobacco in the fields and also drying in barns. The best part of the morning was the cloud cover, relatively low temperatures, in the mid 80's, and light breeze. The traffic was also very light and the roads smooth. A great way to start the day!
Our first stop was just outside McDaniels at a very busy mini-mart-diner where Kim observed a dad teaching his young son, of about 6 years, how to scratch the correct places on the lottery ticket. Life skills. We then continued along Highway 401, an excellent road, and then turned onto Highway 84. As we pedaled along, we noticed interesting marks down the center of the driving lanes. After viewing a few farms without power lines, we realized they were marks from horse hooves for the wagons of local Shaker residents.
One of the interesting things was that almost all roads leading off the highway were named with family last names, like "Martin & Martin", "Williams & Keene", etc. We also noticed more than a few signs were actually for the family's driveway.
As we climbed out of the Rough River area, we encountered a hill with about 8 to 10 percent grade. As we climbed the over one-third of a mile, we transitioned into our 4th time zone, from Central to Eastern; which means, technically, it took us over an hour to go a third of a mile.
As we'd been alerted by West-bound riders we were watchful for dogs on these back-country roads. It turns out Kim is a natural "dog whisperer", ok, better make that "dog commander". With an outstretched, "stop-right-there" hand sign, and a sharp "NO!!!" almost all dogs stopped in their tracks, and were rewarded with a heartfelt "Good dog!". We say "almost all" because there were two, quite large dogs that were silent protectors of their territory, and came running from between bushes and chased us, despite many commands to do otherwise.Fortunately, in both instances, we were headed downhill, and easily outpaced them. Uphill might have been a different story!
After a brief stop in what appeared to be a former mini-mart, we continued on for another hour or so until we reached yet another lovely Marathon mini-mart. At first we thought we spotted two other cross-country riders. Instead, they were local doctors, on totally spiffy carbon bikes, out for a Sunday ride. Inside, the clerk was friendly and helpful, and there was a great spot to sit for a while. The back of the mini-mart was a game room, with a pool table, video games and plenty of reminder signs to "keep the noise down", "don't loiter... if you're not playing a game you can't stay here", "don't sit on the freezer", and "remember, you're always being recorded on sound and camera". Sounds inviting, doesn't it?
After another hour of pedaling, we took a break in Sonora and got some helpful directions for the last section of today's ride, plus some snacks. As we got closer to our stop for the day, Abe Lincoln's birth place, the town of Hodgenville, we stopped to check-out the first of our two lodging options for the night. Yes, only two options. The Cruise Inn made our stay in Middlegate, Nevada appear luxurious. Connected to a mini-mart, knick-knack emporium, and gaming parlor, with, yes, three tanning booths, we decided that the other option MUST be better.
We did buy some "dinner" from the proprietor - turkey and cheese sandwiches, on white bread (we declined the Miracle Whip), and canned pears - since there are no restaurants, diners, cafes, or other mini-marts in the area. After spending just a bit too long talking with him and learning about his business, which includes selling over $100,000 in gasoline each month, we went outside to find a total downpour. With sun breaking through the clouds, we sat on the front porch for a while with hopes that the skies would clear before we went to investigate lodging option number two.
After about 20 minutes we were able to bike the short distance to the Nancy Lincoln Inn, on privately-owned property adjoining the Lincoln Birthplace National Park. We found our way to the registration desk/souvenir shop, and checked-in to our cabin. Yes, it turns out "Inn" meant 4, one-room cabins (only two of which are inhabitable), with shared bathroom facilities a short walk away in a cinderblock building. All for the low, low price of $65, plus tax.
It appears that our cabin has not been used this season, given the 3-plus foot diameter spider web on the front porch, the wasp nests on the ceiling, and the general dust and debris on the beds. Given the spiders, moths and other creatures, the shared shower area also appeared unused, and uncleaned, at least for this season.
The visit to the National Park, just across the fence was a different story. The rangers were very friendly and knowledgeable, and the park museum had interesting artifacts and a brief movie about Lincoln's short time (birth to age 3) in the state. There's a huge stone monument with 56 steps (Lincoln's age at the time he was assassinated) leading up to the entrance. Inside is a one-room log cabin surrounded by exhibits about Lincoln's life and presidency. At first, you might think, as we did, that this is actually Lincoln's birthplace. Then, when you talk with the ranger, you learn that this is, in fact, "a similar period (1840's, instead of 1809), scaled-down, symbolic representation" of Lincoln's birthplace.
After checking the weather for tonight (rain all night, starting at about 10:00), and tomorrow (highly likely to rain all day), and weighing that against our current lodging, we've got our rain gear out and ready to go. It might be soggy, but there's a Hampton Inn waiting in Danville, and that sounds great!
Day 3 - 9/3/11 (71 miles)
Breakfast at the Holiday Inn Express was a huge improvement over yesterday's offering, giving us a well-fueled start to our day. We were on our way just before 7:30, and used the reverse of yesterday's shortcut to get back to our "official" starting point for the day.
The early start on a holiday weekend meant light traffic through the remainder of Henderson. As we left town we found rolling hills, more than a few mansions on acres of beautfully manicured lawns with sculpted trees and shrubbery. The largest traffic issue was boats being towed out to our destination for the day, Rough River lake, a huge recreation area. The drivers were friendly and patient as they waited for a safe spot to pass us on the two-lane road. Kim tried to convey our thanks with waves and smiles, with many waves enthusiastically returned.
We pedaled through a series of tiny towns, and then stopped for our first break in the shaddy parking lot of the lovely Baptist church near Stanley. As we passed a roadside pond, Kim noticed what she thought was a huge white rock, shaped like a cow. Then she realized it was really a huge white cow cooling off in the pond.
Cooling off seemed like a great idea, although probably not in the same pond with the cow, since it was, again, over 100 degrees, with humidity in the 90's, hanging in the trees like clouds. We also heard the loudest cycadas ever in tree after tree along the road. An amazing level of noise.
Our next stop was in Owensboro for some help with directions. This time, we received conflicting suggestions, and decided to go with the option that one of the helpers said would be less congested. This proved to be true, and we quickly found ourselves through the main part of town and enjoying a rest stop at a mini-mart with air conditioned seats inside.
Back on the road we found more rolling hills, although the steepness continued to increase, lovely homes and friendly waves from peopls sitting on their front porch or working in the yard. We took our next break in yet another mini-mart, enjoying our standard Starbucks Frappuccino and plenty of water.
After about another hour-and-a-half of pedaling, we arrived in Fordsville, and stopped at The Trading Post for a break. Their sign says, "Something for Everyone", and they're not kidding. We found cold drinks, snacks, movies to rent, craft supplies, and household decor. The proprietors, a husband and wife, and their adult son, were wonderful hosts. They provided chairs, stories of local goings-on, and opinions on college basketball. They're our MVPs of the day.
Continuing through the trees and hills, we saw an unexpected site - another cross-country biker, headed West. We'd thought it would be too late in the season to see someone so far East, headed West. We pulled to the side and he crossed over to join us. We enjoyed our talk with Mark, from Florida, who'd gotten a late start on the Trans-America route from Yorktown, VA. He said he was revising the plan, and would likely head South from Colorado to complete the ride in SoCal, rather than take the route up through Yellowstone.
After 4:45 minutes of pedaling and covering 71 miles, we arrived at the Pine Tree Motel, near the boat launch for the lake. As we were checking-in we met a family from Indiana who have visited the lake numerous times. She is a nurse, and her husband is a farmer, growing potatoes (for potato chips only), corn, and, surprising to us, watermellon. We're now on the lookout for a Knoxville variety of watermellon, which she says is "the best ever".
They also suggested our dining spot for this evening, The General Store. Within reasonable walking distance from the motel, we found a friendly waitress who relocated from Stockton, CA when her daughter moved here, and pronounced this "the greatest place, after Lake Tahoe". There was plenty of batter-coated, deep-fried vegetables, tasty burgers and BBQ chicken. When Kim ordered apples, it simply didn't occur to her that she'd receive anything other than sliced apples. Instead it was cooked apples in a cinnamon-sugar coating, kind of like apple pie filling. (Yes, they were delicious) Welcome to Southern cooking!
After dinner, while munching on a chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich, we walked down to the marina area of the lake. We got to witness a young family, with their daughter dropping pieces of cracker off the edge of the walkway while her dad, laying on his stomach, attempted to snag one of the huge Carp (30 inches, plus) coming up to feed. Quite the family outing!
It sounds like the weather could be cooler as we head into the new week, which would be terrific, although it could also be much wetter as the area experiences the outer fringes of tropical storm Lee. We'll just have to see.
Day 2 - 9/2/11 (66 miles)
After a so-called "breakfast" at the Comfort Inn, we left Harrisburg, IL at about 8:00. After about 20 miles we stopped for a quick break in Shawneetown, IL. Two very different local residents - one a bearded, recumbent bicyclist, and one a conservative retiree - gave us identical alternative routes to take us out of the coal-truck traffic. Just a few miles later, after picking-up a piece of coal as Kim's rock from Illinois, we were crossing the Ohio River into Kentucky.
Surprisingly, there was no "Welcome to Kentucky" sign, or any other indication that we'd crossed the state line. About five miles later, we turned onto the recommended alternative route. We found much reduced traffic, slightly rolling hills, fields of soybeans and corn, and amazing, beautifully groomed yards and homes.
About 10 miles later we arrived in Uniontown where we basically camped in the check-out area of the local grocery store enjoying the a/c and food we'd purchased for lunch. The manager and staff were very friendly, and we enjoyed our conversation with them and learning about their town. The manager also worked for the county, and we've found several, hard-working Kentuckians - our waitress from Ponderosa Steakhouse also worked during the day as a 4th-grade teacher.
The heat was, once again, stifling, about 100+ with humidity in the 90's, so we were very glad to be on the alternate route, which actually had trees growing near enough to the road to provide some shade while we pedaled.
Our next rest stop was Geneva, and, we must note, that when we entered the local mini-mart-restaurant, the eyes of all the 15 or so patrons, all men, seated at tables eating lunch, turned towards Andy, then back towards each other with distinct eye-rolls, given that Andy was fully decked-out in lycra, complete with Ben and Jerry's jersey. He just exudes confidence!
As we pedaled through Henderson, KY, with lots of holiday weekend traffic, the directions to the hotel area got confusing. Luckily we came upon two locals riding their bikes home from the grocery store. They gave us an excellent short-cut which took us out of the traffic, through a nice residential area, and direct to the Holiday Inn Express. The woman at the counter was extra friendly, keeping with the Kentucky "norm", and she helped us locate dinner (Yeah Applebee's!), and a taxi service to drive us there.
Mike, of River Bend Taxi, was on time, friendly, and another multi-job worker, driving taxi two days a week and running his own restaurant the rest of the week. We arranged to give him a call when we were finished with dinner so he could drive us back to the hotel. On our way back, he let us stop quickly to pickup our camera, and then drove us the short distance to the river, state line-crossing with Indiana, so that we could come back across and snap a photo of a "Welcome to Kentucky" sign from this entrance to the state. He did a creative u-turn across the grassy area between the two-way highway (quite an unexpected adventure), and we were able to add two more signs to our collection.
Then, it was back to the hotel to get ready for a long day tomorrow.
Day 1 - 9/1/11 (28 miles)
After a happy visit with Kim's mom in St. Louis, we retrieved the bike from the local shop - Swim Bike Run - where they'd performed standard maintenance, and stored the bike while we were home. This time, using a Dodge Grand Caravan, instead of a Nissan Altima, we made the trip back to Marion, Illinois, the final stop for Chapter 3.
We arrived, had great service and assistance (including taking this photo) from the Hertz office at the local airport, and then started our short pedal day at just before 4:30, with a balmy temperature of 102 degrees (see photo for evidence).
With no wind and no hills, and friendly, if very busy, traffic, we made it to Harrisburg, IL in about 1:45, and checked into the Comfort Inn. With no non-smoking rooms on the ground floor, and no elevator, it was an interesting climb up the stairs with the bike.
As we were checking-in, we talked with a group of friends from India traveling around the Eastern and Mid-western US by car, and they wanted to have a picture of the bike. The local Ponderosa Steakhouse, with (in Kim's opinion) a very confusing menu, was the spot for dinner.
In some ways, it felt like we'd never been back home, just like when we were home and it didn't seem like we'd ever really ridden the bike. It was easy to get into the regular riding process, and we're looking forward to the next several days of pedaling.