Monday, 24 May 2010

KFC – Kentucky Fried Cyclist

I headed out of Breaks Park early to get a bit of a head start on Tony. The mountain was shrouded in mist and I put my rear light on to avoid being flattened by a pick up truck.

I had been dreading today a bit, it would be our first day in Kentucky and everything I had read said “Be afraid, be very afraid!”. Even local cyclists as far back as Ashfield had asked if we were going through Kentucky and when we said yes they grimaced and told us to watch out for the dogs. Dogs aren’t the only problem, coal trucks run on a pay per trip basis through this mining region and they don’t stop for anyone.

Luckily we were running into Kentucky on a Sunday so coal trucks wouldn’t be an issue, but I was to find out very quickly that dogs would be. Immediately after crossing the State line the chases started and they just went on all day. Twice I had to dismount and use my bike as a shield, other times a colourful verbal assault in the Queens English proved to work. Squirting with the water bottle is also a proven method; I’ve yet to resort to my Pepper Spray or handlebar mounted rock collection, but we’re only a day into the State.

To top my previous fears we also had our longest days cycling to deal with; accommodation is thin on the ground in eastern Kentucky so we had 73 miles and 3 big hill climbs to cover in order to get to Hindman and the Knott County Historical Society B&B.

A mixed bag of small roads and interstates seemed to fly bye with the constant edge of dog attacks added to make this an interesting day. I can feel my fitness improving day by day and this 73 miler although exhausting wasn’t as bad as some of our other long days.

The challenge to cycle up the hill to the B&B in order to gain a special mention in the guest book was my final challenge of the day which puffing like a steam train I made.

David the owner of the B&B takes customer service to new levels and greets you on arrival with a huge glass of iced tea, followed by a Beer and a Jacket potato and your washing done. The stone house is set in a natural wooded amphitheatre where cyclists can pitch their tents on the tiered garden. We made use of a pre pitched touring tent which we could stand up in, luxury! Your also greeted by his cats, many of whom are kittens and provide lots of entertainment!

It didn’t take long to decide that we needed a zero (rest) day and the homely WiFi surroundings of the B&B would be ideal! So after a nice lie in I’ve spent today catching up on admin and generally relaxing. We’ll be back in dog country tomorrow.

Techy GPS elevation data here

More photos on Flickr

Link to Google Map

Council VA to Breaks Interstate Park

We woke from a peaceful sleep under the shelter in Council’s park to the sound of pouring rain. But by the time we had packed the sun was doing it’s best to show it’s face.

Although we had planned a shorter day today, the 28 miles were still strewn with there fare share of steep descents and ascents to test our remaining strength from the previous days beasting.

At our lunch stop in a small diner, there was a definite change to the accent, with the Kentucky drawl starting to take hold. My English accent is always a novelty in these little Hick Towns, they seem to think it’s “Real cute”.

The ride was the typical fare of green wooded river valleys small towns (villages) and the usual mixture of trailer parks, large luxury houses and pick up trucks. The final part of the day involved a big climb up to the Breaks Interstate Park on the border with Kentucky.

Breaks has a sort of Center Parcs feel about it, as in it’s an amazing location; the self proclaimed “Grand Canyon of the South” and has timber lodge accommodation, a motel and camp sites with varying degrees of services. But that’s where any similarity ends. Whereas Center Parcs requires all visitors to use bicycles as their main form of transport between activity locations, Brakes hires out golf buggies to tour the park all kitted out with a cup holder for your supersized fizzy pop. A key activity seems to be touring the camp grounds in your buggy, RV(recreational vehicle) spotting. They do also offer some extreme hiking trails ranging from 0.3 miles up to a massive 1.5 miles…!!!

We chose one of their “wild” camping sites, complete with picnic table and fire pit. On arrival Tony was greeted by a huge Monarch butterfly that decide to alight on his head and stay there for 30 minutes, must be attracted to hollow spaces ;-) (see pic above)
Bruce arrived later in the day and pitched next to us.

Due to our early arrival we had a relaxed evening chatting, route planning and concocting a pasta, tuna and condensed mushroom soup dinner that tasted better than anything Gordon Ramsey could muster up! Our breakfast options were limited after Racoons ripped into our tree hoisted food bag and nicked the bread!

Map pictureI must admit I may be pregnant because my food tastes have gone somewhat bizarre. I have an incessant desire for chocolate milk shake, root beer and Fig Newtons. Is this normal?

We awoke in the night to heavy rain and the morning was misty up on our mountain top camp site as we tried to raise our spirits to face the infamous dogs and coal trucks of Kentucky………

Assault on Hayters Gap & Big A Mountain

It was a slow start today, after breaking camp from the garden at “The Place” in Damascus, we cycled round to the trendy coffee shop in town and consumed breakfast whilst making use of their fast internet connection.
Bruce went off to find a Laundromat and said he’d catch us at the next camp site. After copious emailing, face booking, twittering and trying to find out the meaning of the term “boxing day”, we headed out for some retail therapy.
Tony tracked down some new gloves and I picked up a thin merino full sleeve top, to try and stop me from burning my arms!
We eventually got on the road around 11.30 and quickly got up to speed through the lush green Virginia countryside. I made a few stops to adjust my seat and bar ends and now thanks to Tony’s knowledge of bike setup I think I’ve got it dialled in perfectly. Hopefully the sore bum and tingly little fingers will now be a thing of the past!

We crossed the Middle Fork and the South Fork Holston Rivers and then diverted onto a slightly longer Scenic route (aka we got lost!). I think the Hillbillies had been using the road signs for shooting practice!

Eventually we got back on the 76 and made it into Meadowview VA for a lovely late lunch at the Harvest Table Restaurant. The owner was chatting to us about the ride and other cyclists who had been in. I told her to put a sign up on the road offering a Trans Am bikers lunch deal, she seemed keen on the idea.

My scrummy meat loaf was sitting heavy as we headed towards Haytors Gap a wooded switchback climb of 1600 ft in 4 miles. As we reached the village at the base of the climb I was a few hundred metres ahead of Tony and out of the corner of my eye  I caught site of something shadowing me 20 ft into the woods. On first glance I thought it was a stray dog, then thought Wolf, but quickly realised it was a Coyote. I gesticulated frantically at Tony but he was to busy looking for a suitable wee stop! The Coyote turned and headed into the woods as I upped my pace, unsure as to where I stood in the food chain!

We reached the Haytors Gap Library and popped in, the ladies were very chatty and we signed the guest book, I asked about the Coyote and was told the had been reintroduced around the area but I was still lucky to see one. The librarian gave us a quick lecture on the perils of poison ivy and showed us her rather nasty looking arm rash. A lady sat using the free internet offered her folks house to stay at if we didn’t want to take on the Gap that night. We politely declined and within a few minutes we were pedalling up to the first of the switchbacks.

The switchbacks seemed endless and when I eventually summated from the quiet tree lined route I stopped for 10 minutes to refuel with a power bar and ring my sweat filled top out. That hill really took it out of me and the massive down hill the other side seemed like just reward.

10 miles on I stopped for my daily Gatorade at a service station; a local preacher approached us and offered a room behind his Church, it was a known cyclist stop and he was a nice chap but we were keen to continue to Council VA. He looked at the sky and at his watch and asked us if we really wanted to tackle “Big A Mountain” this late in the day. “Of course” I regrettably replied!

As soon as we hit State Highway 80 the hard shoulder was covered in debris and the cars raced past with little room to spare we pushed on through Honaker and then the next big climb of the day appeared, “Big A Hill”. This was a slightly lesser hill than Hayters Gap but with light starting to fade and six hours in the saddle it felt just as hard. The down hill into Council VA ended a tough but rewarding day.

We cooked up some dehydrated chicken noodle meals and waited for the park warden to turn up so we could find out exactly where to camp. The old gentlemen turned up at 9 and I wandered over to speak to him, on seeing me he jumped into his pickup and locked himself in. “Stay bayk, wudya wan” he yelled through the 1” gap in his windscreen, “we’d like to camp in the park tonight”, he looked blankly at me, not understanding a word I had said. I tried again in my best Queen’s English.

As I was dressed in black wearing a flaming bandanna I probably did look a bit intimidating, but eventually the lovely old chap realised we weren’t a threat and let us camp under a big pavilion and use the bathrooms.
I drifted off to sleep to a huge frog chorus, an epic day of hill climbing was over but the Appalachians hadn’t finished with us yet…….

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