Thursday, 27 May 2010

The Rumble Strips of Maddison County

Tony and I have perfected the art of the slow start to the day and breaking camp from the Presbyterian Church was a slow affair. Feeling the heat from the sun very early on, we knew the day was going to be a scorcher, so not getting going until 11.30 wasn’t the greatest idea! To top that, after 3 miles Tony got his first flat of the trip which knocked us back by another 30 minutes.

We had loaded up with a full payload of water to avoid dehydration and although it weighs the bike down you need every drop and relying on food stops on the map is never a good thing. Getting into Vincent KY we found the Diner had closed down, luckily we still had our staples, peanut butter and bagels and a few other treats from the previous days Walmart stop.
During our roadside picnic Tony had a tick take a liking to him, luckily he dispatched it before it did any damage! We also had a lovely old couple stop and chat with us whilst we ate our lunch and they were intrigued about our journey and the road we had travelled.

State Route 30 that was our first few hours cycling was really enjoyable, rolling hills, but great scenery and only a few dog incidents. Luckily I had come armed with my new secret weapon, a large bag of doggy treats attached to the handlebars. The Chihuahua who was the first recipient of my dog treats proved they worked, but not quite in the way I had thought. As the steak shaped biscuit shot past it’s ear the yapping hound turned tail and ran, not to get it but purely because it thought it was a rock!

p.s. Going by the numbers we’ve seen, thanks to Paris Hilton and Sharon Osbourne for making the Chihuahua such a popular breed, I’m sure many Hick Town hubbies have been bullied in to trading in their Pit Bulls for these trendy pocket sized hounds. I know which I’d prefer snapping at my ankles.

The afternoon dragged a bit and what with the heat and the hills, then the bad road and rough rumble strips through McKee, Sandgap and Bighill were the icing on the cake.

The only point of note on the last 30 miles of the day, apart from the great views coming over the Madison County line, was another dog attack, this time by a big brown hackles raised hound by the name of Bear. He emerged from the dust of a Trailer trash drive way and I knew this was a dismount and defend, rather than a pedal like buggery dispensing Boneo's option.

Luckily my yelling bought out two young boys from the trailer who insisted I “Just give m a good kick Sir, that’s what we do, he won’t bite”, I wasn’t about to test that theory, but as Bear curled back up in the dust I knew his life wasn’t one of walks in the park, so I chucked a few Boneo’s for him hoping it would give following cyclists good doggy karma.

As we arrived in Berea the day had taken it’s toll on us and as we pulled up to take a photo of a lovely old building we realised it was the Historic Boone Tavern Hotel, an accommodation option mentioned on our maps.

We both knew what each other was thinking; I enquired about a twin room, $99, to hell with the money let’s have some luxury!

Tony has already turned the room into the most expensive bicycle work shop and is sorting out his gears, bike oil on a nice cream carpet! I hope not.

The Dukes of Hazard

After a huge breakfast on the patio at the Knotts County Historical Society B&B, David sent us on our way. We spent the first few hours of the day riding a flatish road alongside Troublesome Creek through the small villages of Carrie, Emmalena and Dwarf. We had been told Elk graze in the Creek, but didn’t see any, although it’s hard to watch for the wonders of nature when one eye is always open for baying hounds!

We stopped at Dwarf Post Office as Tony wanted to post some gear home, I decided to pop in as well just to check on the stature of the Post Mistress!

Whilst waiting, an old boy leant on the counter started chatting to us about our ride, followed up by a knowledgeable history of post World War 2 bicycle production in the USA. I seem to be able to decipher the Kentucky accent a bit better than Tony, it must be the way they can turn a sentence into one word!

We also questioned the Post Mistress on the potability of the water in the area, she said there was a faucet out back, but she always drank bottled, the old boy mumbled some derisory comment about bottled water and the Post Mistress passed us two cold ones from her secret stash and wished us a safe journey.

Some times it’s the little things like that that make your day, peoples good nature has really shone through in America.

Oh and bye the way, as we walked out I glanced back through the open hatch way and the Dwarf Post Mistress was most definitely of normal stature…….

A few miles up the road we stopped at a gas station and popped in for more water. The owner a typical baseball cap wearing Kentuckyite asked about our trip, on hearing my accent he piped up in a fake English accent, “I’ve been to England, London and North Basington…toodle pip”. He seemed to think that adding “toodle pip” to every sentence would make him sound more authentically English.

I said, in a plumy English accent that “ I was unaware of North Basington, but if I could borrow the phone I’d ring the Queen and ask her where it was”. There was a brief second when the lady behind the counter thought I was being serious and that I had the Queens number written down on a scrap of paper!

Bruce caught us up at this point and the three of us and the gas station owner stood yacking about the directions the route was taking us on. Another great encounter with the locals!

Our lovely morning route soon came to an end when we had to cycle along the hard shoulder of Route 80 for about 8 miles amongst all the truck detritus, not only that, but Kentucky in it’s wisdom has decided to put rumble strips on all the hard shoulders making riding lethal.

As I plodded along the equivalent of the M5 hard shoulder with huge MAC trucks buzzing my elbow I noticed from my map and the road signs that I was heading a few miles north of Hazard. I couldn’t help but reminisce about Saturday TV in my youth and my favourite program “The Dukes of Hazard”, I was slightly tempted by a detour to see if Daisy Duke was still as fit as she used to be but I just didn’t want to risk a run in with Sheriff Rosco P Coltrane.

Instead I had my first Walmart experience, a wander around the aircraft hanger sized temple of consumption was quite an experience. I was happy when I found Power Bars and bags of Gummy Bears, part of my new cycling diet!

Out in the car park a gentleman stopped us, he had shouted to us from the road side 10 miles back and wished us luck on our Trans Am. On spotting us again he was keen to find out more about our journey. He reminisced about his college cycling days and said he would never be able to do the Trans Am because of his age (late forties) and being over weight. I tapped my belly and said I’m overweight and Tony told him about a couple a few days ahead in there 70’s. He ran out of excuses and as he wished us well there may have just been a glimmer of another Trans Amer in a few years time!

Back onto nicer roads but lots of steep climbs, we made it to Buckhorn KY and the store owners invited us in to sign the cyclist book. They then gave us the key to go and look in a massive church built in a log cabin style, it was quite an amazing place.

We got into Booneville around 7 having had numerous dog chases during the afternoon. The Presbyterian Church in Booneville has a free biker hut, with a chemical loo and cold shower set in a field behind the Church. We soon made it home from home and rustled up a meal of instant noodles, crisps, nuts and green tea.

Whilst eating my noodles on the steps of the cabin I yelled out with child like excitement; the dark meadow had come alive with fire flies. Hundreds of these little green dots of LED like brightness flitted around in the dark sky, Tony and Bruce where use to seeing them but for me it was a special moment, one of many this trip is giving me.

More photos available on my Flickr Trans Am set.