Bike Tour 2012: Where the grass is always greener
This week has been spent in the very green, very picturesque state of Kentucky. It seems that the residents here have a sincere love for their front yards and specifically for their state-of-the-art lawn mowers. Every home has a perfectly kept lawn in front of it, usually at least an acre or two in size, and every day we ride past about a dozen people riding around on their lawn mowers. It gives the state a sense of orderliness and cleanliness, and it makes a person wonder how each state can manage to be so unique in its appearances and lifestyles.
We left Eddyville, IL and our comfy RV accommodations early on Tuesday morning, October 23rd. Our ride began with a ferry crossing over the Ohio River and into the state of Kentucky. The ferry ride was short, and no one was quite as thrilled with it as we were. I asked the gentleman who was operating the ferry why they didn’t just build a bridge over the river and he said it would cost too much money. It seems to me that running that boat back and forth all day couldn’t be cheap, but I guess I don’t know enough about drawbridge building costs. Anyway, we pulled into Kentucky on a gorgeous 80 degree day and enjoyed the new scenery as brown farmland gave way to grassy hills. We had planned for a longer day of 90 miles in order to reach the highly recommended First Baptist Church in the town of Sebree. We really didn’t mind the long day because the evening ride was gorgeous. The temperature cooled off a bit, we were met with a beautiful sunset, and we even got some long patches of flat roads.
Nothing could have prepared us for the wonderful hospitality that we were greeted with in Sebree. The church’s pastor, Bob, and his wife Violet waved us down as we pulled into the driveway and proceeded to show us our accommodations (the whole downstairs space is shared between the youth group and bike tourists) and then let us know that dinner would be ready as soon as we got showered and unpacked. Bob gave us the grand tour, we got ourselves settled in, and then we spent the rest of the evening enjoying dinner and conversation with Bob, Violet, and their neighbor Glenn. Violet cooked up a feast of homemade food, and they even served us dessert! Most of all, we loved getting to know these wonderful people and hearing about the many years of service that they have joyfully offered to touring bicyclists. We went to bed with full bellies and full hearts and sincerely wished that we could have made the next day a rest day. Instead we had to be back on the road the next morning.
When we left Sebree, the temperature was already in the 80’s and to us, it felt like a very hot day to be riding. We still don’t understand how people can manage biking in the summer when it gets over 100 degrees. We rode over the Green River and had lunch in the small town of Whitesville. Even though the weather was ideal and we had been fed well the night before, it was a tough day of riding and we both felt mentally and emotionally drained. We decided to make it a shorter day and were happy to find the perfect stealth camping spot just before the Rough River Dam State Park. Stealth camping is our favorite way to go, and we thoroughly enjoyed our early evening of setting up camp, cooking, and finishing off a BBC series that we had been watching on YouTube called “The Man Who Cycled the World.” (It’s a very interesting documentary that we recommend checking out.)
The next day the weather was just as ideal and our 71-mile ride to the town of Buffalo was pleasant and relaxing. We stopped for lunch in front of a random little convenience store, then stopped again an hour or so later for slushies in the town of Sonora. We planned on stealth camping again, but when we got to Buffalo, we thought we might as well check if they had a town park. They did not, but a man had overheard our question and was kind enough to offer us his land behind some barns in town. It took us a mile or so off route, but we got another night of free, easy camping and we weren’t going to complain. Also, tobacco is a very popular crop in Kentucky and we happened to camp just behind a barn filled with the drying leaves. It was interesting to see one step in the very long process that the crop goes through.
Unfortunately, when we woke up the next morning the skies were clouded over and the temperature had dropped significantly. As it turned out, our final two days of biking before reaching our rest day were much colder and wetter than the week before. It is unbelievable how much weather influences a day of biking. We left Buffalo and managed to stay dry all the way to Bardstown, where we splurged on lunch at Chili’s. The meal was delicious and filling, but unfortunately I arrived at the restaurant dehydrated and therefore suffered from numb fingers and toes the entire time. By the time we finished eating, it had started raining, and we thought we might be able to wait the storm out for a bit by hanging out in the Super Wal-Mart across the street. It was a nice idea and we had a lot of fun reading magazines and buying food, but the storm had no intention of letting up, and we knew we had to make more miles. We ended up biking in the rain 20 more miles to Abraham Lincoln’s Homestead State Park, where we made camp under a public pavilion.
Yesterday was another long, dreary, cold day of riding. However, we did have a hotel room and a long awaited visit with Don’s family to look forward to. We had to bike 75 more miles to get to Berea and every mile felt difficult. We stopped for coffee in Harrodsburg just to warm up, but wanted to get further before eating lunch. When we got to Bryantsville, it was time for lunch but there was not a café or gas station in sight. The only building we could find on-route was a Dollar General, so we asked the ladies working if they would mind us eating lunch on the floor somewhere in the store. They said they didn’t mind, so with all pride gone, we found a corner near the paper plates and cereal and chowed down. I guess we looked pretty pathetic, because one lady who walked by actually handed us a few dollars and said, “You two look like you could use a little extra cash.” It was our first time being offered money by a stranger, and it was very humbling, but we think she had the best intentions. We ended up grabbing a few more snacks to aid us in our journey and then made it the last 30 miles. Pulling into town felt like a dream come true: we could see the sign for our hotel from about a mile off, and as we pulled in the parking lot, Don’s parents were waiting for us outside with smiles, hugs, and a camera. Last night was exactly what we needed; dinner, family, and even fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies! Today is our much-anticipated rest day after 18 days of being in the saddle and we couldn’t be happier to be here.
P.S. There are so many photos that we HAVEN’T been able to take while biking that we wish we could show you. We hope you can imagine a few of these sights. First of all there is all of the road kill. We have passed hundreds of animals who’ve seen their end, but one little guy really stands out. We biked past the most tragic looking squirrel back in Oregon whom I still think of often. His tongue was out, his hands were in prayer, and he was dead as a doornail. It is hard not to think of cars as “killing machines” after seeing what they do to these little guys. Other images include a group of Mennonite girls walking down the street together, the many beautiful homes and yards, all the of dogs that chase us down the road, the generous hosts that we’ve had, and in Kentucky, the locals riding their lawnmowers.