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Saturday, September 2, 2017

Phase 5, Day 9. Petersburg- Yorktown, VA.

75 miles to end the trip at Chesapeake Bay.

Weather not good but could be much worse.  

...then turn left for Tom Petty concert. 

The last few miles on this abandonded road was a sweet end. 

Crossing James River. 

Williamsburg. Contrived but nice. 

75 miles to end the trip at Chesapeake Bay. 

Without a big day ahead, not a ton of miles and mostly flat, I went to bed thinking how nice a late start might be. Still woke up at 5am and anxious to start the day. The weather still dodgy with low clouds, mist and light showers which kept the roads wet all day but never really saw any rain. 

More miles on country roads and the last miles clicked off one at a time.  I was counting each mile down along those wet roads. Nav was easy with many turns at country junctions but got it right every time. Getting savvy at road signage in Virginia..every state is different. Still mostly wooded but every now and then soybean fields and dairy farms. 

At mile 40 found my way to the Scotland-Jamestown ferry for the 15 minute ride across the James River. Landed in Jamestown where the first Europeans settled 400 years ago. Only men and boys came initially. Guess they didn't plan to stay long, later they realized the ladies should come too. Send the ladies!

Jamestown makes up a corner of the "Historic Triangle". I visited all corners today. Williamsburg is a nice place. 18th century town Disneyland style. Very touristy but cute. The 3rd corner is Yorktown and my final destination. To be honest I didn't see Yorktown proper because the waterside and Chesapeake Bay was my destination. 

Arrival was great but anticlimactic, perhaps because I still had another hour of riding ahead. Felt good to reach the end though and I've had a lot of emotions about this trip today.  Of course traveling alone there is no one to celebrate with. I did find a nice lady sitting on a rock looking out to the bay and asked her if she would take my picture. Pretty soon she was so excited about my story she was on Facebook telling all her Brazilian friends about my ride and asked me if she could take pictures with her phone too. She was more excited than me it seemed. 

Yorktown's War Memorial is a traditional place to end a cross country cycling journey. The TransAmerica bike route ends there, Race Across America ends there too. I officially ended my ride while rolling up to the War Memorial. 

This crazy project has taken 5 summers to complete. I don't know that I'll ever accomplish anything as grand again but it's been such a great life experience for me. I can honestly say I've seen a narrow slice of America few people have seen.  It's a wonderful country. 

I've had some nice surprises: Nebraska riding far exceeded my expectations,  Nevada was remote and beautiful (I will go back), and the Appalachians are an amazing riding experience. So many other great memories. Not nice? Not much. 30 miles navigating Salt Lake City sucked...that's about it. 

5 summers have passed since leaving Sacramento. Since I began this ride in 2012 real life has gone on. I've lost my mother; she would have loved to read these stories. We've lost Chester, the family dog. Alex graduated from 2 universities and moved to Europe. Abby graduated high school and now at 21 is a beautiful and wonderful woman. We've moved to Santa Cruz, and on and on. Its easy to let life distract you from a goal but I'm glad I stuck with it. 

I could never have done this without the wonderful support from Carrie though. Always so encouraging and understanding of my goofy bike ride. She gets me, that it's important to me, and for that, thank you Carrie. 

The bike ran perfectly the last 1000+ miles. Not even a single flat tire. Today, 1 short mile from my final destination, Newport News, VA airport, the right pedal completely came apart. This would have been a disaster at any other point on the journey but I pedaled with one leg that last mile and enjoyed every bit of it. I think the bike gave up. 

I constantly got the same question when people asked about my trip: Why do you do this?  I never had a good answer. Perhaps one day I'll know why. 

Friday, September 1, 2017

Phase 5, Day 8. Appomattox - Petersburg, VA

114 miles. Spent all day outrunning Harvey but lost in the end.

Tobacco drying. Lots of tobacco today. 

High Bridge rail trail. Good lay of the land from on high. 

Fort Lee, VA. 

Covered a lot of ground today and it was nice to leave the climbing behind. It's never really flat, unless on a river flood plain, but it was pretty easy going and net downhill all day. 

What's left of the hurricane is charging past about 500 miles behind me but bands of associated weather threatened to catch me today so I left Appomattox as early as possible. Granny Bee's opened at 6am, 6:09 actually, and shoveled down a greasy meal for energy to start riding. 

Was feeling pretty good about myself with the early start.  So good in fact that I missed the first critical turn and had to re-nav back to course adding 5 miles to an already long day ahead.  So much for leaving early. 

The scenery was OK but mundane from what I've seen the past few days. Hills have flattened out and mostly covered with pine trees now. The roads are still quiet and in nice shape but the epic scenery is gone. 

Highlight of the day was 30 miles riding on High Bridge Trail, a rails to trails route. High Bridge is enormous at half a mile long and hundreds of feet above the Appomattox River. This bridge played a pivotal role at end of the Civil War and was burned by Confederate soldiers in an attempt to stop the advancing enemy. Bridge was restored and used for another 100+ years but now the only thing crossing High Bridge is a lonely cyclist. 

The weather approached from the west and I was headed away from it so it became a race. I packed food last night so I could eat on the fly. All day felt  like one of those Tour riders who breaks away from the peloton on his own, and pedals like mad for hours, to know they will all catch him eventually. I was trying to outrun the storm and it worked great until about mile 95. Had to bust out the rain jacket for the first time since leaving Kansas City. 

This was no regular rain. Suddenly roads flooded, I'm getting splashed by passing cars and I was glad there were only 15 miles to go. 15 miles usually takes 1.hour. Today, 2 hours. 

I've learned a few things during this adventure. For example, for every 3 or 4 ideal riding days there is 1 day that brings a challenge of some sort. Today was that day. I've also learned that one can ride a bike in 1 week the same distance a jet can cover in 1 hour. When you spend hours a day riding your bike you think about these things. 

Tomorrow is my last day crossing the country. It's about 60 miles to Yorktown, VA on the Chesapeake Bay. Of course I'm excited to end the adventure but this journey has been such a focus for me for 5 years I'm not sure how it will feel to reach the end. I will see tomorrow. 

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Phase 5, Day 7. Lexington-Appomattox, VA

Another 80 miles started by tackling the Blue Ridge Mtns, then left the big mountains behind...but not all the hills. 

A few random pics from the day..

Right out the gate this morning and started the last big climb up and over the Blue Ridge Mountains. Still trying to avoid the dreaded Route 60 and found very remote Robinson Gap Rd, a gravel road but not in bad shape, and made the long climb up and longer descent down. Climbed out of the morning fog and into the sun but due to constant thick forest there was no view of the valley below. Had a couple of dogs chase me again but I'm hip to that now after all my Kentucky dog races. 

While descending Robinson Gap passed the Appalachian Trail as it crossed the road. This iconic trail is said to be the longest hiking trail in the world at over 2000 miles from Georgia to Maine. Must be quite a cool life experience to hike the entire distance. I'll have to do that another day though.  I had planned to come across the trail today and had this notion that I would meet some folks on their own adventure and we could share stories, but no one to be found. I don't know how long I would have to wait until someone rambled by but I wasn't in the mood to wait so took a pic and headed down the gravelly hill for many more miles. 

John Denver's "Country Roads" was in my head all day. Blue Ridge Mtns and Shenandoah River..West Virginia and some mountain Mommas too. Yep. Saw all that. 

The big hills ended and I imagined the countryside would gently roll down to the sea. Boy was I wrong. No big hills but lots and lots of little hills. Bombing down a steep road for half a mile is fun but then the bridge crossing the creek comes in sight and you know the fun is soon over. Gotta now climb back out to do it again and again and again. Yesterday I mentioned how much I like climbing. Wish I hadn't said that. Climbing is fun when there is a goal to reach like a mountain top..not fun when going up and down endlessly. At least the scenery was as good as yesterday and managed to stay on very quiet roads all day. I made some last minute routing changes today which I usually avoid but it was all worth it and struck cycling gold again. 

Tonight in Appomattox, VA. (Say Appoh-maddux). I expected Appomattox to be a lovely and quant town much like last night's Lexington. After all, Appomattox has even more rich Civil War history and is the site of Appomattox Court House where Robert E Lee surrendered the war. There's an interesting National Park celebrating that event here but the town is shabby with not much to offer. The interstate passes through town, railroad too, so Walmart, McDonald's and all the rest are just up the road and therefore there is no charm here.  Reminds me of some of the towns I stayed in Kentucky. 

Found some local entertainment at the high school football game, the biggest thing in Appomattox. Appomattox Raiders handily beating Rusburg Red Devils at half time when I split. Red Devils need serious help on special teams among other things. 

Not to worry, still a fun day. Tomorrow is a long day at 110 miles to Petersburg and hopefully without those pesky rolling hills. Forecast is for rain most of the day..bummer.

Sent from my iPhone

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Phase 5, Day 6. White Sulphur, WV- Lexington, VA.

80 fabulous miles. Another epic day...good thing I like traveling solo 'cause I hardly saw anyone all day.

Humpback Bridge on Dunlap Creek. 
Today saw a lot of this..
...and this...
..this too. Hey look! Sun!
Enfield Rd and the top of today's last climb. Nearly 80 epic miles of this today.

Robert E Lee still buried here...

....Stonewall Jackson too. 

Sounding like a broken record but it was another great day. The route planning was good and spent nearly all day on the most random and scenic back roads. 

Route 60 is the most direct route today. Route 60 is full of logging trucks and everyone else stuck behind the logging trucks. I avoided Route 60. 

Left my sweet digs at The Greenbrier and soon started the first of 3 big climbs today. Actually, the climbing isn't really so tough..the passes through the Appalachians here top out at 2500' or less but then you go down to start again in 10 miles. I really like the climbing and go out of the way to find more climbing so avoiding Route 60 was well worth the effort. The mountain roads are paved but narrow, so narrow there's no room left to paint the lines it seems. The rare driver, a car passed every 20 minutes or so, always careful and cooperative. Got the wave too. I like the wave. 

The perfect riding conditions went on and on and I expected it to end around the next bend..but it didn't end. 

Spent most of the day in thick green forest speckled with fall colors here  and there. Navigation was much easier today...Virginia DOT was nice enough to install accurate road signs so I didn't miss a single turn today. Much better. 

Tonight in Lexington, VA...the 6th "Lexington" I've passed through on this ride across the country. Lexington is a small town but full of rich history, most of it Civil War history. Robert E Lee is buried here. Stonewall Jackson too. Despite the recent nearby unrest they haven't dug up Lee's grave yet but, interestingly, the Confederate Flag is not allowed to fly within Lexington city limits any longer. 

I must have slept through 8th grade US history and totally missed the Civil War chapter but now, decades later, I am fascinated by it because it's all around me. Fitting as this journey began following Pony Express which evolved from the same era save a couple of years. 

Tomorrow 80 miles, one last big climb over the Blue Ridge Mountains, to Appomattox where Lee surrendered the war. 

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Phase 5, Day 5. Beaver-White Sulphur Springs, WV.

90 miles. Should have been 75 miles but I got lost a few times.

John Henry and his Great Bend Tunnel he dug by hand. 

I made a new friend along the road.  

Greenbrier River passing through Alderson. 

Lewisburg, West Virginia. 

The Greenbrier. 
I've stayed in some real dumps during this adventure but not tonight!

This is very important. When in the Appalachians one should know how to pronounce it properly. What do you say? They call it "Apple-at-chuns" here. The "Apple-ay-shuns" are also here but it all depends from where you come. It's a regional thing. 

Spent all day riding up and down and up and down mostly very quiet back roads and through the most beautiful scenery, river valleys, and woods a cyclist can imagine. West Virginia is, so far, my favorite riding experience crossing the country. 

The forecast for morning rain and wind never happened and it was a perfect day..dry, no wind and not hot. Weather is always a major issue. My Nebraska/Tornado Alley crossing was in May/June..the worst time of year for severe weather and tornado. I missed them all.  Now approaching the Atlantic and it's hurricane season here. What's left of Hurricane Harvey is headed my way but I think I can outrun it and there's a tropical storm working it's way up my route ahead but should be clear by the weekend when I get there. So far so good. 

My route today mostly followed the scenic Greenbrier River. I didn't ride much along the busy (and flat) river road as I'm always on the hunt for those random and more interesting back roads. The extra effort was well worth it. 

Stopped to visit the John Henry historic site in Talcott. I remember hearing the legend of John Henry when I was a kid..goes like this: While working to dig the Great Bend Tunnel Mr. Henry challenged the new fangled steam shovel to a race to see who could dig the tunnel faster. John Henry dug faster than the steamer that day but then collapsed and died on the spot. The legend was born. 

As I said, the West Virginia riding has been wonderful. Mostly rural country roads with a town every couple of hours. The towns are all neat and tidy with flower pots hanging from the lamp posts on Main St and everyone super nice too. 

I had some trouble today with my navigation which is all pre-planned from home using maps. I don't nav with GPS. Perhaps I should. Turns out many rural roads here are not marked, or worse, have a different name from the map. I'm pretty good at maps but still got turned around today and went the wrong way 3 times which added many miles and lots more climbing. Good thing it's such a nice place to ride. I convinced myself that it was all a happy accident. I asked for directions from a few people and all so nice and helpful.  The old men at the tire shop helped too but hard for me to understand them. They waved arms a lot and pointed so I got most of it. 

It all worked out well and arrived at White Sulphur Springs, WV and The Greenbrier...the most palatial hotel I've ever stayed. It's an old and historic resort where all the local Southern richies come for golf, horse drawn carriage rides, fancy shopping and spa. Dudes all wearing dinner jackets and expensive shoes in the afternoon. I only have shorts, t-shirt and $5 ABC store flip flops. My money is still green though. Not my scene at all but very nice and they let me in the too, so I will stay. Its a fun change from the usual. 

Tomorrow another 80ish miles and 6000'+ climbing up and down the Appalachians (no matter how you say it it's still gnarly) to Lexington, VA. At mile 5 we leave West Virginia. WV has been good to us, I hope to come back and ride again.  

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Phase 5, Day 4. Logan-Beaver, WV

79 miles. Should have been much easier but the over 6000' of steep climbing made it a grind. 

West Virginia mountains. Better to see it yourself. 
Beaver Creek coal mine. Most hard work far below ground. 
Orchard Hill Rd.   Who wouldn't wanna ride a bike?
Coal is alive and well in Southern West Virginia. I spent most of the day among the coal mines, the coal communities and sharing the road with the giant coal carriers. 

Riding conditions in WV are not as pristine at they were in KY. Sure, some newer roads have nice wide shoulders but most country roads have little to no riding shoulder and the road surface is often full of cracks, holes, loose rocks and bits of coal. 

Leaving Logan at sunrise and heading southeast to follow the Guyandotte River soon was distressed to discover my little country road a nightmare. The main highway I tried to avoid was closed so all the traffic, trucks, and everyone else was on MY road. A harrowing first hour, but at least it was only 7am.  Reaching Man, WV I turned up the Buffalo Creek Canyon and things soon improved. 

The economy, and quality of life, seems much improved since leaving KY yesterday. Now back into tidy communities...but they still like their Dollar General. 

Coal mining is dangerous business.  I saw many memorials, roads and bridges dedicated to nearby tragedies. I spent an hour following Buffalo Creek all the way to its origin and passed 20 miles of rural communities that were all wiped out in the Buffalo Creek Disaster of 1972 when a dam burst at the top of the valley. The huge wall of mining slurry and mud killed 125 and demolished most of the towns I went through. Crites, Latrobe, Braeholm, Accoville and Kistler...all gone. The people eventually came back and rebuilt with no sign of the tragedy left today but they are still talking about it, and I don't blame them.  

The coal mines are massive sometimes mile-long factories. The miners work underground, 1500' one miner told me, and use heavy equipment to breakdown the coal seam, then the loose coal rides along miles of conveyor belts to a central site outside where it's loaded onto trucks and trains. I was surrounded today by big men driving big trucks and wondered what they made of my flimsy rig. Surprised to find out the drivers, even the enormous coal carrier guys, would slow down to pass safely and often give me a wave or horn blast. When I stopped to check the routing at the top of Buffalo Creek one dude even pulled over to see if I needed help with directions. 

At dinner in Logan last night I spoke to a nice couple, Greg and (I don't recall her name). We talked about coal mining and Greg had a look at my routing for today. 4 hours into my day Greg pulled up in his work truck and stopped to check on me. We talked some more and then he got back to work....and so did I. 

Lots of climbing. Highway engineers in WV don't bother keeping the grade at 6% like most places, I was climbing 9-10% grades for miles today. Substantially steeper. Topped out at 3500' at one pass.  

Southern West Virginia is one of the most scenic places I have ever seen and unlike anywhere I've ever been. It's hard to describe but it's gorgeous. If you've been here you know what I mean, if you haven't I highly recommend. 

I left the big hills and coal trucks behind and coasted downhill toward Beckley and neighboring Beaver, WV where today's ride ends. Now I must get back to being a responsible adult but I plan to return to Beaver on or about Aug 29 to continue this journey. 

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Phase 5, Day 3. W. Liberty, KY-Logan, WV

110 miles. Lots of up and down. Fabulous. 

Rail Trail in East KY?  For an hour? 

Loretta Lynn born here. Now a museum but closed on Sunday like everything else around here. 

West Virginia. 11th state of this journey.

Another rest stop. Hour 6. Thanks coach!  Pro tip: Always check for ticks when done.. 
Tonight's hotel, and Cinema 8, in an old quarry. 

Final score: Ben-8, Dirty Dogs-0. Offense is the best Defense, right? 

Great day with a little bit of everything. Once again out early and riding in and out of foggy valleys. Sunday mornings even better than Saturdays when riding in the Bible Belt. 

Followed Carney Creek for an hour then turned NE to join, if you can believe this (in Eastern Kentucky) a beautiful rail-to-trail route for about 18 miles. The Dawkins Line Trail (an abandoned coal rail) is not paved but crushed limestone which was much like last year's Missouri crossing on the Katy trail..great! Through a few narrow passes and over many rivers. Didn't see anyone for the hour+, certainly no cyclists, but it was really nice. I stopped to take some pictures and then decided to enjoy the moment and listen to the birds for 10 minutes. 

Speaking of that, with a very long day ahead, such as today, I struggle with a strategy so that I can enjoy it without wiping myself out. My style of riding, no matter how far, is to just go until I run out of gas. My clever wife Carrie suggested maybe I should stop to rest every couple of hours. Stop? Huh, never thought of that. I did and it worked great. Even ended the long day with some gas in the tank. Thanks Coach!

At Haverhill, KY crossed the Levisa Fork (tributary to Ohio River) bridge and into West Virginia. Still looking for signs of Coal Country I soon found it in Odds, WV...Loretta Lynn's birthplace. Must be officially in coal country now.

I love the unexpected historic nuggets along the way. Yesterday was Daniel Boone Nat'l Forest, today Coal Miner's Daughter. Tomorrow? 

The hills are getting bigger and canyons much deeper, but always so green covered with thick forests. The fall colors in WV must be amazing. 

Folks in Eastern Kentucky, I found, to be quite reserved and not approachable. I always said Hello but it never sparked a conversation. The West Virginia mood is much more upbeat. I noticed many WV families, on this Sunday afternoon, outside enjoying the day together...often saying hello and waving to me as I passed by. 

I spent the last couple of days riding through one of the poorest regions of the country. In most towns there is nothing left but a gas station/convenience store. The bigger towns consistently had the same businesses: Dollar General, McDonalds, and sometimes Family Dollar was across the road. That's it. There is nothing else left. I imagine the people struggle mightily and perhaps that's why they don't say much to a goofy stranger on a bike. 

One guy, about my age, sparked up a Hello during my fuel stop in Salyersviile, KY. "Where ya'll headed?"  "To the sea." I said. "I never seen no ocean. I bet it's wife went once."

This journey across the country has opened my eyes in many ways. The people of Eastern Kentucky struggle, there is no doubt, and sadly there seems little hope for them. Spending a few days among the underprivileged, again, reminds me to be thankful for what I have. 

Tomorrow to Beaver, WV. 

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Phase 5, Day 2. Lexington-West Liberty, KY

85 miles.  The weather cooperated and so did most of the dogs.

Spent most of the day doing this....

....and this too.
We don't need no fancy sign!
Poured down rain all night but woke to dry weather and a nice tailwind all day. 

As I have said, riding early on a weekend morning is the best. Everyone is still sleeping and leaving Lexington at 630am on a Saturday was sublime. Not a soul. 

Eventually left horse country and at about 40 miles it began to get much more hilly. The Appalachian region is not well defined geographically, I haven't reached the mountains yet but today was spent going up and down substantial hills entering what's known as the Appalachian Plateau. It's very scenic and lush with cattle farms dotting the many valleys. 

Highway 460 runs straight along today's route but I searched for quiet back roads for much of the day. Eventually the road would always rejoin 460 but then I would soon get to another country road and go that way for an hour. Today's biggest challenge? Dogs. I had some farm dog encounters in Indiana but they seemed tame compared to Eastern Kentucky's Junk Yard Dogs. Nasty looking things. Approaching a farm house I learned to keep an eye out for the dog so I would see him first. Also, no freewheeling past the farm house...that bicycle clicky-clack when coasting was a sure giveaway. I had to get up to speed and peddle hard so he had little chance of matching my speed once he spotted me. 

You know those decals the WW2 ace pilots stuck on their planes to show how many shoot-downs they had?  I'm thinking of getting little doggy stickers for my bike now. 

Must say Route 460, a busy highway with no dogs, was a nice respite but I soon got bored with that and went in for more exciting action at the next road just to enjoy the scenery and (mostly) relaxing riding. 

I noticed today at each stop for a drink or snack the local accent gets thicker and thicker. It's hard for me to understand the real locals...they probably think the same about me. 

Stopped for an ice cream at the general store in Grassy Creek. They have ice cream, drinks, gas...bullets, and horseshoes too. What more could I guy need?  

Staying in West Liberty, KY. Not much in West Liberty but it's the only hotel within 1/2 day riding so it will have to do. 

Tomorrow is a big day for me. 110 miles with 7000 feet of climbing on the way to Logan, West Virginia. I wonder how many dog races I'll have.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Phase 5, Day 1. Louisville-Lexington, KY.

90 miles.  Hot and humid but a good warm up. 

Just don't say "Looeyville"

Fog lifting. 

Another fancy barn for the fancy horses. 

Lots of Distilleries along the crick. 

Great day to begin the last phase. I was hampered a bit all day with Neil Diamond's "Kentucky Woman" going round-and-round in my head. Aaargh!!

Anyway, so fun to get out and continue the adventure. The day-to-day routine is so well established now that I don't spend time fretting about it in the morning. I just get up, have a coffee, and go. Most critical is to get out of town as early as possible to avoid the traffic. 

Super foggy in Louisville at 6am and didn't take long to find the back country roads but spent about 3 hours riding in and out of thick fog through, what I imagined to be but couldn't see, nice countryside. Eventually the fog burned off, the sun came out, and it was green grass everywhere! Kentucky bluegrass I would guess. 

This is horse country of course, and the countryside is covered with manicured grassy pastures surrounded by miles of wooden fence, sometimes white, sometimes black, covering rolling hills as far as you can ride. I don't know anything about horses but I would think this is a sweet spot if you do.  

When planning these rides I spend a lot of time sitting with maps and Google Street View to find the best routing and the coolest country roads that look quiet and smooth. The planning paid off. It's hard to avoid all the traffic but I did well today. Between Frankfurt and Versailles there was a particularly great 15 mile stretch along McCracken Pike following Glenns Creek. Beautiful riding under the thick canopy of trees. Passed a lot of bourbon distilleries along the creek...some long ago abandoned and some newer massive operations.  All very quiet though. 

Along McCracken Pike I also passed a few neglected rural communities with what appeared to be abandoned houses, but they were not.  Started to notice guys sitting on their collapsing front porches. Did a double take the first time and waved, he waved back. I waved to the all the hillbillies (can we still say that?) and they always waved back. 

At about my midway point today rolled into Frankfurt. Frankfurt is nice. It's the state capital but seems pretty low key to me. I did a quick spin through town and in 3 minutes saw both the old, and new, state buildings. Super quiet downtown, so quiet in fact that I searched and searched for a store to buy some water and struck out, so...this is a first..I had to ask for directions to a convenience store. In the state capital?  Yep. 

Eventually the sun warmed things up to 91 with, I would guess, 80% humidity. Not a problem until you stop moving...then the sweat starts to pour. That Frankfurt water was a good idea.  

Staying in Lexington tonight and got caught on some busy roads. I can avoid the busy roads all day until I get close to the hotel which is always on a busy road. Lexington seems fine and hosts University of Kentucky. University towns usually sport more bike friendly roads but not Lexington. I resorted to riding on the sidewalk for 3 miles at one point. You can get a ticket for that in California but there is no other safe option in Lexington. Visited the last bike shop I will see for the next few days...didn't need anything, just felt like I should visit. 

Tomorrow we (the bike and me) leave the big city, thankfully, and head into rural eastern Kentucky. 

Monday, May 23, 2016

Phase 4, Day 7. Tell City, IN-Louisville, KY

102 miles.  A great day to finish Phase 4.

Crossed the Ohio River into the Commonwealth of Kentucky at mile 2..then back to Indiana at mile 50 and back again to Kentucky at mile 99. Went across 3 time zones today....on a bike!

After leaving Tell City immediately the fields end and the hills begin. Quite hilly actually. It's very wooded with pastures and dairy farms scattered here and there, everything so green, but the rows of corn are all gone. Too hilly here I suppose.

I traversed a 50 mile wide bend in the river through rural Kentucky, crossed back into Indiana at the Brandenburg Bridge to follow the Indiana side of the river bank until I was abeam Louisville..then back across again.

It was a great day to end the week. Ended on a real high note as a matter of fact. I found some more random back roads and they were perfect. Up and down for 70 miles so it was all a bit slow but I had the roads to myself and enjoyed the day. Kentucky roads are the best I've seen. So well maintained.  From a cyclist's perspective California and New Jersey roads are terrible, Hawaii is better than most, but Kentucky is exceptional. All the roads I spent time on, even the most random back road, is newly paved, clean, even the grass along the edge is neatly mowed. Unreal.

About midway stopped for a drink at a roadside market in the middle of nowhere. It was a very interesting Mennonite general store. Of course I didn't realize until I walked in but right away it was obvious. Church hymns playing on the loud speaker and bonneted women quietly stocking and cleaning shelves. It was a bit like walking into, well, church. What they had was basic but certainly supplied the community's needs. I had a look around. Lots of raw ingredients for baking and cooking, many shelves of diet supplements, some basic tools, a whole aisle of sweets in bags (not commercial candy), simple toys, bonnets and straw hats and all the rest. I would have bought a hat, $8.99, but had no way to carry it home. Bummer. They did have a limited soda supply so I was happy. The nice woman asked me about my bike ride, quickly put together a "2016 Biker Log" for me to sign, and then as I was out front getting ready to roll she came out with a nice little gift for me. Glad I stopped at that shop.

The last 2 miles was a fitting way to finish. The bridge crossing the Ohio from Jeffersonville, IN to Louisville, KY is the most enormous and elegant rails-to-trails bridge you could imagine. 1 mile of steel bridge dedicated to bikes and walkers (and there were many on a Monday afternoon) with piped in classical music playing 

over loudspeakers during the crossing. Felt like a bit of a ceremony for me crossing the river. Soon found the Marriott and grabbed my street clothes I had shipped from KC to call it done.

This has been another week of exploring small town America. I like small town America. Each comunity has its own charm, some more than others, but while crossing the country I've, sadly, come across so many communities on the decline and will be gone when the current generation isn't there to turn on the lights. They are all unique and with few exceptions I can say small town Americans are sweet and generous people. American cities are so homogenized now...there's little difference, say, between Louisville (as nice as it is) and Kansas City any more, but small towns stay unique and unaffected by "progress"..except that they are dying. 
Coolest bike bridge ever!
Loo-vel, Kentucky. 

Most of the time these rides go as planned but occasionally I am faced with a situation that tests the limits of my spirit. This week's Day 1 was that test. Sick as a dog and facing a day riding in the cold rain and wind was a tough one for me. I've had other tough days during this journey but I do my best to stay positive and go to bed knowing the next day will be a good one. That nearly always works.

If all goes well Phase 5 to Virginia and the Atlantic Coast, will commence next year.

Thanks for reading!