July 18 – Day 40- Pittsburgh Ks to Ash Grove, MO – 68 miles
Finally out of Kansas! The scenery changes immediately once you cross the State line. The terrain becomes hills, the road kill changes from prairie dogs to armadillos, and there was a fat, shirtless man sitting on his front porch, holding a rifle, that gave us a toothless greeting! We stopped at a bar called “Shaved Beaver ” (can’t make this stuff up), because it was too good to miss. Within 2 minutes of being there an argument starts and they two men involved take it outside. They offer to let us camp in back of the bar, which is tempting, except we would continue to drink all night and it would probably give me a hang over for the next few days. Even after 2 weak beers, the 10 mile ride to Ash Grove was pretty miserable.
Classy all the way in Missouri.
In Ash Grove we find that they have an empty house in the town park that they let cyclists stay in for free. Once again, fantastic generosity by these small towns. Road magic!
July 19 – Day 41 – Ash Grove, MO to Hartville, MO – 78 miles
Rolling ups and downs all the way. We’d been warned that despite the lack of altitude, Missouri was the state with the most hills on the ride. Rolling hills where you get to the top of one, and you can see 4 more in the distance that you’ll need to climb. My pedal broke in late morning and tried to fix it in Marshfield, MO but no luck. It really sucks having a town where Wal Mart is your only bicycle resource. Wal Mart sucks! There selection of goods and quality sucks. I hate that so many people have few other choices of places to spend their money in their communities. While I’m ranting, Dollar General sucks too! So I am riding with only 1 good pedal that I can clip into. . Camping at courthouse in Hartville. Camping there sucked (I was going through a bad attitude those few days). You are next to the courthouse, where you awkwardly put your tent between the building and parking lot. It was loud and lit up by parking lot lights. At first we were told if we needed to use the restrooms, just buzz the buzzer to the police station entrance and they’ll let you in. Well, they did once in the evening, but the next morning they screamed through the loudspeaker that the building didn’t open until later. That’s a cruel thing to do to your bladder!
July 20th – Hartville to Eminence – 80 miles
Left early in fog. Rolling hills after breakfast at JD’s diner. Jumped in the Jacks Fork river then climbed steeps into eminence. Resort town w tubes, canoes and rednecks. Stayed at the arrowhead campground for $5 each. Camped next to redneck family where everyone, including the 13 year old daughter, chainsmoked. Campground actually had a karaoke setup. Good blues band was playing in town. Dinner at cafe, good steaks.
July 21st – Eminence to Farmington, IL – 86 miles.
Leaving the campground in Eminence gave us a stark contrast to how we were spending our summer. The campground was a party zone. Lot’s of beer cans strewn about, people who didn’t make it into their tents sleeping in truck beds. Didn’t miss partying at all, and was glad to hit the crux of the Missouri hills. They were tough hills and no shoulder but lite traffic. Anthony and I had a great day riding, we were psyched up and hit it hard. When we were outside of Farmington, Wayne, a TransAm race fan, met us at a gas station and took us into town. “Al’s Place” is a hostel run by the town. Very nice place. The best hostel we stayed in.
The deluxe accomodations provided by the people of Farmington, Mo. Suggested donation of $20.
An old county jail that was converted with air conditioning and new furniture. Met Roy from Norway there. 4 of us went to Chinese for dinner.
Could have stayed there for a week. Finally got to replace my pedals so I was able to click in for maximum pedaling efficiency!
July 22nd – Farmington Mo. to Chester IL – 45 miles
We got a late start out of Farmington. Who could blame us as the place was so posh, plus the bike shop had our rides overnight for some work. Fairly uneventful ride until we got to the Mississippi River. The bridge crossing was a bit harrowing as it was just two lanes each way with no pedestrian path. So we had to share the road with the disgruntled traffic.
We read that the Eagles club had a bunkhouse that bikers could stay in for free. In stark contrast to Farmington, this was basically a yard shed that you could buy at Home Depot with some plywood bunks in it. Oh well, it had an AC unit to keep it cool and we met Randy and Tammy, a couple from the Bay Area there and shared the shed. At a Mexican restaurant that night I had a “Margarona”, a large margarita with a bottle of Corona turned upside down in it, my new favorite summer drink!
July 23rd – Chester to Eddyville, IL – 106 miles.
Hottest and most lost ride yet. Kept missing turns and adding miles. Stayed in Carbondale, IL for a couple of hours in order to beat the heat. Ended up riding in the pleasant evening until about 8:30 PM to a campground at Eddyville. Campground was set up for RV’s and horses, but was deserted. Not another human there which was a bit spooky, but it saves on your campground fees! Sandwich for dinner and out early.
July 24th – Eddyville, IL to Sebree, KY 86 miles.
Up at 4:45 am for an early start. Rode through early rains, and Anthony shredded a tire on glass on the shoulder of the road. Got it fixed with a spare and ended up in a deluge that we had to wait out in a tiny town with one diner, they didn’t seem to mind.
Ferry to Kentucky
Then we got to the Ohio river, which doesn’t have a bridge, but a ferry (free of charge) to deliver you into Kentucky. We ended up in Sebree KY, which had a hostel in the basement of it’s church for bike tours. Again a very nice place. There we ran into Randy and Tammy, who were also staying there and touring a modified Trans Am route. As well as a character named Sam, who was from Florida, riding a $20 Huffy to North Dakota to try and find work. Sam was an ex-Meth addict (which he mentions within 3 minutes of meeting you), and his bike setup was a bungy cord for his duffle bag on the back of his bike. No helmet, no lights, riding in work-boots. It’s amazing what one can accomplish when you don’t know any better. Sebree was not much of a town. The only restaurant was a pizza parlor, with no restrooms, lot’s of flies, and a puzzled look on their face when we ordered a pizza from them.
July 25 – Sebree to Big Clifty, KY – 102 miles.
Rode out of Sebree, saying goodbye to Sam, who didn’t remember meeting us the night before. Hot and rolling hills, meals from a gas station and adventures in following the map. Pretty much a great day on the road. Leading up to Big Clifty was one of the most pleasant downgrade sections of the trip. It wasn’t too steep that you had to apply your breaks (thus wasting the benefit of gravity), and was so gradual that you barely noticed you hadn’t pedaled for the last half hour. Of course, all good things come to an end, with an uphill climb. We ended up in Big Clifty, where the maps said there was a convenience store that you could camp at. When we got there the store was long closed down, stuff piled everywhere outside and in. The owner, Lee, and his wife were there picking through stuff. They welcomed us to camp alongside the store for the night, even though it was closed.
Camping outside the derelict general store in Big Clifty, KY
They even cooked some pasta for us. Randy and Tammy were there as well. Randy was touring on a hard-tail mountain bike with front suspension, which isn’t very efficient as far as losing power to the shocks, but they still hauled ass and beat us there. I was able to make up a quite comfortable bed out of a lounger and mattress that Lee had outside his store, also got to feed his neighbors horse, who was quite fond of watermelon. In fact he charged the gate like a warhorse when he saw it.
July 26 – Big Clifty to Bardstown, KY – 61 miles
Another pleasant but tough Kentucky ride. Stopped for breakfast in Elizabethtown. The cafe had a guest book of bike tourers that went back to the 70’s! Living history there! Got out early and arrived in Bardstown after passing the resort filled Sympson lake area. Ended with a big climb up to Bardstown.
Whiskey barrels everywhere! It’s like the mother ship calling me home!
Anthony had to find where his new spare tire was delivered and I was able to take the distillery tour for Bards 1792 Bourbon. I am more of a Maker’s Mark man, and had never heard of Bards 1792 before, but the Makers Mark distillery was 16 miles away, and I’ll be damned if I was riding 32 miles r/t that I didn’t have to, Maker’s isn’t that good. Tour was good, with plenty of samples. Bardstown was a fun town.
July 27th – Bardstown to Berea, KY – 95 miles.
Tough day in the Kentucky heat. First run in with unchained dogs chasing after me. Get’s the blood pumping for sure. Stopped for lunch in Harrodsburg. At the town’s little cafe we got more “you guys are crazy” comments. I just couldn’t help thinking that your crazy NOT to be on your bike, zooming across the country. No better way to spend your time! After sweating out the late afternoon we got our second room in a row, with thunderstorms and a rainy night, we have no stomach for camping. Lucky we did as it poured down all night..
July 28th – Berea to Booneville, KY – 70 miles.
Rainy morning in Berea. Thought about taking a rest day but pushed in. Nice ride into eastern KY but then it started to rain and blow. More rolling hills and dogs. Outside of Booneville a sheriff stopped us and told us of a tornado warning. Then a local said a tornado is coming! I was pretty sure there wasn’t an actual tornado coming, which there wasn’t. We went into town and waited it out at a mini-mall. It did get a little hairy when I could see clouds starting to circle themselves, but nothing came of it. My rear derailleur was acting funny, you know when your instincts are saying that something is wrong, but you push it under the rug thinking everything will be alright? Well, don’t do that while bike touring.
The Booneville pavilion that we waited out the tornados in. Not the best idea I’ve ever had.
We were going to stay at a b&b we cheaped out and went to a church that had a pavilion and free camping. At a dairy shack and met Joe, the hick stoner who is just like Rob Courdry’s character in Hot Tub Time Machine. Stayed at the church right on the picnic tables. I didn’t tell Anthony that the tornado warning had been extended because I figured it was clearing up, then and a wild storm kicked up in the middle of the night. All we could do was hunker down in our sleeping bags that were on the picnic tables, hoping the pavilion wouldn’t get picked up in a tornado and send us to Oz.
July 29th. Booneville, KY to Buckhorn Lake State Park -31 miles
Anthony and I start out the day ready to be rid of Booneville. Before we are out of town my rear derailleur cable shreds. I go to fix it and find that instead of packing a break and derailleur cable, I have a rode bike and mountain bike brake cables instead. Damn, Anthony doesn’t have one either!
“You kids go on, I’ll be fine!”- Anthony and a group of Chinese students riding the Trans Am trail.
Oh, here comes a group of Chinese students, with a support car, that we’ve heard was around. Obviously they’ll have one! No luck. Booneville is the start of the Eastern Kentucky hills. No way I can ride it if I rig my derailleur to only be in one gear. SHIT! I’m thinking I am going to have to get into the students support car until we can find a bike shop (there are none for a couple of riding days), and that will disqualify me from the TransAmerica Race!. Instead, I sent Anthony on with the students and limp back into town. I go to the county courthouse and start asking if someone knows someone who could give me a lift to London, KY (nearest bike shop) and back that day (about 80 miles r/t). I start to think that this is ridiculous, then a receptionist calls her husband and says he’s on vacation and not doing anything so he’ll do it, plus we can go on a food run at the same time (only one diner in Booneville).
My camp at Buckhorn Lake State Park, KY
So Wade shows up, we dump my stuff in his car and are on our way. We get to the bike shop where I am able to fix the cable (their mechanic has the day off), we stop by for a huge KFC run for the office workers, and I’m back in Booneville by 2pm, thanks to small town generosity!
I ride 30 miles of Eastern Kentucky hills to make it to Lake Buckhorn state park. I’m the only person in the campground, and it’s lit up like a Costco parking lot. I can’t believe anyone wants huge lights in their campground, but whatever, at least I’m back on the road!
July 30th- Buckhorn Lake, KY to Breaks Interstate Park, VA – 117 miles.
Out of the campground early. Text Anthony that I’m aiming for Breaks Park that night. Ride more the Eastern Kentucky hills, dealing with dogs giving chase. Sometimes you figure you can out run them, which gives you an adrenaline shot, other times, when there is more danger of either getting bit, getting in a wreck or hurting the dog, it’s better to just stop. Every time I stopped the dog would just give up the chase and look at me like I let him down, then wander away. Still, stopping your pace 10-15 times a day gets to be a pain in the ass. I ride into Hazard, KY (no sign of the Duke boys), for breakfast, then haul ass up and down the hills to make up time. Long day and tough riding. Got lost and was on a dangerous highway for about 8 miles.
Loving Virginia! Our last state and out of the wilds of Kentucky.
The last stretch of this long day brings me into Virginia, the last state on the ride! Can’t believe it. Also can’t believe it took me 8 extra miles to find the campground and Anthony. I asked directions from one guy, his southern accent was so thick that I literally couldn’t understand a thing he said. I finally arrive, broken and tired, but know that the end is near.