Lexington, VA to Charlottesville, VA
First: Today is Rod's 52 Birthday: Happy Birthday Rod---you old fart!
Today was an enjoyable ride with one last big climb up and over Mt. Vesuvuis. It was only 3 miles to the top but the grade was the killer. It averaged 13-17% all the way and threw in a 19% for about a quarter mile just to make it interesting. That is pretty close to trying to ride a bike up the side of a wall! Don and I both accomplished this without much effort--at least not as much as we thought it was going to take and continued our ride on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Although a little hazy, it was still a very nice ride. The parkway threw a few more hills at us but nothing like the morning climb, so we continued the ride into Charlottesville at a pretty good pace. The map wanted us to take some back roads that were going to increase the ride 33 miles or we could take the direct route and it was only 19 miles. Which do you think, we chose...you have to remember this ride is about riding across america and seeing the sites, not just about the miles...
Once in Charlottesville, we got to the hotel and are just now getting ready to go see the sites: University of Virginia and Montecello--the home of Thomas Jefferson. I will post pictures later on.
Bland, VA to Newcastle, VA
Today, was the perfect ride! It was sunny but cool, rolling hills, a mountain stream on one side of the road, valleys/pastures on the other side and just a lot of fun. We rode 70 miles and knew that the next section we needed to ride was going to be rough and we decided not to go any further and ruin such a great day.
We crossed the Appalachian Trail today on our ride and it happen to be a section that I walked with my friend Marty a long time ago.
Saving Don: As I was at the top of a hill taking a break and reading a historical marker beside the road; I hear Don yelling for help from down the hill. "Help, Help" and I turn around with adrenline coursing through my body not knowing what to expect. I see Don slowy making his way up to the crest of the hill, but he is still riding. He yells out 'help' again, and I start towards him not sure what is going on. THEN, Don crests the hill and I see a Chihuahua jogging along beside him with her tongue out and wagging her tail. As Don struggles up the hill, here is this little 3 pound dog easily keeping up and enjoying it. I shake my head in disgust and then in laughter at this little dog and the fact that Don is scared to death of it biting his ankles. (Please see the picture of this scary dog that I had to wrestle away from Don's ankle).
We drove into Lexington, VA and had a hard time finding a hotel becuase of the 'pony show' that was going on this weekend and the Pro Golf tournament that is taking place in Greenbrier, WVA. It seems there are not many hotels in that area and this is the closest large town. This is also the town of the Virginia Military Instititue (VMI) and it is pretty impressive. If I remember my history correctly, this is were Robert E. Lee was at, when he was chosen to lead the confederate Army.
Tomorrow, we ride up and over the last mountain before heading down 180 miles to Yorktown. The end is near!!
Pikeville, KY to Cerea, VA
Today was a pretty uneventful day. We were excited to get into Virginia, our last state, and see the finish line. The line is 550 miles away but at least we are in the same state. Eight of the nine states are behind us and we are pushing forward....
The day started out very foggy and humid but wse decided to ride anyway since we were going to be on some back roads with little traffic. Soon enough we got our legs warmed up and we powered our way through three major climbs on our way to the 100 mile mark. The difference between the Eastern U.S. and the Western U.S. is the 'grade' of the mountains. Out west, the roads up to the top are limited to 7% grades with a few exceptions....out here in the East, the grades are not limited, and we hit 10-11% grades on these climbs. Looking at profile of these mountains makes you wonder if you need ropes and caribiners to climb and a parachute to descend.
We had to drive about 20 miles to get a hotel room for the night, but we will be back at it in the morning. We are hoping to finish in 5-6 days and make our way home!
Hazard, Ky to Elkhorn, Ky
Just as I start typing Don and Sal show up at the door begging for food. I guess I will have to finish this after dinner.
I forgot about a few things from yesterday. First, we rode through one of the poorest counties in country (Owsley) and it was definition of 'culture shock.' The total disregard for the environment and their own living conditions was appalling. Garbage is thrown out their front doors or worse, into the river. I saw cars, motorcycles, wheels, everyday garbage and dead animals littering the riverbed. The sides of the road were even worse with garbage that had been thrown out the windows of passing cars. There were few regular houses in the area as most of land tracts were early (1970's) mobile homes in major need of repairs. People were living in a tent outside of one burned out mobile home while on the land next door, sat a pretty nice house. No rhyme or reason to the whole exsistence down here.
To add to the weirdness of the county, we come to my second observation: The "Ten Commandments" signs that were posted on buildings, staked in the ground on most every lawn, etc....By the end of the day, Don and I could recite the ten commandments, like good altar boys. It was a hard to wrap our minds around the idea of these people having the ten commandments posted on their lawn, but then have a total disrespect for themselves.
Today's ride started late, due the heavy fog that covered the town when we awoke. We had planned to be on the road at 7am but had to wait until after 8am to start pedaling. The first 40 miles was uneventful and was a nice enjoyable ride. It was easy to see that both Don and I did not have the motivation to cover much ground today at breakneck speeds. Before lunch, we had two big climbs and they took the little wind we had right out of our sails. The 13% grade caused some frustration and some walking to get to the top. Consider this: Don and I are in good shape after all the riding we have done over the last 35 days. We have 2500 miles under our belts including the Rocky mountains...when I say these mountains are tough--they are tough. Although they may not be high in altititude, thier sharp grades make for some tough climbs.
After lunch, we knew we had a few more hills to defeat and we attacked them with everything we had--which was not enough today. After having to walk much of the first hill, I met the van at the top and told them to go check on Don. They found Don walking his bike up the mountain and he stated that he was done for the day--he had lost his legs. When they arrived back up at the top of the mountain, Don and I discussed our options, and I decided to ride on and see how far I could make it before the moutains got me. I knew I had one more big climb and then a pretty easy ride into Elkhorn City after the climb. I flew through the curves on the downhill of that first moutain having a pretty good time knowing that it would soon turn to work as the road curved upwards and into the trees. I downshifted and started the climb as a few cars passed by honking their horns. I'm not sure if it was in support or if they wanted me the hell off the road, but I waved back and kept going. As the climb continued, I continued to push myself saying that the mountain was not going to claim me as a victim. It was just then, half way up the mountain, when I got a suprise. As I slowly rode up the asphalt, on the shoulder of the road lay a white puppy with brown spots on it. I figured it was another victim of the cars and the careless owners who do not leash their dogs. As I downshifted again, right next to the carcass---it jumped up and turned to look at me. I was so shocked that I almost fell off my bike. It sat on the shoulder of the rode wagging its tail and not running away. I stopped, laided down my bike, took off my helmet (so I didnt scare it) and crawled towards the puppy. It sat their wagging its tail but kept moving just out of reach. Finally, I saw the bag of puppy chow (opened) on the shoulder. I then realized that this cute puppy had been abandoned on the shoulder of the road. I was pissed. I took some food and tried to feed it but it would not come close enough to eat out of my hand. When I laid the food down, it would eat some of it. At this time, the support van came around the corner and stopped. Sal took some pictures of it as I tried to coax it towards me. I was not successful--it just did not trust me..Why would it after what it had obviously been through. Sal called the fire dept and they refused to help, so they stopped by a local church but no one was around. In the meantime, I realized that there was nothing more I could do--which pissed me off even more, and I hopped backed on my bike. Going on emotion alone, I climbed the rest of the mountain and really do not remember it. I flew down the other side and rode like a madman into Elkhorn City.
It stills breaks my heart to recall that puppy beside the road.
Looking at the map, we have found a shortcut to get to Christianburg, VA that will take another 53 miles of the total mileage of the trip. As I have stated before, the maps that we are using are based on the transamerica route that was established in 1976. There have not been many changes since then but by speaking with locals and looking at the atlas, we have been able to find different routes (newer roads) that get us to the same location but in less time.
Tomorrow, we enter Virginia!!! Our last state
Berea, Ky to Hazard, Ky
Today started with having to say good bye to my kids. This was really tough. Mackenzie was pretty good but Trevor is the sensitive one and he did not want me to leave. He started crying and that got Mack crying which caused me to shed some tears.
When we finally were out the door, I was/am ready to get this section of the trip complete. We had planned on 100 miles today and were able to get in 90 before the traffic on one of the roads was so bad that we decided to call it for safety reasons. The weather finally gave us a break and we rode in the mid 80's today with occasional rain showers. This we did not mind after all the hot weather we have been dealing with over the past few weeks.
In one area that we stopped for a snack, we met a very nice guy (Principal at Jefferson County Middle School) who spoke with us for a long while about our trip, training, and the route we were taking...it seems quite a few TransAmerica bike riders ride by his house. After our visit, it was off to finish today's ride and get our minds back in the game. Rest days are nice, but it can be hard to get motivated again.
New tires are working out well. KLM set me up with some tires that are made for long distance training and today was a good test as we rode on some of the rockiest, broken pavement roads yet on the trip. Once in Hazard, we got a hotel just as the main storm came in and caused a power outage. Thankfully that did not last long and we were able to end the day on a good note (di
Today was a rest day and my family had come in from Tennessee and Michigan to see us. It was great to see my sisters, Mary and Barb, who brought down my kids and my parents came up from Tennessee. We spent the day at the Kentucky State Horse Park and had a great time.
The evening was filled with laughter and deserts that my mom had brought up. The kids played in the pool and we finally fell asleep around 11pm.
Harrodsburg, Ky to Berea, Ky
Very excited for the day. Today, I get to see my kids after they arrive in Berea with two of my sisters. I had to ride 46 miles into town and was going as fast as I could to get there with the excitement building every mile of the way. It has been 31 days since I have seem my kids and I could not wait. Seeing them at the hotel, was a great reunion and we all cried. The rest of the day was spent swimming in the pool and eating. We had a power outage due to the storm and I took the time to change my tires and get the bike ready for our ride on Tuesday.
Tomorrow we plan on going swimming, visiting the Kentucky State Horse Park and whatever else the kids want to do. It is all about them tomorrow:)
Sonora, Ky to Harrodsburg, Ky
Day was pretty uneventful riding wise. We did have the chance to visit and tour the Jim Beam Distillery. It was a pretty interesting story of how the company started, went into 'storage' during prohibition and then came out stronger than ever after prohibition was done. The tour even allows for a taste testing of the different versions they offer. Although I did not participate in this activity, since a bad college party has caused me to no longer enjoy Jim Beam, we did find out that Sal did enjoy the taste and she even ended up buying a bottle 'of the good stuff."
I have been told that I must tell you about the magic water bottle (picture in week 5 pictures). While putting my bike up on the rack for the trip to the Jim Beam Distillery, I set my water bottle down on the back bumper. I forgot about it as we drove off. This bottle stayed on the back bumper as we drove all over the city, into Burger King, and the 15 miles on the freeway to get to the distillery. There were many turns, a few bumps and an irrate motorist we had to deal with but the whole time, that water bottle stayed on our bumper. It is the small things that we are getting amusement out of at this point:)
Once in Harrodsburg, we ran into some trouble with the hotel we were staying at becuase there was a huge soccer tournament in town and it was overrun with little kids. The coaches and parents did much less then expected in regards to keeping their pre-teen kids under control, and it caused a lot of issues for the hotel staff. We were not really happy having to carry all of gear downstairs this morning, after the kids broke the elevator. Thankfully, the hotel gave us 10% off the bill for our troubles.
Owensboro, KY to Sonora, KY
Our 80 mile trip today was pretty uneventful but had some beautiful scenery as we rolled through the countryside of Kentucky. We headed into the pastures and farmlands of mid-kentucky with the hopes of easy hills and cooler temperatures and were only blessed with one of the two wishes....easy hills. The temps continued to rise and in the last mile of the ride, the bank sign said 97 degrees. The news said there was a heat index of 105 again today. This is becoming commonplace and we are taking measures to made sure we do not overheat. We are going through 8-12 waterbottles a day in addition to the fluids we take in at b-fast, lunch and dinner. I must not forget to add that my back tire blew apart today...the tube was fine, but the actual tire split apart which makes for a bumpy ride. I was able to put on an older tire that I had brought along for just such an incident but I do not feel comfortable riding these tires for the rest of the trip. I called my bike store in Rochester, KLM Bike and Fitness, and bought two new tires. They will be sent down with my sister on Sunday, so I can ride without worries to finish the trip.
We are in Elizabethtown, KY tonight since there was no place to stay in Sonora and this is the home of Abe Lincoln's birthplace. After showers, we went and visited the memorial and log cabin of Abe's birth and then went to dinner. I wonder if people will go visit Crittenden Hospital, as "my birthplace," after I am gone. Maybe there will be a plaque on the wall outside the birthing room:)
We are in an area rich in history (i.e. Bardstown--The Stephen Foster Story and the Jim Beam Distillery; some other town--Maker's Mark Distillery). As luck would have it, we actually go through Bardstown tomorrow and will be stopping by the Jim Beam Distillery. Remember, I said it is important to keep fluids in our bodies--we will try again tomorrow:)
We ate at the Texas Outlaw resturant tonight. They are national award winners for the best bbque ribs and pulled pork. The trophies are all over the dining room and many of them are for 1st place. I would have to agree that the ribs would be high on my list as the best. I think what hit the spot thou was the Turtle Cheese cake for dessert:) My daughter, Mackenzie, will be highly aggitated at me for eating ribs without her. She is a true meat eater who would have dived in face first to the rack of ribs.
Looking forward to seeing my sisters, parents and my kids on Sunday. They are coming to visit us in Berea, KY while we take our last full day off before the final 750 miles.
Carbondale, IL to Owensboro, KY
Today, we started the ride at 7am and it was already 84 degrees out. It hit a high of 93 degrees with a heat index of 103---IT was hot. Thankfully, we did not have many hills today and the ride was pleasant. We went off the reservation again and did not use the maps. We found that they are taking us the longest routes with few towns in between and that causes problems for getting food and hotels. We ended up in almost the same place as the maps wanted us too but we were able to cut out 53 backroad miles and one day of riding!
We are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel or as Rod is saying "its probably the train!" but in a few days we will be in Berea, Ky and we have family coming to visit us for the day. That has raised our spirits and I am looking forward to seeing my kids, parents and sisters. After that we make the final push through the rest of Kentucky and all of Virginia.
We did pass over the Ohio River and into Kentucky today and found that there was no "welcome" sign. We both wondered if that was an omen or is Kentucky trying to tell the Illinois people something:)