Page 1, Introduction
Page 2, Colorado, Nebraska and Kansas
Page 3, Missouri, Illinois and Kentucky
Page 4, Virginia
Sunday, June 1
Distance: 79.4 miles
Riding time: 6 hours, 39 minutes
Average speed: 11.9 mph
Maximum speed: 31.8 mph
Today we entered Missouri and made good progress but didn't travel as far as we wanted to go. We wanted to reach Harry Truman State Park, which is next to a gigantic reservoir. Fatigue and a moderate headwind that lasted all day kept us from getting there.
As we traveled east we began to see more trees. Some entire hills are covered with trees; we didn't see that further west. We avoided most of the steep hills today by taking highway 7. It's divided and has 4 lanes, entry/exit ramps, and a 70 mph speed limit. To support that speed the road was built with milder grades than other roads nearby. We pedalled along in the shoulder, exiting only for lunch and bathroom breaks. In the town of Clinton highway 7 changes back to a normal state road, so we stopped at the Golden Corral there for dinner.
At dinner we knew that we didn't have time to reach the state park - in fact, it was almost sunset. We asked the staff and some customers if they knew of a place to camp down the road, but no one knew of a place. We biked down the road a couple miles before turning off at St. Paul's Episcopal Church. We set up our tent behind the back wall of the church. There are no windows on this wall and we are not easily seen from the road. I prefer to get permission before camping on private land, but we didn't have many choices tonight. Churches are a good alternative any night except Saturday night. Another alternative that we've thought of, but haven't used, is cemetaries. We've seen many of them out here. The grass is always well-maintained and they are often a mile from the nearest small town. We saw a cemetary tonight but decided that it was too close to Clinton, a town of 10,000 people (large compared to most towns out here.)
One of many cemetaries outside of small midwest towns.
Monday, June 2
Distance: 69.3 miles
Riding time: 5 hours, 59 minutes
Average speed: 11.5 mph
Maximum speed: 31.8 mph
This morning it was raining. It has rained on other mornings, but has always stopped by the time we needed to pack up the tent. Today it didn't stop. We slept in for an extra hour hoping that the rain would go away, then gave up and packed up. Riding in the rain was tricky - the roads were slick and my vision was poor. Water and fog on my sunglasses makes it difficult to see. We wore rain jackets and rain pants but somehow all of our clothing was drenched by mid-day.
We crossed Harry Truman reservoir just before lunch. We could see that it's a pretty area despite the rain. In Warsaw, a town by the reservoir, we were looking for a place to eat lunch when a restaurant/bar owner called out to us, telling us that we could park our bike inside. The restaurant, Gasoline Alley, was a good place for us to eat. The owner took special interest in us because he used to be a professional mountian biker, and then guided mountain bike tours for a while. We had planned to continue on highway 7 to Camdenton, but the restaurant staff told us that this section of highway 7 has steep hills, tight turns, no shoulders, and is dangerous on a good day, never mind a rainy day. We opted for the longer but safer route of highways 65 and 54. Because it was still raining the owner offered to let us spend the night at his home. We reluctantly declined since we had traveled only 27 miles.
The rain continued until about 4 p.m. We rode hard, taking breaks only to check the rear wheel - something felt wrong with it when we rolled at high speed. A little past 7 p.m. we found the problem when the rear tire blew out. It ripped along the edge of the rim. It probably bulged out before it finally blew out, creating the shaking that we noticed at high speed. I'm glad that we packed a spare! We replaced the tire and biked into town for dinner, but didn't get dinner because the cafes in this town (Mack's Creek) close at 2 p.m.
We biked up the road and found a resident who let us camp on her property. We're rationing our dinner tonight - a couple apples, some Newton bars, a couple bagels, and some Power Bars. We've had a rough riding day, but we're happy that we made substantial progress despite the rain.
We don't know how this town got its name, but some people think that I should live here.
A branch of Truman Reservoir
Our bicycle parked inside Gasoline Alley, with our gear hung up to dry.
Tuesday, June 3
Distance: 74.5 miles
Riding time: 6 hours, 3 minutes
Average speed: 12.3 mph
Maximum speed: 45 mph
Today we had amazing good fortune. We accomplished a lot both on and off the bike, and we are well set up for the rest of the week.
This morning we packed up camp in a cold, wet mist. We put on our rain gear for warmth even through it was still wet and sticky from riding in the rain yesterday. We ate what food we had left for breakfast and supplemented it with a single, shared sandwich that we bought at a gas station down the road. We didn't buy more because the food was so overpriced. Instead we continued down highway 54 to Camdenton, about 10 miles away.
As we rolled through Camdenton looking for a grocery store we saw a woman with a digital camera taking our photograph. "Can I stop you?" she asked. She is a reporter for the local newspaper, the Lake Sun. Her editor saw us riding by and told her to rush out and interview us. I guess that we're an unusual sight here. We talked with her for 15 or 20 minutes. It's nice to have an opportunity to talk about bicycle touring and tandem riding, since we enjoy both.
At the Camdenton grocery store we discovered the bakery sale cart. It had baked goods beyond their "sell by" dates at greatly reduced prices. We bought a pumpkin pie, a cherry pie, and 2 loaves of bread along with other food from the store. Pies make good lunch entrees when you're on a bike tour and haven't eaten much at your last 2 meals.
After lunch we biked on to Osage Beach, the most touristy area of Lake of the Ozarks. There are lush golf courses, fancy miniature golf courses, go-kart tracks, spas, hotels, marinas, every kind of restaurant and more. In this area the shoulder on 54 disappears and traffic gets bad. Most drivers made no attempt to give us extra room while passing. I spotted a bicycle shop at Osage Beach and stopped there for the unlikely chance that it would have a suitable spare tire for us - we need a new spare in case we destroy another tire. The store didn't have a good tire for us, but the owner, Tim, thought to call up a customer that uses the same tires as us - Continental Top Touring 2000, 700x32c. Sure enough, that customer (Todd) had a spare, lightly used tire for us. He owns a Burger King just up the street from the bike shop, so we met him there. Todd drove me over to his house to get the tire while Kathy ran an errand and made phone calls. He gave us the tire and would not accept payment. He even gave us free soft drinks. Actually, he did ask for payment - that we send e-mail to him after our trip, to let him know how it went, and that we take care of other desperate people in situations like ours. We will gladly do both.
After Osage Beach we planned to take highway 42 east to Vienna, but both Tim and Todd warned us against it. The lanes are too narrow, the turns too tight, the hills too steep. Since any other route would have added many miles to our trip, we decided to take 42 anyway, and I'm glad that we did. True, there are no shoulders, no passing zones, steep hills, curves, and marginal lines of sight. But what fun it was to ride! It's like a self-propelled roller coaster ride with super-fast descents and lots of twisting turns. We rode as close to the right edge of the road as we could and pedalled like crazy. We were unusually fast, gaining speed on downhills and maintaining much of that speed on uphills. The scenery on 42 was wonderful, with wooded hills, small pastures with horses and cows, and nice houses with great lawns. Everyone out here, including those living in trailers, has a larger, greener lawn than nearly anyone back home in Fort Collins.
At sunset we reached Vienna with no idea where to camp - our maps didn't show any campgrounds or public lands in the area. We were in luck - just outside of town is a hotel that recently added a campground. We washed our laundry and took our first showers in 4 days. We're happy campers tonight.
Hills and forest on highway 42.
Wednesday, June 4
Distance: 90.1 miles
Riding time: 6 hours, 44 minutes
Average speed: 13.3 mph
Maximum speed: 42 mph
Today we rode from Vienna to Leadwood following highways 63, 68, and 8. None of these highways are marked as scenic routes on our maps, but they are scenic. Deciduous forest covers all the hills, the road rolls up and down, and occaisional farm houses dot the road. Many of the farmhouses are well-maintained Victorian-style houses. Not only is the land out here pretty, it is also inexpensive. We saw a "For Sale by Owner" sign for a 2-bedroom house on an 83-acre wooded property with national forest access. It has 2 ponds and is minutes away from a river and a golf course. Price: $179,000. A man we met at our campground this morning said that undeveloped land in this area sells for $800 to $1000 per acre.
Views along the road.
We made efficient use of our time today, pausing only in St. James for lunch at a local diner and at Steelville to buy groceries. Then we biked through a section of Mark Twain National Forest. By the time we reached Potosi on the other side of the forest we had biked more than enough miles for the day (76 miles,) and we just needed to find a place to camp. After searching for the next 14 miles we gave up and asked a homeowner where we might camp. The homeowner, Ken, immediately offered us his lawn. Several minutes later his wife Mary Ann offered for us to shower at their house and join them for a catfish dinner. We happily accepted.
We learned during dinner that the surrounding area was once all the property of a lead mining company. Missouri produces the majority of United States lead. Unfortunately, the mining has caused lead contamination throughout the area. Limestone chat (tiny stone fragments) is a byproduct of lead mining that has been used locally for roadways, walking paths, flower beds, playgrounds and other uses for many years. The chat still had traces of lead, so the contamination is widespread and now so are the lawsuits against mining companies. We learned about Ken's career, 1st in the air force, then in a mental hospital (he assisted with electroshock therapy and such,) then as a 5th grade school teacher, and then as a pile driver operator. It's an interesting story. We also learned that Ken and Mary Ann had only one child, a daughter who died from cancer 2 months ago at the age of 42. She left behind her husband and two children. Mary Ann in particular had trouble talking about this. We didn't know what to say. They are a very kind couple.
A fancy house in St. James.
Shopping for groceries. We bought groceries at least once every 2 days.
Dinner with Ken and Mary Ann.
Thursday, June 5
Distance: 76.4 miles
Riding time: 5 hours, 56 minutes
Average speed: 12.8 mph
Maximum speed: 42 mph
We left a note on Ken and Mary Ann's door this morning to thank them for hosting us, then began riding at about 10 a.m. We had perfect biking weather, not too hot or too cold. The road was hilly again and our legs were tired from our long ride yesterday.
We ate our lunch in St. Genevieve, the oldest white settlement west of the Mississippi River. It was settled by French colonists perhaps as early as 1735. It has many historic French buildings, including a beautiful church. We ate lunch at "The Old Brick House" which is the oldest brick building west of the Mississippi. The original settlement focused on extracting salt from a salty stream. Salt was an important commodity back then because it was used to preserve meat and animal hides.
The Old Brick House. Over time it's been used as a home, hotel, post office and restaurant.
The Church of St. Genevieve was founded in 1759. Several former church officials are buried in the floor of the church, and all the inscriptions are written in French.
After lunch we biked to the Mississippi River and crossed a bridge into Chester, Illinois. This is the first time I've seen the Mississippi up close, rather than from an airplane. We rode over some steep hills then turned south on highway 3, a fairly flat road that follows the river.
We reached our target milage right at sunset. I stopped at a home to ask where we might camp and the owner, Bob, met us in the front yard. His wife Betty had seen us on the road and sent Bob out to check on us. They invited us to camp in their backyard, eat homemade pizza with them, and use their shower. We could hardly believe our good fortune. We had very little food with us and would have eaten a meager dinner if Betty hadn't offered us pizza. Kathy had been yearning for pizza this afternoon. Bob and Betty used to live in Chicago, were Bob was a fireman. They moved to southern Illinois to retire 4 years ago. With hills, national forest (Shawnee,) rivers, lakes, and a college town (Carbondale) nearby, this does seem like a good place to retire.
A view of the Mississippi from a bridge.
A view of the Mississippi from Illinois.
Friday, June 6
Distance: 85.1 miles
Riding time: 7 hours, 1 minute
Average speed: 12.1 mph
Maximum speed: 41.9 mph
We crossed the southern tip of Illinois today while avoiding most of the large hills. The tip of Illinois contains a small mountain range, the only U.S. mountain range that runs east-west instead of north-south. We began by taking highway 3 south. It is flat because it follows the Mississippi and is designated "The Great River Road" but we could rarely see the river from the road. We then took 146 east. 146 has hills, but they are smaller than those farther north. We could see cliff faces on the mountains early in the day.
Rain was predicted for today but it never really happened. A brief sprinkle at 3 p.m. didn't make the roads wet enough to bother us. The temperature was great for biking.
We've been chased by a lot of dogs on this trip, today included. Most lose interest before they reach us. Today we got a slightly different scare when we were chased by a skunk. We saw a skunk family as we were biking up a hill - a mother and two babies. We tried to keep them calm by riding along the opposite edge of the road, but at some point the mother skunk decided that we were a threat and came running after us. We were barely able to outrun her while climbing the hill. She quit chasing after about 40 feet.
When we entered Golconda at the end of the day and asked where we might camp, a church pastor and his friend led us to a little-known state park called Rauchfuss Hill. The gravel drive that leads to it from 146 is easy to miss, but the park area is large, well-maintained, and nearly vacant this Friday night. Our campsite overlooks the Ohio river. We met another bike tourist here - the first we've met on this trip. Josh started in Iowa about 1 week ago and I presume that he'll ride all the way to Georgia, where he lives. Josh looks like he's in his early-to-mid twenties. We didn't have much time to chat since it was getting dark.
Eating breakfast in Bob and Betty's backyard.
Flat farmland along the "Great River Road." The mountain range is north of us on the right side of the picture.
Wetlands near the Ohio river. The roadway is elevated to keep it dry.
Saturday, June 7
Distance: 87.5 miles
Riding time: 6 hours, 34 minutes
Average speed: 13.3 mph
Maximum speed: 37.2 mph
We got a late start this morning, beginning our ride at around 10:45 a.m. It was nice to look out over the Ohio River from our campsite, but a morning fog clouded our view. Josh got a headstart on us this morning, but we soon caught up with him and passed him while climbing a hill. I think that Kathy and I travel at least as fast as the average bike tourist and probably faster.
Our 1st destination was the town of Cave-in-Rock on the Ohio River. A free ferry there carries vehicles across the river to Kentucky. There happens to be a major Harley-Davidson rally in Cave-in-Rock this weekend, so for the 1st 24 miles of our ride today we got to listen to the thunder of Harley motorcycles passing us as they cruised back and forth on highway 146. Virtually none of the motorcyclists wore helmets, which might be why 2 ambulances were on 146 today. When we got on the ferry we got a good look at some of the Harleys. They look great, I just hate the noise that they make. We received a lot of compliments on our tandem bicycle.
We found western Kentucky to be hilly, but not as difficult as Missouri. There were several relatively flat stretches that let us make quick progress. This area has a large Amish community. A man who waved to us from his farm was riding a plow pulled by 2 horses. An Amish couple on the road passed us in their horse-drawn carriage. I took a picture of them, though not a very good picture because they passed us so quickly. When we took a break for lunch at a McDonald's in Marion I learned from the staff that Amish usually refuse to let people photograph them.
Looking down on the Ohio River from our campsite in the morning.
Waiting in line to ride the ferry into Kentucky.
Entering Kentucky; an Amish couple passes us on the road.
I think that caffine is a performance-enhancing drug for me. Caffine is well-known to increase muscle performance, but taking advantage of it requires large doses right before competition, and the effect wears off if it is used too often. But I've always been sensitive to caffine - I avoid it because it keeps me awake at night. At lunch today I drank 3 large cups of Dr. Pepper because I was so thirsty. After lunch I couldn't believe how much better I felt. I'd been sluggish all morning but after lunch I pedalled hard and fast for hours, helping our progress greatly. This is the 3rd time that I've noticed this effect during our trip. It might have just been a change in the wind or a cooler afternoon that helped us speed up, but I think that it was the caffine.
We reached Madisonville after 7 p.m. today and did some quick grocery shopping before getting on the bike again to look for a place to camp. Our maps didn't show any campgrounds and the grocery store staff couldn't think of any. We were beginning to worry when we noticed a billboard for Horseshoe Acres, a restaurant/campground 6 miles down the road. We arrived right at dark and gladly paid $15 to set up our tent. The restaurant will make breakfast convenient tomorrow. We're glad that today is Saturday since this place is open only Thursday through Sunday.
Sunday, June 8
Distance: 86.6 miles
Riding time: 6 hours, 36 minutes
Average speed: 13.1 mph
Maximum speed: 40.5 mph
Today we rode with an important goal: to reach the Headquarters campground of Mammoth Cave National Park tonight. We succeeded! We adopted this goal while eating breakfast at the Horseshoe Acres restaurant. While talking with the owner we noticed that Mammoth Cave might be within our reach.
Because we took time for showers and a breakfast of pancakes and hash browns, we didn't start riding until 10:30 a.m. As we rode away from the restaurant it began to rain, but the rain quickly stopped. The sky threatened to rain until late afternoon when the the clouds cleared. It never rained much on us, but the rain did fall on some people. Several times today we encountered wet streets where rain must have recently fell. A camper here at Mammoth Cave says that the park got a good rain this afternoon. We must have always been at the right place at the right time.
For the first time for both of us, we saw a wild turkey. It glided across the road, landed on the left side and ran into the woods. Today we saw many white-tail deer, which we've also seen on other days. Most of the deer in Colorado are mule deer, so I like the opportunity to see white-tail. We saw many nice homes today, all with beautiful lawns of Kentucky bluegrass. I'm sure that lawn watering is unnecessary here in Kentucky. We also saw many Baptist churches. Several were in huge, beautiful brick buildings with towering steeples. They looked expensive. I guess that the Baptist church gets a lot of support in Kentucky.
We took only one break today, to eat a quick lunch at Wendy's, so we entered the park before 8 p.m. Although this park normally has air pollution problems that limit visibility, the air was clear tonight and we could see for many miles from an overlook. That might be because of the cool weather and the rain here this afternoon. The roads in the park are perfect for biking - good surface, little traffic (no commercial traffic,) and forested hills with wildlife on both sides. The center of the park, where we are camped, has a surprising number of services. In addition to a visitors center and campground there is a nice hotel with a restaurant, a grocery/gas station, a post office and a laundromat. This area feels more like a resort than a national park.
We've already reserved a cave tour for 10 a.m. tomorrow. Tomorrow will be a rest day for us - we'll bicycle little or not at all.
An overlook in Mammoth Cave National Park.
The road in Mammoth Cave National Park. No commercial traffic is allowed here.
Monday, June 9
Distance: 11.9 miles
Riding time: 55 minutes
Average speed: 12.9 mph
Maximum speed: 36.1 mph
We took a break from bicycling to explore Mammoth Cave National Park and to give our bodies a rest. In the morning we took a 2-hour "Frozen Niagra" tour of the cave that included some rock formations - stalagtites, columns and such. Because Mammoth Cave is a relatively dry cave, it has very few of the rock formations typically found in caves. Instead it has large rooms and long passageways. The dryness is what has let Mammoth Cave grow to be the longest known cave on earth. With over 350 miles of surveyed passageways, it is more than 3 times longer than the next longest known cave. Wet caves with many growing rock formations eventually close off their own passageways. After our cave tour we took a short hike through the forest. We didn't do anything strenuous because we wanted to rest.
In the afternoon we did laundry and at 5:40 p.m. we biked away from the campground. We left the park tonight so that we could eat dinner at a normal restaurant. We ate in Cave City then continued east. Unfortunately, the many private campgrounds near Cave City are all on the west side. We started asking property owners if there was land nearby where we could camp. The 1st and 2nd owners seemed uncomfortable helping us and didn't name any areas where we thought we could camp. The 3rd property owner that we talked to owns a large farm and gladly invited us to camp in his backyard. However, he's old and is getting senile, which made our conversation with him awkward. For instance, he thought that Colorado was right next to California and that Virginia was north of Kentucky, right beside New York. He was concerned that we didn't have a heat source to keep us warm in our tent even though it's around 80 degrees this evening and we told him that we had very warm sleeping bags. He said a number of other things that we didn't really understand, but eventually he wished us good night and went back indoors. We briefly met his wife, who seems a little sharper. I hope that she's able to take care of him.
A dry passageway in Mammoth Cave. Visitors are walking along a path in the lower right corner.
Rock formations in Mammoth Cave.
Tuesday, June 10
Distance: 87.3 miles
Riding time: 7 hours, 11 minutes
Average speed: 12.1 mph
Maximum speed: 41.3 mph
We got the earliest start of our trip this morning at 8:10 a.m. The early start was important because we were on the far east edge of the central time zone, and sunrise was early. In fact, tonight we are camping in the eastern time zone. Our friendly host came out to talk to us again before we left. He was a little easier to understand this morning. He's 75 years old and worked as a machinist for General Electric until 1992. He told us that we were welcome to stay on his property again if we passed through the area again and he and his wife were "still around."
We continued east on 70, then cut south to highway 80 just west of Edmonton. We traveled east on 80 for the rest of the day. 80 parallels the Cumberland Parkway between Edmonton and Somerset. The parkway is a high speed toll road that bicycles are not permitted on. It is much more direct and has less steep hills than 80. Every now and then we got glimpses of the parkway and were jealous of the flat road. That said, highway 80 was still a nice ride. It had a great surface and very little traffic. There aren't any wild lands visible from the road in this part of Kentucky, and there are very few vast farms. Most of the highway property is small towns, small farms, or low density residential. We never felt isolated today. I miss seeing wild land, like the forest in Mammoth Cave National Park, but the homes and yards are fun to look at. Most towns and neighborhoods around here are fun to look at. We haven't seen much "rural poverty" in Kentucky; just about everyone can afford a decent home with an attractive yard.
There was a rainstorm here today, but it didn't affect us. The rain started while we were eating a late lunch in a grocery store in Columbia. I had parked our bike under an awning, so it didn't get wet. By the time we had finished lunch, made some phone calls, and repacked our panniers the rain had stopped and the roads were beginning to dry. The timing of the rain was perfect.
We weren't sure where to camp tonight since we felt that the nearest campground, Pulaski County Park, was out of reach. At sunset we asked a homeowner where we might camp, and she told us that the park was only 5 miles up the road. We decided to go for it even through it was getting dark. As it turned out, the park was 12 miles up the road. We arrived well after dark, but we're happy to be in such a nice park. It's large, as large as many state parks, and it includes a branch of Cumberland Lake, a massive Kentucky lake created by the Corps of Engineers. There are showers here for us to use in the morning.
Nice houses in Kentucky. White columns seem popular regardless of the age or price of the house.
Wednesday, June 11
Distance by bicycle: 23.4 miles
Distance by truck: 14 miles
Riding time: 3 hours, 25 minutes
Average speed: 6.8 mph
Maximum speed: 24.9 mph
It feels like today is the day that our good luck ran out. We made little progress today due to rain, a bad road, and a tire blowout. We hope that tomorrow is better.
The morning went well enough. After showering and eating breakfast I cut several miles from our journey by getting a boat owner to ferry us across a narrow branch of Cumberland Lake. This let us continue traveling east rather than having to backtrack west a few miles just to get back out to the highway.
A heavy thunderstorm began as soon as we began riding. It rained for the rest of the day, sometimes lightly but often heavily. We decided to ride highway 80 again even though it is much like a limited-access highway in this area. We rode it because it is much less hilly than the alternatives. Unfortunately, it has terrible shoulders. Poor visibility and wet roads made it too dangerous for us to ride in a vehicle lane, so we spent hours walking our bike on the bad shoulder. In the afternoon visibility improved for a while so we rode some, but then our rear tire blew out while we were descending a hill. With wet brakes I couldn't immediately stop. The tire and tube came partially off the rim, tangling with the brakes and locking up the rear wheel. The rim skidded along the ground until we stopped, grinding its edges and cutting long slits in the tire. The result was a mess. In a downpour I used a metal fingernail file to smooth out sharp burrs on the ground-up rim, then replaced the tube and tire. I must have worked at this for an hour. Towards the end we were both cold and tired and it was nearly 6 p.m. A couple guys with a truck offered to take us to London, 14 miles away. After some hesitation we accepted. I had hoped to finish this trip without the help of trucks.
In London we got a relatively cheap motel room ($38 tax included) because a hotel owner saw us on the road and offered us his best price. We ate dinner at a restaurant and now we're trying to recover from a hard day. I realize now that even our windiest days have been far better than riding in a thunderstorm. Our biggest concern now is that our wheel rim might be damaged enough that it will cause new tire problems later in our trip.
Taking a short-cut across Cumberland Lake.
The storm gathering on the left hit us as soon as we finished crossing Cumberland Lake.
Thursday, June 12
Distance: 88.6 miles
Riding time: 7 hours, 10 minutes
Average speed: 12.3 mph
Maximum speed: 42.4 mph
After a hard day yesterday when everything seemed to go wrong, we are happy to have had a good day today with several things going well. To begin, we got a good complimentary breakfast at our hotel - waffles, cereal, bagels, fruit, juice and danishes. It started raining as soon as we began riding, but we didn't bother putting on our rain gear. Our clothing was already wet from yesterday (nothing dried overnight in the high humidity) and the rain gear doesn't seem to keep us dry anyway. We stopped at the Kentucky State Police Office in London to ask if we could ride on the Daniel Boone Parkway, and they surprised us by saying yes. This had a huge positive impact on our ride today. This part of Kentucky is very hilly but the Daniel Boone Parkway cuts through the hills and has moderate grades. The road surface is mostly excellent and the road is designated a scenic highway because it goes through Daniel Boone Natinal Forest. It used to be a toll road, but tolls ended May 31. We saw one of the toll booths being disassembled.
The rain stopped around noon and the rest of the day had good weather. In places where the road cut through the hills we could see that the hills are made of shale rather than the limestone that we saw closer to Mammoth Cave. We've been told that the shale is full of coal seams and that coal mining is a major industry in eastern Kentucky. The scenery is great here because the hills are so large. We're in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains.
While climbing one hill on the parkway we heard a very loud "Boom!" It sounded like a bomb had exploded a half mile up the road. A few moments later we saw an 18-wheeler appear from behind a curve in the road as it came down the hill. It had blown out a tire and tire fragments were still coming off from it and rolling down the road. I'm glad that we weren't close by when the tire blew - the blast might have knocked us over.
The Daniel Boone Parkway. The road cut through the hills, making our ride easier.
We must have had a good breakfast because we didn't take a break to eat until we reached Hazard at about 4 p.m. We ordered buffet meals at the Ponderosa and ate a lot. I ate 4 fully loaded plates of food. While we were there we called Tandem Cycle Works and aked them to ship 2 spare tires to our friends Paula and Craig in Christiansburg. We should be in Christiansburg about 3 days from now.
After our meal we continued riding until sunset. When the weather is dry we figure that we should ride as far as we can. We stopped just short of Whitesburg. When we asked people at a gas station where we might camp, one of the customers, Greg, offered us his house. We had to backtrack a couple miles to get there, but we got showers and we got to sleep on a bed in a guestroom. Greg is a coal mine inspector. His girlfriend, Logena, was visiting him tonight so we talked with the two of them for a while. They even shared some pizza with us. Logena loves horseback riding and owns 3 horses. Horses seem like a good way to get around in these hills.
Friday, June 13
Distance: 85.0 miles
Riding time: 7 hours, 14 minutes
Average speed: 11.7 mph
Maximum speed: 39.4 mph
Getting started was easy this morning since we didn't need to pack up our tent. We talked with Greg for a while before leaving - he took today off from work. Greg's family has lived in this town for the last 150 years and Greg's last name is also the name of the town.
Kathy and Greg in front of Greg's house.
Like yesterday, rain began to fall as soon as we started riding, but it eventually stopped and never stopped our progress. Our ride was relatively quick until after lunch when we crossed through Breaks Interstate Park into Virginia. The road is steep and winding with switchbacks and other tight turns - definitely the most difficult climb that we've encountered on this trip so far. We walked the bike up the steepest sections, and even walking was difficult. I understand now why early Virginia colonists did not enter Kentucky until the discovery of Cumberland Gap in southwest Virginia. Without a natural passageway the Appalachian Mountains would have been virtually impassable. The views in the park were great. Steep, tall hills with large rock faces drop down to a turbulent river.
There were other views in the park that we did not like - hillsides covered with kudzu. Kudzu is a non-native vine that was imported from Japan to control erosion along river banks. It has spread uncontrollably over the southeast U.S., and we saw a lot of it yesterday and today. We saw it growing over everything: bushes, trees, fences, utility poles, power lines and even cars that had been left parked too long. I hope that someone figures out how to stop the spread of this weed.
We biked until nearly dark tonight because we are hoping to reach Christiansburg by Sunday afternoon - that would give us 1 & 1/2 days to visit our friends there. Unfortunately, there are no campgrounds and no public land near here (Marvin, Virginia) so I asked some homeowners if they knew a place where we could camp tonight. At first they treated us with a little suspiscion, saying "no, there's no public land or campground anywhere around," and "So what are you asking, exactly?" But after a few minutes they told us that we were welcome to camp in their yard, which is quite large. Their names are Wayne and Nancy. We told Nancy that we had all the food and supplies that we needed, but about 10 minutes later she came out to our tent with sandwiches, potato chips, soft drinks and candy bars for us. That was very kind of her, and with all the food that we have we probably won't need to stop for groceries tomorrow.
Many people have been generous to us on this trip, offering us campsites, food and more. It's been wonderful, but I wish that we weren't so dependent on the generosity of others. The eastern U.S. simply has very little public land or private campgrounds, and our aggressive schedule makes it difficult for us to spend our nights at state parks. Fortunately, much of our riding in Virginia will be along the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive, where we can spend our nights at National Park Service campgrounds.
Kudzu growing beside the road. This kudzu patch is minor compared to some other hillsides that we saw.
Breaks Interstate Park in Kentucky.
Breaks Interstate Park in Virginia.
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