Sunday, October 28, 2007

This state borders the Atlantic

Juliette and I finally made it to Virginia after two weeks in Kentucky. While this isn't the state we'll finish in, it does border water and makes us feel like we might actually finish this trip. I was estimating 10-12 weeks. Today is the last day of week 12 and we have at least a week left. We're looking into alternate routes to shave some time. We also hit the 4000 miles mark in Council, VA (good luck finding it on a map), which means we should only have 200 left in our 4200 miles trip. HA! It'll be closer to 4600-4800.

Fall is officially here. Today was pretty cold all day and we're seeing a lot of trees without leaves. There's even a freeze warning tonight, the first of the year, but luckily we're being hosted by Dr. Thad. He's a bit of a cyclist himself and he, along with his wife Sara and son, host TranAm cyclists. Sara made us breakfast for dinner, we're doing laundry now, and a hot shower awaits us before we sleep in a real bed. It's wonderful. We first heard about Thad from the Eco Patriots (google them), this group we met in Farmington, and then again from a bike journal in Kentucky. There's a lot of word of mouth lodging on this route that's not on the maps. It's really pretty cool.

The last few days have been back breaking. We had the toughest climb of the trip a couple days ago on RT 611 in Kentucky. My back thinks it was an 8-10% grade for almost 2 miles, but it could be wrong. I stood for over a mile going 3-4mph. It hurt, but was find of fun at the same time. We've had a few of these Rockies meets Ozarks type climbs and all of them reward us with a rad descent. For those of you in Eugene, think a Briggs or McBeth style descent, but 2-5 miles long... pretty sweet.

According to Thad we only have a day left in the hills before things flatten out. We'll probably take one more rest day after tomorrow and then make our way to Nags Head. After 12 weeks it's hard to believe we're almost done.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Ale-8-one, pronounced "A late one"

Ale-8-one is a Kentucky made soda that's just delicious. It's a ginger ale with a little fruit flavor added. It's not too sweet, has no caffeine, and always hits the spot.

I mention this wonderful soda because it could be the highlight of Kentucky. At first it seemed Kentucky had the wind of Kans-Ass, the humidity of Misery, and the hills of Ill-Annoyed. Now with the weather cooling and a whole lot of rain, including one tornado warning, it's just the wind and hills, no more reminder of Misery.

The tornado warning at Rough River Dam State Park had us a little nervous. A tent didn't seem to be the best shelter from that kind of storm. When we set up camp we knew some storms were rolling in. The woman at the gate even told us that the laundry room in the bath building was a storm shelter and if things got really bad we could head to the near by lodge. We set up camp, made dinner, and went to bed. We hear the storm roll in so we zip the rain fly up nice and tight and I doze off to sleep. Juliette wakes me up asking, "What's that?" "Sounds like an air raid siren," I answered. Then we hear something over a loud speaker, but can only make out the word 'tornado'. We got a little nervous, put everything that was not too important in the tent, and took everything that was important to the laundry building. We stayed there a while then got a ride to the lodge. After things calmed down we got a ride back to the camp ground. At this point it was about 11pm (way past our bedtime) and still raining pretty hard, so we just stayed in the laundry room on the dirty concrete floor. Neither of us slept too well.

The next day we headed to Lincoln's Birth Place State Park. It seems that things are harder to find here in Kentucky. This goes for hotels, camping, restaurants, service stations, and even our own stuff. We tried to find this Nancy Lincoln Log Cabin Inn near the park. We rode up and down the highway and even called to ask for directions. "You went to far, come on back north and take a right after the green dumpster, go through the gate, and come to the house", we were told. We never found said green dumpster and finally snuck under a gate to set up our tent in a day use picnic area. It was free and had a bathroom, but we (at least me) slept really bad because of nasty friend chicken at Lincoln's Jamboree.

Speaking of Lincoln's Jamboree.... that place was comically bad. We saw they closed for dinner at 7pm, right about when we got there. We went in and asked if they were still serving and the young woman told us, "Yeah, just grab a tray." We got some fried chicken, two veggies, a slice of pie, and a soda all for $5. It was a rip off. The food was so bad and it gave me the worst heartburn I've ever had. We then asked the little old lady behind the counter if she could fill some water bottles. She said impatiently, "Well I don't even know what we'd charge for that, let me ask". She went to the kitchen to ask another little old lady how much it'd cost to fill the bottles. Old Lady One waved me over to show Old Lady Two the bottles. "Oh, I don't know... 25 cents". I chuckled a little in disbelief. We went back to the drink fountain and Old Lady One said even more impatiently, "Can you take the lids off, we're all just trying to get home." She filled them and charged us a quarter for each bottle. A rip off for water yes, but more than worth it for the entertainment value of the whole interaction.

We finally found a cool town in Kentucky, Berea. This wonderful little town is home to Berea College, a college for the folks of the near by mountains. It was one of the first inter-racial schools in the area. We found a real coffee shop and got the first real cup of coffee in a week. I needed it.

On the bright side of things, the leaves are changing, providing us with some of the most beautiful views of the trip. The hills here are a little gentler than we've seen in a while and the motorists are very polite. Overall it's a pretty cool state to ride through, it's taking us forever to get through it. The three sick days mentioned in the last blog entry turned into four because of a wicked case of the trots (it hasn't gone away, just look at all the "trotting along" comments in Juliette's blog) that's still hindering us a little. The weather isn't helping either. It rained all yesterday, all last night, and all this morning. Everything is wet and I lost my warm hat with the good brim. Despite all that, the days we do ride, we ride pretty far.

Monday, October 15, 2007

12 miles and 3 days into Kentucky

Our plan to clear the rest of Illinois (Ill-annoyed) in a day didn't happen. Thursday we got on our bikes after a nice rest day in Carbondale and had very little energy. Juliette was worried she was getting sick because her throat was sore. We spent over 6 hours pedaling that day and only made it 68 miles to Golconda State Park.

After a freaked out night of sleep (not on my part, but I still lost some sleep over it, ask Juliette for the details) we set out Friday for a big day to Kentucky. We rode even slower and took really long breaks throughout the whole day. We got to the end of the road in Illinois and got some pie and coffee before taking the ferry over the Ohio River into Kentucky. In Kentucky we only made it 12 miles to Marion. We found a nice little B&B that offered biker discounts and kept us out of the city park on a Friday night. We've found that local teens in these smaller towns can get really bored on the weekends, so we try to stay out of the city parks.

The next morning Juliette's throat was really bothering her; she could barely eat breakfast. We suspected strep throat and figured a doctor visit was in order. We asked the kind folks and the B&B if they had any suggestions about finding a doctor on a Saturday. He said the main doctor in town had a daughter getting married that day and that the other two doctors in town were likely attending. What are the odds? We debated an ER visit and finally called a pharmacist in town for some advice. He told us of a doctor in town who was open until noon on Saturdays, but that it being 11:20, we needed to hurry. Less than an hour later we had a diagnosis for strep and a prescription to make it better. Gotta love small town doctors!

We stayed another night and took another sick day in Marion. My folks offered to treat us for a third night just to be safe, so we spent Sunday night here too. This morning at breakfast Mrs. Meyers (co-proprietor of Meyer's Bed and Breakfast) asked me, "Is you wife feeling any better today?" Yikes, I thought, "She's my friend and she's feeling much better." About an hour after breakfast Mr. Meyer's (kind soul and the other half of Meyer's B&B) came by to check up on Juliette. He offered us a fourth night on the house just to be safe.

That leaves us here, on Monday, still in Marion, KY at the library. The dude next to me has the most awesomely bad hair I have seen in a long time. He's an older, tanned gentleman with bleach blond hair. His sides are totally shaved, the top flat and nicely spiked with, you guessed it... a long flowing mullet well past his shoulders. It's pretty sweet. Some how in all this I've managed to dodge strep throat myself. It could be because I've had it a good 3-4 times in my life and just built up an immunity, or dumb luck. Either way I'm psyched.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Is it "Miz-or-ee" or "Miz-er-a"?

With 80-90 degree highs, the steepest hills in on the route, and the least friendly motorists we've encountered, turns out it's actually pronunced "Misery". Misssouri has been called a self propelled rollercoaster and it's painfully true. In a quarter mile we would go from our low gears to high gears and back, or 40mph to 3, back to 40. It'd probably be fun with nice weather and a lighter bike.

The hills were pretty exciting at first because we had just spent a week in flat Kansas. After grunting up 15% grades for a week we missed flat ground and friendly people. I was expecting Kansas to be my least favorite place on the route, but in hindsight the wind wasn't that bad and the people were so nice it made the state pretty enjoyable.

We were both pretty excited our last day in Missouri. We just wanted to leave the state, but also to cross the Mississippi River. We were expecting a great milestone, but instead we just feared for our life. The bridge was narrow and the traffic was heavy. We held up a nice line of cars as we climbed slowly (slow, but as fast as we could go) over the bridge. That part was kind of fun.

We won't be in Illinois for too long. We're taking a rest day in Carbondale today and we hope to clear the rest of the state tomorrow. Kentucky will be the next state and we hear there's a lot of dogs. They do make some tasty burbon there, so it shouldn't be too bad.