Sunday, July 31, 2011

Day 24

Sunday, July 31
We woke up to the aroma of French toast and came downstairs to find that Betsy had prepared breakfast! She also made us delicious omelets with tomatoes from her garden. Wayne had taken Ben's wheel to his office to true it on his wheel-truing device. I forgot to mention that Wayne has completed 4 Iron Man triathlons and is an avid biker. He is also an engineer who designs large woodworking machines, and he can do wonders with a wobbly wheel!

After breakfast, we packed up and headed out to Current River. Wayne and Betsy launched the boat with incredible ease (we were both very impressed) and we were amazed at what we saw. This river was spring-fed, and could easily be mistaken for the Caribbean ocean. It was so crystal clear and blue/ green- I have never seen a river more beautiful!

We rode upstream for a while to see Blue Spring, one of the many springs that feeds this river. We walked up a short path to a breathtaking sight. A pool of blue water was coming up from the Earth and flowing into the river! The color was incredible, and with the the sunlight hitting the water, we could see deep down into the spring. Neither Ben or I have ever seen anything like this- it is just spectacular! Ben was curious and brave enough to go for a swim in the freezing cold spring water but said it was perfectly refreshing (he had to get out immediately but it was in the upper 90s so he warmed right back up).

We spent the rest of he day floating back down the river, jumping in the water to cool down and then back in the boat for a while. We had lunch and hooked up with Betsy's brother and his family out on their boat for a while.

We had a great time but on the car ride back home, both Ben and I had to fight to stay awake because the sun wiped us out! We had burgers, baked beans, potato salad, and asian slaw for dinner. It was delicious! (I have pretty much given up on my vegetarian ways for the time being.) Betsy and Wayne's oldest son and his wife came over for dessert with their two little girls. Now we are watching Shark Week and will probably go to bed before 9, hoping to actually get up at 5:15 tomorrow. We have 35 miles in the Ozarks so we way to do it early in the morning. I will be in charge of the alarm this time, so hopefully I can make sure we actually get up! Its always hard to get up that early, no matter how much we sleep. Tomorrow is said to be our hardest day for a long time, so we just have to get through it and then we are on easy street into flat Kansas.

Day 23

Saturday, July 30

We slept through the 5:15 alarm (well, somebody turned it off instead of snoozing) and woke up around 7:30. We were on the road in an hour and then, about 5 miles into the ride, Ben's wheel starting rubbing on his breaks. He had just gotten it fixed the night before so it was very frustrating! He got it as straight as he could but within a mile it was rubbing again and he had to just disengage his rear brakes. Those guys at the bike shop can expect a strongly worded letter in the near future!

We took a lunch break at Johnson Shut-ins state park which has a river and waterfalls. We mainly just stayed in the shade and the air conditioned museum.

After a few more hours of riding, the skies grew dark and we were happy that the sun was gone and we might get some rain! But then it started to thunder and lightening so luckily we found cover in a gas station but not before we were completely soaked from the downpour. We stayed in the gas station for about an hour, waiting for the storm to pass. When it finally stopped, we set off with about 20 miles to our campground. After 5 minutes of riding, the downpour started again and there was no where to wait it out so we just rode in the rain until the next town, about 12 miles. When we got there we decided that we were too wet and cold to go camping and the ground was probably too gross anyways. So we called up Herman, with a church in town who lets cyclists stay with him. Herman wasn't feeling well but gave us the number for Wayne who also lived in Elington and sometimes hosts cyclists. Ben called him up and asked if we could stay with him and we were so lucky that he said yes! (later we found out he is on warmshowers but we didn't think to check it first because we were planning on going further) When we got to Wayne and Betsy's house, we took hot showers to take away the chill of wet riding clothes and just hung out. They have three children in their twenties but all are moved out of the house. Wayne convinced us to take another rest day on Sunday so he could take us out in his boat and show us "sights that we would not see anywhere else on our bikes" We couldn't really pass up the offer, so we decided to take the day off. We had a big week and are about 50 miles ahead of schedule so we figured it would be ok to take another day off. We also had a taste of the Ozarks today- a couple we saw coming the other way said today was a good warm up day for the next day. The hills are really steep but not very tall. The highest point in Missouri is about 1700 ft so we really don't have to worry about mountains like we saw in the Appalachians. But, it wasn't too hard to convince us to put off that ride for another day!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Day 22

Friday, July 29

Well our half day turned into a rest day. Al's place was too nice to pass up so we slept in, cooked an awesome breakfast, and went nuts with the iced coffee!

Another cyclist, Don, joined us for the night a Al's. He is going east to west as well but gets up waaay to early for us to ride with him. We made pasta, tofu, broccoli and peppers for dinner and passed out early, planning on waking up at 5:15... We'll see

Location:Farmington, MO

Friday, July 29, 2011

Day 21

Thursday, July 28

Miles today: 82

Ok, so tomorrow we will really take a half day. We did sleep in today but after looking at the map, we realized that we wanted to stay in Farmington because we heard of an awesome hostel to stay in there. If we took a relaxing 40 mile day, then we would either have to take another short day the next day or not stay in Farmington, so we decided to go for it. We went to Panera for breakfast and came across a group of other cyclists who were doing an assisted trip from Oregon to Florida. (Assisted means that they have a van to carry all of their luggage/gear and they stay in hotels every night.) There were 20 of them total but only 5 at the Panera. They don't travel together during the day but always meet up at their hotel for "social hour" with cocktails and appetizers... how luxurious! One of the men that we were talking to is 80 years old (but looked under 65- maybe cycling is the anti-aging secret?) and one couple was riding on a tandem bike!

Our ride was really great for the first 40 miles because it was incredibly flat and the wind was giving us a slight push. We were cruising at 16-18 mph, which is unheard of for us! We usually average 11-12 mph on a good day. We went about 30 miles with no services, so we were relieved to come into the town of Chester to cool off and refuel on Gatorade and subway sandwiches. Chester is the hometown of the creator of Popeye, and the town seems dedicated to letting people know it. There was a Popeye museum, statues, parks, murals, stores, and much more all celebrating Popeye and his family. They even had one of those boards that you put your face in the hole on Popeye's body

One of the many tributes to Popeye- a mural on the side of a building
After a short break in Chester, we rode over the Mississippi River into our 4th state, Missouri! Illinois, we hardly knew thee...

It was flat but extremely windy (in the wrong direction) for a few miles, but then we turned and hit some hilly sections. This might be an introduction into the Ozark Mountains- I think we get into them tomorrow. We rode into Farmington and found Al's Place, an old jailhouse that has been converted into a bike hostel. This place is gorgeous! We walked in and the A.C. was on (even though nobody is here, or will be here- it is an honor system for staying here) and we were amazed at what we saw! Kitchen, living room, tv, computer, beds, clean sheets, towels, washer/dryer... its just incredible! My first order of business is to go buy some coffee so I can make iced coffee for the morning! Ben and I did get an iced coffee fix this morning at a Starbucks, but I still want more! We are going to sleep like babies tonight, I'm sure and then tomorrow we are headed to the bike shop across the street to get Ben's back wheel straightened out. He's been having problems since early in the trip after his bad fall. Its annoying because he just bought a brand new wheel before we left! But, it shouldn't be too hard to fix and then we will do a short day tomorrow. Now, off to find some ice cream...

Today marks the end of week #3 but I'm too lazy to go look on my speedometer for the totals. I think we are at around 1,100 total and 470 for the week (or something close to that). We are finally above our desired average of 420 miles per week! Flat terrain really does wonders for us. We also have sent home abut 3-5 lbs of stuff each, and I think that has made a difference for us.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Day 20

Wednesday, July 27

Miles today: 102.75

Today included three great milestones for us. First, we rode a century!!! (bike lingo for riding over 100 in a day) Last night we looked at the map and found a great short cut to Carbondale, IL which would be exactly 100 miles from Sebree, instead of the 135 on the route. Seeing that perfect number "100" sparked something in both of us and we just knew we had to get there and do our century. The day started off a little late because it was hard to get out of those comfy beds in the air conditioning, then we made breakfast, and had to change ben's tube because it broke at the valve. Somehow, bike repairs have become my job so I changed the flat and we got on the road by 8:45. Forty miles into the day, we hit our second milestone: we crossed the Ohio River into Illinois- our third state!

We stopped for lunch and hung out at the public library for a few hours so we didn't have to ride during the hottest hours of the day. We got back on the road around 3pm and just kept riding and riding, determined to make it to 100. It didn't hurt that today's ride was the flattest that we've had yet! Around mile 80 we hit our third milestone: 1,000 total miles so far! Now we are at least 1/4 of the way through, but probably more because we have been cutting off a lot of miles by making our own route with shortcuts.

With only 12 miles left to go, I got a flat tire so that was pretty frustrating to deal with when I thought we were so close to the finish line. I fixed the tire and we pedaled those last 12 miles as fast as we could. After 8 hours and 30 minutes on the bike, we finally made it to Carbondale! We are so proud of ourselves that we rewarded our hard work with a motel for the night! We are going to sleep in tomorrow and do a half day of riding. We are also going to get milkshakes next door to complete our awesome day! We deserve it right?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Day 19

Tuesday, July 26

Miles today: 73

Another hot day, but the ride wasn't too bad. About half way through, we got to talking to two men in their yard. They were in their 70s and had been friends since they were 15. One was a woodworker, and he gave us a tour of his wood shop on his property and some of the projects he was working on. They also told us about a church in Sebree that would let us stay for free, but they weren't sure exactly where it was. We had a nice chat with them, filled up our water and went on our way.

A cool thing happened this afternoon- a man pulled over in front of us and waved us down to pull over. He handed us three giant ripe tomatoes that he had just picked from his garden and said "there you go, now all you need is salt!" I'm pretty sure that something like that would never happen at home, and it really made us so happy. The kindness of strangers takes places in many different forms and never ceases to amaze me!

The highlight of today was our evening with Violet and Pastor Bob. We rode a long 71 miles into Sebree, hoping to find the church that we had heard of that would let us stay.

 A rest stop at an abandoned building on the side of a road:

We found it easily on the route and knocked on the house next door where Bob and his wife Violet live. They were happy to have us and said that they were waiting for 2 more cyclists and dinner would be at 9. We walked down to the church, where there is a hostel for cyclists. One man was already here, John Paul (from providence RI!) so we talked with him while we waited for dinner. He is also going east to west, by himself. Around 9:15, bob and violet decided we should eat because the other two weren't here yet. Dinner was a feast- lasagna, garlic bread, green beans, homemade pickles, iced tea- all delicious! Around 10pm, the other two guys arrived- Johnny (from England) and Matt (Washington DC). We sat around the table for hours and shared stories and laughed so much it hurt. We also managed to find room for dessert- blackberry cobbler with vanilla ice cream. It was so amazing to sit at this table with people from all over, and Bob and Violet, who are so incredibly kind to have us. We had such a great time and even though we were exhausted, I didn't really want to go to bed. Nights like this make us feel a little more normal, even though we are so far from home. Strangers have become instant friends on this trip... I never thought that this would happen so easily and so often. I have mixed feelings about leaving Kentucky tomorrow. I'm excited to be making progress on the route, and on to the third state, but sad to be leaving the state where we made so many great memories with our new found friends. I do have great hope for the rest of the trip though- every day is new and exciting, even though the basic concept is the same- rotate legs all day until dinner.

Ben eating breakfast in the hostel.

Matt and Johnny planning their route for the day

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Day 18

Monday, July 25

Miles today: 84

We left Blake's around 7 am, and headed to McDonald's for egg sandwiches. I've been dying for iced coffee and nobody has it anywhere done here, so I was so excited when McDonald's said they have it! But what they call iced coffee is really just a 300 calorie mixture of milk and sugar- I'm not sure there was any coffee even in it. It did taste good but I'm still looking for the real thing.

The day was hot, humid and hilly- the 3 dreaded H's. The best part was around 5pm when we crossed into the Central Time zone (Breckinridge County)!

We didn't pass any grocery stores all day so for dinner we had a box of velveta Mac'n cheese with a chopped up green pepper and tomato to make it "healthier". Country stores don't carry the best supplies for good meals... But we're making due!

We got an extra hour of sleep last night which was awesome. We stayed at a beautiful campground on the Rough River.

Location:McDaniels, KY

Monday, July 25, 2011

Day 17: Blake takes us for a wild tour of the backcountry

So Jen introduced you to our host, Blake, briefly in the last post, but honestly this guy was just the man. We decided to stay in Lebanon (pronounced LEBnin, two syllables) for a rest day and it turned out Blake had some errands to run out in the country so we hopped in his old truck and the 3 of us were off. Wow it's felt like I was riding on a magic carpet, fully equipped with the best "air" (hah) suspension compared to my saddle yet in reality this truck was an old weathered ride. The air conditioned air coming from the car vent felt incredible compared to the fan of 100 degree air I have been getting riding my bike in the dead of summer in the sweltering Kentucky landscape. Alright, enough about the truck, where we went was much more "cool". Blake took us to his piece of backcountry land and showed us everything. There was a barn with some awesome old bikes. His wife built the barn by herself which was crazy. But the crown jewel of this place was this cabin and man made lake. Wow this place was sweet. No electricity or running water which made it really great for getting away. It would take too long to write about the decorations and old stuff Which he showed us so I'm gonna describe Blake instead. Blake was a retired hippie. (Also a disabledVietnam vet ((agent orange related prostate cancer lead to removal)) retired large Insurance company mid level manager, a mechanic, handyman, bike guy, list goes on ((( age 67, no kids))) Simple as that. A true hippie who explored the world in a very spiritual way. He studied jewish mysticism for a while which was cool, the first mention of anything Jewish in 770 miles. He had stories which he shared with us which just blew my mind. This man was extremely knowledgeable, and the fact that he went out of his way to show us around and introduce us to some of his friends as opposed to just us sitting around all day made me genuinely happy. Not only is this trip about the pedaling, it also is about the people.

The cabin, Blake and jen

The man made lake that Blake and his wife Mary ann made with funds from a state farm car insurance payout!! Car was never fixed!

The handmade barn, climbing down from the attic where the vintage bikes were kept

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Day 16

Saturday, July 23

Miles today: 58

We got on the road around 10 am after a great breakfast with Andy and Paige. It was already hot and humid, but we were happy because we were taking a short cut for the day that would shave off about 15 miles from our route. (so it's really like we went 73 miles but only worked for 58 of them! Free miles wahoo!) After riding for about an hour we decided to pull off and stretch for a few minutes. We happened to pull into a church parking lot so we sat on the benches in front. There were a lot if people coming into the church with tons of food, so we asked what was going on there and they said it was a family reunion. About three people invited us in to eat with them, but we didn't accept until Shirley (the matriarch, we later found out) came outside and threatened to bring out us a plate of food if we didn't come inside! So we went inside and were amazed by the feast in front of us- chicken, pasta, salads, fruits, veggies, breads, and and entire table of desserts! We dove into the deliciousness and even though we had recently had breakfast, we found room for more in our bellies. The family was so kind to us and we sat and talked for a while. We were so grateful for the food and air conditioning- it was just awesome!

After we got back on the road we rode into Danville, which has the first bike shop we've been near since Virginia. We got there around 2:30 and didn't leave until 6:30 - even though they closed at 4:00. They were pretty busy so we had to wait a while but we didn't mind at all because it was too hot to be riding anyways! Another cyclist, Angus happened to come into the shop about 5 minutes after we did. He was riding west to east by himself and had walked 5 miles to the bike shop because he completely wore through his back tire. He was pretty lucky because there are really no bike shops on our route for a while! Angus is 20 years old, from Texas, and left from Oregon in mid June. He averages about 100 miles a day! He hung out at the shop for a while talking with us, swapping stories and tips and playing state capital trivia (this is one of the things Ben and i do while riding and apparently he does too!). The owner of the shop, Ernst and his son Andrew had both ridden across the country so they were also interested in talking to us and sharing stories. I had been having problems with shifting on my bike and also wanted to have lower gears because my bike really is a road bike, meant for speed, not a touring bike which has lower gears, better for hills and more weight on the bike. Ernst hooked up my bike with a new cassette, new chain, new derailleur, cleaned out my cables, shaved down my breaks which were catching at a weird place on my tire and now my bike feels incredible! It's much easier to climb hills with the lower gears and the shifting is so smooth! I wish I had this setup in the mountains! By the way, we do finally seem to be out of the mountains- today's ride was comprised of gentle rolling hills- a dream come true!

We rode about 30 more miles to Lebanon where we are staying with another warmshowers host- Blake. He owns a 6 apartment house in which he lives in one apt. There is a vacant apartment so they let cyclists stay here when passing through! We went out to dinner with Blake at the Mexican restaurant in town, where all the employees referred to him as "abuelo". He is a very interesting man who served in Vietnam and he told us a lot about his life. It's so cool getting to meet people like Blake and hearing his life story.

We decided to take a rest day after 6 days of riding. We are not as beat as we were on our last rest day but our bodies just kind of need a break from the bike- especially that bike seat! So Sunday will be a day of rest and we will be back on the road Monday!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Day 15

Friday, July 22

Miles today: 81

Everyone kept telling us that today we would be out of the hills and we were so excited! Well, our first 30 miles were in a forest with no services, little shade, and constant steep uphills with little relief on the downs. It was so frustrating and we both agreed it was harder than any mountains we had ridden because those are just one long up and one long down. This was constant back and forth it was really mentally difficult to keep climbing those hills. We had to ask a random person in their yard for water and even stopped at a bluegrass festival for more water. That turned out to be so entertaining, as we talked to the locals and they were so excited to have us there. The owner of the farm thanked us for coming and said to come back soon. I don't think we'll be back for at least a few years... But we did have fun! After we left, a truck that was passing us even stopped to invite us to the festival. We are really surprised at how friendly the people are here. It is so different from home, with a lot of poverty in many places (there really isn't anywhere to work) and it is so incredibly rural that we weren't sure how people would react to us. But everyone we've met has been kind, helpful, informative and fun. It's so cool that we get to meet so many different types of people, each one with their own unique stories.

There was absolutely no gas station or store for 35 miles. It was definitely a necessity that we stopped at that festival! Luckily, we were able to stay hydrated and we finished up the day around 8 at our hosts' beautiful home. Andy, Paige and their children, Lily and Claire welcomed us into heir home, fed us an awesome dinner, gave us a shower and bed to sleep in, and made us feel so at home there. They really are an awesome family and so generous to open their home to us (and many other cyclists who come through). Now I'm enjoying a cup of coffee as I write this and try to prepare for another hot day of riding! I don't think the heat wave is hitting here like it is at home. We were been in the mountains for the worst of it, and now that we are in flat land (supposedly) the highs are back into the 90s but at least not the 100s.

We are onto to section 10 of the maps. We also hit the 700 mile mark, so we are 1/6 done with the trip. Feeling good!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Day 14

Thursday, July 21

We left Hindman around 11:30 and the rain had basically stopped. The roads were still a little wet by we had a great ride for the first 15 miles- very flat with small hills so we were making good time. We met a solo biker going the other way. He was 64 and had been on the road since April! He was very ready to get to the east coast.

We had to ride on RT 80 for about 6 miles which was terrible because the big coal tucks were spewing muddy rain gunk from their tires at us. This road also had huge uphills and downhills in which we had to avoid grooved shoulders and debris on the side of the road.

After we got through that we stopped at a walmart to to pick up some supplies, including a dry bag for our sleeping pads because our trash bags finally failed us. We ended the day with the never-ending Buckhorn Mountain and camped at the state park there.

Miles today: 48
Miles for week 2: 361
Total miles so far: 630

We are feeling very strong these days! We are hoping to make it to Berea today which will be the end of section 11 map. Only 10 more to go

Some pictures of today's ride: