Friday, September 4, 2009

Tuesday September 1

This would be our final day of cycling. To start it off a feeding frenzy at the best complimentary breakfast of the trip was truly appreciated. While there wasn’t any meat provided, there was a mulltitude of pastries and the selection of fresh fruit was incredible. I spent an hour in there grazing while consuming a couple cups of decent coffee and fresh orange juice. Lewis ate his usual bowl of cereal and a pastry and was ready to go. We forced him to drink a glass of juice. Donna has already been cutting back on her consumption in anticipation of the reduced calorie burn that we’ll soon experience. I’ll have to do the same but not just yet. We took our time getting ready to leave as our easy ride today would be our last and our host would not be home until 6:30. Pedaling away at 11:00 made this one of our latest departures for the entire trip. And 20 minutes later Lewis was asking “what’s for lunch?”.

My conversation with Ted last night was going to be beneficial as he gave me directions to put us on a bike trail that would take us the final 20 miles into Arlington. But first we had to finish our ride on Route 1. It didn’t get any easier today. Most of the time the traffic was light enough that there was room for the cars to get over as we were mostly riding on the edge of the highway. When we could the shoulder was utilized, but this route has never been intended for bicyclists to use.

About an hour into our ride, we passed the army base Fort Belvoir. I was born at an army hospital here and had premonitions of being struck by an ignorant driver and dying in the same general vicinity. That would have not been good! Fortunately my premonitions proved false but that doesn’t mean the traffic was any better. Shortly after Fort Belvoir we left Route 1 for good. We veered off and headed for Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington. Our first and only stop at Mount Vernon would be at his Grist Mill and Distillery. We learned quit a bit about George during the hour or so that we spent there. And then we moved on.

Immediately after leaving the tourist trap that the Official Site of Mount Vernon was, we encountered the bicycle trail. This 18 mile route would get us within a couple of miles of our destination tonite. We spent the remainder of the day casually cycling the Mount Vernon trail that would get us to the outskirts of Arlington. This trail was utilized by more cyclists than I could count. Most of these being commuters who leave the car behind and ride to and from work. What a novel idea! If more people did this the health of our nation would improve drastically (with the exception of the injuries sustained during bicycle-bicycle collisions). There needs to be a speed limit and police presence on these trails as the racers race while the tourists (us) tour. An analogy would be letting Indy Drivers drive 210 mph while little old ladies are driving just 35 mph. There were no collisions involving us or anyone else that we witnessed but the recklessness that we witnessed made it apparent that collisions do occur on these trails.

We came to the end of the Mount Vernon trail and immediately found the Custis trail which would take us really close to Ted’s place. We found another cyclist who helped us stay on the trail as this one is predominantly sidewalk or shoulder of the road type trail. We would have easily lost it if we were left to our own devices. Our escort eventually took us right to Teds driveway. We pedaled in as Ted was arriving home from work on his bicycle. A total of 54 miles ridden today. They were the worst of miles followed by the best of miles. Life is good and we're all glad to be alive!

Ted welcomed us into his gorgeous house in Arlington Virginia. He had 2 bedrooms available for us to use while we were there. Unfortunately his wife (I think I remember her name as Anne) wasn’t present as she had left earlier to begin a long Holiday weekend at the beach. Ted would be joining her on Friday. In the meantime, we felt priveledged to enjoy her cooking as she had prepared a delcious Curry that we shared with Ted that night for dinner. Lewis even had a little. It was scrumptious. Thank you Anne for the wondeful dinner, and thank you Ted for taking us into your home. It is experiences like these that have turned this trip into a net positive as the negatives occasionallyr piled up on us.

We unwound from our day and relaxed the remainder of the evening. We were done! We did it! Now what? Of course we have several days in which to sightsee in the DC area; which will be a pleasant change. And we’ve yet to meet Anne and Carl Wick, but our adventure is basically over. I am going to update this blog once more in a couple days to show pictures taken while in DC. But the riding aspect is Kaput! Finished! Done! Over! If you want to see some pictures taken while in DC, do check back. But there won’t be anymore cycling shots to the best of my knowledge. See you in a couple days. Bye!
Monday August 31

With only two days of pedaling ahead of us, it’s about time that the weather became our ally. The humidity has totally abated and with it the heat. Today it only hit the low 70’s. Kind of like western Washington. With an ‘easy’ ride of around 50 miles ahead of us, we took our time leaving town. The firehouse was a logical place to waste some time. A different crew was in this morning so the faces were all new. Didn’t matter. Everyone was friendly but not extremely curious. We were just more cyclists passing thru. We finished off our half gallon of OJ that was purchased the night before and with it some oatmeal cookies and granola bars and poptarts. Since there was no coffee to be found in the place, we decided to visit the Mineral Café on the way out of town.

It was 9:00 when we pulled away from the volutneer fire station. At 9:05 we pulled up to the café. As soon as a foot was stepped into the establishment it became apparent that this was another of too many restaurants that have cigarrettes constantly burning. But the need for caffeine overwhelmed Donna’s reluctance to nicotine so we entered nonetheless. The stares we drew were not unlike those we’ve observedfrom a hundred other places across this country. Perhaps it is the fact that Lewis too is dressed in Spandex. More likely it is just a conditioned response that the locals have no contol over. When someone enters wearing cycling shorts and a brightly colored jersey, the have to stare. They have no choice! But as I’ve said, this was no different than countless other times. I’m only being thorough as my time to journal is quickly drawing to a close.

We each had a different version of the special which included 2 eggs, some bacon, some potatoes, and some bread. Coffee was included as was the cigarette smoke! All this for only $4. After we’d cleaned our plates, we were ready for the road. From this point on, we would be leaving the safety and security of the adventure cycling maps and following a route that Google prepared. We punched in Google maps and requested a route for walking. This would keep us off the interstates. With less than 100 miles between Mineral and DC, what’s the worst that could happen? We’d find out shortly.

Initially the route was very similar to the roads we’ve been riding in Virginia. But after the first 20 miles were behind us, we hit route 1. This four lane highway occasionally had a shoulder we could ride on but that was the exception. The traffic volume was initially on the light side but before the day was done, we were in Rush Hour traffic. Being this close to our nations capital means that urban development is now the rule and the undeveloped the exception. It would be like riding your bike down Black Lake Blvd in west Olympia, or Fashion Square Blvd in Saginaw. Most of the drivers gave us a break and moved into the next lane if they could. But there were several instances when a guy (it was always a guy) chose to stay in the outside lane without budging even though the lane next to him was unoccupied. There were times when the only car within 50 yards of us would be the ‘guy’ who was in the outside lane, doing 50 miles an hour while passing us leaving just inches between his vehicle and our handlebars. There are certainly some ignorant ‘guys’ out there. We persevered as we have done throughout and by 4:00 when the traffic was becoming unbearable, we got off the road and pulled into a Best Western. A total of 54 miles having been ridden. Before going in to check out the prices I discovered that a Walmart was only a half mile away. We had previously talked about camping at Walmart and this would definitely be our last chance. But when given the opportunity to choose between Walmart and the Best Western, the majority rules and Best Western won out. This room was $100 but reportedly had a “really good” continental breakfast. We’d see in the morning. In the meantime, some wifi was in order as we needed to make contact with our hosts in DC.

We now have 2 different Warm Showers hosts who have agreed to take us in while we wrap up our vacation with multiple days of sightseeing in the DC area. Our first host, Ted, has only known of our existence for 3 days. We’ll be spending our first 2 nights at his place. The next host, Anne and Carl, have been on board this adventure for the previous 9 months. I contacted them via Warm Showers, back in January.

Getting Closer all the Time

Saturday and Sunday August 29 & 30

Saturday was a day of rest for Team Jackson as travel arrangements needed to be finalized and other loose ends tied up as well. Our hosts Bob and Donna were up around 7:00 as was I. Bob made blueberry pancakes and scrambled eggs for breakfast. Bob’s Donna was the first to leave for the day as she had to be at work by 8:00. Bob left by 8:30. While Bob and Donna were at work, I bought airline tickets for the return trip to Washington and sent off some e-mails. The blog was updated and a bunch more pictures added as well. A list was developed of things that we needed before our flight. The most important was a large duffel that we can cram a bunch of our stuff into for the flight. A pair of shoes for Lewis was also right up there. And a tube of toothpaste. And some more gatorade. Gotta have gatorade. We left to run errands just as Donna was returning home from work around 2:00. The bikes were utilized to get up to the other end of Charlottesville where the Walmart was situated.

The ride was just as bit hairy as the 2 lane road with no shoulders had lots of traffic. We held up traffic multiple times as vehicles couldn’t get around us as cars were constantly coming from the opposite direction. But nobody got angry and shouted obscenties and nobody threw anything at us. I think they all knew that I am a native! Yep, born in Virginia I am. The Walmart ended up being on a busy busy road that had 4 lanes of traffic in each direction. Our duffel was found first. Good deal, $16 for one that actually collapses and has wheelies on it. We should be able to fit the tent and a couple sleeping bags and some of the panniers in this. A pair of shoes for Lewis was another purchase that came off without a hitch. This was the third pair of shoes that we’ve purchased for him since we left. He is murder on shoes. Some gatorade 32oz bottles for a buck were next on the list. These same bottles typically cost betrween 2 and 3 dollars in the minimarts that we frequent during the day so buying 4 of these is a great deal!

We left Walmart and began our return trip to the home of Bob and Donna. We hadn’t gone a mile from Walmart when the skies opened up and it poured. And it poured. We pulled into a strip mall that had a Krogers so I bought some wine to go with the spaghetti dinner that Donna was making tonight. And since I don’t happen to like wine, I bought some beer too! Now the bikes have been seriously overloaded but we’ve only got another 5 miles to ride. We made it back without incident and relaxed for the remainder of the day. We visited with Bob and Donna for the rest of the evening while Lewis and Grace watched TV down in the basement. Total miles ridden: 12

Sunday morning was much like Saturday but this day we would be riding off. It was oatmeal today. And then we were off. It actually took a little longer than that but we did pull away around 9:00. It was such a treat to spend 2 nights at the home of Bob and Donna. Thank you Bob and Donna and again, thank you!

Today Lewis was able to wear a shoe on his damaged foot. It has been exactly a week since the foot injury and now with 3 easy days of cycling left, he has the use of both feet again. Pedaling away from Charlottesville, we stopped at Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson. He wasn’t there so we pedaled on. Actually we found out that like so many other sights, you have to pay money to get close enough to see it. We turned around and pedaled on. Just a mile down the road we stopped at Jefferson Vineyards. There weren’t any fees for a tour here so we stopped and took the tour. Tom wasn’t here either. We pedaled on. Today’s weather was some of the best we’ve had on this ride. Low 80’s and lower humidity. Partly cloudy.

We rode a total of 55 miles today. Ended up in the town of Mineral Virginia by 5:00. Some groceries were purchased and then we headed for the volunteer fire station. We would be camping behind it and would be using the showers. I’m getting a little tired of writing these entries. They are all sounding alike.

We’ve all showered and had our dinner. I’m sitting in the Kitchen/TV room of the fire house writing this. Lewis is watching The Simpsons. Donna is writing in her journal. This was a relaxing day and just how I would have planned the final days to be. We’ve come across several cyclists who have been forced to do some superhuman feats to complete their trips. Ours is just the opposite. The hard work was done last week and the previous two and a half months. Now we just take it easy. Couldn’t be better. But you know what? Thoughts of work have been slippling back into my mind. I’m wondering if I’ll remember how to analyze samples after almost 100 days off. Have to wait and see!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

From the Blue Ridge Parkway to the Cookie Lady

Thursday August 27

It’s really going to end. In a matter of 3 or 4 more days we will be done pedaling! How did this happen? Kind of took me by surprise! I’ll miss all this once I’ve settled back into the routine that had kept me busy for the previous 13 years. The last couple of days I’ve been thinking of projects to see me through until the next big adventure (whatever that may be). One that ranks up towards the top is to build a sea kayak or two so that we can start exploring the coast of Washington. Relax Andrea, I’m thinking of weekend trips and progressing from their. But I don’t see any 100 day Kayak adventures anwhere on the horizon. Another project that I see taking off this fall is to build a cyclists shack on our property. This would be a neat thing to involve Lewis and Andrej in. Nothing like good old fashioned hard work and pounding nails and mixing concrete to keep the hands busy so the mind doesn’t become bored! Yep, the trip must be coming to a close as I’m thinking of other stuff and we’re not even done yet. Let’s get back to the cycling.

We had the continental breakfast at the Econolodge today. With a half of a cantalope thrown in for good measure, we were good to go. A departure at 10:00 was just a little later than I would have liked as it’s supposed to warm up into the upper 80’s again; but that’s not even really that hot for us now that we are seasoned touring cyclists! The initial part of todays ride was challenging for about 5 miles and then the hills parted as we followed a stream uphill for the next 10 miles. This was gentle climbing that you almost don’t realize you’re doing. Then the fun began. We reached the town of Vesuvius Virginia, and totally missed out on the service stop. We couldn’t find the store and opted to keep on going rather than going back and asking where it might be. As our water bottles were full and we had a couple of 32oz gatorades to boot, we would probably be OK.

As soon as we left Vesuvius behind (named after the mountain we would be climbing) we began the ascent. We pedaled for almost a mile before the incline became to steep to continue. This would normally be the time to start walking and pushing the bikes. We were mentally prepared to do this and were just minutes away from starting what would likely be an hour and a half or 2 hour stroll, pushing the bikes up the steepest meanest hill that the entire trans am bike trail has to offer. The toughest meanest bikers salivate when they think of the climb to get up to the Blue Ridge Parkway. I am not one of those guys. Having pushed the tandem up scores of hills that don’t come close to today’s hill, I see this as a whole bunch of work. Donna and I had talked about the possibility of catching a ride up the hill but it was most likely wishful thinking on our part. There was almost no traffic on this county road that takes us up to the parkway. So when a pickup truck approached while we were preparing the begin the walk, Donna and I simultaneously stuck our hitchhikers thumb out.

Lo and behold, the truck stopped! It was an easy sell to get them to give us a lift to the top of the hill once they got a look at Lewis and his black toenail. Joe and Shirley White were out for the some hiking in the area after some morning fishing. They didn’t have to think twice and immediately Joe began rearranging things in the back of his pickup which would allow enough room for the tandem. I was skeptical that with the short bed pickup and a tool box as well, there wouldn’t be enough room. But once the bike was up there, it looked like it was pretty comfortable! So we threw Donna’s bike up there too and hopped in the back seat of their extended cab truck for the short ride that would cut off hours of punishment. That is how I looked at the ordeal of pushing the bike that far. We have pushed the bikes so often that skipping out on the very worst push of the trip, didn’t cause any of us to bat an eyelash. This was the third and will almost certainly end up being the last ride we’ll take during this adventure of a lifetime. Thank you once again Joe and Shirley from the bottom of our hearts (and also my tired aching legs).

The trip was over before we knew it. I’ve probably spent more time writing about it than we spent in their truck! We unloaded and were once again on our way. The rest of the day held gently rolling up and downs while we travelled the Blue Ridge Parkway. And then the descent from the Parkway into the valley below. This was a fun ride as it was a screamer. Less than a half hour after we left the Parkway behind, we pulled up to the house of one June Curry. June is known affectionately as “The Cookie Lady” as she estimates that she has given away 40,000 cookies to cyclists since she began doing this in 1976. Now she provides cyclists a house for their use as well as providing food and beverage.

We pulled up to June’s house only to discover another cyclist had already arrived. Kendal from earlier days had spent the previous 4 hours talking to June. Our arrival meant he had an opportunity to get back on the road as he wasn’t finished riding for the day. We stepped in where Kendal left off and June was back in her glory. Her entire existence is now centered around bicyclists and their comings and goings. She has collected memorabilia from countless cyclists since she began her hospitality back in 1976. The cyclists house is a veritable shrine with postcards from all over the world taking up entire walls of the house. Cyclists have chosen to leave things behind and sign them as some form of homage to her. There are newspaper articles about her that fill up entire scrapbooks. She collects stuff from anyone who ever had contact with her. June is 89 years old and unfortunately is starting to forget the cyclists who have passed thru just days ago. Her health is not what I would consider robust as she has suffered a stroke and subsequently several broken bones as she’s fallen while doing her daily regimen. She no longer comes over to the cyclists house but still uses the money donated by cyclists to keep the pantry stocked. She is another icon of this trip who won’t be forgotten for many a cyclist including all of Team Jackson.

Donna and Lewis are now asleep on a couple of different couches while I poke away at my keyboard. I’m not that anxious to sleep as the place has an odor of old dusty closed up attics. But I too am tired and tomorrow is another day. A short day, but another day nonetheless. Sayonara! Total miles today would have been approaching 60 but the ride in the pickup truck reduced that to 52! Hallejeullah!

And the Heat goes On!

Wednesday August 26

Our night at the city park was not a restful one. First we discovered that an active train track was just 20 yards from our tent so we awoke twice from our slumber to the vibration and noise of a diesel locomotive and it’s attendant freight cars. This is really disturbing. The second reason our sleep was unsatisfactory probably had to do with the fact that we were sleeping on concrete instead of grass. You wouldn’t think it would make any difference but both Donna and I awoke with a headache. And these headaches lasted through the morning, not departing until later in the afternoon. We packed up with everything still dry since we were under the pavillion. That was the bonus for sleeping on the concrete. By 8:30 our team pulled away from Troutville. We managed to elude Carlene as both Donna and I were certain that she would be back to ferry us to the Country Cooking Buffet for an all you can eat breakfast buffet.

My legs were feeling heavy today from yesterdays mostly solo pedaling. You would think that I would be in condition to be pulling Lewis up and down these hills, but these hills are beating me up. I have a feeling that I would still be sore even if Lewis were at full strength. But it was to be yet another day of one-legged Lewis. He still can’t wear a shoe over his swollen toe. We pedaled non-stop from Troutville until we hit the community of Buchanan (20 miles) where we stopped for a late breakfast. Only problem was that the lone restaurant in town only served lunch and dinner and didn’t start serving until 11:00. Since it was only 10:00 and we noticed that the public library was just across the road from the eatery, we decided to spend and hour there and then have an early lunch at 11:00. Worked like a charm. We had our lunch and by 12:00 were pulling away from Buchanan never to return again.

The next 2 hours were spent going up and down and up and down until we came to the city called Natural Bridge. The strangest thing, they actually have a natural wonder there that resembles a bridge! They also wanted $18 per adult to get a glimpse of it. Donna was enraged. I expected that we’d have to pay something and would have paid hers and Lewis admission but she was too upset to take the offer. So we pedaled away only to stop at the next natural wonder, the Natural Bridges Cavern. This wonder was deemed worthy by Donna so Lewis and she antied up just a little bit less to walk down a cave to see the deepest cavern on the East coast. Lewis now knows the difference between stalagmites and stalactites. I stayed above to relax in the sweltering heat. An hour and a half later we were once again on the road. Our next stop would be our final one of the day.

At about 5:00 we pulled into Lexington Virginia and got directions to Walmart. No, we weren’t going to camp there, but were hoping to find some open toed sandals for the boy with the injured toe. We also needed some groceries. The Walmart ended up being on the far end of town so we headed out. Once we spotted the familiar blue Walmart sign, we pulled into the first motel we came to. This had been agreed upon since we hadn’t visited one the night before. The Econolodge had a room for us that set me back $70 but as we are nearly finished with this trip, it could very possibly be the final night we spend in a motel. After unloading the bikes, we got back in the saddle and peddled the half mile to Walmart to purchase a couple of necessities and a whole bunch of groceries. We replaced Donnas’ reading glasses which had been left behind somewhere. We also replaced my jackknife which is right now sitting in the guest house at Alice Lloyd College. I will contact them when I get home to see if someone was honest enough to turn it in. Not holding out much hope though. The search for sandals was a bust as they are now stocking winter footwear. So we pedaled back to the motel with our bounty and set about devouring as much as we could before leaving in the morning.

The ride this day was just a bit easier than the day before but with my legs now physically exhausted from pedaling up and down the previous 2 days, I was forced to walk again. Lewis was up to the challenge as he is now barely hobbling and not complaining about the throbbing anymore. And since tomorrow may bring with it the burden of an extended walk, it was good to see him able to get around on his own. We ended up riding 60 miles today with temperatures topping out close to 90 and high humidity as well. You know what? We’re getting used to exerting ourselves in this sticky gooey air! We no longer dread headwinds. Any wind would be welcome. But they aren’t to be found.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Day 78 44 miles

I saved a cute and adorable baby turtle. It was so cute. I already saved a couple other turtles but not baby ones. I picked up part of a turtle shell on the side of the road. If you visit me I will probably show you the piece and a picture of the turtle. It was going to be a possibility we could camp behind Walmart but it was a motel.

Day 79 32 miles

Today was a short day. By that I mean we didn’t do that many miles today but at least we went to Walmart. I can draw a line star. It’s not as good as my friends or maybe it is. I bought Scorponock at Walmart also. He is a scorpian Transformer. We went in Walmart because it rained. We’re stayin in a Guest House overnight. It’s a really nice place next to the college.

Day 83 27 miles

We met up with my aunt and uncle Elly and Dan. We had a grill out and I had two hotdogs. That’s pretty muich all we did. Today was a good day, even if we didn’t do anything. I was so wound up I had too much energy.

Day 84 36 miles

We were supposed to do 70 miles but I smashed my toe in between the chain and the chain ring. I got to ride in a wheel chair at the hospital. They took X-rays and nothing was broken. I have two puncture spots on my toe. My toenail is probably going to fall off but it will grow back.

Day 85 48 miles
Today was a boring day. I’ll just write about the fun things that happened. I got to play Playstation 3 RockBand. I sang a Sponge Bob song and rocked away on the drums. Right now I’m surrounded by a lake of legos.l This guy (Sam) has some I’ve never seen before.

Day 87 60 miles

It’s like it’s the day off but I still have one thing to say. I went through the caverns. Stalagtites and stalagmites grow in the caverns. Stalagtites hang tight from the top and stalagmites might touch the top someday. I found a bat up in a cave. They turned off the lights so we could see what it was like. It was spooky.

Troutville Virginia

Tuesday August 25

We were awake and packing up before 8:00 as Thad would be leaving at 8:00 and Betsy a little after 9:00. I had a few minutes to talk with Thad before he left and then I read the paper. No news worth repeating. Betsy showed up and began mixing and baking and a half hour later had prepared 2 dozen muffins, half of them banana and the other half something else. I was unsure of the purpose of these muffins as she never really said “Eat as many as you can!”. That would have been an open invitation for me to wipe out at least a half dozen. I assume she made them for us but it’s possible that they were intended for Sam or she was going to take them to work. So I had one muffin and then some of the fruit left over from dinner the night before. Lewis had a bowl of Cookie Crisp cereal while Donna had a muffin or 2 and some coffee.

After Sarah had pulled out the last of the muffins from the oven she disappeared to prepare for her workday. I used this opportunity to prepare some sandwiches that we would eat later at lunch. This was from the foodstuffs that we’d purchased yesterday for Dinner in the event that we weren’t offered food with the Lees. A whole loaf of french bread with deli turkey and ham and an entire 12 oz package of individually wrapped cheese slices. While I was making sandwiches, Donna began attaching the various bags and assorted bundles to the bikes. When Sarah showed up a few minutes later dressed for work, we all departed together. The muffins sat on the counter untouched. Dang! I probably could have eaten 5 more as that is probably what they were intended for. But I didn’t.

A photo of Sarah and Donna and Lewis was snapped outside just before she departed. She made Lewis promise to send her a postcard when he got home from his trip. This is the same thing that we ask of cyclists who stay with us. Then Sarah left for work. She is a teaching nurse at the college in Radford whilethe good Doctor is primarily a Geriatric general practicioner. We left a few minutes later. Sam was upstairs sleeping the sleep of a 15 year old who has one more week of summer vacation before school starts again (meaning he won’t get up until noon).

We had ridden just over 4 miles when I realized that I hadn’t concluded my packing before starting the sandwiches I previously mentioned. I had intended to put away the computer just before changing from packing mode to food provider mode. I asked Donna if she had grabbed the computer which I’d used in the Lee’s living room the night before. “Nope” was her reply. Dang, and double Dang! So Donna and Lewis waited on the side of the road with the tandem while I raced her unloaded bike back to the Lee’s. The back door was still unlocked meaning that Sam hadn’t awaken yet and departed which enabled me to grab the computer which was sitting right where I knew it was. Since I was there, I swallowed another muffin! Then I raced back to Donna and Lewis. A totally wasted 45 minutes of time and an additional 8 miles of riding that I didn’t need to do. But I got the extra muffin!

The riding conditions today were typical for this time of year in this part of the country. Initially a pea soup like fog enshrouded everything, but this thinned considerably before we left. Then the sun burned through and before we knew it, it was summertime again. A bit sticky and quite warm. Today was going to be a test to see how I would manage with Lewis and his one legged mode of pedaling. Our first stop of the day (other than the race to the Lees where only Donna and Lewis got to rest) came as we pedaled through the city of Christansburg. This was a monumental event for us as we were able to switch over to our very last booklet of maps. We began this adventure with 13 map booklets and each once has 15 panels that show the route necessary to get to the next panel. A booklet has typically taken us just about a week to complete. This means that within about a week we may be finishing up this ride! So we stopped at a small park and ate half of the sandwiches and drank some gatorade and ate some chips and some grapes and a couple of bananas and some granole bars. See, who needs to eat a half dozen muffins for breakfast! At this point Donna and Lewis had 15 miles in while I was already past 23.

The rest of the day was spent pedaling up and down the hills of Virginia. We stopped one more time in the town of Catawba which was another 30 miles down the road. Some icecream and bevarages were enjoyed here. That left about 20 miles or so to get to the town of Troutville. We pedaled through Daleville just before hitting Troutville. I don’t know why I even mentioned Daleville but there it is. We pulled into Troutville around 6:00 and accidently found the city park which we had previously decided to bypass in order to spend the night in a motel just outside of town. My intention was to look at the map before we pedaled on but it was not to be this day.

As I was pouring over the map, a boisterous voice was calling to us from inside the park. “Come on in. This is the place you want to be!” She wouldn’t give up. As I had promised a motel instead of more city park camping, I let Donna decide if we should actually enter the park. “Sure, why not?” We followed the boisterous one (Carlene) into the park as she gave us all the pertinant information. We should camp under the pavillion on the far side of the park and the bathrooms were open all night and we could shower at the volunteer fire station. The information on the showers won Donna over. We joined another cyclist who had previously been indoctrinated by Cecil, the park manager. Within a few minutes we had our tent set up and that’s when Carlene rejoined us. She was insistent that she would be able to drive us anywhere we wanted to go. The perfect place for us to eat was at a buffet just down the road. Donna and I were hesitant as we were prepared to just visit the grocery store next door and find provisions that would see us through the night. But Carlene was nothing if not persistent. So we decided to take her up on her offer and jumped into her car.

Both Donna and I realized the foolishness of our act within seconds of departing. Carlene is what you might consider a casual driver. She drives casually while talking and the car was all over the road. I was picturing the headlines “Cycling Family Perishes in Automobile Accident in Rural Virginia”. Fortunately the restaurant was 4 miles down the road so we were soon seated. We learned more about Carlene than we needed to during that dinner. She is a 39 year old unemployed Electrical Engineer (2 years since she’s worked) and she’s divorced and her ex-husband looks like Mr T. She didn’t actually say that but we saw a picture of him in her car. She is uncomfortable around children but really enjoys talking to people. We finished our dinner and ended up waiting for her to finish hers. This was not what we had in mind. We finally got her to leave but not before she grabbed a soft serve icecream cone for the road. Now we had to worry about her driving us back to the park with only one hand. We made it as you might have surmised. We got back to the park just as night was falling. We regretted our hasty decision to go to the restaurant as no one was really hungry and so much time ended up being wasted and both Donna and I felt we were looking at death. But we stared it down and we were equal to it this day.

We took our turn showering at the Volunteer Fire Station and then retired for the night. I was exhausted from the 62 miles of pedaling that I did this day (54 miles with Lewis in the one legged boy position). This is really taxing me.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Takes more than a toenail to keep Lewis down!

Monday August 24

The day is over. We are relaxing at the home of Thad and Sarah Lee who live in Radford Virginia. The ride today (45 miles) was almost pleasant. It was almost relaxing. Almost. Get real. When would a 45 mile bicycle ride up and down hills be relaxing! It was a good ride. Let’s leave it at that. Lewis was able to hobble out to the bicycle this morning and mounted up. Then he put his damaged foot up on the water bottle cage, and that is where it stayed all day. He rode occassionally one legged. Occassionally no legged. But not once did he put his damaged foot in harms way today. It is an ugly foot if I do say so myself. I, on the other hand, had to pedal up every single hill today. No walkiing as that was not an option unless I want the push the bike with lewis on it. That would be really tough not to mention just a bit unsafe. We would have both ended up in a heap had I tried that. So I pedaled. All by myself. And I could hardly tell the difference other than the steepest hills when I would normally get after Lewis to help. But today I had only the one legged little man to help and it was a noticeable difference. I am tired.

The weather today couldn’t have been better. We had partly or mostly cloudy skies with temperatures in the middle 70’s. Someone up above is finally smiling on us. It must be time to take it easy on Team Jackson as they continue their unstoppable trek. We left the Comfort Inn at 10:30 after enjoying the continental breakfast. The bike shop we had hoped to visit in Wytheville had closed with no other shops in town. So no foot cages were purchased. I am just a little antsy now that he is going to repeat the incident from yesterday so we’ll be doing something about the pedals very soon. In the meantime, I have the one legged co-pilot to assist me.

A lunch on the go was purchased at McDonalds near the town of Fort Chiswell. We must be feeling sorry for Lewis because we let him have a happy meal for the first time this trip. Normally, it’s a cheeseburger and a carton of milk. No silly toy and french fries when the the toys end up in the trash while Donna and I have to eat his fries. Can you believe that? He actually doesn’t like french fries! We got back on the bikes and didn’t stop again until we pulled into the small community of Draper Virginia. Here we purchased a slushy drink for everyone and Lewis and I relived my childhood by splitting a package of Mallo Cups. It’s been 40 years since I’ve had a mallo cup. I used to live on those when I had a paper route and a source of income to purchase such treats. Now that I’ve a real income, Mallo Cups have disappeared. So to have Zero candy bars. But they still live here in the South. It almost makes me wish I lived here. You see I said almost. The presense of a couple of candy bars is not quite enough of a draw to get me to actually relocate but it was a passing thought.

It was after 2:00 when we rode away from Draper. With only another 20 miles remaining, we made good time and pulled into Radford at 4:00. Another stop for a beverage was made at the Sonic place as it is happy hour from 2 til 4 and several of their beverages are half off during that time. Donna and I had another slushy drink while Lewis had a root beer. We had a couple of errands to run in town before heading over to the home of Dr Lee and his family. First we located the bike shop and for $16 were able to purchase the toe clips or foot cages that are going to prevent Lewis from slipping his foot between the chain and the ring again. The next stop was the grocery store to purchase some dinner in the event that we had to feed ourselves tonight at the Lee household. With these tasks complete, we headed off to locate the home of Dr. Lee.

We had first heard of the generosity of Dr. Lee from a couple of cyclists we ran into a little over a week ago. They were the ones going east to west and passed along the information pertaining to the Lee’s during a lunch they shared with Lewis. The Lee’s haven’t joined warm showers and haven’t hooked up with adventure cycling either. They prefer word of mouth to draw cylinst into their comfortable home. It works for us. We pedaled up to their driveway only to discover no one home. Donna and Lewis relaxed on the porch while I worked on attaching the toe clips to Lewis’ pedals. Within 15 minutes, Sarah and her son Sam pulled up. They invited Donna in while I remained outside still working on the toe cllips. A few minutes late Dr. Lee (Thad) pulled up. I had just completed my task so I joined everyone else inside the house. We were given a bedroom upstairs to use and a couple of different bathrooms as well.

The rest of the evening was spent with Thad as we kept him company while he grilled burgers and hot dogs for our dinner. Sarah disappeared for a church meeting and wouldn’t return until about 10:00. Sam took off on his bike and we wouldn’t see him again. But Thad was the ideal host as he kept us entertained with his stories and a Gin and Tonic for both Donna and I. He had ridden the same ride that we are doing. This was back in 1999. Since then he’s been taking in cyclists as he knows first hand how nice it feels to be with people rather than alone in some city park. After dinner, I fell asleep in the living room while trying to compose this journal entry. Donna and Lewis had already retired for the evening so I joined them. I was beat. I think the Gin and Tonic had something to do with it.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Team Jackson is our name, Adversity is our game

Sunday August 23

We had such high expectations for today. The weather didn’t let us down. Although it did rain buckets overnight. The morning was actually cool enough where a jacket would have been nice to take the edge off. Overnight temperatures were chilly enough to warrant crawling into the sleeping bag for the first time in weeks. The high temperature today was in the middle 70’s. Nope, the weather was just what we would have hoped for.

Next you might guess that the hills finally got the best of us. Actually, the hills have tamed down from just a couple days ago. While we will be tackling the monster mountain of the trip in just a few days, today, for a change, we never got off the bikes to walk a hill!

Maybe it was the fact that this morning, Donnas bike tire was flat. Over 4000 miles and not one puncture until now! While the rest of the trip is in jeopardy, it has nothing to do with Donnas tires. Lets get on with the day. We left the Baptist Church Biker/Hiker Hostel by 8:00 and rode to the only restaurant in town for a traditional breakfast. By 9:00 we were back on the road as a 70 mile ride was our goal to get to the house of Dr. Lee in Radford Virginia. We made very good time today as we averaged over 10 mph and had ridden just over 30 miles when the wheels fell off. No, not literally, figuratively.

Lewis took control of this trip today when his foot slipped off his peddle and ended up between the chain and the chainring. This has happened twice on the trip before today. Both previous times I was expecting the worst as I helped Lewis get off the bicycle with tears steaming down his face. Both times, the injuries were superficial scratches to his ankle when his shoe became captured. But today, his foot was involved. As soon as we had him sitting down on the side of the road and removed his shoe, I knew that he wasn’t so lucky this time. His sock was soaked in blood. His big toe was punctured twice from the chainring with one of the punctures going through the toenail. I could feel his pain as I had a similar injury 10 years ago when I had a fingernail ripped off my finger. The incident occurred just as we were approaching the town of Wytheville Virginia. This is easily the largest community we’ve cycled into since entering Virginia. With over 7000 residents I was certain we could find at least a redi-med clinic or reasonable facsimile to have Lewis’ foot checked out. We put a bandage over his toenail (so he couldn’t see it) and got him back on the tandem. He wasn’t going to be pedaling but that wasn’t anything new for me. Sure enough, a half mile down the road we found a road sign indicating a hospital was near. We followed the signs and 10 minutes later we pulled up to the emergency room entry (not unlike an ambulance might) and I carried the patient in.

Within 15 minutes a physician had looked over Lewis’ foot and speculated on the possibility that the toe may be broken. This would mean no more bicycling. The wounds were cleaned up and neosporin was applied liberally. The x-rays came back negative meaning no broken bones! He will probably lose his toenail but not right away. According to the physician, Lewis was fortunate that he received the puncture in his nail as it allowed the blood from the damaged tissue to escape. Otherwise, a hole would have needed to be drilled into the nail to do the same thing! Lewis didn’t feel lucky.

Forty five minutes after we arrived at the Hospital, we were good to go. But where! We spent another hour in the lobby making phone calls to truck and car rental agencies, We discussed renting a truck to drive us back to Shelton, We discussed renting a car and buying a bike rack and driving to Washington DC. We discussed sitting in a motel room and having more discussions. We settled on thelatter one.

It has now been over 8 hours since this happened. The bleeding has almost stopped and Lewis has been hobbling around the motel. The physician said the best treatment is to allow his toe to breathe. If he wears shoes and socks, we have to worry about foot bacteria and cleansing. So no socks and only flip flops for footwear for sometime. In the meantime, what are we going to do? We aren’t sure yet. Right now we are considering riding on tomorrow. It will be Lewis’ deciision to make. Walking is going to be harder for him than riding.

Are you asking yourself how this happened? I’ll tell you regardless. Lewis doesn’t always pay attention. Donna was witness today. We were pedaling past a golf course when Lewis happened to see some golfers teeing off. He turned around and looked behind us to get a better view and while turning back, his foot slipped off. If he were riding his own bicycle he never would have turned around like that. But because he has complete trust in me he gets away with things that a solo bicyclist would never consider. If you have been following this blog from the beginning you probably remember when Lewis nearly fell off the tandem while goofing around in back of me. Today he wasn’t so lucky.

The first thing we’ll do tomorrow is have breakfast. Then a bike ride to a bikeshop to get some cages to make sure his feet stay on the pedals from here on out. As it now stands, we are going to ride away tomorrow and conclude the ride that we had hoped to finish today. So another easy day to see how Lewis handles adversity. This sounds familiar doesn’t it? He won’t have to walk tomorrow (or pedal for that matter)and possibly the next day as well. But if we continue, by Wednesday we will be riding up the Blue Ridge Parkway with the steepest grade that this entire trip will throw at us. We’ll all have to walk then (or get a ride). Perhaps Donna and Lewis can hitch a ride and I’ll meet them at the top. But first we need to see what happens tomorrow. He rode the bike today within minutes of the injury so we know he can do it. Will he want to is another question.
Saturday August 22

Our 25 mile ride today was over before we knew it. The overnight rain showed it’s face again this morning which temporarily dampened spirits but with the promise of a short day and a visit with family, it was only a minor distraction.
I have to report about our worst dog episode of the trip that occurred today. We were surrounded by nearly a half dozen dogs while peddling up one of the two hills we conquered today. They were barking and growling in a frenzy. I didn’t manage to get my dog whip out and likewise Donna didn’t have a chance to pull out her pepper spray. We fended them off with shouts and a few kicks when one of them got close enough. My shoe actually made contact with the face of one of them. This wasn’t supposed to happen in Virginia! These dogs must have been transplants from Kentucky.

It was just about noon when we pulled into town. Dan and Ellie were supposed to meet us at the Baptist church about the same time but were nowhere to be found. We located the Baptist Church with the Hostel and parked our bikes. A walk to check out the town was in order as it’s always a good practice to avoid biking once the day is over. The town consisted of a restaurant. We couldn’t locate any other services. According to our map there were supposed to be over 1000 people living here. This must be one of those instances when the population is actually for the entire county.

Dan and Ellie showed up about 20 minutes after we arrived. The rest of the day was spent visiting and eating and visiting some more. Lewis got to know his Aunt and Uncle that he’d only met one other time as an infant. Much fun was had by all as Donna and Dan were able to catch up on 9 years of separation. Before we knew it, four hours had passed and Dan and Elliie packed up and said goodbye. The gray overcast skies had almost completely cleared by the end of the afternoon with almost cool temperatures. We are really looking forward to tomorrow. It promises to be a beautiful day. I hope the cycling matches the weather.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Pippa Who?

Tuesday August 18

The Hampton Inn and Suites was a treat. But one that we can’t afford to repeat for at least a couple of days. We enjoyed a quality continental breakfast here. Real milk. Real fruit. Real Yogurt. Even Sausage and biscuits or biscuits and gravy. Three different varieties of coffee. Four different juice varieties. Real Donuts!!!! But you know what? I actually have a better day of riding when I have a breakfast of eggs and potatoes and a couple slices of bacon. When I gorge on too much stuff, all the blood in my body leaves my legs and heads right to the stomach to work on digesting all that stuff that was ingested. But I’ll do the same thing tomorrow morning if the opportunity presents itself! And it should.

We pedaled away from the Hampton at 9:30. A light steady rain was our companion. Once we had rejoined our highway, a Walmart presented itself. Since we had almost camped here last night and had also talked about the next Transformer action figure, we figured it was an Omen. We had to stop. Hey, it was raining. Why not? Donna and Lewis took off to wander the aisles while I stayed with the bikes. I had some light maintenance to perform on the tandem so I took care of this just inside the main door of the Walmart. Then I went over and talked to the Walmart Greeter person to discover whether or not people actually did camp at Walmart. She decided to call a management person to get the official word. In a couple minutes I was talking to the morning manager. She said “NO, you can’t camp inside Walmart!”. I almost burst out laughing. She misunderstood me. Perhaps it was my funny accent! When I clarified the inquiry. Oh sure! The RV’s pull in at night and park down by the highway all the time. When I asked if anyone had ever set up a tent, she didn’t hesitate. “Nope, not once!” But she admitted that if someone had, they wouldn’t have been chased off by anyone at the store. We now have one more thing we just gotta do once on this triip.

Donna and Lewis returned in a few minutes with the next action figure. This one will remain unopened until we reach Virginia. We pedaled away in the lessening rain. It stopped completely within the hour. The highway we were on was one that we were most anxious to get off. Highway 80 was 4 lanes of traffic and plenty of hill action as well. In 8 miles we got our wish and instantly were back to pedaling down the country roads of Kentucky. In fact the rest of the ride was rather pleasant except for the humidity and heat and of course the hills. But the traffic was bearable. Actually todays ride was not one that will go into the books as being hard because we only rode 34 miles. Again, the opportunities for lodging were spaced so that the next logical choice was another 40 miles down the road, and besides we had heard a thing or two about the town of Pippa Passes.

Don’t ask me what that name means or where it came from. But the town has a private college called Alice Lloyd College. Someone who worked at one of the gas stations where we stopped yesterday mentioned how bikers have gotten good treatment and had been allowed to sleep in the dorms. We figured it was worth a try. Donna and Lewis went in to talk to the secretary to the President. Fifteen minutes later she returned bearing the key to the official “Guest House”. This is an old cottage located right in the middle of the campus where parents of students or visiting alumni might spend a night. While we were neither, the appearance of Lewis most likely swayed the secretary as they no longer allow bicyclists to use the cottage as it is loaded with antique stuff and things came up missing after some bikers stayed previously. The policy now is to show bicyclists where they can set up their tents! Good job Lewis! There are 2 bedrooms so he gets his own room. The TV is connected to cable so he’s been watching more goofy TV. The cherry on top came this evening when we walked over to the cafeteria where the students and faculty and staff eat. I was prepared to pay for dorm food and would have paid but the manager who holds the keys to the money box was out of town. The guy who was left in charge told us to eat for free! Boy did I. I could barely walk back to the cottage after cleaning off 2 plates of food, a salad, a hot dog that Lewis didn’t eat, and 2 bowl of ice cream with some brownies. I’ve got to watch out eating like this though. While I’m able to easily take care of these excess calories on the bicycle, once we get back to being sedentary Americans I’ll just put those 30 pounds back on my midsection. But for now lets live for the moment!

It’s now just about time to call it a day. Tomorrow we return for dorm food breakast. Biscuit and gravy is Wednesdays fare. Of course there will be a half dozen kinds of breakfast cereal and oatmeal and juice and coffee and … . I’ll tell you all about it in tomorrow’s entry.

Dang Those Ice Cream Ladies!

Wednesday August 19

A restful evening was enjoyed by all as we went to bed with full stomachs and no thoughts of who sleeps where in the tent. This is a nightly ritual that we undergo whenever the tent is utilized. I prefer to be on the edge with Donna in the middle. Donna prefers to be on the edge with me in the middle. Lewis prefers to be in the middle. Here is the reasoning. Both Donna and I have discovered that when Lewis is sleeping, he often throws his arms around. He occasionally turns sideways. He never stays on his mattress all night. He’s a what I would refer to as a “wild sleeper”. Lewis prefers the middle so that he has the opportunity to disturb both our sleep! But this night he has not only his own bed but his own room. What a luxury!

We set the alarm for 6:15 and by 7:00 were all packed and ready to go eat in the dorm cafeteria again. The breakfast was better than the dinner. And once again, there was no one there collecting money. We ended up staying in the guest house, being fed dinner last night and breakfast today and it didn’t cost us a penny. We received extra special treatment due to Lewis’ but it still wouldn’t have cost us anything if we had been forced to pitch our tent like the other cyclists do. We returned the key to the Presidents Secretary and then we headed off from our favorite college that we’ve visited during this trip.

The thunderstorms that had been predicted for yesterday never materialized yesterday, and likewise were absent overnight. Today the rain began within 15 minutes of our departure. The showers lasted most of the day and occasionally there was the rumbling of distant thunder but no lightning visited us this day. No matter. The rain was enough to dampen our spirits. But with milder temperatures (80 degrees) the humidity didn’t seem so oppressive. And being wet all day provided plenty of cooling. So I saved money on Gatorade this day too as we didn’t perspire nearly as much as we normally would have. What a good thing rain is! But after riding in the warm rain for a couple hours your feet get all squishy and your hands get all wrinkly and your butt gets a really painful rash that makes sitting in the saddle extremely painful. The rain stopped for a while after noon and we had a couple hours of partly cloudy skies.

This is when the Ice Cream ladies played a cruel joke on us unsuspecting cyclists. We stopped at a dairy freeze place and had milk shakes. One of the ladies working there suggested that we take an alternate route that would be safer, fewer coal trucks, fewer dogs,and wider roads. This route would add about 7 miles to our journey but we figured that a few extra miles was a small concession to make when personal safety is the issue. So we ventured off the route that was so carefully and meticulously prepared for us by the Adventure Cycling Organization. We took the route that the ice cream lady told us about. Unfortunately, her directions and our knowledge of the area lead us to made a monumental mistake that cost us over an hour of pedaling on some of the worst roads we’ve ridden in some time. Cuz we turned the wrong way at the wrong time! When I finally realized that something was amiss, we were very nearly back to the ice cream place. We had gone in a giant circle! How could this happen to us? And then the rain that had subsided for a couple hours, once again was our companion. And the intensity had picked up some to boot. Now it’s approaching 4:00 and we have another 30 miles to get to the only legitimate place to camp for quite a while. There is no way we would ride another 30 miles before dark as we’d already ridden just over 50. This is when I got the local community involved. We stopped to ask directions from a guy outside an auto repair shop. Within minutes we had made friends with the owner and her son and a customer as well. The guy who was getting a tire repaired volunteered to drop us off back where the inncorrect turn was made. This would be after he ran an errand. I took him up on his offer. When he didn’t return after 20 minutes, I talked to the lady who owned the place and mentioned that I had $40 if somebody with a pickup truck could get us to Elkhorn City. This would be a drive of 30 miles one way. Initially I didn’t have any takers, but then she called her brother-in-law who wasn’t real busy and he agreed to help us out.

Larry drove the 3 of us to Elkhorn city in a pouring rain. Our plan from here was to have dinner at a local restaurnant and then ride the 6 miles that it took to get to our next state (Virginia) and also the interstate park know as the Breaks where we could officially pitch a tent. We unloaded outside a restaurant in the pouring rain. I think Larry felt bad leaving us here as he offered to help me load the bikes back on his truck and he’d take us the additional 6 miles to get to the Breaks. I was able to convince him that we knew what we were doing and thanked him nonetheless. Donna and Lewis were smarter than I and had dried off in the restaurant while I was taking care of the bikes. I was wetter than I’d been all day at this point. This is also when I happened to meet another fellow cyclist. Kendal Sparks was also going East on the Trans-am route and was hoping to get to the town of Haysi yet this evening. I talked to him for just a couple of minutes before he pedaled away. He is the lone survivor out of a group that left Oregon way back when. His group was trying to raise money for some worthy cause. I don’t know how many he started with but they’ve all dropped out but him. He’s riding with a couple other people that he’s run into lately but they had alrleady passed by. I wished him a pleasant journey and joined my family in the restaurant. After drying off, I was able to enjoy the dinner. But then we had to go back out in the rain and ride the additional miles to the interstate park. It ended up being 11 miles instead of 6 so it took us until nearly dark before we pulled into the campground. But we managed to set up the tent, have a shower, and fall aslleep exhausted from the day that was going so well until we listened to the ice cream lady. Total miles: 61

Team Jackson Goes Methodist

Thursday August 20

It rained and then it rained some more overnight. Good thing we have a tent! We all slept pretty soundly even though there had been some subtle and not so subtle warnings about bears that had been causing problems. We figured, hey, these are just small black bears and they don’t want to eat us. We figured correct. The bears never showed up even though we had some food in our tent! That’s what I call looking for trouble. The rain subsided before the sun rose and shortly after dawn the clouds parted enough to get a glimpse of the sun.

We packed up all of our stuff including the soaking wet tent and tarps, and were on our way out of the campground at Breaks by 8:15. Our breakfast would be consumed in the community of Haysi Virginia. This short ride of only 10 miles took over an hour as there was a great big hill between us and Haysi and we had to push the bikes up the hill. These hills are unforgiving. Every day there are more and more of these boogers. Our breakfast today was Subway $5 footlong subs. We shared 2 ham n cheese subs and some pop and a couple of cookies. A breakfast for champions (or bike pushers)! We pedaled away from Haysi towards our ultimate destination for the day, Rosedale Virginia. Before we get to Rosedale though we pass through several smaller communtiies including Birchleaf, Bee, Davenport, Council, and finally Honaker. We had a late lunch in Honaker and ran into the cyclist that I met last night in the rain outside the restaurant in Elkhorn City. Lewis sat down across from Kendal and kept him amused while he finished the rest of his lunch. If any of you would like to visit a paralell blog, here is his website:

I haven’t checked it out so I can’t be held responsible for what you might find. But he seemed like a decent bloke.

We left Honaker with only a 6 mile ride remaining to get us to Rosedale. A quick stop on the edge of Honaker to pick up some provisions at the dollar store ended up costing Lewis a couple hunks of skin on his knee as he tripped in the parking lot while running with flip flops on. He was instantly in tears as a huge goose egg formed on his damaged knee. Donna comforted Lewis like only a mother can do. He was certain that both his walking days and pedaling days were over. I guess that meant we would have to camp in this parking lot until he had recovered. I volunteered to set up the tent at the dollar store but Donna made sure that everyone was thinking along the same lines. The hostel we had hoped to stay at would be far superior to any dollar store parking lot. I mean come on, we’re not talking Walmart here! His wounds were treated and he gingerly got to his feet. Initially it would be a test to see if walking would be possible. Of course I knew it would but he was not so sure. After walking up the first hill (at an extremely leisurely pace) he decided that he would now be ready to try and ride the bike. Of course I knew he would be able to sit on the bike seat but he wasn’t so sure. After sitting on the seat for 15 minutes while I pedaled on (muc h like he has done for about 4000 miles now) he realized that yes he could sit on the bike seat. Just a couple minutes later he came to the realization that he could actually pedal with his good leg! He came to all of these conclusions without any help or pressure from anyone. What a little man. The ride to Rosedale ended up taking a lot more time than we expected but this would be an easy day of only 45 miles. The hostel I mentioned previously is actually another church. We pulled into the Methodist Church just about 5:00. We found the side door to be unlocked so we went in. We found a church lady (Barbara) upstairs who was cleaning windows. She gave us a quick summary of what they had to offer and suggested we sleep in the Sanctuary as more thunderstorms are forecast for tonight.

Donna and I have been very busy since then. The first task to be taken care of was to get the tent and tarps dried out as well as the sleeping bags. Then the dirty and wet clothes that we are hauling around needed to be washed and hung out. Then it was time to prepare a snack that would serve as our dinner. Now we are taking care of our personal needs. Donna has already cleaned up and it’s my turn shortly. Lewis is outside running and jumping just like he never broke his knee just a couple hours ago. The Boy Scout group from the church had a meeting here tonight and one of the scouts brought his little brother along. He’s been playing non-stop for the last 2 hours. Good thing we don’t count on him to help out. Tomorrow and the next day are likewise going to be spent in the sanctity of other churches. We are liking Virginia for the generosity of their churches. It almost makes up for the Appalachians!

Another day and another Damascus

Friday August 21

Today was another relatively ‘easy’ day. We rode 34 miles to get to the town of Damasucs Virginia. It was an absolute necessity that we stop here as Lewis and I have been risking life and limb for the last two days. That was when the cable for the front brakes on the tandem snapped. And Damascus has a bike shop or two or three. This is not a very big town, having less than a thousand inhabitants. But it is situated in a very bicycle hip region. The Appalachian trail goes right through this town and lots of people come here to rent bicycles for a couple of hours or a couple of days of fun. None of them know what fun really is. It takes nearly 100 days of cycling to have “real” fun! In additiion, there are scores of people who hike through this region along the same trails.

Our day started with pop tarts and coffee at the United Methodist Church. Then we rode. The rain started after a half and hour and lasted for maybe an hour. After that it was a pleasant day. The sun eventually made an appearance but just like the weathermen predicted, the edge had been taken off. The high temperature today was only in the low 80’s and the humidity has also dropped since yesterday. Life is good as they have also predicted more pleasantries for the weekend.

Our objective today was to get to Damascus as soon as possible to insure that the bike shop had plenty of time to take care of our ‘braking needs’. We managed to pull into town by 2:00 and visited the first shop that was recommended. Unfortunately, the mechanic was without a tool necessary to complete the job so he sent me to another shop. This is where I met Bill. Bill and I spent almost 2 hours getting the front brakes operable. It probably would have taken me a half hour if I was home with my own tools but this was Bills place so I was only his assistant. Nevertheless, we now have fully functioning brakes. It has been just a might bit scary coming down some of these winding hills in the rain with only a rear brake to slow us down. Thanks Bill!

We had dinner in a pizza place not far from the bike shop and are now situated in a real ‘hostel’ in the town of Damascus. This one is also run by a United Methodist Church but is more typical of what you would expect a hostel to be like. This hostel is an actual house situated behind the church. We grabbed one of the three bedrooms upstairs and have utilized 3 of the 6 bunk beds that are in our room. There are bunk beds enough to accommodate at least 24 people inside. After that I would assume that others would chose to pitch a tent outside. There are a couple of showers here and more hikers than bikers. In just a bit I’ll be walking back to the library in town and hopefully updating the blog. While the library will be officially closed, I have been assured by the librarian that their wifi runs through the night.

Tomorrow should be another easy day and one that Donna has been anticipating since we left Shelton over 80 days ago. Her oldest brother Dan has assured us that he will indeed be driving up from Asheville North Carolina to meet us in Troutdale Virginia. I’m not sure how long a drive it is but it can’t be anything like what we will have done to get there. Donna hasn’t seen Dan in 9 years. The last time was when Lewis was a 3 month old infant and we ran into him in Michigan as we were making a visit at the same time that he was. In addition, his wife Ellie will be accompanying him. This should certainly be a highlight of the trip for Donna. I’m looking forward to what Ellie has prepared for lunch as well as cracking open a few beers with Dan. But first we have to ride about 25 miles and climb up 2 significant mountains. Yep, I can actually refer to them as mountains because all of the locals do. They pale in comparison to the Rockies, but they are actually harder to ride. They just keep coming at you. One after another after another. Today we climbed two of these and both times we were ‘pushing’ our bikes again. This bike trip of over 4000 miles (so far) has seen us pushing our bikes instead of riding them for something like 100 miles. This would all be to Lewis’ chagrin!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Heat and Humidity and Hills Harass Team Jackson

Monday August 17

The night at the Presbyterian Church was a peaceful one. We awoke to a heavy fog and plenty of condensation that coated everything from the night before. Packed up and headed towards the café by 8:30. We all had a hearty breakfast and were on the road pulling away from Booneville at just a little after 9:00. The fog burned off before 10:00 and we spent the remainder of the day in partly cloudy skies. The thunderstorms that were supposed to happen and cool things off, never materialized. So the cooling off never occurred either. We are definitely in the for some hard days as we wind down this adventure. Todays climbing was more tiring than any we have done to ate. It must be a combination of the heat and exertion as we’ve had longer climbs back in the Rockies. But the up and down and up and down is zapping all of our reserves. Lewis doesn’t like walking up the hills, while I don’t have the stamina to ride up. Today he repeatedly expressed his desire to just go home. Fortuantely Donna is with me on the the absolute necessity of finishing up what we started back on the first of June. If I was the only one who felt that way, I’m guessing that this trip would be over as Lewis is really starting to hate walking up these hills in this heat.

We averaged only 8 miles an hour today and managed to ride a measly 44 miles. We could have ridden just a bit more but not the 25 miles that would take us to the next campground. One positive development is the fact that there are more gas stations that sell gatorade now. We stopped 3 or 4 times today and passed by at least another 3 or 4 places. Our initial plan today was to pedal through the town of Hazard Kentucky and stay at the Walmart. We’ve heard that this is allowable but haven’t had the nerve to try it yet. The highway that we followed to get to Hazard was the busiest we’ve been on for some time. There were plenty of trucks and way too many cars. The 36” shoulder was a nice change but half of that had been turned into ‘wake up bumps’ which certainly kept us awake. Since our decision to visit Hazard was taking us off the course by 5 or 6 miles, we reconsidered and found a motel room and saved the extra miles of riding. The extra miles on highway 15 were just not what we had in mind. And then in the morning we would have ridden the same 5 or 6 miles just to get back on course.

So we are relaxing in our room once again and watching TV and I’m having my first beer since before we entered Kentucky. That’s right. Hazard Kentucky located in Perry County, is not a dry county! I had pretty much given up on Kentucky and was prepared to go another 3 or 4 days when we will leave Kentucky in favor of our final state Virginia. Already the excruciating hills are seeming just a bit less daunting. Bring them on. Team jackson will prevail! (or we’ll just push those bikes)

The Hills Keep a Rolling

Saturday and Sunday August 15 & 16

We rested our minds and bodies for a whole 36 hours. Funny, it only seemed like a day and a half. There was just a bit of disgruntlement on the part of some of team Jackson as we hardly stepped out of our Motel room in Berea once we had paid for it. Lewis wasn’t disgruntled as he used the time to catch up on all of the television shows that he normally doesn’t get to see. I’m afraid he is going to go into withdrawal once we return to Shelton and he loses the opportunity to watch I-Carly. We made a weak effort to walk into town Saturday afternoon but after crossing the parking lot in the sweltering heat, we second thoughts and realized that a day spent in the air-conditioned comfort (which we had paid for) was not really a wasted day. We did want the day off after all. So other than a couple of trips to Walmart (across the parking lot) and dinner at the Cracker Barrel (next door), we stayed cooped up in our room. I probably spent 4 or 5 hours on the computer which makes the day off seem almost like work. But it wasn’t physical. On Saturday we rode exactly no miles. So lets skip any more analysis of this day of nothing. On to Sunday,

The continental breakfast that is offered at the Holiday Hotel was insignificant. Some bagels and cheap danishes. Some coffee and Hot cocao. Some bread for toast with jam. No half and half. No fruit. No milk. So we supplemented this with fresh fruit and cottage cheese. We were packed and ready to roll by a little after 9:00. Not what I would consider an early start by any means. And then we’re off. The enthusiasm and determination are all in high gear after a day of no pedaling. It was another scorching day. The heat an humidity are working in combination. Our go get em attitude lasted for a couple hours of up and down riding before it was zapped by the weather. We stopped at Big Hill for a snack (this was only 8 miles down the road). The next stop was over 40 miles away. I ran out of fuel and liquids before that. With 7 miles to our final destination (Booneville Kentucky) we pulled into our last quick mart of the day. Closed. We sipped at our last drops of hot water and got back on the bikes to ride that final 7 miles. Less than a mile down the road we heard music, loud music. Initially I though it was a really good stereo with massive speakers. As we got closer I realized it was live music. Actually it was the sound check that a band was doing before they would begin the real thing. I had already told Donna that I would be asking the first person we saw for some water. Here was a whole bunch of people.

We pulled in the driveway and asked for some water. We were rewarded with ice cold bottled water. Mine last approximately 3 seconds. This was a birthday party that we were attempting to crash. The guest of honor was Taylor who was the lead vocalist in this southern rock band. She had a remarkable voice for someone who turned 15 just the day before. Taylors mother invited us to stick around for the party and to go ahead and use the pool. There was the promise of plenty of food and the music would be ongoing as well. I even went so far as to get an OK to pitch our tent and crash here overnight.

Immediately we hit the pool. The band continued tuning up while more and more people showed up. Once the tune up was over, the playing began. This young woman, Taylor has a mature southern voice that doesn’t quit. I’m guessing that she has a future in music. The rest of her group were more mature local guys who were in their 20’s and 30’s.

We sat back and listened to the music and eventually joined in on the food portion of the celebration. Once we had satisfied our appetite both Donna and I realized that we weren’t going to be camping here. While no one would have said anything, it would have been awkward using their bathroom. So we got back on our bikes and rode the final 6 miles to the Presbyterian Church in Booneville. The sun was just setting when we pulled up. That left us enough time to get the tent set up before it became too dark to see. The church has a covered pavillion and a bathroom and a shower for cyclists. It doesn’t come close to some of the other accomodations we’ve run across, but it certainly beats a city park with no bathrooms or showers. Since we ate at the birthday party, no dinner was required. We all got down to business with our respective journals and shortly after were ready to reitire for the day. Total miles: 62

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Observations of Kentucky

Friday August 14

The night spent on the living room floor of Keith and Alicia’s place was over before I knew what happened. They were awake and getting ready before 6:30 as they would all be leaving by 7:15 (as would we). We had oatmeal and coffee with them before heading off. Our earliest start ever. The sun had barely risen above the horizon and the early morning mist or fog had yet to burn off. What a splendid way to start a day long bike ride! Within an hour the fog had dissipated and was replaced with a mostly sunny day that would see us through the entire afternoon. The temperatures were comfortable enough as the mercury never rose over 85 degrees, and the humidity was just tolerable.

The town of Harrodsburg (15 miles)would be the first stop of the day for us, other than to snap a few pictures with our new camera. A real bakery was the objective since Harrodsburg was a real town with over 8000 inhabitants. Success! I could do well in this town. The pastries we found were far superior to most of the junk we’ve eaten from Walmart. Unfortunately, they didn’t have wifi. The public library had been pedaled by on the way to the bakery so we backtracked just a bit. An hour was spent doing some journaling, posting of our blog and checking for a warm showers host in the town of Berea, Kentucky (our destination for the end of the day). I called the warm showers host and left a message and also sent off an e-mail in hopes of securing a second consecutive night in a friendly environment.

Our earliest start of the trip had by now been mostly squandered as it was approaching 11:00 and we had a total of 15 miles in. We got back in the saddles again and headed off towards sights unseen. It was certainly a lot warmer outside after visiting the library but most of that can be attributed to the air conditioned comfort that exists everywhere we stop.

The hills of Kentucky are now approaching small mountain status. Well, not really, but they are getting to be just a bit longer and definitely are happening more frequently. This is hampering our average speed just a bit as we are either pedaling up these hills at 4.4 mph or else pushing the bike at 3.2 mph. The downhill sections never make up for the climbs. Today was a day of many of these ‘small mountain’ type hills. Team Jackson was up to the challenge but only barely. There was plenty of grumbling from all corners each time another hill presented itself. And our legs have started to become heavy. Therefore it was determined that today was the last consecutive day of riding. Tommorrow would be a day of rest! Hiip, Hip, Hooray!!!! We’ve pedaled everyday since departing Carbondale (after ‘Crash’ crashed)with the distances piling up. 60 miles, 50 miles, 49 miles, 75 miles, 60 miles, 63 miles, and by the end of today another 66 mile ride. Seven consecutive days! Crash is unstoppable.

But we haven’t finished this day yet. There are so many things to dissect and disseminate. Not really, but I do have more energy as I’m sitting in a hotel room on our day off while composing this. So our ride for the rest of the day presented us with obstacles that we’ve come to expect as routine now that we’re in Kentucky. Lets begin with the dog chases. We had a couple more on this day. One was scary as the mongrel that was chasing us seemed to be snapping his jaws and drooling a bit as if it hadn’t eaten a cyclist in quite some time. We had almost forgotten what abject terror an angry dog presents. Not just to Lewis either. We had a stretch of nearly 3000 miles where not one dog had the energy or the opportunity to chase us down the street. Here in Kentucky, we get a loose dog with an attitude every 10 or 20 miles. Kentucky has a reputation for lots of roaming dogs and it has definitely lived up to it. Three or four days ago, Lewis and I were chased by a cadre of hound dogs and a few mixed breeds that all came from the same back yard. Fortunately, they gave up the chase before getting too close but I was prepared to do combat this time. I had the dog whip out and was going to use it. Donna is equipped with the dog spray but she’d previously pedaled past. In fact she was the one to get them stirred up!

Besides dog chases, we need to mention another aspect of Kentucky that is unique to this state. We typically stop at every store that we pedal by as these opportunities occur sometimes only 3 or 4 times in a day. In the event that more than one store is present, we’ll go for the one that seems friendlier or healthier. Sometimes this involves poking our head inside to determine if the smell of burning cigarrettes is present. Occasionally we have no choice but to go into a place where several people are smoking. In this case, we’ll usually make a purchase and then sit outside in the sweltering heat to eat or drink what we just bought. I’ve previously mentioned the typical fare these places offer is of the deep fried variety. Lewis could live on the corndogs. But Donna and I have grown just a bit tired of the deep fried chicken strips or potato wedges or burritos, or jalapeno poppers or the hush puppies. The presence of Pickled Ring Bologna (and other delicacies) is a welcome change but man cannot live on pickled bologna alone! We’ve recently hit a string of small country stores that sell assorted hardware including plumbing supplies as well as having a small deli counter. You could theoretically get your kitchen sink drain fixture repair part from the same lady who will fix you a Pickle and Pimento loaf sandwich(P&P). Something else that I’ve noticed since entering Kentucky is the beverage YooHoo. This chocalate flavored drink from my childhood lives on here. So to does the Moon Pie. While I’ve not had a YooHoo (Donna and Lewis have), I’ve eaten a dozen Moon Pies. I seem to recall the fact that prison inmates down south (here) prefer moon pies to any other form of snack cakes that are available to them. I am akin to the convicts!

One more observation and then I’ll get back to the documentation that normally fills these pages. We are struggling to understand what these people in Kentucky are saying to us! Their lips are moving but we are not hearing a lot of familiar words. I think they are talking to us but I’m not sure. So I’ve gotten into the habit of just agreeing with whatever they say by shaking my head and saying uh, huh! The other day when I approached a guy driving an ambulance to see if we might find a place to shower, I actually said “Do yall have a shar that we cud yoose”. Lewis is picking up on some of there llnguistic idiosynchrocies as well. He’s actually quite good at mimicking what he’s heard. I’ve had to clamp a hand over his mouth when he’s doing this at the wrong time as it could easily be misconstrued as poking fun at the general population. He doesn’t know this however. Ah, the ignorance of youth!

I’ve been meaning to expound on some of these observations for several days now and have finally been given the opportunity (and brain power) to do so. That’s what taking a day off does for me . Otherwise I am just exhausted at the end of the day and have a hard time just remembering the facts. Alright, back to todays ride. There’s not much left to tell though. We pedaled through communtiies like Burgin, Bryantsville, Kirksville before finally pulling into the artsy town of Berea. Before getting to Berea, we ran into the group of eastbound British cyclists that we’d encountered the day before and snapped their picture. We might be running into them while we are here as they are likewise taking a day off. We also hit a couple of west bound trans am riders who passed along some information about a good place to stop when we get to Virginia. These 2 guys (Matt and Ben) are going to be pedaling by our house in a few months so we invited them to stop by. We’ll see. The final note on todays ride. This is a sentimental observation. Just before pulling into town, we crossed a special highway. I-75, as many of you realize, runs from Northern Michigan, all the way to Southern Florida. Lewis snapped a picture of this monumental event but inadvertantly left off the highway sign. Ah, the ignorance of youth.

Hats off to Keith Alicia Ben and Joel

Thursday August 13

Another day brings with it more opportunities for things to not go as planned. What good is planning? Our plans today were to have breakfast (which we did), visit the library, (which we did), visit the Lincoln museum, (which Donna and Lewis did), update the blog (which we didn’t) and locate the camera (which is now listed as missing in action). We did however end up riding a goodly amount and had an overall good day which was concluded by pedaling up to the house of Keith and Alicia and their 2 boys, Joel and Benjamin (5 and 3 respectively).

And now for the details. Our night in Hodgenville was uneventful which we like. No marauding gangs of raccoons or teenagers for that matter. We were awake and packing before 7:00 and hit McDonalds for breakfast by 8:00. By 8:30 we had managed to pedal back to town to the library where I sat down to see if I could get the blog caught up. Donna and Lewis walked over to the Lincoln museum while I spent quite a while taking care of the e-mail that piles up. Just when I was getting ready to work on the blog, Donna and Lewis return. The library was a flop so they’re ready to move on to whatever is next. And it won’t be sitting around the library while I painstakingly enter journal entries, and pictures. So instead an inquiry to warm showers was made and a host was located at about the right distance that we could probably ride there in a day. The last chore I managed to accomplish at the library in the time that was allotted me was call the Baptist Church in Sebree again to see if they had located our camera. This was our dose of bad news for the day. No camera. The lady who answered the phone had gotten the message that I’d left yesterday and had asked the youth minister if he’d seen the camera and he didn’t. After my phone call today, she did a little more searching where I thought it might be. No luck. No camera. There is a slim chance that it may still turn up somewhere but the chance is like I said, slim. So now we are operating on the premise that we have no camera.

Where could the camera have gotten to you ask. Or you might ask if you really cared. I’ll assume that you care so now you get to listen to where the camera might have gotten to. I don’t think the raccoons got it. Pretty sure of that. But someone else may have taken it while it spent the night in the bathroom because of the raccoons. Or someone could have taken it out of the bag during one of the many stops we took during the previous 2 days. I’ve gotten into the habit of grabbing my wallet and leaving everything else including the bike out side whenever I enter an establishment for food. Another possibility is that the cyclist we spent the night with at the church in Sebree has the camera and is planning on catching up with us to return it. There are other possibilities that I don’t want to consider as they shed bad light on people who are most likely undeserving of bad light. Won’t go there. Not prudent.

So we’re going to buy another camera today. In 25 miles we’ll be in Bardsville Kentucky, home of Stephen Foster and many other historical sites. They also have a population of over 10000 so will have a Walmart somewhere in the vicinity. We’re going to Walmart! A shortcut was taken this morning that shaves 10 miles off the distance of our ride so we were in fine shape. On the way to Bardstown we cycled through a couple small communties that I don’t know the name of as they are not on the maps that we normally refer to at the end of the day. I know that a Railroad Museum was in one of these towns as we stopped for a snack and also to walk around on some of the old locomotives and passenger cars. We would have taken some good pictures here if only we had a camera! A couple miles up the road Donna stopped at a Coopers. What is a cooper you might be asking? For those who are unwise in old professions that have almost gone extinct, a cooper is a person who makes barrels out of wood. This place made oak barrels that are used to age whisky. She was hoping for a tour but everyone was on break so we pedaled on.

Once we got to historic Bardsville, we stopped at the library to get directions to Walmart. Donna was keen on forcing Lewis to learn some history, but when given the chance to chose between visiting the civil war museum with her or going to Walmart with me, she lost out. So we all decided to go to Walmart and skip the history junk. With no camera to document the fact that we were there, it seems almost pointless. Gotta get the camera replaced.

Located the Walmart, found a cheap replacement camera ($120), split a couple of Subway subs and were ready for the final 35 miles of the day. It was 2:00 by the time we pedaled away. With only a couple stops for water, we completed the rest of our ride and pulled up to our host family's house after a ride of just over 63 miles. We were just in time to miss having dinner with them. I had talked to Keith earlier and hadn't expected to arrive in time for dinner but he reassured me that some food would be provided whenever we showed up. We were treated like family as Keith had prepared extra food for us which only needed to be popped into the microwave to heat up a bit. There were grilled pork chops, mashed potatoes with gravy, fried zuchini, and a green salad. We shared desert with them as well. Sweet potato pie and ice cream. This while we are still letting our heart rates return to a resting pulse rate. The showers to come later. Keith is a minister in training and his wife Alicia is a special ed teacher. Their boys were especially excited at having a cyclist stay with them who was a kid! We showered after dining and then got to visit with our hosts. Lewis played with the boys a bit before it was their bed time. Such well behaved children. When it was bedtime, the word was spoken and then the boys went upstairs to bed and went to sleep. How does that happen? We were given the option to sleep on the floor in the living room instead of setting up our tent which we decided to do. This saves so much time when you don't have to take care of a wet tent in the morning. While Keith and Alicia had hi-speed internet, they didn't have wireless so I wasn't able to download the blog entries. Our stories of the road were shared with our hosts who are just getting into bike touring. They had recently completed a week long ride but without the children. It's when you include the whole family that you find out what kind of material you are really made of!

And the final score was...

Wednesday August 12

Last night ended up as contest of wits between the visitors from Shelton, Team Jackson, and the home town favorites, Rascally Ravenous Raccoons. Team Jackson pulled this one out in extra innings but it could have gone either way. We had all retired to the tent and had fininshed our journals and two thirds of Team Jackson was asleep. The only one awake was of course, yours truly. The first indication that we would be having visitors came when Father Raccoon approached the entrance to our tent and began to ‘snuffle’. I am assuming it was sniffing for food, but it certainly caught my attention. I hadn’t noticed it until I heard it first. I hollered at it and it scampered away. Of course this also woke up the other two thirds of team Jackson. There was a lively debate about who would stay watch to protect the others. Lewis volunteered to take the first shift. I decided to take all of our food panniers and my handle bar bag and store them in the bathroom as there were very few low hanging branches in which to hang the food. The extended raccoon family came back within a half hour and everyone got to see them this time. We hollered again as they were climbing all over the picnic table and bikes which were leaning against the table. Again they scampered off! This would be the last time that we bothered them. I awoke one more time in the middle of the night to 5 raccoons all within a couple feet of the entrance of our tent. They had given up on the bikes and were wondering if there might still be some people in the tent. I convinced them that we hadn’t left by whispering to them to just scat, which they promptly did. Final score: Team Jackson 3, Raccoons 0.

While we beat them, I paid the price by having interrupted sleep once again. We were all awake and packing by 6:15 and managed to pedal away from the state park at just a little after 7:00. We paid for our night ($12) on the way out as there was no one at the entrance when we arrived the evening before. Had we been able to get on the road just 10 minutes earlier, I’m certain we would have escaped with no one noticing we had even spent the night, hence saving $12 for something else. But it was worth the money to have a shower, but the raccoons detracted from our relaxation just a bit.

Our first destination was a mile back down the road to a restaurant that we had passed on the way to the Park. We all had a filling breakfast and once again, Lewis was the center of attention. He is certainly getting used to people asking him the same questions over and over again. And he usually answers them the same every time. “Do you ever pedal back there?” : “No”. “How do you like spending your summer on a bicycle?” : “It’s boring”. Donna and I both know different though. He is enjoying this more than we are as he doesn’t have to work nearly as hard as either one of us. He is often the recipient of special treats that we don’t merit. Go figure!

We began riding at about 8:30. The day began with splendid weather. Temperatures in the low 70’s that eventually topped out in the upper 80’s but with low humidity, it seemed much cooler than that. We made steady progress, stopping for drinks and or icecream in places like Madrid, McDaniels, Eastview, and finally Sonora. It was during our ride today that I discovered we no longer had posession of our digital camera. The last time I remember using it was at the Baptist Church in SeBree. I downloaded some pictures and may have left it on the counter in the cyclists area. That is what I am hoping. The other possibility is that it was taken from my handlebar bag while I wasn’t looking. Those raccoons may have pulled one over on me! There were many opportunities for the camera to have been taken, but I have a strong feeling that it is at the church. We haven’t been able to contact them yet but will try again tomorrow. In the meantime, no new pictures. We had our lunch in Eastview at a gas station/pizza store which had free wifi. It has been days since wifi has been available so I checked e-mail and responded to one and then Donna responded to a couple but there was no time to update the blog so it remains days behind. But the journal keeps going. So just hang in there and all will become clear, eventually.

Our ultimate destination today was Hodgeville, Kentucky. This is the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln. We pulled into town just past 5:30 and discovered not much of a town. We had expected more and were just a bit dissapointed. I was prepared to get a motel room if the price was right. NO MOTELS! So we found the county Park behind the middle school and that’s where we are right now. No showers again but we have bathrooms and several ball diamonds to goof around on. We have to scram in the morning though as school has already started here in Kentucky (and also in Missouri). We’ll be going to the Abe Lincoln Museum in the morning and hopefully I will get to visit the Library to update the blog. Lewis earned his 5th transformer of the trip today. We had purchased this over a week ago and had been using it as a carrot to get him to keep up on his journal.
But the transformers have been losing their appeal to him. Within a day of receiving them, he's already relegated them to his bin of forgotten toys. And when riding a bicycle across the country, one doesn't really want to carry a bin of forgotten toys!

Expectations that are dashed to pieces and then...

Tuesday August 11

All kinds of good intentions today went by the wayside and yet we are just where I had hoped we’d be. It didn’t start out that way. I was awake by 5:30 and began packing up stuff that was out in the recreation part of the youth center. We had stuff spread all over the place. The dishes from last nights dinner were washed too. Donna was awake and moving around just a little after 6:00. Unbeknownst to me however was the fact that she was suffering one of her debilitating headaches that typically result in her spending half the day in bed. Great! There goes my early start. I had grand designs to actually start riding today by 7:00 in order to beat the heat and humidity. It has been only bearly tolerable for the last week and we had a ride of over 70 miles to get to the next place for camping (unless we stopped at 26 miles where there was also camping). Even Donna realizes that if we continue riding days of 40 or 50 or 26 miles, we are not going to have any time to spend in DC.

I finished packing everything I could and then went back to lay on the mattress that I’d slept on last night. I was willing to wait and see how long we would be here. I was guessing that we’d probably spend the day here again. Not much I could do about it however. Donna was weepy for a bit as the discomfort she was suffering made her homesick. Evidently she wanted to be lying in her own bed in her own house in Shelton, and not in some youth center underneath a Baptist Church. I attempted to comfort her , but it made little difference. She went so far as to talk about ending the trip right then and there. I was speechless, but being a good husband, I told her we could quit whenever she wanted to. I think the word quit made her rethink just a bit. But perhaps it was the Ibuprofen. Within an hour she had regrouped and was feeling a little better. She admitted later that it would be a downer to quit after having come so far and being so close to our final destination.

We pedaled away from the Baptist Church in Sebree Kentucky at 8:30. This day would be one of taking it just 10 miles at a time. If we had to stop at 26 miles, then so be it. Any progress is better than none. The weather today started out being clear with plenty of humidity from the thunderstorms that blew through last night. The morning temperatures were already pushing 80 degrees by the time we rode our first mile. Great! This was why I wanted to get a couple extra early hours of riding in before it became unbearable. The best laid intentions of mice and men! The first 10 miles found us in Beech Grove Kentucky and everyone was holding their own. We stopped for ice cream before pedaling on.

The gently rolling hills of Kentucky are almost calming compared to the Ozarks. The next stop would come after 2 hours of riding and was the 26 mile point. An early lunch was had at Utica Kentucky. We had to make a decision at this point to either stop and camp, or move on. Since it was still before noon, and Donna had almost completely recovered from her morning headache, she decided that we could move on. This meant that we had to either ride another 50 miles today to reach the next campground, or failing that, guerilla camp behind a church or fire station.

During lunch we happened to talk to quite a few locals who were predicting that we’d be getting wet before too much longer. The partly cloudy day had turned into overcast while we were eating. We left Utica just a bit after noon and rode non-stop the next 20 miles where we found the small town of Whitesville. We decided to have another lunch here so we did. This one was topped off with soft serve ice cream for Donna and I while Lewis had a chocolate sundae. At just a bit after 3:00, we had another 30 miles of road ahead of us to get to the campground. Unfortunately these were going to be the toughest miles we’d encounter for the day as the gently rolling hills became a bit taller and closer together. No matter. I know how to push the tandem up hills! Fortunately for us, the overcast skies remained which kept the mercury hovering around a comfortable but sticky 80 degrees. This day ended up having the best weather for cycling that we’ve experienced since way back in Kansas.

We pulled into a Kentucky State Park at just about 7:00 which is called the Rough River Dam State Park. Total miles ridden today; 75! And to think that we had almost ended the trip earlier, or taken a short day, or taken a day off. It looks like Donna is back in the cycling groove. Her spirits have come way up with today’s accomplishment. We’ve had our showers, set up the tent and Lewis even found another kid to hang with for a while. This day ended way better than anyones earlier expectations. What will tomorrow be like?