What a difference a day makes! When morning comes, Berea has survived the storm relatively unscathed and the skies have cleared. It means, as ever, we have to move on. It’s a strange feeling since it’s likely we may not see any of our new found cycling friends for a while, or perhaps ever again. Many of them, including the Adventure Cycling group, are staying in Berea for the day, but our schedule means we can’t take that luxury.
Worried that we might be falling behind, Terry and I went through all the maps and checked distances and times. We are still on track, but it’s tight. We must cycle across America and reach Oregon by July 21st to meet up with Liz and Kate and that means we must average 60 miles a day with time for five or possibly six rest days. So far, since we began on May 7th we’ve had just one rest day. Trouble us, that was forced on us by the weather and the remaining ones may equally fall foul to events such as repairs, illness or again, the weather. So although it would be great to stay, we really have no choice.
A few miles out of Berea it’s clear we are finally leaving the Appalachians behind. The countryside is so perfect we are sure it’s an illusion. Mountains have been replaced with gently rolling hills, rich pasture and finely manicured lawns. We could almost be in England. At one point I’m sure I see Victoria Pendleton waft past in a floaty summer dress with a punnet full of strawberries in her bike basket. Birds tweet, bees buzz, cows moo. But we’ve been so brutalised by the mountains we don’t trust anything. Behind us they appear to be receding, but they’ve done this before and then reared up for one final punishment.
But, for now they appear to be gone, although by afternoon the riding has got harder again and we are being plagued by the four Hs – hills (although only horrible) headwinds, heat and hounds. We were just at the point of putting the Dog Dazers away when suddenly we were in dog country again. Curiously this time they showed no interest in Terry, instead I was clearly the target. One collie-cross barely lifted his nose when Terry rode past but a glimpse of me and he was a snarling barking beast. We came to the conclusion that my red cycling top may have been the reason, so I quickly changed into a blue one. It didn’t seem to make much difference – perhaps some dogs just prefer Endura. Anyone have any theories on this one?
A little later, while trying to navigate a tricky navigational section, we came across Keenan, also trying to find his way. A student in North Carolina, he was riding home to Sacramento on a bike he’d bought for a hundred dollars. It only had limited gearing and was wobbling about a bit under the load (which included an SLR camera and three books including Anna Karenina and Umberto Eco’s ‘The Name of the Rose’) but as a member of his college cycling team he looked well able to cope.
Later we stopped and he made us peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch sat outside a rather strange general store that had more stuffed deer heads on display than produce. As has so often been the case our enquiry on the availability of fresh fruit was met with the same quizzical stare as if we’d asked for a exhaust bracket for a 1964 Ford Cortina.
While lunching we also met up with two cyclists taking day trips before attending a major horse racing event in Lexington KY. All went well until I nearly amputated theirs and Terry’s legs by getting up from the side of the bench where I was sitting, only to see the whole contraption topple over, trapping the three of them on the other side. Who’d have thought after more than two weeks of cycling I’d still weigh more than three people. Mind you Terry does tip the scales at less than your average whippet.
We night stopped in Harrodsburg, the first permanent settlement in Kentucky and fortunately we were there in good enough time to have a look around. There was evidence that this part of Kentucky had been hit by last night’s storm much harder than Berea, with several fallen trees. But for the first time we felt like we were in a ‘proper’ town with a Main Street, shops – and people about! Some interesting historical buildings including a reconstruction of Fort Harrod and a fascinating Pioneer Cemetery with unnamed headstones marking the graves of early settlers here. Close by was a rather grand building, the Lincoln Wedding
Temple, a church-like building inside which the wooden chapel in which Abraham Lincoln’s parents were married has been placed (although the next day we discovered there is some doubt over its authenticity and it may in fact be the cabin in which they spent their first night together). All a little odd. I wonder if the honeymoon suite where David Cameron’s parents spent their wedding night is stored in a warehouse somewhere waiting for future generations to enjoy. Let’s hope not.
More appealing was a local coffee shop in the centre of town where we chatted to a young local couple who’d brought their toddler out for a meal. All around were photos of the town throughout the years – a real community spirit with some interesting old buildings. But even here the power of Walmart had sucked a lot of the trade onto the Interstate.
We stayed in a rather run-down motel in the centre of town. First impressions were not good – a smashed window out back (it looked suspiciously like a bullet hole) a sofa dumped out front and a general feeling it had seen better times. But I like a bit of character and the woman we met outside won us over. A Hindu, she immediately understood Terry’s challenging quest to find some decent vegetarian food in the United States and offered to cook us a curry dinner – it would be the same as she was preparing for her family.
So that evening a raft of plates arrived and we tucked into rice curry and Chapatis in our room. It was delicious and proof that perhaps you shouldn’t always judge a book by its cover. Even so we kept our heads down when passing the windows, just in case.
Miles today: 54.53
Total since First Landing: 879.96
Here’s today’s full Garmin breakdown: