It’s Memorial Day in America, a public holiday, so the roads are quiet. The Stars and Stripes are everywhere as the country remembers its war dead.
Sitting in a cafe in Sebree this morning over breakfast I was reading the Evansville Courier which had an article about a local lad killed in Vietnam in 1968 when he was just 18. His platoon had been shot to pieces when they stumbled upon a Viet Cong Battalion during a search and destroy mission. The tragedy had ripped the family apart – parents split up and siblings distancing themselves. Just one story from the 58,000 who died in that war alone. Makes you appreciate how lucky we are to be doing this ride.
The cycling today was hard. It’s easy to forget Kentucky is well south – and it’s hot and humid. We are cycling through what is a temperate rainforest (we been surrounded by forest almost continuously since Yorktown). Wildlife is abundant, Vultures are nearly always overhead or on the road devouring a flattened possum or skunk.
Chipmunks scurry throughout the leaves and up into the trees at our approach. Today Terry spotted a pink striped snake swimming along a creek. The sound of woodpeckers tapping away in the forest is never far away – but it’s a much deeper sound than the greater spotted ones we have at home. And the smell of honeysuckle is omnipresent – it grows everywhere and the yellow flowers lend the air a thick perfume.
It’s amazing to think most of the forest is comparatively new. When the early settlers moved into Kentucky they described sycamore trees so large families could live in the hollowed out trunks while their cabins were being built. Virtually all of that virgin forest has been but down, but according to Josh, who we stayed with last night at First Baptist Church, a few pockets do still remain.
What modern America does have in abundance though is long roads – the sort of never-ending strip of tarmac you see in the movies – mile after endless mile – the heat haze often confuses the view ahead. At one point I became convinced I could see Terry lying in the road with a vulture on his chest. I panicked and pedalled fast to find him lying in a small patch of shade – the vulture had been his water bottle held aloft in his hand.
Later a couple on a Harley stopped to ask if I had broken down. The truth was at I had stopped because I was exhausted. On top of the heat a strong headwind was reducing speeds well into single figures. Hours ticked by and the speedo barely moved. Meanwhile we broiled. We are constantly having to use sun-cream to stop burning.
In the end we covered far fewer miles than intended. Arriving in Marion we met up with Rudy and Heidi and quickly took the decision to stay with them in the United Methodist Church where the pastor Wayne Garvey took our pictures for his journals of passing cyclists and showed us around. Hot showers and a sofa to sleep on – wonderful! Moments later Jerry and Jonathan also turned up so there were six of us.
Popped out for dinner in the evening McDonalds for me (every cycling magazine I’ve read recommends a Big Mac and McFlurry as top pedalling food) while Terry tucked into his signature dish – a 12 inch Subway Veggie baguette. We entertained the waitresses in Maccy Ds with our British accents and then went back to church and crashed.
Today’s Miles: 43.88
Miles since First Landing: 1138.32
Here is the full Garmin report: