Small town America may have its problems, but the sense of community remains strong – certainly in Howardstown. It’s also noisy, but that’s not down to the people, but the birds – one of the most lively dawn choruses I’ve heard in years, rivalling the frog chorus the night before.
By the time we’d packed up our tents and arrived at the local gas station, Anna-Louis was already hard at work serving customers, and cooking up egg and bacon biscuits. An extraordinary woman in her 70s, she is also principle of the local school (where we spent the night) and is, in her own words a workaholic. The school receives no official funding and one of the locals told us every year she organises an annual fund-raising event which last year brought in 55,000 dollars.
“It’s the heart of the community,” Anna told us. Although the school only has 25 pupils, up until they start High School, she proudly told us many had made it through to college. She said she enjoyed working at the gas station as a complete break from teaching. Taking a rest didn’t seem to feature in her life.
We enjoyed the cooked breakfast so much we had two helpings and throughout a succession of customers came in – all knew each other and each swopped news over coffee before heading off to work. Most had a quick chat with us about our adventure and were genuinely interested in what we were doing. We barely had a few hours with this community, but their hospitality and friendly deep southern drawl meant Howardstown was more than just another dot on the map by the time we left.
It’s a sign of how far our cycling has been improved by the Appalachians that a ‘terrible’ hill the locals had warned us about as we left town turned out to be nothing more than a steady two mile climb. A bit hot first thing in the morning, but soon out of the way and we were quickly making good progress.
Interestingly this area is very Catholic (in a sea of Baptists, Presbyterians and Methodists) and the occasional shrine, with the Madonna positioned in an upturned bathtub, could be seen by the roadside. Today’s ride also brought our first contact with the Amish, with several horse drawn buggies around Sonora. I had always thought the Amish lived completely separately from the modern world, but here the Amish farms exist alongside conventional ones.
It’s a curious sight to see a field being ploughed by two draft horses with a man behind using an antiquated contraption from another age, but this is a country of extraordinary contrasts. Our other main companions on the roads today were Hogs – Harley Davidsons. There was a big gathering planned in nearby Elizabethtown and an estimated 5,000 gleaming machines were converging on Kentucky. The bikers are a far cry from the Hell’s Angels of old and seem to see an affinity with our rather slower bikes, giving a friendly wave as they grunt and snort past.
With the terrain getting easier we are beginning to plough on a few more miles, although we found time today to buy a punnet of strawberries from some children by the side of the road (right next to the field where their parents were picking them) and Terry came up with a new speciality which is bound to catch on – rolls full of peanut butter with fresh strawberries embedded. Delicious – and surely a must for this years Wimbledon.
Just short of 70 miles we hit our destination – The Falls of Rough – a state park with assorted rivers and lakes attracting weekenders in their droves with campers, jet skis and float boats. It was so busy the main camp site was full, but there was space camping by the airstrip, so we put our tents up at the end of the runway. Another first!
Oh and we’ve cycled our first 1000 miles! Only 3000 odd to go.
Today’s mileage: 69.18
Miles since First Landing: 1022.28
Here’s today’s Garmin report: