June 11, 2006
So last night I fell asleep to the sound of thunder in the distance, and light raindrops on the outside of my tent. It was kind of nice.
Less than an hour later I woke to the same noises, only a little louder. My tent was dry inside – no high winds – no big deal. So then it started pouring, and before I knew it, the thunder and white flashes of lightning were hitting at the same time, making the ground shake. No strong winds, but the lightning was violent. I have a healthy respect for lightning.
So I’m in my tent, and in between claps of thunder, I heard this metallic bell ringing. It was obviously David, the B+B owner, ringing the bell as a means of saying “Get the hell in here!” I shuffled things around in my tent for a minute, and made a run for it. He let me sleep inside in one of the beds for the rest of the night. I figure I fell asleep at around 1am.
This morning I woke up a little before 9am, and fixed myself a gooey breakfast of grits, oatmeal, brown sugar, and maple syrup. It’s the first meal I haven’t been capable of finishing since I can’t remember when.
*Mentioning food reminds me, those glazed donut-type things I talked about yesterday are called BlueBird Honey Buns.
Over breakfast David filled me in on some interesting stuff and local history, while I had my tent spread out to hopefully dry it out. He sat on a porch swing, classical music played, hummingbirds buzzed around – dipping into the feeder, and butterflies sipped on nearby flowers. A few of his 7 or so cats milled about.
One cat has a scar from a recent tangle with a fox. Another hunted and killed a copperhead snake, just last week. They’re fun “outside” cats. He tells me about future projects and plans for the B+B, and invites me to potentially come back and work as a cook if things get up and running, and if I find myself interested. I’m really glad I stayed there, and could have happily lingered all day, but there’s miles to go…
I didn’t get on the road until noon, and the early miles were breezy and fast next to a small stream – brown with silt after last night’s storm. The rain must have also brought out the turtles – I saw three of them this morning – one dead, one crawling along an embankment, and one in the middle of the road (Which I rescued like a good boy scout).
There’s still a lot of wild land around here, because the hills are all wooded. There’s a high poverty level, and many folks are on welfare because it looks like there’s simply nowhere for anybody to work. I’m often passing abandoned stores, gas stations, and homes. Most neighborhoods consist of trailer after trailer after trailer.
Apparently the Civil War really tore this place up. Kentucky was technically neutral, but in reality one hollow would be for the union, and the hollow just over the next hill could be rebel, so they were fighting it out in a dirty guerrilla-warfare style. Even for years after the war ended, they were still going at it – avenging deaths of loved ones and so forth.
Afterward, the coal and logging companies ran the show. Apparently corruption isn’t uncommon in local politics (Big surprise), with fixed elections and officials indicted for stashes of guns, cash, and drugs. The drug store in Hindman has repeated problems of people breaking in and stealing Sudafed, used to make crystal meth.
Despite all of this, everybody I’ve meet has been very kind and friendly. So far I’d rate the Kentucky public friendlier than Virginia. Like it’s been said before, those who have the least often offer the most.
The weather this afternoon became hot and humid. Last night’s thunderstorm must have flipped the heat switch back on. Combine that with the fact that I’m still in the hills and mountains, and you’ll see that I had quite the laborious day of cycling. My thermometer read as high as 98F.
I had a few encounters with dogs – none too aggressive except one. I was sweating up a mountain when this little, approximately 30lb thing came charging into the road at me. Climbing up a hill had me feeling a little nasty myself, and since I was already at a crawling pace, I stopped. This little guy ran right up to me barking, and I yelled back at him, so he barked some more and showed his teeth, but didn’t come any closer. He eventually backed off after I yelled again. Smart dog. If it had come a step closer, I would have delivered a swift kick to its head before deploying the pepper spray. I love dogs, but not if they’re threatening my physical safety.
Later around 6pm I was taking a break outside of a closed gas station, raiding the soda machine. One of the signs in the window said, no joke:
“WARNING: THIS STORE IS PROTECTED BY AN ATTACK RABBIT!”
I couldn’t possibly make this stuff up. I wonder if the rabbit has big pointy teeth?
Later I passed a house with a bunch of people and kids on the front porch with balloons – a birthday party or something. Two of the cutest kids were standing by the road and started asking me all these rapid fire questions about where I was riding to and from. I humored them for a few minutes, but had to be on my way – I was running out of daylight. One of them insisted on giving me a balloon, and I was truly sorry that I didn’t have a place to put it, or a handy string to tie it onto my bicycle.
After the hot afternoon, the rest of the day’s ride was perfect. It was a nice flat stretch along a lonely open road on a Sunday evening in Kentucky – just me, the crickets, and the wind in my ears. I saw sparks flying from an open barn – an old guy with a beard was welding something. Then a light rain began, and lasted the whole final hour into Booneville, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Tonight I’m staying at a perfect little place. It’s an open shelter behind the Presbyterian Church in Booneville, exclusively for cyclists. Luxuries include the shelter itself, picnic table, trash can, register book, port-a-john, sink, mirror, and cold shower(Whew!), for free. What more could a bicycle tourist hope for? For dinner I made myself a box of Velveeta shells and cheese, and two cans of Vienna sausages. You know how they pack the little sausages in the cans with all that slimy stuff? Yeah… I dumped it all in the mac and cheese.
The reason this entry is so verbose? Well, it’s midnight now, and thunderstorms have been passing through here for at least the past three hours, so I probably wouldn’t have fallen asleep very early anyway. I found a classic rock station on the radio, so I get to watch the storms to the tune of Foxy Lady, Radar Love, Eleanor Rigby, Mother’s Little Helper, Heartbreaker/Living Loving Maid, and Wild World – just to name a few. Now I’m done with this entry, and I get to fall asleep to the sound of rain. Life is good.
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Google Map Route may not be 100% accurate.
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