Day 48: Berea, KY - Between the Ends of America - CycleBlaze

May 30, 2011

Day 48: Berea, KY

This trip has been filled with so much wonderful, rewarding, completely satisfying riding. But it turns out that on a long tour, sometimes not pedaling at all seems to feel just as great. Today I confirm that theory.

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In the morning I sleep in late before I pack up the tent, pedal over to campus, and write in the shade of the science building. It's Monday on Memorial Day weekend and the summer session doesn't start for another week, so the squirrels outnumber people by a factor of ten.

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When I pull up in front of the coffee shop a few hours later I meet Nathan.

"Hey man, if you're lookin' for a place to camp, I got a big farm, you're welcome to stay there," he tells me, less than two minutes after we start talking. "It's like 15, 16 miles outta town. I'm trying to get it listed on those maps you guys use. We'd love to put people up out there all summer."

I tell him to get in touch with the Adventure Cycling Association and also explain how he can list his place on Warm Showers and start bringing in travelers right away. But 15 miles in the opposite direction is too much backtracking for me, so I have to say no.

Brett, who walks up in the middle of the conversation, offers me a place in his back yard a few blocks away instead.

"I'd give ya the shed," he says, "But there's already someone back there. He was lookin' for a place to camp and I was like, 'Dude, I got a shed with a roof and a bench and everything!' But you can head on over, find yourself a nice spot in the shade, and just set up wherever you want."

He has no idea who I am, just that I must be riding a long way on a bike. Damascus, Virginia calls itself the friendliest town on the Appalachian Trail. Berea, Kentucky could very well be the friendliest town on the TransAm. I love it completely.

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I spend the next five hours inside writing and escaping the heat. This journal was featured on Crazy Guy on a Bike yesterday, so I pour through an inbox filled with supportive words and good wishes from people I will probably never meet, but who follow this journey and want me to succeed all the same. It makes me laugh. It makes me smile. It makes me feel like the most fortunate person in America.

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After an early evening ride around campus I head back to the Italian restaurant for the third time in 24 hours. I see Chris and Ben's bikes U-locked together out front. Even on our days off, when we stay in different places and hang out with none of the same people, the night brings our paths together. We head to Ben's house after dinner, and after that to his girlfriend's for strawberry pie. By then it's dark and I can't remember how to find Brett's place, so I coast down a hill and around a corner and set up in the grass behind Ben's house instead. Little dogs bark at the stranger camped in their yard, classic rock booms from the house across the street, and train whistles blow every 20 minutes in the distance. It's a warm, windless, cloudless night in the country. It's perfect for sleeping outside under the stars and that's exactly what I do.

Today's ride: 3 miles (5 km)
Total: 2,425 miles (3,903 km)

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