Day 53: Near Richardsville, KY to Caneyville, KY - Between the Ends of America - CycleBlaze

June 4, 2011

Day 53: Near Richardsville, KY to Caneyville, KY

The morning ride brings less farm land, more rocky hills, and thicker sections of trees that sneak closer to the edge of the road. There's much less traffic than last night and the drivers all give a lot of space. I motor.

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All of the dogs I pass are chained, but that doesn't stop them from trying to give chase. As soon as they see the twirling legs and bright yellow bags and hear the clanking of gear shifts, instinct kicks in. They forget all about the chain latched to the collar around their neck and tear off across the yard toward, legs pumping, barking loudly, ready to terrorize. And then, only a couple of seconds later, the chain pulls tight against the tree or pole it's attached to, stopping the dog dead in its tracks and instantly pulling it back toward its owners' house with a solid yank. A better person might feel sorry for the dogs, for the pain and embarrassment of the collar pulling tight around their necks as it jerks them down to the ground. After being chased from the moment I crossed the border into this state, I just laugh at them and ride up the road feeling a sense of victory.

A Blueberry Ugly and an RC Cola. The worst breakfast choice ever.
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I pull into a nameless mini-mart less than a mile east of a town called Jetson. I'm a complete mess of dripping, sweaty, salty nastiness. A truck pulls slowly into the parking spot in front of me as I sti on the bench and wipe the moisture from my forehead. It's a 20-year-old Chevrolet, painted dark purple, with a brush guard mounted in front of the grill, a boat horn attached to the middle of the roof, and a decal running across the width of the top of the windshield that reads "The Rebel." With the engine still idling, the door opens and The Rebel inches his way out. He's an old guy, probably in his late 60s, with thin-rimmed glasses, a camouflage-printed bucket hat, a white t-shirt, jean shorts, and cowboy boots with bright white tube socks peeking out the top. It's a rebellious fashion statement.

"Hot enough for ya?" he says as he walks to the door. People around here say things like that unironically.

I mumble some generic answer, trying hard to process what's in front of me and keep a straight face.

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The strong sweat comes back every time I grunt my way up a hill. But when I relax my legs and coast down the other side, the breeze blowing over me instantly starts to suck away the heat and moisture. My body relaxes, my mind clears, and I smile all the way to the bottom, wishing it would never end. It's one of the greatest sensations I've ever felt, a worthy reward for all of the hard work. I push on through empty back roads, places so out of the way it seems unlikely a loaded touring bike has ever traveled down them. It's not the most direct route—not by a wide margin—but for me it's perfect.

The Beastie Boys' "No Sleep Til Brooklyn" plays in my head on the way to the tiny community of Brooklyn. Curious donkeys walk right up to me when I stop to take a drink of water, ready to come over and give me a sniff if only the small barbed wire fence didn't stand in the way. Farther on I wave at passing farmers and start thinking about tornadoes when I notice that most houses have a storm cellar built into the ground in the front yard. I also ride by a large yard where a woman drives a riding lawnmower with her right hand on the steering wheel and a year-old baby carefully cradled in the bend of her left arm.

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The heat and hills turn the last ten miles into a long string of swearing and spitting, but eventually I pedal down a long, rocky driveway and end up in front of the home of Beth and Gary, who I ran into last night in Bowling Green. Since moving from Trenton, New Jersey to Western Kentucky five years ago they've hosted nearly a hundred touring bikers, yet they make me feel like the most important one to ever pass through their doors. I cool off in the kitchen with an ice-cold Yuengling and a delicious turkey sandwich as the temperature outside pushes toward the 100-degree mark. With powerful air conditioning, stylish works of art hanging on the walls, and furniture and fixtures that are older than any living member of my family, it's a beautiful place to escape the hottest day of the year. I share space with an excited, anxious, dumb, but very sweet Golden Retriever named Norm; a black and white Border Collie named Robin who seems too patient and intelligent to be a dog; and a deaf Husky mix named Nicky. There's also Oscar, the bushy black and gold cat with a permanent pissed-off look on his face, and the black and white cat nicknamed Mr. Switzerland because he gets along with everybody.

Did someone say frisbee?
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Someone said frisbee!
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Beth and Gary's friend Helen joins us for dinner. She's also a transplant, having arrived in Caneyville from Boca Raton, Florida. For years I've had this romantic idea in my head, where I buy a house and a large plot of land along the TransAm, raise goats and alpacas, and host any touring cyclist who passes through. The night's conversations inject a strong dose of reality into that dream. I learn that Walmart becomes the main grocery store out here. The closest movie theater is 50 miles away. Homeowner's duties include driving tractors coupled to a brush-trimming tool called a bush hog, baling hay, building chicken coops, shooting troublesome groundhogs, and dealing with dogs who like to chase skunks under the front porch and then promptly get sprayed in the face.

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I feel the same way.
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My stomach stretches from the mass of chicken, pasta, salad, bread, ice cream, strawberries, and beer that churn and gurgle inside. The deaf dog sits on my feet, keeping the tops of the warm beneath her belly. As night falls, the food, the drinks, the tough day of riding, and the early start all come to a head and hit me hard. My head hangs, my eyelids droop, and I have trouble paying attention to the conversations swirling around me. By the time I reach the guest room and close the door I fall into bed with my clothes still on and surrender to a heavy sleep under the watchful eyes of an Albert Hitchcock portrait.

Today's ride: 44 miles (71 km)
Total: 2,693 miles (4,334 km)

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