Day 14: It's all raining cats and dogs until someone loses his ego - Chris Cross America - CycleBlaze

May 6, 2022

Day 14: It's all raining cats and dogs until someone loses his ego

This very friendly girl found me on my way to a pavilion behind the Presbyterian Church in Booneville, Ky. I'm guessing she's a mix with mostly brown lab genes. In this photo, she's standing behind my rear bike wheel, on a concrete floor under a pavilion roof, with a face that says, "Got any more meat left from your sandwich?"
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Day 14 stats

Start: Buckhorn, Ky. — Buckhorn Campground

End: Booneville, Ky. — The pavilion behind the Presbyterian Church

The Daily Progress: 18.67 miles

Elevation gain: 906 feet

Lodging expenses: $0! Thanks for the welcome sign and the shelter, First Presbyterian Booneville Church!

Food expenses: $13.16, sandwich and snacks at the Shop Wise in Booneville.

Day 14 highlights and lessons

Anyone who's talked to me about this trip before I left probably heard about my indecision over whether to bring a tent or a hammock or try a hybrid setup. Well, the hammock-tent hybrid thing has been working out very well, and last night was a great example. Although the campsite did not have appropriately distanced trees, I managed to hang it (granted, it was in an extremely precarious place), and it held me up there all night and, most impressively, it kept me dry despite a lot of rain.

The hammock, with the rain cover already removed, hangs precariously over a steep drop in the ground leading down into a river.
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The ride was just as wet as I feared it would be, but it eased up for just enough pockets of time that I didn't get discouraged. But it did give me plenty of time to question the decision and to reflect on a comment from yesterday's blog post, which rightly called me out for downplaying the risks of a dog bite. So I thought about some of the lessons I've learned on this trip and realized I haven't been writing them down. Tsk, tsk!

Well, today's lesson for myself is twofold:

First, don't push yourself to stick to a plan. That's how you end up passing up interesting opportunities (seeing Natural Bridge State Park, for example, or flat-footing at the ice cream shop in Honaker, Va. — not that I regretted these decisions, but they're examples of things I could've done if I hadn't felt committed to the plans I'm making a day or two in advance). But on the other end of sticking to a plan is that you end up riding in the rain for two and a half hours when you're technically on vacation and don't HAVE to do anything. You could've hung out all day in the laundry room at the campground in Buckhorn. Eh, maybe it was worth getting soaked for the sake of 19 miles of progress. I'd much rather sit in my hammock at a shelter 19 miles down the road. But that's a better reason to do it than just for the sake of a plan you made yesterday.

Second, check your confidence. (I can hear the chorus of applause by everyone waiting to hear me say that to myself.) It's great to feel confident. Without confidence, I probably wouldn't be on this trip. But I keep telling myself that, yes, I think I can do this, but I haven't really done any trip this big before, and I'm going to run into scenarios that I didn't expect and I'll have to adjust my expectations and change plans. That's part of the adventure. Don't get a big head over your successes. Failures will come. You probably won't make it to every stop you've been thinking about, and that's fine. Just make sure to appreciate the present and to take in lots of things you didn't plan. And do a better job of taking the weather into consideration! (If only I had any idea how that last thought would be relevant in an hour or two.)

Today, after reaching this pavilion behind a church, I appreciated what I did have as it rained all afternoon. I had new friend, the dog pictured in the photo at the top of this blog entry. I've been calling her Betsy. I gave her a little meat from the turkey sandwich I'd brought here for lunch. I was sorry to tell her I had no stick or ball or anything to use to play with her, but she hung around anyway, leading me to think she hangs out here with the cyclists passing through town, begging successfully for food. Oops.

Wearing my yellow rain jacket, I take a selfie with Betsy. In the background, my hammock hangs between the wooden trusses holding up the pavilion's roof.
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The other thing I appreciated this afternoon as the rain came down: I had a perfectly good opportunity to take a good nap. 

Before that happened, I spoke to Chad on the phone because he'd gotten a flat tire last night, got someone to fix it for him, and it went flat again this morning, and he didn't know how to fix it. I offered to try to talk him through it but he decided to try to get some help in person. I try very hard not to pass judgements about people, and I'm often amazed by the stories of those who didn't even own a bike and then suddenly decided to bike across America — more power to them — but I couldn't help but ask myself, who attempts a cross-country bicycle trip without knowing how to fix a flat tire? 

Then I thought to myself: What do I not know how to do that someone else would think is obvious? Apparently, one possible answer is, carry Halt dog spray when biking through Kentucky! Another one is: Take your zero days when the weather sucks, not (only) when you reach a town you think would be cool to spend a day in.

Anyway, I was saying earlier that this afternoon seemed like a perfect opportunity for a nice nap. And it was a great nap! But when I woke up and looked at my phone, I saw a notification from the Weather Channel. TORNADO WARNING IN EFFECT UNTIL 3:45. 

YIKES! It was 3:38. I sit up. I look at the skies. I quickly climb out of the hammock, slip on my shower shoes, grab my rain jacket and look to the skies again. I check the notification on my phone for more details. Yep, this area, yep, GET INSIDE NOW. And the wind starts picking up.

And I'm running out of the shelter of the pavilion and into the rain, splashing through the grass, Betsy barking and running alongside me. I run up to the front door of the church. Locked. Side door! Also locked. I'm getting pounded by rain and decide to dash to the side of the church, where there's a tiny bit of cover. Betsy looks pathetic. I'm sure I also look pathetic. Should I try to break a window and get inside? Should I run to the house down the street? I look at my phone. The warning ends in 3 minutes. The wind suddenly eases. The rushing sounds of wind and rain diminish, although the constant shower does not. I realize I would not make it to the next house on foot in anything less than a few minutes. The wind continues to die down. I look at Betsy. I think we lucked out. 

We hustled back to the shelter of the pavilion, and I studied the forecast for the next few hours and make an escape plan, which would invoke jumping on Blue and hustling to Dollar General back down the street just a bit. (I didn't want to take the chance of going to the house just  to find it also locked tight. If it got to that point, I may as well try to break into the church.) I told myself that any escape plan would involve getting soaked but that getting soaked is WAY better than getting caught in a tornado so don't think twice about it if another threat comes up.

I spend the rest of the afternoon and evening studying the weather forecast and sketching out possibilities for tomorrow. Luckily, the tornado threat seems to have dropped and we're looking at more rain and potential flooding overnight. I think this shelter will do.

I'm back in my hammock. Every now and then, the rain starts hammering the metal roof of the pavilion and then stops just as suddenly. I feel warm on my sleeping bag, and kind of surprised. I knew this was going to be part of this trip, but it occurs to me that I made a plan last night that involves sleeping indoors when I get to Berea, which I was hoping to do tomorrow. But tonight is the night that sleeping indoors would have made the biggest difference.

Well, I'm here now, and I'm grateful for my camping gear and for the roof that I do have over my head.

Here's a view under the pavilion just before my nap. Betsy, a midsize brown dog sits on the concrete floor, between picnic tables. One table is turned diagonally, and directly above it, my green hammock-tent hangs from the wooden trusses holding up the roof. My yellow panniers sit on the floor beside the diagonal picnic table. Behind all that, Blue rests against another picnic table, which is covered by the hammock's rain fly, which I set there to dry out from last night's rain.
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Today's ride: 19 miles (31 km)
Total: 641 miles (1,032 km)

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Keith Adams"...I'm going to run into scenarios that I didn't expect and I'll have to adjust my expectations and change plans. That's part of the adventure."

I'm pretty sure you've just described life in general, not just life on a cycling tour.
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3 months ago
Laila AzzouzYou’re handling those obstacles (dogs, tornado, etc.) like a pro, Chris. I have so much respect for you. Your confidence is off the charts! Oh, and I'm happy Betsy was there to keep you company!
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2 months ago