September 12, 1992 Sebree to Rough River Dam State Park (78 miles, 2900 ft, $33)
We woke up early to fog. We managed to pack quickly and head back to the diner for pancakes. We saw a lot more tobacco today – some hanging outside, some in tobacco sheds. We saw a couple work crews cutting it by hand also. We stopped for a snack in Utica, then again in Wheatsville. The “JCs” were handing out candy for a donation, they gave us some, we gave them a $1 and they filled our pockets for the rest of the day. I think we might be starting to look a little worse for the wear of the road, guess it looked like we needed a hand.
In Rough River we looked at the campground and decide that it would do so we stopped at the store and bought dinner supplies. We set up camp, did laundry and took showers. While making dinner, a couple cyclists came in and before you knew it, the majority of the Central Kentucky Wheelmen had moved into the site next door. After dinner we shared smores and cycling stories with them round the campfire. They gave us all sorts of tips about the upcoming roads, including a couple short cuts. They gave us a route that was quieter than our planned route and 20 miles shorter. They were nice but admitted that there were not many fellow cyclists in Kentucky. Hard to see why, the roads are pretty quiet and the rolling blue grass hills are quite scenic.
September 13, 1992 Rough River Dam State Park to Bardstown (72 miles, 2790 ft, $33)
We were up early, had cereal in camp while our neighbors slept in, and then hit the road. The route was great, not much traffic. You can’t beat that local knowledge. About 30 miles into the day we ran across a couple tandems going the other way. They stopped and chatted. They were part of the group we stayed with last night and counting the two tandems in camp, they told use that made up all four of the state’s known tandem population!
We stopped for a snack in Elizabethtown, then rode the remaining 25 miles to Bardstown. We are staying at “My Old Kentucky Home State Park”. Nice park. We set up camp, took showers and headed over to “The Home” that inspired Stephen Foster songs. We didn’t take the tour but instead walked to town to look at all the old buildings, a very historic town with lots of big old buildings. Then we walked back to camp and had dinner. It’s now 8PM EDT, somewhere during the day we crossed our third timeline and are now in the eastern zone. We are headed for Berea tomorrow where we are hoping to take a rest day. Based on our cycling friends’ advice, we are going to improvise the route a bit. We’ll try to hit McDonalds for breakfast.
September 14, 1992 Bardstown to Berea (90 miles, 4150 ft, $94)
We slept a little later as the time shift made the sunrise later. Had breakfast at McDonalds. Dave discovered a few states ago that the second helping of pancakes is often free. It’s not written anywhere but if you ask, they all seem to know about it. Some Macs only do it on Sunday. We both had second helpings for free today. It’s the small things that sometimes make your day!
Our route turned out ok but Monday morning traffic made it a little busy. We got back on the Bikecentennial route in Springfield. From there it was much nicer with lots of green rolling hills and endless horse farms. We stopped for a snack at a roadside shop where a local said he thought we should be riding in the Tour de France when we told him we had started in Oregon. We were surprised that he had heard of the TDF out in the middle of Kentucky.
We arrived in Berea about 4PM and decided to check into the famous Boone Tavern Hotel for a treat. The local college runs the hotel and 1st year students are required to work at the hotel. One of the porters, er, students helped us get the tandem to the third floor. It was quite funny – the building is fairly old and the elevator is quite small, and we had to stand the tandem vertical in the elevator. The student was trying hard to be professional but he couldn’t help but laugh.
The hotel is right in the middle of town with lots of little shops and places to explore on our rest day. We had pizza for dinner then stopped for a coffee at a place that looks good for breakfast. I’m really looking forward to the rest day tomorrow.
September 15, 1992 Berea rest day (0 miles, 0 ft, $155)
We slept in and then went down to the coffee shop for scones and a latte (first latte since Oregon, the Starbucks revolution was not even close to crossing the Mississippi, let alone making it to the middle of Kentucky). We bought some postcards, wrote on them and drank more coffee hanging in the shop most of the morning. Made it back to the hotel in time for lunch.
We decided to splurge and have lunch at the hotel. We were a bit underdressed but they didn’t seem to mind. Lunch was great, grilled chicken and hush puppies. My first ever hush puppies. We had wonderful peanut soup also. Our waiter was on his second day. He’s a first year student from a children’s home studying Architecture. He was very nervous but did a great job.
After lunch we took a tour of the college. Turns out that most of town is owned by the college and most of the students can hardly wait for first year hotel duty to end. They still have to work but get to pick the craft or tourist function. We hit some more of the shops and tried to mail a package home but just missed the post office (we’ll get it in the next town). We had dinner at Fast Eddy’s Deli and then had another coffee and chocolate cookie at the coffee shop. We came back to the hotel and played skittles, sort of a cross between tops and bowling. This is a great little town, and it was a really fun rest day.
Tomorrow we head for Boonville. I got a piece of wood from the dulcimer shop in anticipation of those Kentucky dogs that we’re sure to see in the Appalachians. We’re headed that way, into hilly dog country again. Hope it’s not as bad as the Ozarks for hills or as bad as Illinois for dogs. We’re going to try pancakes in the hotel for breakfast.
September 16, 1992 Berea to Buckhorn Lake (76 miles, 3520 ft, $32)
We had pecan pancakes at the hotel in the morning and boy were they delicious. We were on the road by 8AM, a little late but it has not been quite as hot lately. It seemed like there were lots of hills today, though none of them were too long or steep. Back in Berea, we had called ahead to see if the Pippa Passes hostel was open. The owner told us about a short cut 15 miles out of town that meant riding across a valley, rather than up to one side and then back down the other – it was supposed to save some 20 miles. She didn’t know the name of the road but told us to ask a local.
We rode about 15 miles and started watching for the cut off but couldn’t find the road so we stopped a local coming out of a driveway to ask for directions. Dave asked three times but neither of us could understand a word the guy said. He was speaking English but his accent was so strong and he didn’t know the roads by anything other than who lived in the house on the road. State maps tended to stick to the numbering system. We eventually gave up, pretended that we understood and thanked him.
A little further down the road, we spotted a couple more guys in a pickup and decided to try again. Same thing happened. After a couple tries with the driver, Dave tried the passenger. No luck. Eventually, Dave turned to me and said, “Nance, you get that?” It was all we could do to not burst out laughing. I didn’t have a clue what they had said. We felt like we were in another country. After a few thank you’s, we pedaled down the road, no smarter about the route but certainly more aware of the communications challenges we might face in the Appalachians. We managed to find the cutoff not too far up the road.
We saw lots of dogs today – we never had to use the stick but we did use lots of water. The dogs seemed to slow down or stop here much better than they did in Illinois. We rode past lots of farms today but clearly it is getting poorer. Lots of driveways that lead through a creek, no bridge or anything to get to the other side. Some had suspended walkways from the road to the house – the high water route, I guess.
We met a westbound cyclist today. A German coming from New York. He seemed pretty happy, doesn’t look like the Appalachians had gotten to him.
It was only 60 or so miles at Boonville so we rode further up the road to Buckhorn Lakes Campground. Our campsite is very nice, hot showers and laundry. We ate noodles for dinner then walked around the campground. We bought ice cream in the camp store. Tomorrow we have a short day to Pippa Passes Hostel though it looks hilly on the map.
September 17, 1992 Buckhorn Lake to Pippa Passes (54 miles, 3270 ft, $33)
We slept in a little then had breakfast at camp. We had lots of climbing starting out – it took an hour to get through the first 7 miles, but then it got better. We stopped at Chavies for a snack and to inspect the coal trucks parked across the road. We’d heard a lot about the coal trucks – bigger than western dump truck, generally using roads that were smaller. Nearly every cycling book we’d read had one near-miss story that involved a coal truck. Up close they are very big, but we didn’t have any problems with them on the road. A couple times when we heard them coming and the road was narrow, Dave steered into the gravel shoulder. If you planned ahead they were not bad.
The mess that the coal trucks leave behind was much worse. We had two flat tires on the Boon Parkway, both caused by running over coal chunks that we could not miss. The shoulder was very messy. Dave’s hands go so dirty from the coal dust covered tires. With only 7 miles to go we pulled onto a quiet side road that was much better until we hit a small rock and bang, another flat tire.
The hills to Pippa Passes were not too bad. We got a room at the AYH hostel. The only thing in town is Alice Lloyd College. It is very similar to Berea, targeted towards the financially disadvantaged kids from the mountains. They provide lots of financial aid and have never turned down a student for lack of money. The college was established in 1923 and has lots of old buildings.
We ate dinner in the school cafeteria. There are no restaurants. For $3 you get one main course and-all-you-can eat salads, even ice cream sundaes for desert. We had a great time sitting at a table with a couple teachers and some students. Since there is nowhere else to eat, everyone eats in the cafeteria. We found out that the name Pippa Passes has nothing to do with mountain passes. The town got it’s name from a little poor girl who walked past 364 days a year on her way to work (she got Christmas day off). Regardless, she was always very cheerful and waved to everyone, thus “Pippa Passes”. Not sure how much of the story was true or had simply ‘developed’ over the years but it was still fun.
Off to bed now, breakfast in the cafeteria for $2 in the morning. We should cross the state line tomorrow, into our last state. Still having fun and avoiding the Bikecentennial syndrome!
September 18, 1992 Pippa Passes to Breaks VA (59 miles, 3890 ft, $58)
We ate breakfast at the cafeteria. Pancakes were not too great but they had bagels and lots of fruit. We talked to some more people and got a flyer on the school. We were on the road around 8AM. We had more tough hills to start the day. It started to sprinkle mid-morning, never really quit all day.
Lots of very rough-looking homes today. Many had random extensions and it was hard to tell where the shack started and house ended. It seemed like lots of them also had people sitting on the front porch. They would never wave, just stared out at us. Even saw lots of kids on porches, though we rode through when school was in session. Many of the creek beds and ravines were full of trash too – all pretty sad. Certainly if we felt poor when riding through Sun Valley back in Idaho, we felt very rich today, knowing our bike was probably worth more than many of these families earned in a year. We saw lots of dogs today also. But they too, like their owners, didn’t seem all that full of energy. One yell or a quick squirt and they were heading back to the porch. Certainly, they were not as vicious as the well-fed hounds back in Illinois.
We stopped for an extended snack to get out of the rain but all that seemed to do was make it rain harder. We had some chocolate chip cookies and coffee to warm us up. Eventually, we had nothing else to do so we headed out to ride in the rain up a few more hills.
We rode to Elkhorn City and since we were already wet, we decided to shoot for Breaks Interstate Park. Rumor was that they had nice cabins. We crossed the Virginia state line 4 miles after Elkhorn and it was now raining very hard. Dave took a quick, wet photo and we got going quickly. A couple miles latter just before the turned off to the park, we came across a small roadside hotel. By now it was dumping. We decided to skip the park and got a room.
We ordered to-go pizza from the local dinner. They didn’t deliver but the hotel manager offered Dave a ride to pick it up. It was not great pizza but it was warm and we were dry. More rain predicted for tomorrow, we’ll see how far down the road we make it.