Monday, June 30, 2014

Day 17: 1 (800) Dentist

Spent last night at a hotel in Hazard, KY. Got a late start to the day and then biked six miles in the wrong direction. Ended up doing 62 miles today instead of 50. Lost my partner when I stopped to help a little turtle cross the road. 

Cooking myself some lunch

When I saw it was gon' rain

Decided biking on an exposed mountain during a thunderstorm was unsafe so I set up my rain tarp just off the road. About 30 minutes later my partner came rolling by soaked and was very happy to get under my shelter. 

Had a delicious lunch of peanut butter and honey burritos. 

Whoever was hiding behind this sign definitely did survive

More of the same as yesterday. Lots of hills, not a lot of people with teeth. Set up camp in the back of a church. 

Least favorite thing about Kentucky: couldn't buy beer because it's a Sunday. 

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Day 14: time off

Just to catch everyone up on what I've been up to. I spent day 8 cycling to Virginia tech. Went out that night and spent the next day recuperating. Hurt my knee from overuse and stress the following day so I took the next 3 days off. Rode (in a car) to michigan with another cyclist who had to attend to some matters. It gave me time to rest and I didn't fall behind the rest of the group. Tomorrow is going to be my first day back, crossing the Kentucky border at some point during the day. While in michigan I got my bike upgraded. I basically had my front single speed replaced with a three speed. In the rare of my bike I have an internally geared three speed and an 8 speed cassette. So now I have three shifters, 72 gears, and can basically go anywhere from 1 mph to 60 mph. A little ridiculous, but it was the only affordable way I could get lower gears on my bike so I wouldn't hurt my knees again. 

Day 16: Eastern Kentucky

Finally crossed into Kentucky yesterday. 

Eastern Kentucky is very different from Virginia. Pikesville county is the "energy capital of America". Coal country. 

Poverty is rampant in this part of the country. Most people we meet are very friendly and it's unfortunate that economic circumstances that they have little control over are screwing them over.

Terrain is very mountainous. Definitely in Appalachia. The new lower gears in my bicycle allow me to climb almost all the mountains without having to walk, but this is still very difficult cycling. Flying down these mountains at 40+ miles an hour screaming Iike a madman is awesome. I'll have to try to take a video one of these days. 

George and I

Cat, being a sweetheart as always

Willy, plotting our route

Cool valley pass

I bought a stray cat a can of cat food and rolled it over to him. I'd like to think we made a friend. 

The only water source within miles smelled like rotten eggs. Sulpher in the water- still had to drink it

Tonight we are staying in Hazard, Kentucky and are cycling to Boonsville tomorrow 

Also, Kentucky is America's dog bite capital. I've been chased by dogs on four occasions. Most of the time they stop when you yell at them. One mutt that got too close got a face full of bear strength pepper spray. Sorry buddy. 

Final thought: This trip is one of the most challenging things I've ever done. I have no doubt that I can do it, (as long as my knee holds up) but I seriously underestimated how physically challenging and taxing it would be to ride 50+ miles daily through mountainous terrain in high heat and humidity. Yesterday I came close to heat exhaustion and had to rest at the side of the road for 15 minutes. We've had to brave truck traffic and narrow shoulders. My left knee has been giving me pain and I've taken three days off from riding because of it. Even now I can't ride at 100% because I need to be careful not to reinjure it. Eating well, staying organized, being rested, and staying healthy is all a challenge. That said, there's really no place I'd rather be. I've met wonderful people, bonded with my fellow riders, seen breathtaking sights, and experienced America first hand. I have a whole lot of respect for the people who have done this route before me, especially before it was mapped out. 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Day 7: Vesuvius to Lexington, VA

After yesterday's climb through the mountains we took an easier day today. 18 miles to Lexington, VA, (population 7,000) home of the Virginia military academy. 

This little guy came to say goodbye as we were leaving camp in the morning 

Dog did not want to pose for a picture however

In Lexington we said goodbye to Pat and Wayne, who are cycling ahead and want to go at a faster pace. Great guys and it was a pleasure riding with them. 

Pat and I

And yes I got my hair cut today. More aerodynamic. 

We're staying at the rural estate of a very kind family who is taking us in for the night. As my friend Cat said, "I only thought people lived in such pretty places in the movies". As I write this I'm sitting on their front porch looking at the mountains and cows and horses grazing. Fireflys are just starting to come out and I'm once again struck by just how beautiful Virginia is. 

And in another incredible coincidence, I ran into a former classmate from Binghamton here today. He's also doing a cross country ride with his buddy, and we just so happened to recognize each other. Small world. 

Also, a real honey comb. Mind=blown, I had only ever seen these on Cheerios boxes before. 

Cat, blogging away

Go out and travel, folks. Really travel. Take your time and meet locals along the way. The places you'll see and the people you'll meet will change your life. 


Day 6: Crossing the Appalachians (Greenwood, VA to Vesuvius, VA)

Today we rode 40 miles and crossed the Appalachian mountains. It was definitely one of the most physically demanding things I've done in my life. 

Started out with a 6 mile long steep incline along Blue Ridge Highway

One of the two things that motivated me today (not counting the absurd amount of caffeine) was the incredible views along this ride. My iphone can't do them justice. Mountains as far as the eye could see with fields and farms below. Birds of prey in the sky above us and deer darting back and forth across the road ahead. 

Stopped at a tiny museum and got a local history lesson

The other thing that motivated me was this tough as nails 69 year old kicking my ass on the hills. One of the funniest, kindest, and most determined people I've ever met, it's been a pleasure hanging out with George this past week

We also ran into a man from Germany, Jeffrey, just finishing up his cross country bike trip. He started from San Fransisco and headed east. He spoke hardly any English- it takes some nerve to cross America by bicycle alone and speaking another language

Fortunately, for every three mile ascent there was an equally long descent. The downhills were a blast and my rims/brakes were so hot by the bottom that you couldn't even touch them. At times I was keeping up with motorcyclists. Flying 3 miles down a mountain on a bicycle going 40 miles an hour is an incredible feeling. The last descent was full of hairpin turns and extremely steep. I wish I had taken a video of the ride down. At one point I pulled over for 10 minutes just to let my rims cool so my brakes would keep working. I loved it; George said it was the "scariest and most difficult thing he's ever down in his life". 

Tonight we're camped in a pavilion behind a baptist church, in the middle of nowhere. Today was a very challenging but very rewarding day, and from here on out the cycling should be a lot easier. It took us about 10 hours to cross the mountains. Tomorrow should be an easier day and I might even have the chance to get some adjustments done to my bike. As always, thanks for reading!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Day 5: Hitchhikers and Hills (Charlottesville to Greenwood, Virginia)

Talk about being in the middle of nowhere. We're approaching the Appalachian mountains and have passed more cows than people. Hills are getting very steep and today was 97 and humid. If we weren't leaving at 7 in the morning the heat would be unbearable. Despite the challenge I'm having a great time. You learn to appreciate the little things in life so much more. Having access to a laundry machine today was way more exciting than it should have been. After a low mileage but tough day we're staying at a nice campsite with great amenities and an affordable camp store. 

Although climbing hills stinks, going down is a blast. In my recumbent I'm very aerodynamic and have been hitting speeds of 40+ miles an hour on the downhills (don't worry mom). 

We had some awesome sloppy joes at Wyant's store (town population 150). And there was a full book of cyclists who've passed through and signed their names and contact info

Here you can see the Appalachians well be crossing in the next few days. This is the hardest cycling of the entire tour. I'll have to be careful to not push too hard and potentially injure my knees. 

We stopped for a break at a peach orchard. Never had better peaches in my life, and tried some awesome homemade donuts. 

Some ducks wandered into our camp. Out of season unfortunately (lucky for the ducks)

A patch of wildflowers

And this is pretty crazy. My friend and fellow cyclist, Will (21 from Canada) randomly received a call from his best friend Matt to see how the bike trip was going. Will originally planned on touring Canada and Matt had no idea Will was in the United States. Matt was hitch hiking his way up to Massachusetts from the Southwestern United States. It just so happened that Matt was an hour away from Greenwood, Virginia and was able to hitchhike to our campsite. What a coincidence!
Matt is on the right and Will is on the left. Forgive the poor photography in the dark 

Our position on on google maps. 

And when I die please bury me in a cemetery with a good a view as this one