Getting down, getting up and a sprinkle of Travel Magic

I haven’t written in a while. I stopped the daily updates. I stopped the thoughts. I stopped.

I stopped cycling for a while too.

I just couldn’t.

It wasn’t physical. There were tough days, but I’ve had tougher. There were hot days, but I’ve had hotter. There was rain. That could have been part of it.

It wasn’t physical.

I was mentally drained. My bike and I needed some time apart. For the first time, the trip became something of a burden. I wanted to still cycle to New York, but I didn’t really want to cycle… Confused? I was.

I needed time to rest my head. But in order to do that, I needed a place. I didn’t want to camp, and didn’t want to pay, so I looked on Couchsurfing and my first bit of luck hit me. Jacob and Carolyn have a farm near Berea. They make the most beautiful granola I’ve had, Sweetgrass Granola www.sweetgrassgranola.com. But more than that, they gave me a lovely home for two days. I helped out on the farm as best I could. I gave a hand at the farmers’ market and was even allowed to feed the kid goats! I couldn’t have asked for a better two days.

Refreshed and rejuvenated, I packed up and headed into Berea. Destination: The Post Office, where a postcard was waiting for me! Postcard acquired, I spent five minutes outside fiddling with my bike. Something wasn’t quite right with my wheel, so I tried to straighten it out. Susana saw me and asked if I needed help. There wasn’t a bike shop in town, but there was one in Richmond (no, not that Richmond!) up the road and she could give me a ride there and back. I thought about whether it was necessary, but seeing as the next bike shop was 250 miles up the road, I thought best take the ride.

You don’t need your wheel trued” was the reaction of Mike at the bike shop. I was confused. I don’t know much about bikes, but I was pretty sure on this one.

Yea, you don’t need your wheel trued. Your axel’s broken” And sure enough he took out two pieces where there was once only one. Now, I’m no bike expert. And I’m presuming you might not be either. But an axel sounds quite important. And it is. So yea, a bit of travel magic.

Bike fixed (as well as picking up a very cut-priced $20 wool cycling top) I headed over to the coffee shop to meet Susana. I got chatting to Jeff and Britney behind the counter and they gave me a free delicious smoothie! Jeff made me his favourite fruit combo!

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Travel Magic!

Susana asked me if I needed or wanted a place to stay for the night. I had really wanted to get going after my two days off already but it was a kind offer and the idea of checking out another farm was too good to turn down!

Susana has a small farm, producing delicious organic produce on a sustainable basis. I must have eaten 50 tomatoes as well as peaches, ground cherries, beans and a whole load of other fresh fruit, berries and veggies. We went down the road to her friends’ house for a pot luck dinner that night. The food was amazing and the company was even better, going round telling bad joke after bad joke. I was in heaven!

I begrudgingly headed off the next morning (but not after a visit to the local waterfall!) and the hugs goodbye were tinged with sadness.

As I sit here, on the edge of Virginia, I’ll miss Kentucky. I had no hope or expectation for this state at all, but it has provided me with some fantastic experiences and memories over the course of these two weeks, both off and on the bike.

Next stop Virginia, and the East Coast. Slowly, slowly coming to the end of this epic adventure. And Kentucky will be a beautiful chapter when the book is written.

Day Seventy-Five (23/07): Bardstown, KY to Danville, KY

Bardstown to Danville: 53 miles

Total Distance: 3304.5 miles

Days in the saddle: 59

Thoughts on today: I wrote some thoughts about today but then chucked it, deciding it was all about too downcast. Instead, I’m going to list everything good about today!

– I skyped with Sam! Always a great start to the day.
– I got a free slice of cheese from Walmart!
– I was allowed to swim in the hotel pool near where I’m staying
– I’m camping out for free behind a church, undercover! (it’s meant to be stormy tonight)
– Today I ate ice-cream

When you put it like that, not a bad day’s work!

Day Seventy-Four (22/07): Hardin, KY to Bardstown, KY

Hardin to Bardstown: 74 miles

Total Distance: 3251.5 miles

Days in the saddle: 58

Thoughts on today: This morning it rained. Oh, it rained. It made me a bit homesick. What with the heatwave back home. Does anyone even remember what rain looks like? Well, it looks wet. And it makes everything wet. By lunchtime I was soaked through. Right through to my morale. I was wet. My bike was a bit squeaky.

I was down, but not out. Lunchtime. Still early in the day. The weather lifted, and I dried out, mostly. But still, a tough afternoon. It seems at the moment that mood plays such a key role in how my day goes, how far I get and how mucho enjoy myself. I also can judge a day by how much ice-cream I have. Yesterday was a two-ice-cream day. Which means it was a toughie, but not a disaster. I’m still here. And tomorrow, the beginning of The Appalachians. Fun!

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Day Seventy-Three (21/07): Unica, KY to Hardin, KY

Unica to Hardin: 71.5 miles

Total Distance: 3177.5 miles

Days in the saddle: 57

Thoughts on today: It’s a Sunday and I’ve come to expect nothing to be open on Sundays. If I’m lucky there’ll be a gas station somewhere, but generally Sunday is a day you need to prepare for.

But fear not young traveller!

Today everything seemed to be open. I went through a big town (and by big, I mean it had a population of around 700) and the supermarket was open. Not only was it open, but it had a journal for me to sign. I’ve had a few of these, in people’s home, or hostels or gas stations or bicycle shops. But never a supermarket. And with it, a free doughnut! Not a bad Sunday morning!

The thing that sets Kentucky apart from the other states I’ve gone through is the seeming lack of Internet. I’ve pretty much always had regular wi-fi, either due to hosts, or libraries or cafes. It’s been much harder to come by in the last few days, a trend I don’t see changing anytime soon.

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Day Seventy-One (19/07): Marion, KY to Unica, KY

Marion to Unica: 71 miles

Total Distance: 3106 miles

Days in the saddle: 56

Thoughts on today: A speedy day today, helped by a lovely evening with Chuck, Jamie and Dylan and a solid night’s sleep. Tonight I’m staying in a fire station! Just your average sleeping spot for this intrepid explorer. Although probably more glamorous than some of my previous, which include a picnic table in Utah and a public toilet in Missouri. Yes, that’s right, I’ve slept on a picnic table. Get over it.

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Day Seventy (18/07): Tunnel Hill, IL to Marion, KY

Tunnel Hill to Marion: 63 miles

Total Distance: 3035 miles

Days in the saddle: 55

Thoughts on today: Let’s get the obvious over first. I just reached my 8th state. Woop-di-do.

I don’t know if sarcasm translates well over the blogosphere, but I was really trying in that opening gambit. Really, I was. (no, really)

Yes, it’s great. And yes, this is therefore my first three-state week (Illinois, you were a little quickie weren’t you.) but that’s not what I want to talk to you about. Nope.

Nor do I want to talk to you about how today I had to get a ferry. A two-minute ferry ride over the Ohio River, which separates Illinois and Kentucky.

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Nor do I want to talk about the fact that I’ve hit 3000 miles*

Nor do I want to talk to you about Marion United Methodist Church who have hosted hundreds of cyclists in their beautiful building over the years and can now add one more Englishman to that list.

No. The theme of today was the excruciating, wearying, energy-sapping effects of heat, humidity and hills.

Let me just say this. Today was not fun. Today was not enjoyable. Today was a slog. And not a Matt Prior ‘come in at 400-5 and do some wrecking’ slog. No, today was a gruelling, sweating, low-gear, heavy breathing, glasses-clouding, leg-aching, mind-thumping slog. It was not my longest day. It was not my hilliest. It was not the hottest either. But today was the day my legs decided to strike. Today I knew I was up against it before I had set eyes on my bike.

But what’s a guy to do? I’m in Southern Illinois, in the middle of nowhere, with nothing to do but get on my bike. My legs moving slowly. Or rather, even slower than usual. Up and down. I never thought I wasn’t going to get to my intended destination. But at times I did think ‘why am I here?’ or ‘what am I doing?’.

I guess the good side of that is today was the anomaly. That this is the first day I can remember that hadn’t been flooded in positivity. And that even today I can sit down and share a joke and a laugh with some some West-bound cyclists. Even today has been extraordinary; going into my eigth state, completing 3000 miles, going on a ferry and staying in a beautiful church with the backdrop of a beautiful sunset.

This too shall pass.

*actually, come on, 3000 miles! Come on! That’s pretty impressive no!?!

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