|The Kentucky River at Dawn|
The next 30 miles were rolling and pleasant though uphill and into the wind for the most part. About halfway there, I was passed by several groups of riders on the return trip. These are the aforementioned local riders who probably have bionic legs too. I stopped to take more pictures of the bucolic scenery.
This was where I encountered my first curiosity of the ride. A pickup truck politely passed me, driving very slowly. After they got about 600 yards in front, guns started going off. At this point, I realized they were actually firing out of the moving truck! It must have been some kind of hunting thing because they traveled fairly slowly (I gave them lots of space too) and I would see a rifle poke out the side and open fire. Kind of interesting.
Back in Stanford, I again ran into Ken and we chatted for about 15 minutes while scarfing down more food. Gas stations on this route are for the most part Mom+Pop shops where they still have price tags on goods. The food is good too. Ken is also planning on doing PBP and had some very interesting stories of how he came to ride a recumbent. My hats off to him, he's a fast rider on it. We pulled out again and were within sight of each other for about 20 miles until I got stuck by a train crossing.
|Shaker Stone Fence near Harrodsburg|
Ken was about 50 yards ahead when a jeep pulled up behind me and someone whistled at my butt. I might have been freaked anywhere else, but I decided to just wave them past and take it as a complement (hey, after thousands of miles, my butt should be worth whistling at). I caught back up with Ken at the top of Oregon. By this time, it was dark and clouds had moved in, a harbinger of the day to come.
More hills and rollers all the way to Hammonds Creek Road wore me down a bit and we separated briefly. At this point, two pickups buzzed me (which was odd at 11:00 pm). I was almost dozing on the bike and picked up my pace, drank some water, and hummed the Carpenters "We've only just begun" to keep awake. Ken waited for me ahead and was concerned about the pickups. We stuck together the rest of the night "no solo cyclists should be on this road" was his statement. That giant dog chased us again as we returned; we pedaled fast.
It rained for long enough to make us uselessly put on rain gear along Pea Grade Rd. Then it stopped and we pulled into the Waffle House (400k) at just before 1:30. A respectable time (21:30) for a total of 16,960 feet of climbing by my GPS. I went straight to my room, threw off my clothes, devoured about 1000 calories and hit the pillow by 2:00 am after making a wake up call for 5:15 am. I was instantly asleep. Mom really helped me out by making me a sandwich, pouring my chocolate milk and making sure I took all my meds. If you ever want a first class support crew, take your mother. IronK pretty much slept through the whole thing.
I awoke to the sound of what I thought was someone dropping their bike box. I realized quickly that it was 5:35! Mom got up too and started making coffee and breakfast. I wondered what the weather was like so I threw open the door to "Night on Bald Mountain". Sheets of rain blew sideways in a howling wind with lightning, thunder, the whole 9 yards. I half expected the wicked witch to ride by. I started laughing as I closed the door and got out the laptop. Sure enough, a mushroom cloud of thunderstorms was over the area. I mused on the fortune of having ridden in so much crappy weather; no one can wax philosophical on weather like I can. Mom loaned me her rain pants (I had given them to her for Christmas) as temps were in the 50s and mine were going to be a bit on the warm side. I discarded my rack bad (it was just going to turn into a soggy weight) and took my tool back and plenty of lights. I only had 200k to go and I wasn't missing it. Mom gave me a hug goodbye.
As I took the first turn onto Pearce Industrial Blvd, the 18 mph wind blew hard in my face and the lightning cracked very hard. I continued on thinking "at least it isn't sleeting". It was a south wind which meant a headwind for the next 62 miles. As I hummed alone down Zaring Mill Road, I noticed that the lightning had stopped and the rain wasn't so hard. The wind was tough but I made my way through Breshears Creek where the worst of the flooding had obviously been. Mud covered the road in placed and the recent rain had turned the creek into a murky rush. Rocks and sticks littered the road and I was careful to avoid them. The rain lessened somewhat. The area was beautiful in the soft rain at dawn and I was actually enjoying myself immensely, even the very steep hills didn't get me down. The narrow, twisting roads seem to have a calming effect on me, perhaps a vestige of my childhood?
I got to KY44 and the next 15 miles were not fun. Still pretty, but the narrow twisting roads gave way to big, long rollers along with a descent to the Taylorsville Dam. It was still raining, but my gear kept me pretty dry. Finally, I turned east on 1066 and marveled at yet more huge descents and ascents, as though the baby rollers from the previous day had grown up.
1066 turns from a big, highway like road back to a narrow one and has several major climbs. I was happy to turn along a creek towards Chaplin. At Chaplin was a tiny gas station with several bikes out from and a bunch of guys eating outside (yes, I again ran into Ken). I jumped off the bike, grabbed a Yahoo, used the bathroom and was back on the bike before any of the guys were ready. I was on a mission at this point! There was a screaming, twisting descent out of Chaplin into a beautiful little valley. Another long set of climbs put me on top of a ridge for about 6-7 miles. At this point, two of the guys from Chaplin caught up, these were Dave and Jeff. Sadly, I didn't get to talk to Jeff very much because shortly, he was chased off by dogs. Dave was a really nice guy from Lexington who has done the Shenandoah, a ride with 50,000 ft of climbing that gives me the shivers. Ken had crashed on the descent out of Chaplin and was okay (a little road rash) but continuing at his own pace.
We made our way to Perryville across Battlefield Road, named for a large Civil War battle that happened there. A plaque stands to commemorate one of the bloodiest and most important battles of the Civil war in 1862. It was a strategic Union victory as it forced the Army of Mississippi out of Kentucky and left it under Union control for the rest of the war. Ironically, generals on both sides had their honor severely damaged due the way that the campaign was conducted. Today all that is left is rolling hills and a State Historic Site. Most of the towns on this route are civil war era which is fascinating unto itself. I do have a history degree so these things stand out to me.
At Perryville, I stopped for almost 45 minutes as the Informational control was open and I was hungry after 6 hours and about 4,500 ft of climbing. I might have stayed a little less time, but it was fun talking with the others. I had an entire can of Chef Boyardee ravioli right out of the can. This proved very rejuvenating, although I think it may have actually been really gross too. Sometime, the hunger thing can eclipse a lot. At this point, the rain had been gone for some time and it was in the mid 60s. I took of my rain pants and stashed them in a pocket and pulled out at 1:30 with Dave and Jeff. Now the 20 mph headwind was a tailwind! Ken was arriving as we were leaving, but I wouldn't see him again until the finish.
Being from a plains state, I am used to tailwinds that strong being a huge help. Not so in such hilly terrain. It took about 45 minutes to digest lunch, but I found myself picking up the pace afterwards. Dave and Jeff had gone ahead at this point and I chatted with another man before getting worried about time and picking up my pace. By 3:00 pm I had 40 miles left and 5 hours to do it in, but there were lots of hills so I decided to push the pace more. I passed Dave and Jeff in Chaplin and retraced my steps on the hills of 1066. I stopped to call Mom and IronK about 18 miles from the finish to let them know when to expect me.
Breshears Creek was even prettier and hillier on the return, and I made good time through the hills. Several wall-like climbs greeted me on way and in past years, they would have been really tough. But not this time. I spun up patiently and arrived at about 6:40 PM at the Days Inn. Mom and IronK were there to welcome me back, they had kept the room until 8:00 pm so I showered and got some recovery food going. They had been at a winery all day (nice life) and enjoyed the tourist thing.
This was by far my best 600k ever in terms of riding. Getting the asthma treated was simply huge as well as spending so much time fitting the bike correctly and rebuilding my hamstring. I marvel at how many parts have changed on my bike since last summer. No coughing or weakness at the end. I am certain I could have gone much farther at this point. The real question now is how much farther.
This was also a ride where I knew food stops would be an issue so I brought quite a bit of my own. I wound up nibbling on fig newtons and pecans about every 20 minutes as a result. I suspect this helped me avoid the stomach upset that so often comes by preventing my digestive system from shutting down (it was nearly always doing something small at least). I probably rode two thirds of the route alone which also was really nice. All the people I met were really wonderful to ride with.
I chatted with Steve Rice briefly at the end, the 4 guys I had seen in Chaplin all finished as well which was excellent. Steve and Jody on the tandem had quit after 400k, but this is their first year and I am certain they will be back. On a sadder note, one guy did attempt to ride through the night against advice. He crashed near Breshears creek in the middle of the night alone and went to the hospital with a concussion - a reminder of my favorite saying "there is a fine line between bragging rights and a Darwin Award". Several DNF'd upon waking to the thunderstorms, but they really were not an issue for me. All that winter riding in Minnesota paid off.