Thursday, September 3, 2009

Day 28 Appalachians Stanton – Jenkins, KY 117 miles

A very difficult day of cycling. I am actually writing this early morning of Day 29, as my interest in firing up the laptop was not there at the end of 28. It was very hilly. I decided on Route 15 to try to get through Kentucky. And so it was, Route 15 all day. The road started quietly, little traffic, and I got 40 miles by 11 AM. Somewhere between Jackson and Hazard the road got really busy. Coal dump trucks everywhere. I wished a railroad track to appear to carry that coal in place of the trucks. The Route 15 shoulder was pretty good in spots and rough in others. Kentucky DOT puts a rumple strip in the shoulder, which effectively eats up the useful part of the shoulder for biking. I just had to push on, as hill after hill greeted me on my way east. It was a cornucopia of shifting; all gears were used, especially the low ones that get you into 6 miles-per-hour territory.

The traffic overshadowed pleasant scenery and abundant bird life. It was good to hear familiar sounds in those moments when the traffic eased up: cardinals, blue jays, phoebes, nuthatches, and chickadees. Chickadees make me think about steep snowshoe climbs through quiet winter woods of New England and the Adirondacks. They come right up to a hiker in the winter, and provide a nice sight in snowy woods. I think I will have to get the bird feeder out this winter.

I eased the tenseness of the traffic by photographing a couple signs. I passed through Jeff, Kentucky, and would have been at a loss not to photograph ‘Jeff Mart,’ in honor of former and current supervisors with the same name. Shortly, thereafter, I photographed a sign that reminded me of another fishery biologist, one that likes biking and may experience hills like this in New England.

I got to Whitesburg about 7 PM and wanted to pedal a bit further with the cool of the evening. I was told the next town up - Jenkins – had no motel or campground. So, about 7:30 I started looking into the woods for a spot – any spot. I almost pulled into one place that looked like an abandoned firing range. That could be tough if a local pulled in at night wanting to practice. My legs were shelled, and I was pondering what to do. I pressed on, and came across a sign, ‘Fish Pond Lake.’ The bottom of the sign was occluded by bushes. I got off my bike and peeled the branches back to try to get more information. There was none. A local home owner a couple hundred yards down the line informed me of primitive camping up at the lake. I turn the corner and ascend up the lake; a ~12 percent pitch on a rough road greets me – ultra steep. I decide to practice walking my bike. I finally make it to Fish Pond Lake at dusk and found a tiny campground. En route, the local lady walkers contingent says they’ll be up at 5:30 AM, and ‘is there anything I need?’ I say a cup of coffee would be great. I pulled into my campground and start eating again. Seven thousand calories a day is a lot to eat. After eating a half pound chocolate bar, a local family brings me over homemade shrimp and vegetable kabobs and invites me to gospel singing here the second week of September. They were most pleasant folks and very kind. After dinner I take a mile hike to a local spring and dunk my head under numbingly cold water for 5 minutes to freshen up.

I had forgotten about the coffee. Sure enough, at 6 AM, a car pulls up to my tent and drops off hot coffee and pastries at my picnic table. The kindness of strangers is everywhere! I am not sure how close I might be to the Atlantic; the cup of coffee reads, ‘Channel Islands Coffee Company.’ As I write this chickadees and nuthatches serenade me to turn the pedals for perhaps one more ultra tough day over these old, steep mountains.

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