Saturday June 24, 2017: I was up 5:30 am ready and rearing to make up for yesterdays disaster of an afternoon. Despite the rest, my emotional state was still rather frayed from the frustration of losing half a day’s progress and by the anxiety of not knowing whether my navigational problems would continue. As I was about 5 kilometres off route I set a course on my phone via Google Maps to a point on the Trans Am route from which point I would start using my Garmin. I felt like a defeated Ancient Roman Gladiator waiting for the crowd to pass judgement. Thumbs up (my Garmin was working correctly) and I could continue on my journey. Thumbs down (my Garmin was not working correctly as per the previous day) and my journey was over. I really did see it as black and white as that at the time. Which would it be?
It took about 30 minutes, including a stop at a gas station for “breakfast” and snacks, to reach the starting point for the days riding, Chautauqua Road. I stopped, brought up the relevant segment on my Garmin, pressed play and took a couple of deep breaths as I waited for it to load.
I referenced Trackleaders and saw that if my Garmin picked up the left turn onto McLafferty Road, the left turn onto Pleasant Hill Road and then the right turn onto Springer Ridge Road then the odds were I was “back in the game”.
And with one massive sigh of relief my Garmin flawlessly, as it had been doing for the previous 21.5 days, resumed its until then, way underappreciated role as sole Trans Am route navigator.
I was back in the game baby!
My wife and then my father who obviously had been nervously watching from their respective Dotwatching vantage points in Philadelphia and Sydney called to ensure all was ok. I kept the conversations very short and I was probably a tad curt with them both. I was a long way from being relaxed and really didn’t want my deep concentration on the 2 screens to be interrupted.
I was about an hour into the day and I was finally starting to relax and able to focus on something other than my Garmin. It really was a beautiful morning and I was taking it all in listening to the Icelandic band Sigur Ros.
And then all of a sudden when the song “Starálfur” came on I started crying. It wasn’t just a couple of tears and a sniffle. I started balling my eyes out. Sobbing like I hadn’t done since I was a kid. The emotion just fell out of me. It was such a phenomenon that I actually got out the GoPro and filmed myself crying (ref stills below)…..not something you do everyday.
During the whole Trans Am a huge depth and range of emotions were never that far from the surface but nothing quite to the extent of this little outburst. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what caused it but some armchair self-analysis with the benefit of hindsight would say that it was the combination of a few things. Huge relief that my navigational device seemed to be working ok. The emotional and physical tiredness that 21 days continuous riding brings. I was missing my family massively. It was also possibly due to the fact that I was most probably in the last week of my race. The finishing line was now in sight and for the first time I actually believed that I was going to finish, something I was unsure about or even doubted when I had set off from Astoria 3 weeks before. Getting a glimpse into what I was capable of on a bike perhaps tweaked my emotions.
….or of course, it was just the hauntingly beautiful tune that caught me off guard 🙂 . Speaking of the tune here’s the one that kicked off the waterworks: (turn the volume up to 11)
It was a tough mornings riding. A lot of up and down as the heat of the day really started to kick in.
I stopped at Goreville for drinks and to buy some delicious homemade chocolate brownies from a Mennonite lady who was operating a cake stall on the main street. It was still pretty early and I reckon I was her first Saturday morning customer. I stopped again at a convenience store at Eddyville a further 45 kilometres down the road where the really friendly clerk informed me that she had let 2 Trans Am riders sleep on the porch the previous night. Ah ha I thought, that must have been Mike and Russell. I had expected that they would have made it further the previous night and I was buoyed by the fact that they must have been only 3/4 hours ahead of me. I could have checked Trackleaders to find out exactly but I was nursing my sanity and thought better of it.
I really wanted to catch up with them and would dedicate the next 5.5 days trying to do so.
I finally made it to Cave-In-Rock by about 1 pm. It had taken me a lot longer than expected to ride the 140 kilometres from Carbondale, nigh on 7 hours. I was very thirsty and rolled up to a dinner to grab a few cokes whilst I waited for the next ferry to make its way across the river and back.
The highly touristed little town was named after a large cave in the rocky river bank nearby which had been used as a hiding place by river pirates and highwaymen apparently, back in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
At the time I wasn’t that interested in the rich history of the place though. I only cared for the ferry that would take me across the Ohio River to the penultimate state of my Trans Am Journey, Kentucky.
The crossing across the Ohio River by ferry was a very pleasant experience, particularly as forward movement didn’t require any kind of effort on my part. I could just kick back, relax, take in the view and admire the significant skill of the ferryman.
The state border is halfway across the river but I had to pedal a few hundred metres down the road before I was officially welcomed into Kentucky and 3 days of bizarreness. ‘Tucky would prove to be a rather mind-bending place.
I was immediately on high alert for wild dogs and strategically placed the pepper spray that I had acquired the previous day in Carbondale, in my top tube bag. I’d never even seen pepper spray before so thought I’d better test it and gave it a couple of squirts, calibrating my aim at some unfortunate roadside flora. I was quite surprised at the force that the stuff came out and being a dog lover really hoped that I wouldn’t have to use it on a mans best friend.
Dogs, however, wouldn’t be an issue for another couple of days and the only thing “out of the ordinary” was a couple of Amish in buggy sightings. Such gentle people, never short of a smile and a wave.
7th Dotwatcher Sighting: Michele Lanham Hodge
It was just after 2 pm when I rolled into my first Kentucky town, the sleepy (hey, it was a Saturday) little town of Marion. I was really starting to feel quite fatigued and was also very hungry so pulled into the McDonalds on the main street.
It was quite a busy little Macas, and as I was tucking into what had become my standard Trans Am order; Large Big Mac meal, 6 nuggets, cheeseburger and chocolate shake washed down by 2/3 Coke refills, I was joined by the lovely Michele Lanham Hodge.
(Although a little bit of that loveliness has been tarnished in my mind due to recently finding out that she is a New England Patriots fan 😉 . At the time of writing, Super Bowl 52 is tonight! #FlyEaglesFly)
We had a great ole’ chat and I even got to sign her Inspired to Ride poster. What an honour. There were some seriously impressive names on there.
First Roadside Nap
I was in the Marion McDonalds for about an hour. I was savouring the calories and the local hospitality as offered not only by Michelle but by quite a few other locals who stopped by my table to say hello and ask about my travels. This was my firsts ever hands-on experience of the famous “Southern Hospitality”.
After my lunch I rolled across the street to a gas station to top up on snacks and water for the road. The gas station was quite busy and I was really struck by the really strong southern accents I heard in the queue. I was quite surprised as I wasn’t that far further south, if at all from where I had been in Colorado, Kansas and Missouri where the accents were quite neutral compared to these. I got the impression that the further east across the US you go, the further north “The South” is. Someone is going to have to explain the whole American “South” thing to me at some point.
Anyway, I hit the road and not far down I began to feel really tired. It got to the point after about an hour of battling away that I simply had to pull to the side of the road for a nap. I reckon I would have got close to falling asleep on the bike if I hadn’t. I’m currently reading fellow racer JJ Simon’s daily reports of his Trans Am and over his first 7 days of the race, he has averaged at least a nap a day and here I was, having my first nap after almost 22 days. I ‘spose you’re either a napper or you ain’t……..could be an age thing JJ 😉 .
Maybe I should have been napping more often because I felt a shedload better after a good 30 minute lay down. I didn’t just close my eyes and rest either. I fell into quite a deep sleep and if it wasn’t for that constant “you’re meant to be racing, you’re meant to be racing” buzzing around my subconscious I would have slept for hours.
My energy was back and I was starting to enjoy riding through the lush green farmland of Eastern Kentucky. The fact that the heat of the day was dissipating in the late afternoon also helped.
I rolled into the little town of Sebree just before 7 pm. I was in the midst of a 500 kilometre stretch from Carbondale, Illinois to Bardstown, Kentucky without full-service towns (ie towns with hotels) and so with the approaching evening, I had been on the lookout for suitable places to camp. I preferred not to put my tent up in the dark and so I really needed to find somewhere by about 9 pm.
I eyed a few church’s which had seemingly suitable areas to pitch a tent on their grounds but first I needed food. There was nothing doing on the main street but I spotted a bloke coming out of a non-descript building on my left with a plastic bag of what looked like take-out food. I rolled over and sure enough, it was a convenience store with a small kitchen in the corner that served Mexican food.
Absolutely delicious Mexican food! I ordered a selection of Tacos and a burrito to eat in.
As I was waiting I chatted away with a really nice bloke, a farmer who when he retired was keen to set up a free hostel for travelling cyclists just out of town. I told him he’d have some serious demand for lodging as there was nothing out here and that he should charge at least something nominal to cover costs. However, he was more interested in just “giving something back” and providing shelter from the packs of coyotes in the area.
See what I mean, a lovely bloke……..what a minute, did he say coyotes?!
As I was eating I saw Chris Owen cruise down the main street, quite the apparition as I had just not expected to see him again after we had said our farewells back in Dubois, Wyoming almost 2 weeks ago on Day 10. He had stopped to rest his injured knee for a few days. Wow, he had made extraordinary time to “catch up”. I ran out of the Mexican joint and yelled out but he was gone. Maybe it was just an apparition?
After I finished my meal and was riding back up the main street to a church that I had spotted earlier (I had decided over dinner to camp in Sebree that night) I saw JJ Simon rolling down the street towards me. It was a bizarre moment. We were both concentrating on our respective tasks; him head buried in a map and me keen to get my tent sorted before it got dark. Despite not seeing each for over 2 days we passed each other like 2 ships on a foggy night, barely uttering a word to each other.
Tent sorted with a minimum of fuss and I was deep asleep in seconds.
Day 22 Territory Covered and Stats
3D overview from Relive:
2D overview from Strava:
- Distance = 229 km
- Cycling (ie moving) Time = 9 hours and 24 minutes
- Stopped Time = 5 hours
- Elevation = 2,240 m
- Money Spent = $71 ($71 on food/drink, $on accommodation, $0 on bike maintenance/stuff)
Keep reading…..Day 23.