I woke up late this morning. It must have been the double helpings of apple turnovers topped with ice cream. The bags needed to be packed with the freshly washed and dried clothes. Greg arrived back at the house from opening gates and so forth for some gents who are helping with the farm work. We went to breakfast at Charlies, which is exactly one mile down (or is it up?) from the house. Ok, we are in rural KY. The place has cooked to order breakfast. How in the world do you run out of eggs? As Greg would say, “Only in Oneville.”. We arrived back at the house and he and Mrs. Gabbard loaded my bike up with several Diet Dr. Peppers and some of the fabulous corn Mrs. Gabbard had frozen. I bid them farewell and had to coax Mrs. Gabbard into having her picture taken. She may be wanted by the FBI.
Consequently from my late slumber and breakfast, I was late getting on the bike. Our buddy, Bill Meck, was spot on with his prediction of high temperatures and high winds from the west. Of course, I was riding west. Why was I expecting anything different on my last riding day? Eternal optimist….Not. The terrain was rolling hills that were neither unbearably steep or long. The flats were tougher than the hills as any momentum that was gained on the downhill side was stopped quickly by the wind. The scenery, although beautiful, was still spoiled by yesterday’s sights of all the mountaintop removal that is occurring in KY. Tops of mountains are literally removed to extract the coal. The tops are then planted with grass and elk are being restored in the region. I was disappointed by this. First, it destroyed the natural beauty of the area that certainly would have rivaled anything in Virginia. Second, I could certainly see no obvious economic windfall for the people who did the work. The poverty level was high and moral in the area was certainly low. Maybe it was me being a stranger in the area, or me being just an idiot riding on a bike. The locals would look at me and our gazes would meet. I’d throw up my hand in a wave like gesture and rarely got anything in return. Much less response than on any other leg of the trip. Unfortunately, the horror stories of unchained dogs chasing cyclists in KY are true. I was chased by dogs during this 72 miles more than the rest of the trip combined. My prediction of Ky not having the Route 76 signs was accurate although I did see a share the road sign. The sign had a symbol of a tractor. Share the road with tractors. Great!! Did I mention the scenery was nice?
Once I reached Berea there was a detour for Route 21. This took me through another section of town that I wouldn’t have traveled through. Imagine my surprise when the bottle tree came into sight. Bottle trees were spotted on the first day and the last day. Go figure.
I bad reached the west side of Berea and had stopped at Speedway to bottle up a drink and fill my water. Ann had called wanting to know my whereabouts. She asked for me to call. I called both her cell and the home number and got no answer. I left a message telling her my location and that if was 1500, the wind was battering me and I had about 30 miles to ride. I’d make it.
So, off I went to make the final two turns that would carry me into Danville. I’ve had a ton of time to reflect on everything I wanted to on this trip. Family, friends, life, mistakes that were both made and avoided, life in general. My emotions were raging while still trying to figure out exactly why I had wanted to do this. What had I accomplished? Was it a colossal waste of time and effort? Had I made a difference in my life or anyone else’s? 10 miles out from Danville. I’d better figure it out fast. Less than one hour still to ride, when I hear a vehicle approach from behind. I dutifully move to the shoulder as the horn begins to honk. HONK. HONK. HONK. I move closer to the shoulder and the honking becomes longer as the intervals of silence becomes shorter. Honnnnnnnk….. Ok, now my thoughts turn to something else. I’ve made it 2100 miles and have not given any driver the one fingered salute. That is both a tribute to the courtesy I received and to my relaxed attitude. Honnnnnk. 10 miles from home and now I run into an asshole? Hoooonk. Ok, time for the confrontation. I move to the middle of the lane and peer over my left shoulder. Imagine my surprise, and relief, when I see a very familiar Toyota 4-Runner and the laughing faces of my wife, Ann, and son, Kelt. There was even our collie, Ruby, with her head hanging out the window. I pull over, never so happy to see them in all of my life. Ann quickly asks,” where have you been?” and before I could answer says “I need gas”. Off she zooms. Was I hallucinating? So I pedal to the west side of Lancaster and sure enough, there they are. We all hug, kiss and talk. Ann asks, “Do you want to ride, you’re on Danville Street?”. In the truck I went.