Day 35 Booneville, KY to Danville, KY 72 miles

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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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Day 34 Breaks Interstate Park to Booneville, KY 122 miles by car

I woke up on my picnic table bed several times throughout the night. The weather had turned very ugly overnight with lots of rain, lightning, thunder and cooler temperatures. When light finally was beginning to show the urge to get out of the sleeping bag was strong. Bathroom usage and more layers of clothing was needed. Back in the bag I went as I continued to hear rain on the roof of the shelter. Finally, I quit hearing the raindrops and was excited to be able to get on the road. Much to my surprise, the rain had turned to snow so there was no noise. Crap!! That’s when I made my mind up to call for help and, as my friend Andrew Crowne Weber says, “Lose my hitch hiking virginity.”. I called for my friend Greg and, as always, he agreed to assist.

I loaded the bike and rode to the hotel lobby area to wait for Greg and get out of the cold. Amy Owens was working at the desk. She is a recent Pikeville College graduate and was so kind to me. She allowed me to use their phone since my cell couldn’t get a signal in the lobby. Since it was Tuesday and the restaurant was still closed, she offered lunch with the staff. Her offer filled my stomach as much as a seven course meal. I declined knowing that I’d take Gab out to lunch when he picked me up. Here’s Amy. 20110407-044358.jpg
Here’s what we saw while we continued to wait for Gab. It would rain for a minute, then it would snow, then the sun would shine, then this stuff. I thought it was hail but it is actually a snow pellet. I’ve forgotten the name. 20110407-044629.jpgGreg arrived to pick me up and we loaded the bike and gear into his truck and took off for the Pikeville Wal Mart in hopes that they had the correct tire to fit my bike. We immediately crossed into KY. 20110407-044904.jpg
Again, Greg was still in Ky due to the recent passing of his father, Don. Greg had said his mom was having a hard time. I couldn’t imagine what she was going through and was apprehensive about the timing of my visit. Greg and I successfully picked up the tire and he did some shopping at Lowe’s and a Suzuki store as the big city of Booneville didn’t have what he needed. I’m glad he was able to do this because he drove a long time and distance to get me. We drove part of the route that I would have ridden. If I had to lose my virginity, I’m glad it was during this section. I’m not sure the hills were steeper or longer but there was NOTHING remotely flat. Up, down and repeat for 122 miles.
We arrived back at his moms house and I showered and repaired the tire, twice. Mrs. Gabbard had prepared a delicious meal of ribs, new potatoes, corn (the best ever), corn bread, green beans and slaw. I found it odd that two of the finer meals on the trip were hosted by Gabbards. Both Greg and Mrs. Gabbard were great hosts. I hope that my visit was good for her, as it was for me. Here’s Gab being Mr. Rancher in the barn that actually appeared to be Mr. Gabbard’s dog house. It’s equipped with heat and air, a bed and a shower that rivals the dual heads of the South Point KOA. 20110407-050315.jpg20110407-050332.jpg
After dinner Gab pulled out pictures of our college days. It’s a wonder we’re all still alive. We ended up the evening eating homemade apple turnovers topped with vanilla ice cream, twice.
Here’s a pic of another spot where cyclists are welcome. It’s behind the Presbyterian Church in Booneville. Seems like all TA cyclists stay in the shelter as nearly all have a picture of it.

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I knew I had one good day, two maybe, of cycling to go. The Gabbard’s and my favorite meteorologist, Bill Meck, predicted a sunny day…..with high winds. Drats!!!!

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Day 33 Rosedale, VA to Breaks Interstate Park Breaks, VA 51 miles

Another beautiful morning. I departed the Elm Garden UM Church at 0830, my usual time. No coat, no gloves and no long sleeves. Highway 80 continues to be gorgeous. Of course, the sun shining would have made about anything look good. I took tons of pictures as it was planned to be a short day due to the campground spacing.

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Note the cows in the upper left hand corner of the photo. I was tempted to hang around and see if it really was possible to tip a cow. This would have been my chance.

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Many of the entrances to driveways and parking areas have these type of mirrors hanging from posts. These allow the drivers to be able to see around some of the sharp mountain curves and hopefully prevent them being smashed like bugs by the rumbling coal trucks.

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Who knew that Herbie and The Bandit were hanging out near Breaks, VA?

20110405-100612.jpgI wonder what Lindsay Lohan is doing in the mountains???
Here’s a photo I thought was rather interesting.

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The entrance to the park, just before my first true adversity.

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Ok. So I take the picture of the park entrance and stick the phone back in my handlebar bag. I start to pedal up the hill and the sound of a flat happened quickly….Psssssst. No problem I thought. First flat of the trip right on the KY line. How appropriate. So I changed the tube but didn’t find anything in the tire that was obviously the cause. I start to fully inflate the tube and noticed that the bead on the tire wasn’t seating properly. After repeating the process I see that the perforated bead line is ripping away from the rest of the tire. This is not a good situation. I check the map for bike shops. Danville Bike and Footwear is the closest heading west. I wasn’t about to turn back east as the bike shop is near where I started the day. I called DB&F hoping for some miracle answer or suggestion. There wasn’t one. I searched for shops in Pikeville, Ky and called sporting goods stores. No Luck. I called home ready to pack the trip in. I wasn’t going to wait two days for a drop shipped tire when I could be home in two days of riding. Come get me I asked Ann, my wife. Not tonight, she replied, there are tornado warnings. Great. In the meantime, Ernst and Andrew at DB&F had located a slightly wider tire at the Pikeville Super Wal-mart and had asked them to hold it. It’s in their photo lab. Great customer service guys. Thanks so much.
The next item on my agenda was food in the restaurant on site. I have a terrible habit of getting into a rhythm and passing restaurant after restaurant only to arrive at my destination without eating. Today that was a problem. Seems the Breaks Campground, the so called Grand Canyon of the South, doesn’t think that eating on Monday or Tuesday is important. The restaurant is closed those two days of the week . About this time the weather turns ugly and the rain begins. I’d had my eye on a picnic shelter that had it’s own bathroom so that didn’t faze me too much. Let’s recap. Busting tire that may or may not get me to Pikeville, no other bike shops, no food, tornados in Danville and forecasted rain of one to two inches. I’ve decided to soldier on somehow. I don’t want to roll home on four wheels instead of two. Oh, I was able to talk the guys into opening the campground store. I got two cans of Vienna sausage, a can of beenie weenies and some soup. I won’t be able to heat it but it’s certainly better than nothing. Here’s the nights accommodations.

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Greg Gabbard, whom I stayed with in Tallahassee is on his way to retrieve me this morning. Greg is in Booneville due to the unexpected passing of his father last week. He will pick me up at the park, take me to pick up the tire in Pikeville, then to Booneville where I’ll put humpty dumpty back together again. This will knock several miles off the trip. I’ll get over it. Thanks so much, Greg.

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Day 32 Wytheville, VA to Rosedale, VA 72.01 miles

The page was turned on yesterday. Today was the first day in the last 4 or 5 that I was able to ride without throwing on a jacket. Today was an absolutely beautiful day to ride. I short cut the ACA route again today and rejoined it on Hwy 80 in Meadowview. Hwy 80 is worth driving if you are ever in the area. Most of the blog will be pics of the scenery along the way today. I could have spent all day taking pictures. First I need to again give Virginia some props. These signs are placed along the bikecentennial route. This is the route all the hippies used to cross the USA in 1976. Hence, the 76 on the signs. These markers are for cyclists to use to know they’re on route. I don’t know how many states have signs like these on the TRANSAM route, but I’m sure KY won’t.

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Here’s some other “art” to commemorate the route. This was just stuck on the side of a building in Meadowview.

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The Elm Garden United Merhodist Church in Rosedale has been hosting cyclists since 1976. I arrived at the church around 4 today and found a nice note on the kitchen door to come on in and make yourself at home. I tried the door and it was unlocked as advertised. I dialed the phone number on the note just to let someone know that I was here. Again, I’m the first cyclist of the year but I was told to help myself to anything in the refrigerator or the cabinets. The weather was still nice so I was sitting outside when up pulled Bob Haydock. Bob is the Music Director here at the church and his wife plays the piano. This is the church and a picture of Bob. The church has recently lost their preacher and some of the congregation has gone with him. The church is using the hostel as sort of an outreach program. I’m sure that they’ll have no trouble attracting a fine replacement.

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What a great thing. The door stays unlocked 24/7 for any cyclist who’d like to stay. I’m 48 miles from the KY border and around 217 from Berea. The weather forecast for tomorrow is calling for crazy wind. I’ll at least shoot for the Breaks State Park on the KY-VA line. Here’s some shots from the route today,,,,enjoy!!

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The photo above was taken atop of Hayters Gap. It was about a 4 mile climb of 1700 feet. A guy on a road bike went sprinting past me on one of the multitude of switchbacks. Show off.

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The pics don’t do the scenery justice. Here’s a pic of the kitchen of the church. They’ll let you sleep inside if you prefer. Yes!!!

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Day 31 Christiansburg, VA to Wytheville, VA 67 miles

Snow flurries and wind gusts to 30 mph. Got a room at the Super 8 to watch the game. Ky lost. Need I say more?

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Day 30 Lexington, VA to Christiansburg, VA 84.05 miles

The motto for the day was Christiansburg or bust. Simple As that. The weather was slightly better with some short periods of sun and warmth. The wind was another matter. The hills didn’t let up either. Today was actually harder than yesterday. The terrain was tough but the scenery actually made it worth while. I was thankful for the rain the last few days because there had to have been 50 places along the route where water flowed down the mountain and dumped in another mountain fed creek. The sound of the running water was incredible.

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Virginia has grown on me. Although there is still too much litter, you can tell the sides of the road have been cleaned lately. From my casual observation, BUD LIGHT is still the litterers beer of choice. Bottles are their favorite.

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I encountered a climb today that did me in. It is just outside of Christiansburg. I saw the sign that said, “trucks right lane only. Steep grade”. I thought uh oh. I had veered off the route to save six or seven miles. I dropped down to the lowest gear and thought, just settle into a rhythm, you’ll be fine. I lied to me. About 1/3 of the way I was gassed. I pushed the bike up this monster until it leveled off slightly and climbed back on. There was no more walking but there was one more period of stopping and leaning over the handlebars hoping I didn’t have a heart attack on the spot. I was excited to make it to the top because I was ready for the payback. Downhill, baby. It hasn’t materialized. Spent the night at a campground. Most of the night was spent in the unlocked laundry room. Nice!!
One more thing. Reaching Christiansburg completed another ACA map. The last map is Christiansburg, VA to Berea, KY. 367 miles to go with no short cuts considered. I’ll be looking for some!!

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Day 29 Charlottesville to Lexington VA 72.43 miles

I woke up knowing that no matter the weather, this was probably going to be the most challenging day yet. The Blue Ridge Parkway was waiting and it defiantly stood between me and KY. The climb up to the parkway was long with, I would guess, an average gradient of 5-6%. Overall, I was pleased that there was no pushing the bike although I ran out of gears way too early. Granny got her workout. The highlight of the day was meeting June Curry, aka The Cookie Lady. She has just turned 90 and has greeted over 15,000 cyclists since her house wound up on the trans am map in 1976. Google her if u want to know more. She’s a very kind lady. I was actually nervous to meet her.

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She keeps a house next to hers that is the Bike House. It is open to any cyclist who wants to stay. The only thing she asks in return is to clean up your mess and send her a postcard from your home state when you get home. These are pics inside the Bike House.

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TCL’s house is on top of Afton hill, not far from the entrance onto the Blue Ridge Parkway. The weather at around 500 ft.above sea level was awful. Imagine it at 3200 ft. It was cold and foggy. There was no traffic since the weather was prohibitive to enjoy nature, unless you’re a fog freak.

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The descent from the Blue Ridge is a dangerous ride. Everyone who had any knowledge of this section told me to be especially careful while descending into a place where I cant remember the name. Anyhow, when Jim told me to watch for it I paid attention. When Scott at the bike shop mentioned it my ears pricked. When The Cookie Lady told me to be careful I was a believer. All three were correct. What a ride. You have to pump your brakes in order to not just burn them up. The weather was cold so heating up the rims and popping a tube wasn’t a concern.
Once off of the ridge in Vacuvious (I know its something like that) I stood in the closet like post office for 30 minutes to heat up and my feet never did. It was a screamer!! The ride into Lexington was gorgeous. The prettiest county I’ve seen.

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I stayed at the Econolodge as the weather still was not cooperating. Imagine my surprise when I found crazy, inflated prices because there was a dog show in town. I couldn’t believe it. Jeez!!

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