Thursday May 28, 2009, 58 miles (93 km) – Total so far: 787 miles (1,267 km)
Much better day today, although it didn’t start off that way. We were camped in Buckhorn Dam campground, and were awakened about dawn by a murder of crows mobbing a red-shoulder hawk overhead. The hawk took vocal exception to being mobbed, and it was enough to wake us up. About the time they drove the hawk off, a prankster of a blue jay a few trees over decided to try his broad-winged hawk imitation. Since it was so early, we laid there quietly as another shower came by.
After breakfast, we rode up to the top of the dam. It’s a Corps of Engineers dam, and it’s pretty small by my home-area TVA standards. Apparently it’s only a flood control dam, with a side of recreation, not a power generator. Sure was flushing the water, though.
We boiled water for breakfast, and noticed something brown in the bottom of the pot. Decided to go to the store on the way out, and found out they had a “boil all water” advisory. Wonder why the Corps didn’t tell us when we checked in? So we bought a gallon, bottled some and drank the rest, and headed up the first two mountains between us and Booneville.
It was still, and damp, and I was sweating freely although I was trying to take it easy. I lost my temper with the climb, and then Virginia lost her temper with me and took off. Well, on the downhill side of the second ridge, there was a huge coal truck that had apparently brushed a guard rail, then crossed the road and stopped after tracking across two good sized yards. No sign of Virginia, and ambulance, or a cop, but I decided it was time to track her down. After those two ridges, things eased a bit, and we made it into Booneville in time for an early lunch. After a thoroughly indecisive caucus, we rolled on.
ACA routing finds some of the most remote routes you can imagine. We had about 35 miles with no services. (At two points we were within perhaps 5 miles of a town, but that’s a 10 mile detour). Climbing the first two ridges, out of stream gorges, was no big deal. Along about Vincent, we picked up some working farms, the first I can remember since the other side of Haysi. Most of the houses were in pretty good repair, except for those which have been abandoned. I have to wonder what finally drove people out of eastern Kentucky – coal mining mechanization and decline, falling farm prices, the end of tobacco allotments, the change in welfare, or something else?
The third climb was more of a climb, and we rode along the ridge top. Interesting thing was, this ridge top had four of the steepest climbs we’ve seen yet. We were pretty intimidated after the first thriller roller steepened so fast we had to hop off before we fell off. Fortunately, most of them were short, 30-100 yards long. Finally made it to the end of the ridge, and had a great descent down to the creek. Rode up and down along it for another few miles. Saw the first working dairy (or at least cattle) farm since southwest Virginia. Another left, right, left, and we made it to Snug Hollow. Neat little bed and breakfast on a 300 acre farm, up at the top of a long hill. The purist in me says it’s a hill, not really a hollow, but there you go. Barbara, the owner, offers a biker’s discount. It was interesting, to say the least, trying to make contact as the day wore on, between limited cell coverage and depleted cell phone battery, but everything worked out in the end.
As for weather, we were glad the weatherman missed again. The sun came out this afternoon, prompting the use of sunscreen again. We thought that would make it rain for sure (why doesn’t somebody make rainscreen to make the sun shine?), but made it all afternoon until a glancing shower sprinkled us for about a minute. End of rain plus sun could be tough, but there was a nice south wind all afternoon, cooling us except on the steepest of climbs.