Rain or sweat? into Utica, KY

Thursday June 4, 2009, 50 miles (80 km) – Total so far: 1,068 miles (1,719 km)

We woke up to a gentle shower, with possible thundershowers predicted.  Well, OK, let’s hit the restaurant for breakfast (huge; I even left some on my plate!), check over the bikes, write a postcard, stall, delay, and tarry.  Didn’t work.  Sure, it was pretty at the park, but we have a country to see, so we need to get started sometime today.

We left THIS to go ride in the rain?

Things didn’t start out too bad.  After all, it was a gentle sprinkle, the kind that leaves you thinking, jacket or no jacket?  If you put on the jacket, you’ll get wet with sweat.  If you don’t, you’ll get wet with rain.  Both Virginia and I left off jackets for a while.  We had three hills to climb, starting just past the Falls of Rough.  Things weren’t too bad, except that the expected break in the rain never came.

We entered Ohio County, climbed the second hill, and I noticed there weren’t so many active farms as in previous days.  Corn was about the only crop, and while some farmers had healthy looking fields, some others looked like theirs hadn’t been in as long.  OK, time for the third hill, and we hit our first fuel stop in Fordsville.

It was still raining as we left, and continued on through Reynolds Station (there was a post office).  Virginia has a theory about small towns, that is they aren’t really a town unless they have a church with the town name or a water tower.  Post offices are close, and a stop sign really helps define a town.

There were work crews cutting down every tree on the right of way.  Little stuff, big (15-25 year old hardwoods) trees, didn’t matter to them.  I guess this was a response to the ice storm that hit this part of the country last winter.  What surprised me was that they were busily working in the rain.  Most work crews I’ve seen will stop when it’s raining!

Continued on to Whitesville, which has a post office, a bank, churches, and (gasp) a REAL GROCERY STORE!  I don’t think we’ve seen one of those since Bardstown.  We’ll be camping for a few nights, so I picked up some supplies.  We were both shivering as I downed my lunch, as the rain and the wind had picked up as the temperature dropped.  So, after carrying my rain jacket over 1,000 miles, I put it on.

Didn’t help much for the next five miles.  After that we hit a few small hills, and between the work climbing and the rain jacket, I was comfortable again.  We hit a few good-size rollers, which I enjoyed thoroughly, and a few hills that were too tall and had to be slogged up, which I didn’t care for much.

I’ve alluded to rollers before, perhaps without completely explaining them. You go down one hill, not too long or too steep, and see another one ahead. So you shift to high gear and start pedaling at the bottom. As the hill steepens, and you slow, you shift down, keeping the pedals spinning, and with a bit of luck you hit the top before you run out of gears. It goes pedal, pedal, pedal, shift, pedal, pedal, shift, pedal, pedal, pedal, pedal, shift, pedal a few more times and you’re over the next hill with a decent speed.

Spinning up the hill may sound like a lot of work, but the alternative is to coast up the next hill until you shift way down, and you have to crank all the way up the rest of the hill. Instead of 30 seconds of spinning, you end up cranking up that hill for two minutes. You’re hot and sweaty (even more) because you haven’t had any breeze since you started pedaling. And you have to pedal some more to get you back up to speed to get past the top of that ridge.

Of course, some hills are too big or too steep, and you end up pushing hard to climb the last section, or get into really low gear, better known as walking.

Finally we hit Utica, KY.  The map has two possible camping sites.  The elementary school, while it looks fairly new, has closed, and the facilities out back are only open during ball games.  The volunteer fire department has moved, and we’re in it, although they don’t have the septic tank set up to handle showers.  As I told the chief, though, we’re so wet, we don’t really need showers.

It’s pleasant country, but we didn’t stop for many pictures today.  It was just too wet.

There’s another cyclist here.  Jesse started in San Diego, rode across the Southern Tier to the Grand Canyon Connector, took the Western Express to Trans Am, then diverted down to Nashville.  He’s headed up to Owensboro (only 10 miles away, on a busy road without shoulders) to catch the Underground Railroad.  Incredibly to me, he’s making 80-100 miles a day, and left San Diego only six weeks ago.  This guy is a rolling commercial for Adventure Cycling routes.

Interestingly, we crossed US 231 and are within spitting distance of US 431.  If you take those roads far enough north from home, this is where you’ll end up!

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