any Star Trek: TNG or DS9 2014 calendar
amazon.com or thinkgeek gift certificates
any nerdy/cute 1-inch pin or button (for my purse)--esp. skulls
king soba gluten-free buckwheat/sweet potato noodles
money in general
I get a call maybe 30 minutes after I wake up--it's Ben's family friend, saying she will be an hour late due to fog on the highway. I look out the window and sure enough the whole world is draped in a dense fog, leeching color and focus, phasing everything partway to intangibility. Best not to drive in such conditions for sure.
Jenn and Dan arrive and Dan makes a beeline for the shower while Jenn helps me get dressed. I have boiled eggs and antibiotics for breakfast, along with some coffee I fetch from the main office. I also drink the rest of my almondmilk from Big!Lots. My arm did well overnight and secure in its splint and sling it doesn't hurt so much really anymore. It's just weird not to be able to use it for much of anything.
Once Jenn's taken her shower and we've gotten BK packed up again we check out and head back to the campsite, where my benefactor, Harriet, is waiting for us, along with her 4-year-old grandson. She takes the whole gang out for breakfast at Cracker Barrel, and won't let anyone pay for anything. During the meal (Dr. Pepper alone for me) I spend a lot of time on my smartphone trying to figure out ways to get to one of my uncles in Missouri. It seems like it'll be quite difficult--they both live pretty far in the countryside, away from big transportation centers. I keep trying anyway.
When the meal is over we all say farewell and I climb into Harriet's car with BK and her grandson and we're off to Lexington. The others intend to cycle a short day today, ending up where we originally meant to be before the accident. Once we're off, they set off, too, cycling ever westward--without me.
I make some phone calls on the way to Lexington and then still more when we've arrived to their spacious penthouse apartment, downtown. rural Missouri proves too difficult to reach: too exorbitantly expensive to reach via rental car, too isolated to reach via plane or train or bus. Besides all this, even if we were able to get me there, Harriet tells me it's unlikely my arm will be fully healed in the 10 days it will take the others to reach our uncles... I need more time for something this swollen, and there's still a chance that a hairline fracture might show up once the swelling goes down. She has experience as both an x-ray tech and a nurse so I take her advice and call my dad to get a plane ticket back to Colorado. (author's note: I'm writing this about a week later than it happened, and tho' I haven't heard back from the hospital about the status of my x-rays, my arm won't be ready to ride for another week at least... it feels loads better, but it still can't handle a lot of pressure. This was certainly the better choice.)
Once my ticket to Colorado is sorted--flying out tomorrow evening from Lexington to Chicago O'Hare to Colorado Springs--we go out to a local bike shop to get Bike Rothar boxed up. We drop her off and they say she'll be ready in the morning. I also pick up some new red handlebar tape to replace what got messed up in the accident since they're carrying a brand I like and never found in the Springs.
After this it's time to grocery shop, so that I have enough food to tide me over till I'm home (I fall back on my old favorites of almondmilk and cinnamon chex, along with crisps and sausage and things). It's about 4 in the afternoon when we return to Harriet's house but I'm absolutely beat so I go to take a nap while Harriet and her grandson watch Snow White in the living room. I've been set up with a whole room and bathroom to myself, with one of those couches that folds out into a bed. I fall asleep immediately for hours and hours, waking up only to take my medicine and call my friend Nan to update him and receive a call from Jenn wherein she tells me that she and the other Handlebarbarians miss me dearly. I tell her that from now on when they sign people's ledgers and guestbooks as TransAm cyclists they should sign as the Handlebarbarians minus 1 and she says they will. Some of the others text me their well-wishes also. I try not to be too upset about all this. I'm still alive, after all, isn't that so? And tho' I'm very jealous that the others get to continue and to cross the Ohio River and the Mississippi and see all the cool things I fully intended to see--well, I'd rather that they get to go without me than not go at all. It's just hard, I guess. This trip started out--I had the idea first, I meant to do it before anyone else joined in (except Travis, who's been meaning to for a few years now, bit he didn't tell me until after I decided to myself). And now it's not my trip anymore.
I do a touch of blogging then fall asleep for good, full of antibiotics and pain medicine and unshed tears. Tomorrow evening I'll be home.
[picture below is of a sloth--my spirit animal-- crawling over wet leaves on the forest floor. For the next week, this is all I'm gonna be...]
When I get up in the morning, Jenn tells me that the nurse practitioner has actually come down here to see me, so I get up and stretch a little until I'm lucid and then go out to show her my wound. She decides that yes, it *is* infected, and takes me to her practice in her van to dress it and give me an antibiotic shot in the hip. They dress it with a clear dressing that should fall off when the wound is healed enough for band-aids alone. At least I don't have a fever. She also calls in a prescription to a pharmacy down the road for some oral antibiotics for me to take and I thank her profusely and offer to give her my insurance info but she says she'd rather not deal with the paperwork.
Back at the church I eat a banana and an apple and some scrambled eggs with garlic powder and pepper in them and a couple fruit punch drinks that are like Capri Sun but aren't. Me, Jenn, and Dan have a few arguments that involve shouting and almost-crying because of leftover stress from yesterday. I had been very paranoid, before this trip started, of feeling rushed and pushed too hard seeing as I'm a weaker cyclist than most of the others on top of having dietary and digestion issues with a compliment of pain and fatigue issues that crop up from time to time. All I wanted was to have a fun and challenging vacation but the past few days have been very difficult on me and I'm afraid, because if this pattern continues without respite, I'll be spending more of the trip miserable than not. Dan and Jenn think that I'm not acknowledging how accommodating and helpful and proactive they've been for me so far and take issues with the way I express and frame things. By the end of it, tho', I think we reach an agreement of a path to take--move a bit slower, take breaks more often, let me eat *before* sitting down in restaurants so I'm full and not pathetically envious of all the poison floating around me, etc. The others put in a few helpful comments as well and eventually everyone calms down so that we can move on.
Then it's, unfortunately, time to pack everything up and get moving again. Outside is a group of lifeteen people with vans and there's two girls who caught newts in a stream and named them Lizzy and Spot and let us hold them. They're here to use the building we're vacating. They're a church youthgroup thing, but I don't get to talk to them for long because I have to cycle down the street to the pharmacy to fill my prescription for antibiotics for my arm. I do so and it turns out someone else paid for them--I don't have to give them a cent and they don't ask for my insurance information or anything. We've hit a motherlode of kindness here in McKee, wow.
We do leave a thank-you note and a donation to St. Paul's before we go, at least!
After I've obtained my pills we start cycling again. When we've gone about 3 miles, we hit a bit of a traffic jam. Cars pile up behind us because the roads are bendy and there's a lot of oncoming traffic. Sometimes we pull over into driveways to let folks by. Other times, when we can see further ahead around a bend than the car behind, we wave them on to pass. There's a large truck at one point, like a small semi, and Dan who's in front waves him on because he has just enough time to pass us. He does so but there's an oncoming car and while he has time he still pulls in front of us again really abruptly and causes our whole line to slow down. I can't slow down fast enough because I wasn't prepared (I'm 2nd to last in the line) so I swerve, and hit Ben's left pannier, and start to spill onto the road. A red car which blindly followed the semi passing us (even tho' there wasn't time for 2 cars, only for the semi, to pass) is next to me when this happens. This red car didn't leave us enough space while passing, so as my left elbow hits the asphalt the car's rear tire smacks that elbow and the body of the car clips my shoulder. The car swerves to a halt as soon as the driver hears the THUMP of my body against it.
I get up off the road quickly, afraid of being hit by the next car coming, and shout something like, I CAN'T DO THIS TRIP ANYMORE as the stress of the argumentative morning, misery of yesterday, and severe trauma and fear from what just happened fuse together in my brain. It is soon followed by, I JUST GOT HIT BY A FUCKING CAR. Someone helps me get my bike off the road into the grass and moves me as well. I'm standing and walking okay, my left knee is bloody again but that's nothing major--it's my left arm and elbow that's super swollen and in pain and I shout things like IT'S THE SAME ARM and I THINK IT'S BROKEN. It is some kind of cruel twist of fate for the same arm which got dressed up this morning due to infection to be almost run over in the road not 3 miles later.
Jenn puts down a yellow raincover on the ground and has me sit down as I sob and shout things and try to process all the fear and adrenaline running thru my body, holding my arm to keep it immobile. I remember Anna Faye telling me to breathe and after I stop shouting she keeps telling me that I'm doing really well and that I've calmed down quickly and that I'm handling everything really well. Travis and Jenn get out one of those tinfoil emergency blanket things and drape me in it and Jenn sits next to me and she's crying too and I say I'm so sorry I yelled at them this morning and she says they're sorry too. Dan and Ben deal with the other driver I think, who is a bit hysterical also because she thought she killed me at some point and someone calls the police and an ambulance and the cops come and get info from me and then the paramedics come and look at my arm and splint it and they apologize but they have to put me on one of those immobilizing board things with the head blocks and the big collar just in case of spinal injuries. And they do that and load me into the ambulance in a stretcher and Jenn rides up front, leaving the others to find a way to get themselves and our bikes 20 miles to the hospital in Berea, which is where they're gonna take me.
The lady in the ambulance gets all my info and my vitals and makes smalltalk with me while we ride. It's not super uncomfortable on the board except for a pain in the back of my head because of the pressure of the strap on my forehead. At some point I reallyreally have to pee but I can't so I hold it but all I can think about is how bad I have to pee. In the cab Jenn and the driver are talking about the Boone Tavern in Berea and how it is supposedly haunted.
We reach the hospital and all I see for the longest time is the ceiling. Eventually some nurses find me and I tell them I have to pee but they have to do an exam of my spine first before they can take me off the board. It takes a while but they finally clear my neck and spine and let me up to go pee. I hold my arm awkwardly out in front of me and take care of business and I feel a lot better when I get back. At some point they come and give me a tetanus shot since I can't remember when it was I last got one (but it was probably time to get another one anyway...).
Jenn talks to me and keeps me company while I'm in there waiting for x-rays. The x-ray tech is a nice guy, retired navy, makes me smile with some dad-jokes. He takes off the original splint and takes pictures and sends me back into the ER. Another wait and the results are in: no fracture! Just a really bad contusion. There is a chance that a hairline fracture can show up in a few days when the swelling starts going down tho' so they give me a CD with the x-rays on them and say if it doesn't improve by Monday, go get them re-x-rayed. they wrap my arm in a splint and a sling and put me in the hallway to wait. We wait in the hall a while for outprocessing and once I've given all my info for the 100th time and given my insurance information they let us go out.
And who should we see in the entrance but the rest of the Handlebarbarians! Turns out that Rebecca, our guardian angel from yesterday, just *happened* to be riding by the fire station where they were with all our bikes trying to see if they could hitch a ride with a pickup or something. She stopped to see how they were doing because she recognized them and when she heard what happened she summoned two volunteers and two vans to ferry everyone to the hospital. When I get outside she's brought me two slices of gluten-free bread (I confirm it's Udi's before partaking) and for the others, chocolate covered coffee beans. Dan gives me the pre-cooked bacon that was supposed to be tomorrow's breakfast and I have a bacon sandwich and some juice and feel better from that.
Rebecca then calls around to the catholic church of the area, St. Clare's I believe, for permission for us to set up camp in their backyard and she calls the neighbors to tell them what's happening and she doesn't leave us until she knows that we'll be safe and sound for the next two nights as needed. We take photos to remember her by (and to post on facebook) and bid her a warm and grateful farewell. The volunteers drive me and Bike Rothar over there while the others cycle. Cursory examination says BK is all right--she'll just need some new handlebar tape and some adjustment to the hoods/brake levers.
everyone pitches their tents, but I don't because I know that I'll need to sleep indoors tonight. there's a Knights Inn just across the street so I decide that I will sleep there. first thing we do is all walk half mile to Walmart where we get some more food and I fill my prescription for pain pills that I was given in the hospital. the people in the pharmacy are really great and they offer me a lot of condolences and heal soons. I buy an orange carrot juice because I'm really thirsty but I can't really think of anything else and I'm not terribly hungry so that's all that I get besides the medication. when we're all done with Walmart we walk back the other way past the church to go to a Italian restaurant that was recommended to us by Rebecca and the volunteers earlier. obviously I can't eat anything here but I'm not hungry so I just get a Dr Pepper and refill it a couple times. everyone else eats pizzas and bread slathered in garlic butter. I spend some time trying to find out where my uncles in Missouri live and if it is a good idea to try to go ahead to Missouri and wait there until the others pass through. they'll be there about 10 to 14 days from now and if my elbow is not fractured then I should be healed in time to join them. but my uncles in Missouri live kinda far out in the country, and it's looking like it'll be difficult to reach them, especially since Berea Kentucky has no train station no bus stop that we know of and no airport. I do call my uncle Danny and ascertain that he would love to have me over so it's just a matter of trying to get there. it is too late at night however to make any solid plans about Missouri. Ben calls an old family friend who is currently in Lexington, Kentucky, to see if she can give me a ride up to Lexington because I will be more likely to find rental cars, trains, buses, and planes up there than in Berea. She immediately agrees and says she will come first thing tomorrow morning. Our first instinct is to get me a rental car but we're not sure yet if that is feasible.
when everyone is done eating and drinking, we all walk back to the Catholic Church. it is now dark, as the Sun has set. Jenn and Dan help me walk my bike with all my stuff on it to the Knights Inn. I check in for one night and I'm given a whole room with two beds to myself for only about $50. Jen helps me change into sleeping clothes and rewrap my arm after I'd had taken the bandages off to stretch it a little and make sure the joint is still flexible. dan commiserate with me for a little while because one time he broke his collarbone in a accident with a car while he was cycling and he understands what it's like to have difficulty using one side of one's body. they make sure that I can get into an out of bed on my own and a few other things without help, and then they head back to the campsite for the night, saying that they will come back in the morning to help me get dressed and ready to go.
I then spend some time texting my friend nan and reading things on the internet and waiting for the pain pill to make me fall asleep. it takes a bit longer than usual because I was just drinking Dr peppers with caffeine, but when I fall asleep I fall asleep pretty hard. I definitely could not have slept in a tent with my arm this way.
I'm glad that my injury is not worse and if anyone had to be injured I'm glad it was me and not someone else. however, I am very disappointed that I won't be able to continue the trip with the others come tomorrow. hopefully, I will be able to join them again at some point. I don't care if I skip States, I just want to make it to the Pacific Ocean.
distance cycled: 3 mi
riding time: 15 min
avg speed: panic
max speed: ambulance
odometer: ~920 mi
[ since today was so traumatizing & terrible how about a picture of my puppies? the brown one is 10 pounds and the black one with brown accents is 5 pounds and they're both Miniature Pinschers. here they are cuddling up together and sleeping.]
For breakfast I finish off my rice chex from before and most of the almondmilk, while everyone else goes back to the continental one. We actually manage to pack up our stuff and get out of this room in a semi-organized fashion, which surprises me. We leave a few dollars for the cleaning staff and are on our way.
The first part of our day is back along hwy 15 with 3 choices: ride in debris-filled shoulder, the rumble strip, or in the lane w/ scary traffic. At least this only lasts a few miles before we turn off onto another, smaller road. For the beginning of the day we ride in a pace line thru a not-insignificant headwind but Ben and Anna Faye in front of me are kinda yo-yo-ing in and out behind Travis and at some point I'm kinda volleyed out of the pace line and Jenn who was behind me gets into it and I'm stuck in the wind on an uphill and lose everyone. I lose them for a long time so I just ride at my own pace and we reach a place with a climb and a rocky cliff rising up on one side and it's overcast and I find a little black snake in the road so I stop to push it into the grass with a stick (so it won't become roadkill) after I take a picture and it bites my shoe. But it's so little that its fearsome figure 8s and strikes at my shoe are just cute and pathetic rather than scary. I don't know if it's even old enough to have fangs yet.
Then, as I'm photographing the snake, Dan cycles up behind me? I was like, I thought you were ahead of me! but everyone had stopped at a gas station or something and I was just trucking along and didn't even notice. I'm glad that I'm not as far behind as I thought I was but soon enough since it is a climb everyone passes me again. Travis finds another little snake, with a kinda giraffe pattern, and picks it up by the tail before tossing it into the grass. This one is super lethargic and doesn't even protest at all.
We decided a day or two ago that one of the reasons I'm slowest uphill might be because I have the smallest wheels out of everyone--26" while everyone else has 700cc or similar. It means that not only do I have lower gearing mechanically than everyone except for Travis and Anna (i.e. lowest number of teeth on granny gear), but my small wheel size makes my lowest gear even lower as each pedal stroke brings me less distance with less effort than the others. Add that to my natural weaknesses compared to everyone in fitness levels and also muscle/energy issues related to celiac and you have one fairly slow cyclist.
So naturally the others are way far ahead of me and there's this very ominous thunder and lightning way off to the left kinda making me nervous like I'm going to get left behind in the pouring rain. I feel a little abandoned and I have to stop and take a sit-down rest at some point before I even see the others again. A passing driver pulls over to make sure I'm okay, sitting there alone, but I say I'm fine, just taking a rest, and she continues on. By mile 45 or so I'm holding back tears. I find Anna Faye, Ben, and Travis at a gas station in I think Boonesville and I get a real-sugar sprite at a gas station. They lost Jenn and Dan but we find them at the next gas station over. Locals tell us there's a church that hosts cyclists around here and are we staying? But our goal for today is McKee. It's raining pretty hard by now... I vote to just stay here but the others outvote me so we just take a rest here, buying more food, eating snacks, and it's discovered Ben has a flat so we take some time to fix that, too. I start crying at some point so we also have to stop and talk about how I haven't been having a very good past few days and how all I want is a leisurely vacation but I feel pressed hard with these 70-mile days and I feel abandoned when I spend so much of the day out of sight of anybody and so we try to work out solutions to my issues and then 'cause I've been outvoted we press on toward McKee.
Since I cried Ben stays behind with me for most of the rest of the day which is really nice of him and helps cheer me a little, but my muscles are still overtaxed despite the rest day and I'm just trying to survive the next 25 miles. At some point I help a turtle cross the road and at another we stop at a church to ask for water (it's Wednesday night so a lot of protestant churches are having services)--the basement door's open but no one's there 'cause they're all singing upstairs so we just get some water from the kitchen sink and hope they don't mind. Dan gets annoyed with me because I won't climb back down this grassy hill to get the water bladder for cooking tonight but my legs don't work and I've gone over 65 miles which is all I thought we'd do today so I'm annoyed too. Travis ends up filling the bladder.
We finally roll into McKee and what we had planned on is camping in some national forest around here but we roll and roll thru town and can't find a spot of it. We do see a sign at some point for a recreation area and turn to go there but after like 2 miles we're still passing houses so we ask a guy in his driveway where is it and he says it's like another 8 miles so we say screw that and go back into the main town. We decide to knock on the door of St. Paul's Catholic church and maybe they'll let us camp in their yard? A woman named Rebecca opens the door and we ask can we stay here and she doesn't even blink she just asks, are you hungry? The fact we can camp there is just a given. We pitch our tents under a pear tree and then go inside. She happens to have a lot of leftover food from some event they just hosted so she loads the others up with it and I go to take a shower first (they have showers too!) but before I do I sit on the toilet and just cry and cry to let out all the stress of the day.
When I unwrap my arm it looks really infected and swollen and gross and I think I need to see a doctor. Jenn comes to check on me and sees it and concurs and says we'll find a doctor in the morning. I take my shower and when I come out Jenn forces me to eat so I eat bananas and spam and Rebecca offers me almondmilk and juice boxes too. Turns out she has a nurse practitioner friend I can go see in the morning, but in the meantime she opens up this giant first aid kit and lets me raid it and re-dress my wound for the time being and take some bandages for later also.
I already pitched my tent but there are couches in here and she offers that we can sleep indoors 'cause it might rain tonight. The others refuse and say camping is fine but me and Travis decide to take her up on it. She even brings me a pillow and blanket; added to my sleeping bag liner, I don't even need my sleeping bag I'm warm enough. The couch is super soft and comfortable and I'm so happy not to have to camp in a wet stinky tent after such a difficult day. Sometimes I feel like I'm in boot camp rather than on vacation. But we'll work it out. We'll make it work. We're a team even when it really doesn't feel like it.
distance: 71 miles
riding time: 7 hrs 25 min
my avg speed: 9.5 mph
my max speed: 39.2 mph
no picture today, sorry.
Today we sleep in as long as we can without missing the free continental breakfast but when the others get up I keep sleeping because I can't have any of it anyway. (They try to bring me back some fruit cups but without a label to read I don't feel comfortable eating them.) When I finally do get up I walk to the grocery store with the others and at Big!Lots I actually find almondmilk so I can pig out on cinnamon chex and just eat bowl after bowl of it. I also get chickpea chips, BBQ potato chips, canned ham, blood orange soda, and a regular 24 oz coca-cola for the caffeine. As soon as we get back to the room we all take an extended nap, 3 to a bed, except Ben who reads and drinks beer in a chair. Then we get up and all talk about the crazy dreams we had (Anna Faye's was a nightmare) and everyone goes out to get fast food for lunch while I eat chickpea chips and blog and read blogs on my phone while lounging in bed.
That's all we do, all day: nap, eat, and play on our phones. We also get one load of laundry done but it doesn't dry all the way before the laundry room closes so we have to hang our clothes all over everything and this room is an absolute mess with stuff by now... it'll be a confused and disorganized morning trying to clean up but, whatever, we deserve this laziness today.
Jenn and Dan go out to dinner while the rest of us stay on our phones. Travis sets himself up on the floor and goes to sleep first. I eat some fish for the protein and decide to hit the hay, too. We have five more days of riding ahead before we can do this again and I want to be good and rested for it.
distance: 0 mi
riding time: 0 hrs 0 min
avg speed: slug
max speed: snail
[pictured below is all of us sans Ben scrunched into the beds and napping]
The swelling in my arm has gone down by now, which is good. It was probably caused by a too-tight bandage and high exercising blood pressure; nothing major. I leave the same dressing on it and go into the dry bathrooms to change clothes. It's raining and it sucks to have to pack up our wet tents but the pavilion is dry so we don't have to stand around in the rain while getting ready and eating breakfast (bacon and boiled eggs again) so that's good, too.
It's a busy road for the first few miles of the day, but all downhill in the shoulder. At some point we pass a huge roadkill with bubbling skin melting in the rain and tho' we only see it for all of 5 seconds it's really traumatizing, like we all kinda shout what WAS that?! after we pass it. Three votes go toward big dog, and three toward mountain lion, but later people decide it might have been a bear. I still vote big dog, knowing how all dogs in Kentucky seem to run free for some reason.
There's a lot of debris in the shoulder and Dan gets a flat due to broken glass and then immediately another flat due to a staple. He, Jenn, and Ben don't have a pump but the rest of us already made it to the bottom of the hill and were waiting at the turn so we have to send Travis back uphill with a pump for them (but at least he can take the stuff off his bike to do it). While they're taking care of that Anna Faye and I go on to get a head start since we're the slower cyclists of the group but we don't make it far before we decide to pull over and buy lunch already (because really, whether or not we'll be remotely close to civilization and food at lunchtime is a gamble) and the others catch up. But then they go inside to shop when I'm done so I go get a head start up the next climb.
...except it's not much of one 'cause they catch up to me about halfway up. Then Jenn has a slow puncture which means her tire gets flat in like 15 min after being pumped and her and Dan don't have any more spare tubes between them so they have to borrow one from Ben to fix it. Jenn and Dan then decide to buy better tires at the first opportunity they get; 3 flats in a day is a lot.
After 20 miles we stop at a pizza place for lunch and while the others devour insane amounts of pizza I eat rice chex and maple almond butter and drink so much Dr. Pepper I can hardly hold it in. The lady who serves us is really sweet and helpful and fills up our water bottles for us before we leave. For the rest of the day we take no more food breaks so all I have on the road is almonds and skittles. It is a hard day today. We still have 50 miles left to go.
There are rumble strips on the edges of all the roads in Kentucky. Getting caught in one on a bicycle can break your teeth; dayum. Shaken Cyclist Syndrome.
We go into a nice valley past a rehab center and what looks like old folks homes and also a college, and then up thru Pippa Passes which isn't so bad of climbing but I'm still far behind. The sun comes out for a while and it gets hot but it's not so bad. The others wait for me at the top and then we go down for a long ways on a kinda busy road to where traffic will stack up behind us like 6 cars deep on the bends before we have a chance to pull over and let them pass. We stop for a short soda break in Hindman. I go into a little cafe looking for something and I see a Kentucky soda called Ale 8 and I ask them what it's like and they give me a can for free to try. It's pretty good, tastes like a cross between ginger ale and sprite I guess.
From there we keep a really great pace line for a long time, singing songs from the Labyrinth at the top of our lungs. Thru rolling terrain and flat areas I keep up pretty well and even stay in front some of the time. We reach Dwarf, KY at a nice clip and stop to take photos of me under the sign because I'm Gimli. Then it's onward to Hazard. We have to take a detour because an entire bridge from the route is missing--just, not there anymore. But the detour is actually a more direct route and it's still a pretty quiet road so it's not so bad at all. Except for a big hill on it, which contains a pack of like 7 dogs that chase us all in turn and at some point a stocky bulldog mutt that chases Anna Faye really viciously and scares her quite a bit, as she is climbing in her lowest gear and has a hard time getting away. Dan brings the bear spray down to where I am below her in case it comes back but when I finally reach the top it is gone.
When we reach Hazard there's 2 motels to choose from--one closer but next to nothing and another farther off close to food and liquor. We choose the latter (a super 8) and push on an extra 3.something miles to get there on highway 15 in the shoulder in busy traffic and actually uphill to where I walked my bike up some of it because I was starving and super tired from such a long day in the saddle. When we reached the super 8 FINALLY AFTER SEVENTY MILES OMG the first thing I do is go to a liquor store with Ben and while he buys beer for everyone else I buy a bottle of sweet citrus strawberry wine and drink half the bottle in the 5 minutes it takes to walk back to the motel. I then decide to go down to a grocery store Dan says is <0.5 mi away because everyone else is going to fast food places and so there won't be communal dinner tonight. But it's closed when I get there--everything in that strip is closed. I have to walk back up to a gas station, still exhausted, still hungry, to buy jerky and sardines and starburst and canned fruit cocktail which are like the *only* things in the store safe for my consumption. And I don't really want them but I don't have a choice so I buy them anyway.
When I get outside of the gas station I sit in the grass by a drainage pipe and just cry and cry, not gonna lie. Doing so much physical exertion in a day just lays your emotions bare, let me tell ya. If you're happy, you're giddy; if you're irritated, you're irate; if you're tired, you're exhausted; if you're sad, you're depressed. When I get back to the motel room and it's locked because everyone else is eating easy food I can't have, I start struggling with some internal demons that have been laying dormant within me for years--so I call my best friend Nan and thankfully he picks up and I can talk to him for a few hours to calm down to a point where I can start eating and stop feeling quite so terrible. When the others come back and let me in I keep talking to Nan but I retrieve my other half bottle of wine and drink the rest of it while I do so. When we finally say goodbye I come in and take the last shower, rinsing days' worth of dirt off of me--coloring the tub gray--and cleaning out my wounds again. The one on my arm is still full of pus and oozing but it's clean so I re-dress it with Vaseline and leave the other scrapes to scab up like my knee finally did.
Tomorrow is a sorely needed rest day. Gonna sleep in, yeah, yeah.
distance: 71 miles
riding time: 6 hrs 52 min
avg speed: 10.3 mph
max speed: 37.2 mph
odo: 846.6 mi
[pictured below is a sign we found in Dwarf, KY. It's on planks of wood, clearly handmade, and reads, "WELCOME TO DWARF, KY / CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE"]
Due to our late night last night we don't even start getting out of bed until like 9 a.m., which is fine by me. I replace the dressings on my hips with 3 band-aids each and decide to leave my knee open to scab up. Breakfast is boiled eggs only so I also have a can of sardines in tomato sauce and a real-sugar coke which I had bought at the dollar store before the tractor pull. The small amount of caffeine helps me get ready but I'm still really slow. The gentleman who had driven us to the tractor pull shows up to bid us farewell at some point and we thank him again for the indoor stay. Rolling start is after 10 sometime.
The first couple miles of the day is uphill and I'm really tired and fading so I fall behind immediately. There are times even that I have to walk my bike up steep bits, which I never did yesterday. Also, it's raining on us--nothing fierce, just a steady and relentless condensation--and that makes my pedals slippery, especially when I'm changing gears. So I have to stop and take a while to finally adjust the cleats in my shoes so that I can clip into my pedals and keep traction. When I finally reach Breaks Interstate Park the others are waiting for me, talking to some other touring cyclists who just finished a tour thru the Ozarks to here. They take a group picture of us at an overlook of the park, which has a fabulous view. A semi-circle of green mountains, suspended in mist and cloud, surrounds us, cut thru by a rambling river. We take our fill of pictures and then press on to the Kentucky state border, which is only a few miles down the road from here. We stop at the sign and take more pictures, saying goodbye to Virginia (whom we will dearly miss!) and hello to a brand new state.
When we reach Elkhorn City, KY, we stop at a little place called the Rusty Fork Café to celebrate. When I sit down and take off my cycling gloves I realize that my left forearm and hand are really swollen... I go into the bathroom to take off the bandage and give my wound time to rest. The others check out the menu and while I do order and drink a sprite I can't bear to hear them order or watch them eat delicious poisonous food in my exhausted and hungry state so I go outside to eat some potato chips and beef jerky under the awning of a bank across the street. Tho' it's still raining, it's actually warmer outside than inside with the air conditioning so I just stay out here until the others are done and I pay them in cash for my soda later.
(I finally figure out that the cause of my severe nausea for the past few days was probably all the ibuprofen I've been taking for muscle aches, so I go buy some generic tylenol to try instead. As long as I take less than the daily max amount and don't take it every day my liver should be fine and it's a lot better than throwing up all the time.)
Travis helps me re-dress my arm wound right before we get moving and the rain lets up for a little while. We have two climbs on very small local roads where dogs are generally left unchained and unfenced and they come and chase us way too often. Travis is in the lead and gets asked some creepy, suspicious questions by some hillbillies with thick accents so he turns around to meet the rest of us again and not travel by himself in the front anymore. The downhill is nice and then there's another spike of winding uphill, this time with a sheer drop cliff to the right for a lot of it. At some point I move too slowly to go up a steep bit of hill and I can't unclip fast enough to save myself so I fall over in slow motion onto the knee I already banged up yesterday. My knee hasn't scabbed yet due to the rain so it's oozing yellow and falling on it opens up another bleeding wound beneath the first. I walk BK up the rest of the hill because I don't want to fall on my knee again or off the cliff. I'm fading really fast and feel awful and grumbly and then it starts raining really hard and as we descend on a narrow bendy road the sky lets loose and drenches us and actually I start laughing at this point because it's just funny I guess and we all howl and shout with absurd glee until we reach the bottom of the hill.
At the bottom is an ice cream stand and the others are like, it's raining buckets on us, why not get ice cream? So they get various flavors of soft serve and milkshakes and I eat dark chocolate peanut butter and marshmallow fluff by the spoonful out of my handlebar bag. We don't even know what town we're in and we've only gone 35 miles but because of the weather and late start we're kinda ready to stop for the day. We do some iPhone and google searches for nearby things but a gentleman whom I'll call J.G. comes to get some cheeseburgers and fries at the stand and we ask him if he's local and he is and does he know of a place anywhere nearby that we could camp for the night? He says there's a community park about 2 miles up the road but why doesn't he go drive up there and make sure it's okay for us to camp there before sending us down on our bikes in the rain, and while they cook his cheeseburgers that's what he does. When he comes back he says we have permission from the guy who lives on and takes care of the park so we thank J.G. profusely and cycle uphill for another couple miles (which is really hard since we're so close but I'm moving so slow) and then we're there.
It's small, two pavilions and a playground and a bathroom and a community center. We put all our bikes under the roof of the bigger pavilion and during a break in the rain we put up our tents in the horseshoe pitch behind it. It's nice to have our bikes under shelter overnight and we lay some things out to dry on the picnic tables too (even tho' we know in this humidity they'll still be wet in the morning anyway). The boys use a firestarter our dad gave us to make a fire with damp wood on the barbeque grill and it works splendidly and they use it to cook sausages while we use Travis's camp stove for the rice, beans, and greens. Immediately after dinner I retire into my tent to sleep, because my everything hurts and since today was a short day tomorrow is going to be extra long to make up for it.
At least there'll be proper toilets in the morning.
distance: 35 miles
riding time: 4 hrs 17 min
avg speed (for me only, of course): 8.1 mph
max speed: 36.3 mph
odo: 775.7 mi
[pictured below is Ben, barefoot and still in his cycling clothes, retrieving a piece of firewood longer than he is tall]
I am NOT a morning person, you guys. I understand how important it is to get up early so that we can make our mileage goals without riding or setting up camp in the dark, but still. Mornings are the worst part of the trip for me. I'm the last up and the last packed again but it's not that bad because I don't have to pack my tent. Breakfast is once again boiled eggs and pre-cooked bacon, which I supplement with a pack of skittles and a juicebox-sized almondmilk.
Anna Faye injured herself yesterday at some point to where she can't sit on her saddle due to bad bruises, so what we do is call the elder that let us into this church (we find his number in the phone book) to ask if someone could possibly give her a ride to our next destination? That way she'll have an extra rest day and time to heal up and hopefully be ready to go tomorrow. He sends us two members of his congregation with a pickup truck and they arrive between 9:30 and 10 a.m. to pick her up. They're really sweet people and they load Anna Faye in their cab and Christopher Robin in the bed and then they're off to Haysi (pronounced hay-sigh), VA. We've got all day to catch up to them, but it's over 50 miles so it's time to get going now.
There's some downhill and rolling hills until we cross a river and pass thru Hayter's Gap, then it's a long curving uphill that seems like it'll never end. I slog up it at 3 mph with frequent breaks and of course am farthest behind. At least we are passing thru shady forest and the road is quiet. Pretty, even. When I reach the top, the others are waiting for me and Dan lifts his arms up and shouts, you made it!! We're over 3000 ft high, I know that much.
We stop for elevensies at this point and then it's time for a steep, bendy downhill. I turn on my helmet camera and go for it, passing Jenn right away. There is apparently a sign that says "loose gravel" at some point but I miss it and when I have to get over to the right for a string of cars going up the other way I hit the gravel at 25 mph and lose control of BK and go sliding on my left knee, elbow, and hip, shouting obscenities all the while. Jenn stops to help me gather my wits and inspect my injures: road rash on one knee, half of my forearm, and both hips for some reason. Small holes in the hips of my shorts and dirt everywhere but otherwise no more damage. I ride the brakes the rest of the way down the hill and we have to pedal 6 more miles thru rolling terrain before we catch up to the others and I can get some first aid. (While I do carry a personal first aid kit, my injuries covered more surface area than I carry gauze for, unfortunately--I'll stock up when next I can.) I strip down to bra and shorts by a busy road so that we can reach my hips and tape everything up. While we're taking care of me, the sweet couple that gave Anna Faye a ride comes back our way and pulls over to chat and tell us that she's fine and has even found us a police- and mayor-approved indoor place to stay, too. We just have to reach it is all.
So, yeah. Our first wipeout. I think I caught it on camera, too...
We reach Rosedale shortly and stop in a valero gas station for lunch. I eat turkey spam straight from the tin, mesquite BBQ potato chips, and two lemonatas while the others eat hot dogs and drink fountain sodas. Ben tells us that it wasn't 'till this trip that he realized what "hillbillies" means--now that we're rolling thru all these hills where people live tucked up in the nooks and crannies, sheltered from civilization at large. It's a lot more literal than he realized before.
There's one more climb after Rosedale, this one on a busier road and with hardly any shade. Big A Mountain. It's not as tall or as steep as the last one and has flat bits for respite but I think this one is worse because of the baking sun and lack of shade or breezes. I'm dripping with sweat and run out of water by the time we reach the top. But we reach it, and I don't crash coming down the other side, either. From there we ride at a good clip to Haysi, me falling behind on a few small rises but staying above 11 mph pretty much the whole way.
We find Anna Faye waiting for us on main street and she tells us about what a good day she had. There was a festival and a mile-long yard sale and ponies and kittens and peeping little chicks. She talked to the sheriff and was put up in a newly renovated theater--it's empty and echoey but it has a roof and bathrooms so we're happy. They want to encourage cyclists to stop in Haysi so they're going to put a hostel for cyclists on the upper floor, but it's still under construction. We're the first cyclists to stay there and they take our picture to put in the local paper and everything.
After this we're invited to the local truck and tractor pull and the gentleman who set us up in the theater gives us a driving tour of Haysi (Dan, Travis, and I sit in the bed of the pickup) and then drives us up to the tractor pull and gets us in for free. The others get food at a booth there but I can't eat anything so I just get a Dr. Pepper. Then the tractor pull starts and it's actually a lot of fun to watch when they get that weight moving really fast--I like watching the modified diesel trucks go at it. There's a super souped-up truck called Nuthin Fancy that pulls with its huge back wheels with its front wheels off the ground and fire shooting out of its engine. That one is our favorite. It's hard to explain what a tractor pull is so you might wanna google it if you're not familiar--Jenn had to do that on her phone as it was going on so she could explain it all to us. This is definitely redneck country, yeehaw.
The tractor pull lasted well past midnight but we are beat so we hitchhike back down into town rather than wait for a ride back from another guy who was staying till it ended. An older gentleman with a pickup lets us all climb in the back and I climb into the cab and talk with him about the weather and the tornadoes in Oklahoma and then we're back in the theater and setting up our bedding. It's a late night, which means a late start tomorrow, and I haven't managed to eat anything tonight and now I'm too tired to so I have a feeling tomorrow will be harder than today. But, onward into Kentucky it is.
...OMG WHO IS THAT SNORING THAT IS REALLY LOUD YO
distance: 55 miles
riding time: 5 hrs 26 min
avg speed: 10.1 mph
max speed: 43 mph
odo: 740 mi
[pictured below is me, in pink sports bra and cycle shorts, all bloodied up with the wounds described above]
In the morning our tents are soaking wet with dew, and inside with condensation; when we pack them up the footprint/tarp things are again crawling with slugs. For breakfast there is boiled eggs and pre-cooked bacon. I'm the last one packed up but Dan has to change a tube due to a slow puncture so I'm not the last one ready to roll, which we do at something like 9 a.m. We stop after only 6 miles at the first gas station we find for an ice cream and soda break, which takes way longer than it should but hey whatever today's gonna be a shorter day than yesterday at least.
The first part of our day is mostly uphill, but it's thru a national forest with plenty of shade and the gradient is very gentle. Yellow butterflies flutter like early autumn leaves amidst the green of spring. (Their carcasses also, sadly, litter the road. At some point Anna Faye and Ben witness one get creamed by a passing truck.) I'm the slowest up the hill but the alone time in the lush forest is quite nice. At some point we pass the hill-walking cyclists again, as they stayed in Wytheville last night and passed us early in the morning. They're only going as far as some campground in this forest today so it's doubtful we'll run across them again--but, hey, you never know.
It's a long and wonderful downhill after that climb and for lunch we pull over by a stream and eat on its banks, sometimes dipping our feet in the swift, cold water. It's another climb after that thru similar roads and another luxurious downhill. At some point we're passed by a group of motorcyclists but we catch up to them at the bottom of the hill where they'd stopped at an old, abandoned gas station for a snack break. They offer us ice-cold sodas (I take a sprite), cookies, and candy, and we stay with them and chat for a while. Their kindness makes our day. Turns out they're from Kentucky and some of them actually live right along the route we'll be taking. They give us phone numbers and say to call when we're a few towns over, and they'll come out to meet us with more food or something. It's people like these that make this trip worth it. Should be seeing some of them again in about two weeks!
There's a nice coasting downhill thru a small town and then a winding, curving uphill thru another forest. The gradient is gentle enough that I can take it at 7-10 mph. Dan shoots up ahead of me on the climb but I stay ahead of the others all the way until the wicked-awesome downhill starts. It's bendy and all downstream; I go something like 30-35 mph, taking a few turns a bit too fast and having to be careful not to scrape my pedals on the ground while leaning over for them. I didn't manage to film much of it at all but I will say that was my favorite stretch of road so far, and it's gonna take a lot to top it.
When we reach Damascus the first thing Dan and Jenn do is get ice cream, and I get a 24 oz sprite and down it quickly. We sit outside in the shade for a long time, talking, me writing up day 12 to post. We take a nice, long, leisurely break, buying a few bits of gear (sleeping bag liners for Anna Faye and Ben, serving spoon and spatula for chef Travis, etc) and chatting with shop owners. We spend some time trying to find a place to camp tonight either in Meadowview or Hayter's Gap, but nothing pans out. We consider staying in Damascus but ultimately decide to press on to Meadowview and see what we can find.
The hills roll thru sun-stained, stereotypical farmland from Damascus to Meadowview. The first stretch is on a kinda busy road but once you turn off onto a little 1.5 lane county road it's really nice. We string out along the road quite a bit, Travis, Dan, and Jenn up ahead where I can't quite see them, Ben and Anna Faye behind where I can't see them, either. At some point we almost stop and knock on someone's door to ask if we can camp in their field but a bit of intuition tells us to press on to Meadowview proper. Sure enough, when we're cycling thru their little downtown a truck passes and a gentleman leans out the window and asks if we're tired and ready to set down for the night. We say yes, and he offers up Mount Carmel Christian Church to us, telling us how to get there before driving off to get a key and come back to open the door.
He's an elder of the church and says he usually offers their building to cyclists when he sees them and we thank him profusely as he opens it up to us. There's a covered pavilion outside to leave our bikes in and inside there's bathrooms and a kitchenette. We hang our tents out to dry while we eat supper at the pavilion--hot dogs, rice, peas, carrots, and black beans--and the boys have a philosophy discussion I'm too tired to really join in on. My stomach is still bothering me something awful and I actually throw up a little at some point, so I go in to lay down before my whole dinner comes back up. Can't afford to lose calories like that on a trip like this.
While inside I discover a tick on my ankle and yank him off. Scary stuff.
We put our dry tents away instead of setting them up and decide to sleep inside so that we don't have to pack up wet gear in the morning. We set up in one of their classrooms, rolling out our sleeping mats and bags. I go to type this blog and my word processor on my phone crashes and deletes everything, so I get really upset (that's the 3rd time it's done that) and give up blogging for the night. I've now downloaded a new note-taking app so hopefully that works better.
There's a pretty steep, tough-looking climb coming up tomorrow--wish me luck.
distance: 53 mi
riding time: 5 hrs 5 min
avg speed: 10.4 mph
max speed: 37.2 mph
odo: 684.4 mi
[picture below of mount carmel christian church, a one-storey brick building topped with a cross]
We get up pretty early in the morning with the goal to be rolling by 8 a.m. It's made a bit easier by not having to pack up tents and sleeping bags first. Breakfast for me is almond milk and fruit; the others eat leftovers from the potluck last night and things like that. Carla watches and helps us pack our bikes up, and Brian rolls up at 8:05 on the dot. After a few more pictures and farewells we head off.
Brian escorts us for our first 20 miles--probably the best part of the day. The hills are gentle and there's shade and running water. Brian usually stays up front with Dan but finds time to chat with each of us before peeling off back home. After we leave this last representative of Radford behind, we stop for second breakfast at the abandoned and kinda creepy-looking Pulaski Motel. All the doors are locked and chained and it seems like no one has been here in years; the sidewalks are crawling with little red bugs that Travis thinks are harmless spider mites. I make a dent in my new jar of chocolate peanut butter and put it on rice cakes. I'm starting to feel a little nauseated, but that won't become a big issue until later.
After 2nd breakfast we press on, and there's hardly any shade for a very long time. The predominant smells of the day are cow poo, skunk funk, and roadkill. Our path crosses over the highway several times because we follow county roads that parallel it to keep out of traffic, but quite a bit of traffic finds us anyway. There's long strings of gas stations and trucker stops all in a row here that's why. We pull into one at some point and I have a grape soda which is super refreshing on a boiling day like today.
At some point we come across two other touring cyclists, who are on their way to San Francisco, where they're from. They walk their bikes up any hill that I'd be using my granny gear on, and I find myself wondering, how are they going to make it over the Rockies and thru Nevada etc if they have to walk their bikes up Virginia hills? But their whole thing is "Cycle Slowly" (the name of their blog on crazy guy on a bike, iirc). They only do about 30 miles a day, they say--provided there's a place to stay; otherwise, they press on. (Such as doing the whole blue ridge parkway and then some, something like 80 miles, in one sitting!)
After I while a start to have serious muscle pain/weakness and I slow down way behind everyone in the breezeless heat. I'm worried about heat stroke a little bit, so I drink a lot of water and rest in the shade periodically. Still, tho', the nausea and muscle pain persists. It's related to my autoimmune disease, I think--it's not muscle soreness or muscle burning like working hard, it's something that happens to me from time to time and usually on those days I just stay in bed until it's over but I can't because I have to cycle. The hills today aren't quite as steep as what we've been doing but they're taller and last longer so I can't ride my momentum up them, and there's no breeze and no shade and the sun is boiling us so it's really hard. At some point I pull over by a duck and goose pond and just cry until I can pull myself together enough to follow and find the others again.
We finally stop for lunch in Wytheville, pulling into the shade of an abandoned shop front. All the stores we need--bike shop, camping goods store, gas station conbini--used to be here but are closed down now. I try to eat some clams for protein but they taste like fish poop and have the consistency of phlegm (ordinarily I like clams, but today my stomach won't have it) so I force down half the can, toss the rest and keep eating chocolate peanut butter on rice cakes. I take a really long time to eat because I'm dazed and in pain so while I eat Jenn, Dan, and Travis go to the post office to mail the key to Radford back home for safekeeping, along with some other things they'd been carrying but didn't actually need and didn't want to carry anymore.
Turns out we've just done 500 miles as a team, so we decide to go out for a couple drinks to celebrate. We only have about 20 miles left to go and it's only like 4 p.m. so we have time for a longer break. We find this log cabin restaurant place down the street and wait 10 minutes for it to open and go in and sit down. Everyone gets beers except Dan, who gets a Pepsi, and I get a hard cider. The decor of the place is really interesting and rustic and we have a nice time sitting there, me trying to gather some strength to continue without throwing up or giving up. I try to order another type of cider but when it comes it's just an apple-flavored beer, which is disappointing, but I don't want to deal with sending it back so I give it to Anna Faye and settle down with water.
I don't remember anything of the cycle beyond this except for latching on to Dan's back wheel as he acted the wind break for me, pulling me into Cedar Springs. I tuned everything else out but that wheel in order to actually make it to where we decided to camp that night. Except that where we thought the national, campable forest started wasn't and all we can see is POSTED: NO TRESPASSING signs. We go another 6 or 7 miles beyond where we wanted to stop and finally pass another abandoned, creepy, ivy-conquered house and decide to just camp in the flat area behind its barn because, well, who could possibly mind? The grass back there is tall and full of spiders which is hard for Jenn to take but we get our tents up and start on supper well before the light starts fading. We don't have water to cook with so Dan cycles down the street a bit to an inhabited house to beg a gallon of water off someone. Turns out it's an old lady living alone and Dan is pretty sure she's super scared of him but she does fill up our canteen in her kitchen while he waits outside on the porch. Hot links, canned spinach, kidney beans, and rice it is. We eat our fill and then all retire to sleep. There's no phone signal and I'm exhausted so I crash pretty hard, waking up later only as it gets colder so that I can wiggle into my sleeping bag.
Tomorrow hopefully my muscles will calm down and I can actually enjoy myself.
distance: 67 mi
riding time: 6 hrs 37 min
avg speed: 10.1 mph
max speed: 37 mph
total trip: 631.3 mi
Today's featured guest cyclist:
Brian riding Flagondry