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"]