Day #12) June 24, 2011. Middlesboro, Ky to Vincent, KY: 81 miles in 5:34 hrs.
Finally, after like 4 days of waking up to cloudy, drizzly, threatening weather, we got a sweet day. Temps were in the low 70’s to start with the cloud cover just burning off of the mts. Got going with Judy round about 7:40am on route 25E right outside of the motel. Now my idea for today was to ride up about 80-100 miles north such that I can go dead west once Bill and Judy head back to Ohio. I’m aiming for a motel next to I-75 for tomorrow so I can get all my gear out of the van and into a room to sort and repack for the solo portion of my trip. Figured it would be good in that Bill and Judy will be right on the interstate tomorrow, and I’ll do a short 50-60 mile day tomorrow and then spend the rest of the day in a motel room repacking gear into the yak and my front panniers. Also have to transfer all my electronic gear into separate bags and cases. So that’s going to take several hours to get all the complete. Better that scenario than the one I did last year when they left me in Upstate NY – where I just pulled stuff willy-nilly out of the van on the side of the road and then they took off for home. It turned out that I forgot spare tires, my waterbottles, pumps and several other things. Luckily I went back through Hudson on that trip so I was able to get all the gear that I’d forgotten in NY that raining morning.
So I had trepidations about using 25E due to the high traffic. But look at a map and you’ll discover that down in Southern KY there are a shortage of good through roads. Matter of fact it’s like a maze of little roads that all meander around mountains. To get to some really good backroads that are substantial, it was going to take a long trek on 25E north to reach them. So we got it rolling on 25E, and though the truck traffic was crazy we had a berm that was a full lane wide all to ourselves. So the riding was safe. That’s always primary in my traveling via bike – safe roads whenever possible. You’ll always get a bummer of a road now and then that just scares the bejeevers out of you due to traffic, but I try to keep those to a minimum. Matter of fact we were really able to get a good pace going on that road due to it’s size limiting it’s pitch up the mts. Stayed with a solid 14-15 mph for our 24-mile stretch of 25E. Had a few climbs along the way but they were like 3-4% for 2-4 miles at a crack. Even at those grades you can roll along at 12-13 mph – with no gear of course!
So we flew through that and then jumped on Rt 11 North. That was a treat, going from what seemed like pseudo interstate to a nice county road. Great scenery along some streams and nice road surfaces to ride on. The whole time you could see that we were leaving the higher mts to the south and entering an area that was more of rolling foothills. Didn’t take but about 50 miles of northerly riding to say adios to the high ranges of VA and KY. And can’t say that I’m bummed either, as my legs have been on a sabbatical for about 3 days now. Matter of fact this morn I had a bit of a finicky right knee, my medial quad muscle to be specific. It was just a tad on the sore and stiff side, no doubt the result of days of climbing. I had to kind of undergear my climbing most of the day today just to make sure that it didn’t turn into a maligning over-use injury. That seemed to work because it felt ok by the end of the day. So I just spun on today’s climbing.
Again, Judy did a great job of climbing and riding, doing about 3 hours in the saddle today. I’m trying to encourage her to do some road racing what with the way she’s been tearing up these climbs for the past 3 days. Hopefully she will when she gets back. Bill took over just outside of Manchester, KY. By that time we had a cross headwind out of the northwest, which made the pedaling just a bit tougher, especially on the steep powerclimbs. Went through Manchester and let me tell you, not a place for a vacation destination – it was kind of decaying and gnarly looking. Definitely didn’t want to stop there for food or anything. So we jammed past that and onto rt 421 N. Not much for berm on that guy, but the traffic was tolerable and the scenery was decent. This is really where most of the day’s climbing began, the short and steep variety rather than those long, 40-minute dudes in the mts. No, there were the true definition of power climbing – short, steep and relentless. Singly three or four of those guys are ok, but strung together in a series over like 40 miles, and you’re suddenly in “Ouch Land.” They can suck the energy out of your legs like nobody’s business! And they were. Suddenly we were using that middle cookie more and more – until we finally just didn’t even shift back to the big ring anymore.
Now the scenery was pretty nice, way out on the backroads, but we were definitely paying the price of admission by doing all those power climbs. Off of 11N and onto 30E and that’s when the ---- hit the fan with climbing. The road was way the hell out in the sticks with just magnificent scenery – part of Daniel Boone Nat. Forest - but some of the power climbs were just leg crushers – they just rose right up in the air like a roller coaster start, forcing you to strain over the bars to pull up on the pedals and drive down with even more force onto the pedals. The road was twisting and winding and up and down. But there was hardly any traffic and the sights and sounds were fantastic. I’m sure had I not had like 70 miles in my legs by then I’d have had a more pleasurable experience on all those power climbs.
Our intention was to go as far as the town of Vincent, KY today, and then start from there tomorrow for a shorter day – that due to Bill and Judy leaving and me needing to sort gear. So my mind was set on Vincent, but then we saw the sign: “Road Closed, Detour Ahead.” Not good when you’re on a mission and only need like three more miles to make the day complete. Judy had scouted it out ahead of us and reported that the detour was on Rt 846, just a few miles shy of our destination. So we stopped and I looked at the map to see where the detour was going to put us – and it was downright cruel! This freaking thing took you on a loop that was literally some 30 miles out of the way if you were to get back to where you wanted to go. That’s when I took my helmet off and called it a day. Bill was on the very same mindset. It was already 80-some degrees out and I had been set on doing like 2-3 more miles, not 30! We were done. Now you have to remember that down here in Southern KY, there are a very limited amout of good through roads, so that detour was the shortest available. There was NOTHING else. We had no choice but to go with the detour to Boonesville to get back to Vincent.
No lodging or camping in Boonesville so we got online and found that there were two little motels up in Beatyville, 11 miles north of Boonesville. Done. Got a little mom and pop motel up in Beatyville, did a munchdown at the Dairy Queen which is right next door (there is literally nothing but a couple of little café’s in town) and then Judy and I did a dip in this little pool in back of the motel. Could very well be back at the DQ for another session of munching in an hour or so – they’re open till 10pm.
So tomorrow a short day to Berea, KY, situated right on I-75. I’ll spend the rest of the day repacking gear and working – getting caught up on phone calls and internet correspondence. Might even chill poolside again if I can bag a decent little motel. I’m going to miss Judy for sure, and having Bill and her along for the past two weeks, it’s like time has really flown. We’ve all had a pretty nice time traveling and riding. And part of my motivation for getting away from the American Dirt recon thing was that their vacation would have turned into a super messy support mission that was way more than they signed up for. To do AmDt right it needs to be a group of riders who all take part in the recon and the boat- load of work that goes with it. That’s definitely NOT a vacation – it’s going to be a ton of labor both on and off of the bike.
Sorry for no pics today, as the wifi I’m getting is like two bars, and I’ll barely be able to upload the blog let alone pictures. Late………Pete