All posts by Jim

Day 24 – Madison to Georgetown IN

I Love Madison

It felt good to get an early start today. But I was sad to leave Madison IN. It’s such a cool little town – they seem to really value the traditional architecture of the area and they’ve built a thriving town out of it. Such a contrast to other places that I’ve seen where downtown is dead and empty and all the trade is at the Walmart on the edge of town. And the people there were super friendly to me. On my way out of town more than one person told me good morning and to have a great ride. Nice.

Downtown Madison
Love the details on some of these old buildings.
I’ve seen a lot of signs like this one – each one seems different (they had them in KY too). Usually they’re on barns. I asked a local guy about them and he said they were to ward of hexes. Hmmm. Didn’t know that was a problem. Must be working.

And I love the Riverboat Inn – if you’re ever in Madison, it’s your go-to spot. The owners have gone to trouble to give the place a homey, eclectic feel. The huge back area overlooks the Ohio river and you can sit out there and have a beer and listen to live music.

Last night from the Riverboat Inn’s back porch.
Nice take on a Honda. That would be fast and loud. I con’t resolve my attraction for motorcycles and my competing environmental awareness. It’s a quandary that only an electric motorcycle can solve…

The only thing I didn’t like about Madison is the big power plant on the edge of town. I stopped to take pictures and noticed that a guy up on a catwalk was watching me closely. I waved to him and he half raised his hand in a wave, almost like it was automatic but then he realized maybe he shouldn’t. Then he got on his radio, while still looking a me so I started wondering if the security was going to show up. Oh well, I was done anyway but I would kind of liked to talk to them anyway. I couldn’t tell at a glance what the plant was burning but with a stack that clean it’s probably natural gas.

Looks like water vapor and probably tons and tons of CO2. Kind of beautiful, and a classic fluid flow pattern – see the two plumes that spin in opposite directions?. But we need to stopp burning stuff. That would be a pretty good good worldlike air policy; stop burning stuff. It fouls the air and heats up the earth. Isn’t that obvious?

Wrong Turn

It was bound to happen but today I took a serious wrong turn and ended up with an extra 10 miles and 800 feet of climbing. I’ll be watching my map more closely next time. It really slows you down to have to stop and navigate a bunch of turns but if you try to remember too many steps you screw up. It’s especially easy because I can’t tell you how many River Streets I followed, how many times I’ve turned right on Main Street and then left on Elm. Was that Right, Left, Right or Left, Right, Left. Silver Street or Spring?

Near Paynesville. Another used-to-be someone’s everything.

I had a bad feeling when I started down this big hill but didn’t thing much about it. Zoom! Freedom! Wheee! Until I got to Bethlehem. Oops, not supposed to go through a Bethlehem. Oh crap, up that big hill again. Actually I could have gone a shorter route but that would have taken me on a bunch of unbike-friendly roads and I didn’t want to risk it.

At least the detour took me by this old house.
Gorgeous thistles

Then it seemed like I spent the next hour looking for water. I snagged a hose from a church in Bethlehem and didn’t think about the faucet until I left town. Hey, know what? Funny that they had two hoses – a red one and a blue one. And damn if that red faucet didn’t feel warm to the touch after I used it. I must have been checked out because I tasted that water and it tasted just like old church boiler. Yuck. So I stopped at another church and borrowed their hose (OK checking that there’s just one). That one poured out the dirtiest, rusty brown spew I’ve ever seen come from a tap. OK lesson learned – don’t steal water from churches. The next town I came to I saw a guy working in his yard and asked him if I could use his tap and he obliged. Now that was good water and I think he even has a water softener because it tasted almost sweet. Finally I got back on the right road and with plenty of water too.

Looking for water and finding huge fiberglass pigs. No explaination in sight.
OK the big fish by the hardware store makes sense. They probably sell fishing stuff right?
OK at least they have pigs and fish in Indiana but gorillas? And why is he so apparently hopeful? He looks like he can’t wait for what’s coming next.

Beware Flying Objects & Creepy People

I passed one gate today that just gave me the total creeps. I stopped to read the signs when I saw a gate on a rural road with two big flagpoles with the US Flag, the Confederate Flag, and a POW Flag. Then I started reading the signs posted at the gate; “PRIVATE PROPERTY – DO NOT ENTER”, and “Nothing In Here is Worth Dying For” and “Beware Flying Objects.” Eeew. I got the distinct impression that they couldn’t wait for someone to barge in so they could shoot them. I moved along but it gave me the heebie jeebies for miles.

The next yard down was flying a couple of flags that I had to look up. The Semper Fi I’ve seen before. But the “Thin Blue Line” flag I had to look up. I guess there’s a black, white and blue version of the Stars and Stripes now that they had too. I really think the left needs to do something about this co-oping of the flag. I want it back for all of us.

Not far from creeps. I love the textures. I can’t seem to stop taking pictures of buildings. I give up stopping.

Dog Sprints

This is my latest training strategy. I didn’t have many of these until I got to Kentucky but I had two yesterday, and two today in IN. Actually Adam was unlucky enough to try one back in NY but now I’m on gaurd all the time.

It starts like this – you’re approaching some kind of run down house or trailer and when you’re about even with the house you start to hear this dog barking and getting closer and closer. Then I do a quick evaluation. Does he mean business? Is this a dog that is an actual threat? About a third are too fat to catch me, a third are too small to really be a threat, but that remaining third – they make you realize just how quick your adrenaline system can kick in.

Some people keep pepper spray at the ready for this (I saw Ralph had some right by his head tube) but I haven’t done that. My approach with those is two-fold; 1) sprint like hell and 2) get a water bottle ready. I’ve only had to use the bottle once and it did the trick. Have you ever seen a dog when you squirt a hose at them? Most of them have a practically involuntary reaction where they bite  at the water. Same thing happens with the water bottle. I did that to a particularly threatening one yesterday and he bit at it and then just stopped – stunned. So far so good. I just hope I don’t run into one on some big climb.

Old riverside mansion.
The bridge over to Louisville. It’s a working river and Jefferson is home to a lot of marine repair and barge company.

Close Call for Someone

Today I had a close call of different kind. I passed an accident right after it had happened. This car had run into a telephone pole and the driver was out cold, and the horn was blaring (he was on it). Other folks were already there and calling 911. Apparently he had passed out at the wheel for some reason (Heart attack? Stroke? Diabetes? Drugs? Nobody knew).

I was getting ready to take a picture of this clock when the EMTs showed up.

I hesitate to even include this because it will just give Megan and Lynda more to freak out about. He was on my route and if I had been 2 minutes earlier it could have been me that he ran into instead of that pole. But I can’t just stay home because something bad might happen. I did increase my mirror vigilance and I check each car behind me to make sure that they’re getting over to give me room. Still it scared me too.

Somewhere in there they’re helping him out.

They did remove him from the car and I saw him stand and walk away with assistance (and a neck brace). So I think he will be OK. Thanking my lucky stars tonight.

Pouring Rain

My mom always said when the leaves turn “inside out” its going to rain. She was right. Seems like you can’t even take a picture of a tree around here without a flag getting in the picture.

The clouds had been threatening all day and finally they could hold the water no more. As I got across Clarksville it started to sprinkle and when I hit the edge of town it started to pour in earnest. Actually it was fun riding in the rain – it was cool, no breezes, a wide shoulder and I had a very pretty climb up through the woods. It seems like everywhere you scratch the ground around here you hit limestone, creeks, rivers, bluffs and this road snaked around all kinds of beautiful limestone outcroppings.

All the creeks around here seem to be on beds of limestone.

But you can only be soaked for so long. When my fingers started to wrinkle, I started looking for a hotel and I found a cheap option only a few miles away and that’s where I type this.

Barton Fink

But that’s not quite the end of today’s story. For some reason this hotel allows dogs on the first floor and the clerk refused to give me a 2nd floor room (because I got a hotels.com cheap rate). And now it’s a complete bark fest every time somebody moves. Between that and the person pacing back and forth in the room above I tought I’d never get anything down. Ever see that scene in Barton Fink where he’s trying to write and the wallpaper keeps pealing and there’s some guy sobbing next door. Wish I was back at the Riverboat…

 

 

Day 23 – Union KY to Madison IN

[I couldn’t post last night, no wifi or even phone signal, so you might want to look at Day 22 also…]

Another day, another state… Today I crossed back over the Ohio into Indiana. I hadn’t noticed that in my route planning – the Adventure cycling route follows the Ohio (thankfully considering this morning’s experiences with Ky hills). So bonus state: Indiana.

I was slow waking up and slow on the bike – not away from Ralph and Joanne’s until 9:00. I slept late – all the way to 7:00 – and then just everything seemed to take more steps. Since I was “camping” on their porch it was a little awkward – electricity on the upstairs porch, water on the downstairs – but mostly some mornings I just feel discombobulated. Partly because I think I woke up a lot. I’m pretty sure there was a buck snorting around the house. Something was snorting around anyway but I couldn’t see it. So at 3:00 AM I did the rounds to makes sure my food was put away and bags were all sealed up well. Didn’t seem to matter because the snorting continued. So I went back to sleep and it’s likely that I snorted right back.

My digs for the night. Thanks, Ralph and Joanne! Great spot!
Always a bit sad to see what was once a grand home sitting derelict. I can imagine a mom and dad, gram and gramps, and lots of kids with memories of this place.
Near the “Scenic View” Church. I’m not really a Christian, though I do hold Christian values. Like many, I guess I choose my own interpretation of Christianity, as I believe Christ might have intended. Not really a discussion for a caption I suppose but I felt a need to explain. Still the symbolism on this hill was too powerful not to notice.
I have fond memories of scrambling around in Mimosa trees as a kid, especially the one in Kevin’s front yard. To me these blossoms are a symbol of what I liked about growing up kind of wild in MO.
In Kentucky the barns are black. Very badass. Near Sparta where the farms have seen better days. Odd to see so many farms here struggling, when 100 miles north of here they looked prosperous.
I saw a lot of trailers today in Kentucky. Most looked a lot better than this. And no, I will not refer to them as “mobile homes”. Does this look “mobile” to you? Not the first one that I’ve seen where they added a pole barn roof over a trailer. Maybe keeps it from getting so hot?

Seeing trailers is always a humbling reminder to me. When my folks first split up, my mom and I lived in a trailer for about 3 months while she looked for a permanent spot. At the same time, my did lived in a trailer by the lake for awhile, and then in another one on an 80 acre farm for several years. They suck to live in. They’re hot when it’s hot out, cold when it’s cold and I haven’t seen one yet where the walls and furnishings felt anything but cheap and poorly made. They creak, the floors never feel really solid, and usually they smell funny (especially when new – offgassing from glue, paneling, carpets). And where I grew up, anyone living in a trailer ran the risk of being called “trailer trash” – the local label for poor white folks. But the reality is that they’re cheap, and their often a sensible option for people in transition or who just can’t afford better. Still I’d have to be pretty damn broke to chose one. I’d rather work on an old broken down house than live in a trailer ever again.

I had a good long climb up this hill. Not so bad when it’s shaded like this.
Crossing the Kentucky River into, well, more Kentucky. See the old bridge along side?
I just love the simplicity of these old farmhouses.
We’re not in Ohio anymore. More southern influences.
There’s hope for us, yet. Crossing the Ohio River into IN. Madison in the distance.
In Madison IN. Lots of cool old buildings here. Narrow, brick and oddly vertical given how much space is available.

 

Kentucky is a lot harder riding than Ohio. I did “only” 60 miles today but did 3,000 feet of climbing, whereas the hole 94 miles I did one day in Ohio was only 1300 feet of climbing. Frankly, that day was easier than today. Kentucky has a lot of steep little hills, along of rolling hills and I was off the Adventure Cycling route – which I think I paid for. It was worth it though to get to spend some time down by the Ohio and there’s nothing like getting “off course” to remind you what a great job of route planning the AC folks have done.

I’m staying tonight in Madison IN. It’s a cute little town and the old historic downtown is thriving. It’s curious as you go from town to town and some are thriving and some are struggling. The hotel I’m staying has a big deck looking over the river and they have live music tonight which sounds fun. Although I fear Eagles covers. We’ll see…

Day 22 – Through Cincinnati into Kentucky

What a great day – I’m feeling blessed to meet so many wonderful people along the way. First I get a great send off from Margaret and Ron who not only gave me a lift to the bike trail but fixed me a breakfast and lunch for the road. Then I meet John on the trail – who’s an interesting guy with a long history of racing and racing support. And who did he meet on this same trail last week? Ralph and Joanne who are letting me camp at their house tonight while they’re out pedaling across NY. Talk about your small, wonderful world.

I took an easy day today because it wasn’t that far from the Gaithers to Ralph and Joanne’s. So I meandered my way to Cincinnati along the bike trail. I’m going to miss Ohio’s bike trails. Cycling on the roads there wasn’t much fun but then I didn’t have to do it much. I don’t think Kentucky has so many bike paths but we’ll see.

Thanks for the send-off, Margaret. Hey you look real natural holding that bike. Ever thought about touring?…
Meeting John on the trail.

It was really interesting talking to John today. He’s been seriously into racing since 13 and has seen it all from the inside out. He had some success and raced pro for a few years before transitioning to a mechanic for US, and later Tour teams (that tour). He was part of the 7-11, Motorola teams when the infamous Lance was on them (yes he’s just as big a jerk as you’ve heard). But what really impressed me was that John invited me over for a coffee which of course I couldn’t turn down. I got to meet his son (Jonah’s age) and wife and I was just impressed overall with what a balanced life they lead. I’m always taken when people have great, original art on the walls and have put some thought into their home environment beyond just picking up what’s easily available from Ikea or whatever your go-to shop is. It’s the little things that matter sometimes and I had an awesome macchiato, with fizzy water on the side and John sent me on the road with a new drink mix (infinite? Infinity?) that I will try in my bottles tomorrow (salted caramel! It was good).

Sometimes it seems like you just get on a bike and people treat you nice. It’s been great.

John and Jerry (sp?).
Enjoying breakfast number 2 right after getting quizzed by some kids on the bike path; “So all you do is ride your bike everyday?” Yeah, kinda. It’s been a blast.
Approaching Cincinnati
Ohio River waterfront nearing downtown. Looks like a posh restaurant inside with the primo view.

In downtown Cincinnati I went across the “purple bridge”, over the Ohio river, and into Kentucky. That’s state number 7 out of, I think 14. But they get bigger westward. Depending on my final route out of Ky and into Missouri, next up will be IN, KY (again), MO, KS, CO, UT, NV and CA.

The “Purple Bridge” – just for us bikes and peds! The blue bridge I’m told is similar, downriver a bit.
The more rods, the better the odds I suppose.
The “Belle of Cincinnati”
The first one I’ve seen. Some people adore White Castle but I don’t get it.
I’m not even considering this. It was great but I’m not pushing my luck 2 days in a row. Hmmm photos of White Castle and then this – must be getting hungry.
In KY the architecture changed immediately. Newport KY, just across from Cincinnati has a cool historic downtown.

There’s a very apparent cultural shift moving across the Ohio. Kentucky reminds me more of Missouri. Ohio is similar, but very neat. Kentucky is noticibly “grittier” I would say. And the accents are immediately a lot more apparent everywhere you go. I wouldn’t have expected that much difference just across the river, and I’m clearly making sweeping generalizations here so you folks that know the area correct me if I’m wrong.

So far the shoulders of the roads kind of suck here, but I’m off the Adventure Cycling route – I’ll get back on tomorrow and we’ll see. But in the meantime, most drivers have been very polite – giving me the whole lane and waiting to pass until it was safe. Cool! And one car (with windows open) had a guy in it that told his girlfriend “I just love a guy in tights.” So there’s that. See they like Lycra-clad cyclists here! I just hope they keep their dogs tied up.

One downside is that the farther south I go, the more confederate flags I see. I hesitate to bring it up because it’s just stupid. I refuse to take pictures of them – I just don’t want to give them any additional credence or power. And of course I’m not surprised there are more here. I was surprised to see them in NY and OH. KY not so much. I just want to understand what these folks are thinking. If the right opportunity comes up, I’d like to ask. I’m not on a mission to convert but if I was I would point out how completely un-Christian thing those flags are. Anyway, I’m really curious what the hell they’re thinking.

View from the handlebars as I approach my destination for the evening. I had to deal with miles and miles of traffic, narrow shoulders and such to get here but its worth it. I don’t often get up on the sidewalk but I did for awhile today.

Tonight I’m camping out at Ralph and Joanne’s house basically off the grid. They have water and electricity available and two stories of porch are mine for the night. So I have everything I need. I stopped in Union and stocked up on food for dinner and breakfast, and they have a couch outside that may just be the bed tonight. If the bugs get too thick I can always put up the tent (OMG they have the tiniest little red chiggers here – yuck). Their porch has a lovely view of their valley, and across to the Ohio River (can’t see but I can tell where it is). They also said to go ahead and borrow their kayak and take it down the creek which sounds like a great dusk thing to do.

 

The creek by Ralph and Joanne’s. Totally still.

It was a great dusk thing to do. The creek is slow and still and murky but 2 chances to paddle in as many days is a luxury. And this spot was completely different – still waters all the way down to the Ohio River. And the Ohio’s not much to paddle against either. I saw a lot of fish jumping along the way, even though you’d have to measure the visibility of that branch in inches instead of feet. And after I paddled through a slow spot, two deer crossed there, splashing up to the tops of their legs to get across. Not particularly stealthy but maybe that’s not required of deer anymore. The first was a fawn that still had it’s spots so maybe after it plunged through, Mom had to follow. Once again, I have no photos to show for it.

The creek leads down to the Ohio and opens up as you go.
The Ohio’s still a working river. I could outrun this barge in my kayak but it’s slow and steady up river.

It’s so still here this evening its really hard to tell how far away sounds are. I can easily hear people talking and laughing across the valley. Often I think someone’s coming up the driveway just to figure out that it’s a quarter of a mile away. There’s a conveyor belt running at a gravel mine that’s got to be 2 miles away and I can hear it chugging away. (I hope they don’t work 3 shifts.) Seems like I can hear red-wing blackbirds for miles. All the birds are singing as the sun drops down on the other side of the Ohio.

 

Day 21 – Rest day on Lake Lorelei

Today’s a rest day made super easy thanks to the Gaithers. They made me feel very welcome and today was like a day at a resort by the lake. Thanks Margaret for the amazing dinner last night and Ron for the tunes and sharing Kentucky’s best.

Just a few pics to share from my paddle around the lake.

Out for a paddle. Ron and Margaret have a beautiful lakeside home.
I know its not like this all year but today it’s paradise.
Took me a sec to figure this one out. Ever seen a boat garage before? I’m guessing there’s another garage door on the opposite side.
The wildest corner of Lake Lorelei.
When’s the last time you just stared at the clouds? Always reminds me of being a kid.
You’ll have to click on this one to get the real deal. Pano from mid lake. Really enjoying the midwestern skies.
Prop selfie
I’m not a wildlife photographer. So far this trip I have missed photos of herons, snakes, a turtle (hey he jumped in the water), rabbits, baby ducks, baby geese, deer, hawks, an owl, and a bunch of hedgehogs. Oh and btw hedgehogs are everywhere around here. It’s the biggest difference between southern OH and MO as far as I can tell. They have hedgehogs and we have opossum (possums?).
I’m now officially a “shade-tree” mechanic

Weird thing. In Portland I installed my front bike rack wrong. The mistake was of no consequence and it worked fine. I didn’t notice it until I noticed on Ben’s bike his was installed upside down. He said – no way and we went to look at mine and I noticed mine was installed upside down too. So apparently I’m quicker to notice the mistakes of others than my own. Hmmm, I’ll be looking for a better interpretation of that. Meanwhile, I’m humbled.

As I said this mistake was of no consequence. The rack worked fine as it was, and Ben’s had made it all the way across the country that way. But could I stop myself from turning that thing the right way ’round? Not a chance. The bags do fit a little better, let’s say.

The Gaithers – what great hosts they’ve been. You’d think I was part of the family. Ryan, you’re a lucky guy.
We settle in for the local tradition – Skyline Chili.
I’m having a 4-way; noodles, chili, onions and the mystery ingredient on top and a coney dog with everything on the side. Oh and a Diet Pepsi because I’m watching calories. There may be new unmentionables to talk about tomorrow.