Tuesday, 15 June 2010

From Harrodsburg-Carbondale (Kentucky to Illinois)!

We haven't been able to post for 7 days (since Harrodsburg) unfortunately due to a lack of internet and also a lack of energy, as we have had some excruciatingly hot weather which drains every inch of you!

Since 8th June we have been through Bardstown, Whitemills, Utica, Marion, then over by ferry (Ohio river) into our third state, Illinois to stay at Dixon Springs, followed by Carbondale where we are today (our rest day). We have cycled in the past 7 days 398.5 miles.

From Harrodsburg to Bardstown
We woke to a strangely darkened sky and by 6.30am the heavens opened and a massive thunder storm rolled into town. The pavements turned to rivers and the roads deserted. We donned our water proofs (to the amusement of all!)and as the intensity eased we made a go of it. It's timing was good in many ways, our room had become a sorry site with a puddle forming where our sleeping bags had been moments earlier in the plush YMCA accommodation! Our navigation continued to succeed, spotting the many unmarked roads etc, saving a doubtful Mike from missing a turn (he ended up asking a confused local where Fenwick was and the response was 'well, its right here'). The sun broke through and off came our rain gear, only for it to downpour moments later and soak us through. It was horrible, Luc couldn't see the road thanks to fogged up glasses and dripping jacket hood! To make things worse we were overtaken by a fully loaded self contained fellow traveller!

We've met many cyclists on the same journey as us, some fly by and others we overtake but all have intersting stories and characters. For example the Heinles family of 5
aged 11 upwards travelling on tandems and recumbants (see below)...

Fortunately the rain cleared for us to set up our tent in the 'My Old Kentucky'state park in Bardstown and after a group sing song of Happy birthday to Louise (which we'd been practising for days!), Luc set about going shopping for that nights dinner whcih she was supposed to be cooking with Clive but things got switched and cooked with Kath (Austrailian). The night was hot and our tent proved to be akin to an insulated oven - do you open eveything up and be eaten to death or slowly be cooked alive??

Our group shares cooking, with us each pairing up to shop/cook for the team. Everyone has made a real effort to prepare tasty and nutritious meals - so much so that I think that we may have been actually putting on weight! Shopping US-style is very entertaining - fresh vegetables are kept fresh by a random water mist squirting out of the shelves every few minutes! The one thing I cannot 'act natural' with is when you come to pay and there is no option but stand like a lemon whilst some poor assistant packs everything into the classic paper bags!

The next few days until we reached Carbondale for our rest day were very long and tiring, mainly due to the heat. More dogs but soon we would be out of Kentucky (land of nasty dogs!). We had reached Amish country - a distinctive Christian community known for simple living, plain dress, and reluctance to adopt modern convenience. The roads now had the marks of their horse and traps and the fields ploughed by hand. We spotted a cart stall selling aprons - Robin's request to photo them (in his best English polite acent) was met with a scowl (turned out that the dozen riders ahead of us had all stopped beforehand!). It really was strange to pass fields with the dust being thrown up as a man worked the land - reminding us that there were even more hot and tiring ways to spend your days than on a bike, just!

Excitement - we met with a friend of Dawn and John's called Ken whom was part of the original 1976 TransAm self contained cycle. As he treated us all to dinner at a town called Glendale (10 or so miles from our campsite), he relayed stories of past-they didn't have the bikes we did in 1976! Or the cycle shorts!!

Crossing the timezone - 11th June
We left camp early, hoping to get as many miles in as possible before it got too hot. Progress was delayed after a stop at a little convenience store (we were greeted with the offer of a free popsicle and the demand to sign the visitors' book but a grey haired man who looked so pleased to see us. We then zoomed down into a gorge Rough River - looking as flat as a mill pond - and up again into Breckingridge County. Blink and you'd miss the county sign, its overgrown and leaning against someone's outbuilding. No fanfare, no line, no nothing. But with that, we crossed into Central Time - queue photos and watch changing!

We passed Jeff and Hugh repairing a flat tyre and broken spoke... And then came the rain. Vast black billowing clouds on the horizon with tonnes of lighting. Coats on and we plodded in with intrepedation. Nothing happened. Then the downpour, a grey veil slowly advancing and dretching all in its path. We took shelter in a boat repair shop. Conversation with the owner generally comprised him turning to his wife and saying "whaaaatt diii theeeeyyre saayyy?". Oh well!

Over the next few days the temperature has been hovering above 100 degrees. We continued to try to get going by 6 and finish as soon as possible but with high mileages (84 and then 70 miles) sometimes there was nothing we could do but take it steady over the self-propelled rollercoaster terrain of Western Kentucky.

Crossing the Ohio river into Illinois 13th June
We set off as early as possible to avoid the heat. The day would involve a river crossing. 12 miles in, a few steep short hills and we reach the Ohio River and into Illinois. There was some kind of bike ralley so queues of harly davidson's lined the ferry. We later heard that one of the self supported guys that we'd been bumping into regularly along the route, swam the Ohio River and drifted half mile down stream due to the strong current, having to walk back up to meet up with everyone else off the ferry and collect his bike! He said that he wouldn't be trying the Mississipi!!

Kentucky had been a state of contrasts - poverty, beer shacks, $100,000 coal trucks in front of $10,000 trailer homes, empty grocery stores and friendly folks - not to mention the signs of the bible belt - everywhere a church or an evangelical gas station!

Carbondale-rest day!
Relaxed, had a lie in and watched a film at the cinema. I have been dying to watch sex and the city 2 and this is the first town we have come to on a rest day with a cinema. Convinced Robin by tempting him by the air conditioning. It's 100 faranheit outside and cannot walk 100 yards without sweating and having to change clothes again! Went for dinner at a Thai restaurant and had 2 glasses of wine (really spoiling myself!!-I will only make it worse to start again tomorrow!!).

Here's the latest installment of where we have been...

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