Friday, November 27, 2009

Gobble gobble gobble

Total distance: 2607.9 km

Irritatingly, we're having trouble uploading images on the computer we're currently using... oh well....  We shall have to update the photos of our exploits  some other time.  In a nutshell, here's what we've been up to:
En route out of Memphis we stopped briefly for a quick photo-op at the front grates of Graceland, which while interesting from a purely been-there-done-that perspective also made us glad we hadn't bothered to pay the entrance fee and look around - it seemed very tacky and commercial. We then continued south and crossed into Mississippi, stopped for dinner and met a waiter named Jesus (so we can say that We Have Found Jesus!) in a Mexican restaurant (he was a lovely fellow), and then headed into the countryside, and a town called Lake Cormorant, where we found ourselves a church yard to camp in. The next morning, we got up at the crack of dawn, and powered onwards through the day to Helena, Arkansas. We had arranged (via the website to meet up with Kevin, a local who arranged a place for us to stay for teh night. Kevin and his friend and Bart worked as a team to put us up in a very funky little work-in-progress building, where old window frames are restored. Bart's astructural engineer while Kevin, who works in insurance, has actually worked in politics and been trained by Al Gore to give presentations on global warming. We wound up having a great discussion with him over dinner (Mexican again) about science education, funding, and related topics. Kevin suggested we head to Mound Bayou back in Mississippi, to make use of one of his connections who might be able to help with our visas, so we might extend them for this trip.  So after getting up the following morning, and meeting the John, owner of the Quapaw Canoe Company we went back across the river, and spent the night in Clarksdale, pitching our tent behind the Quapaw Canoe Company building.  The following morning, we made another very early start, and powered into Mound Bayou, where we had our appointment, and we will find out over the phone on Monday what our options are.  It was in Mound Bayou where we were led to a little general store called New Deal by a kid named Jeremy.  We had our first ever serving of succotash there, which was delicious.  Think tomato, okra, corn, onion, and an interesting sort of sweet spicy flavour.  Prior to that, all we knew about succotash was that Sylvester the Cat said "Thufferin' Thuccotash!" a lot.We also ended up getting interviewed by the nearest newspaper, which was kind of fun, and met Julius Voss, a local plumber who offered us some space in his backyard to pitch our tent.  We happily accepted, and rode the rest of the way to his place just outside Cleveland.  As things transpired, the following day was Thanksgiving and Julius took us along to his various family Thanksgiving celebrations. We ate so much turkey it almost came out of our eyeballs, and Sundance discovered that he has a couple of extra stomachs reserved just for Pecan Pie. We truly got to experience Southern Hospitality in all its glory.  The food was delicious, and the company was great, though there were too many names to remember. Even Julius admitted he doesn't remember all his relative's names.

Today, we got a slow start, partly because we wanted to see the newspaper.  As it turned out, we were on the front page, which put a bit of a smile on our faces.  In any case, it was mid-afternoon by the time we actually headed off, so we only clocked another 40km or so, but these things happen.  At least the weather was pleasant, and the scenery was flat, and there was very little traffic.

As it started to get dark, we decided it would be best to find somewhere to turf surf.  After two failed attempts, we came upon the house of Charles and Marida, who were happy to give us a little backyard space. :-)  Speaking of which, it is very close to sleepy time now, so it must be time to crawl into the tent.
Next update next time we have internet access.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Riding in Memphis, riding with my wheels ten feet over Beale...

By Yana:

Okay, time to finally flesh out that last post, and the days that followed it.

Our stay in Hickman was reasonably pleasant, for the most part.  We rolled in after dark, and rode up an absolutely obnoxious hill in order to get to the police station.  There we asked about somewhere where we might be able to put up a tent.  We established that there was a little mini-park with a gazebo within spitting distance, and the cops told us that should be just fine.  But first, we wanted to have some dinner, so we left our bags at the cop shop, rolled back down the hill, and headed towards Hub's, which is basically The Restaurant in Hickman.  Mostly a steakhouse, which was little use to us, what with our not eating beef at the moment.  Luckily, they had other tasty things, and we had some absolutely delicious blackened alligator for our appetiser.  It eclipsed the catfish and fajitas, though they were pretty good, too.

We headed back up the hill, and put up our tent on that little patch of grass, with a nearby dog barking at us all the way.  Eventually, it shut up and we got to go to sleep.  We woke up the next morning to the spectacular view of the bayou over the fenced-off cliff our little patch of grass was on.  We spent quite a bit of time finding stuff out, but eventually headed to the ferry that would take us across the Mississippi into Missouri.  It was a fun little experience, though we pretty much decided not to head onwards on the Missouri side.  We did ride to the next little town, Dorena, which was little more than a cluster of houses and a church.  Not even a general store.  Obviously, religion is more important than physical sustenance.

Just as we were about to get back on the ferry across, Sundance got hit with a flat tyre.  On the other side of the river, we discovered that there must have been spiky seedpods very like the three corner jacks we have in South Australia lying around.  As Sundance changed his tyre, I examined mine and dug out a spike myself.  As it turned out, the spike had actually stopped up the hole it had created, so once I had it out, my tyre began to hiss loudly, and I had to change as well.  Great.  Not surprisingly, that chewed up more time than we would have liked.  It was getting quite late in the day, but we had to grab some groceries.  The sun was getting a tad low as we rolled out of Hickman, but we managed to reach the state border with Tennessee with a little bit of light to spare.  The photo we got of ourselves at the border leaves quite a bit to be desired, but oh well.

We powered on into the cutely named Tiptonville, where we headed back and forth for a bit, trying to find accommodation.  We tried the police station thing, and they made a few calls for us, asking if any of the local businesses would mind us putting a tent up in their backyard.  The awesome folks from the Reelfoot Lake Inn, Ruben and Tina, stepped up and offered a free continental breakfast to boot.  Even better!  We had some substandard pizza at one of the petrol stations for dinner, and then headed to the Inn.  We were warmly welcomed by our gracious hosts, who ended up just sticking us into one of their rooms, on the house.  It's sometimes a little hard to accept that kind of hospitality, but Ruben and Tina were quite firm and left little room for argument, so we had a very comfortable night indeed. :-)  Of course, to show our gratitude, we must spread the gospel of their awesomeness.  Seriously, go see them, they rock.  We actually had a very nice chat with them over breakfast, and they also bestowed on us a matted print of Reelfoot Lake, as a bit of a souvenir.  We will of course treasure it.  We also got to meet their very attractive cats, one of which had six toes on each foot... very intriguing!  Before we left, we all took photos of each other, and as you fair readers may remember, we posted one of our photos of Ruben and Tina in our last post.  They certainly represented their state well in terms of hospitality. :-)

We got back on our bikes, and headed south-ish, first along the shores of the lake.  It was actually very pretty, the conifers had turned a deep rusty red with the approaching winter, and you could sort of see the clubby feet of the trees that were standing in the water.  We got at least one very nice photo there ourselves, which is always gratifying.  We also saw a couple of egrets flying around... it gave us an appreciation for just how big those birds actually are.

Not much further along, we passed our first cotton field, which was pretty exciting.  You hear so much about the south and the cotton farming, and the sordid history attached to it, but it's somehow now quite the same as riding past those actual cotton fields.  Some of them had been harvested already, though there were quite a few fields still heavy with big balls of white fluff.  We actually made a point of stopping to each pick a fluffy pod of cotton.  It would have been so tempting to take along with us, but it's not like the quarantine folks would have let us take it into Australia, what with it being plant matter, and with seeds in it, to boot.  Pity.  Still, it was a new experience.

The weather was absolutely gorgeous, the road was flat, and there was next to no traffic, so it was absolutely wonderful for riding.  We actually went on some slightly loopy bits though, and it turned out in the end that we had taken a bit of an unnecessary detour in order to bypass Dyersburg.  We kind of prefer to circumnavigate cities, as they slow you down like crazy.  We didn't manage to get into Ripley that night, though we were roughly level with the towns of Halls and Gates when we rapped on a stranger's door and asked for a spot of grass to pitch our tent.  We were greeted by a ridiculously cute little lapdog puppy, and some friendly folks who were quite happy for us to pitch our tent.  We did so, then sat ourselves under the carport and made some pasta for dinner.  We were watched by the tribe of cats who hung around the backyard - there were at least seven of them.  One of them had weirdly crinkled up ears, which we later found out was the result of some mites it had had in its ears a while back.  There was another very ratty old fellow who must have been very handsome in his youth.  It's old cats like that which kind of break the hearts of cat lovers such as ourselves, even when they unfortunately sneeze at you.  Poor Sundance found himself covered in cat snot!  At least it didn't get into our food.

We had a fairly comfy night, packed ourselves up, took some cute photos of our various critters, and said our farewells.  We rode on into the town of Ripley, where things were getting significantly  hilly for the first time in a while.  We stopped at a grocery store to get some bread and bananas, and briefly got talking with a lady who was curious about our adventure.  She actually insisted on helping us out with some money, and introduced herself as Joyce Marie Spencer, a nurse.  It was kind of a funny little exchange, actually.  As we spent less than twenty dollars that day, which is how much she gave us, we actually could say that we were so frugal we made a profit!

We powered onwards, as we were determined to get into Memphis that same day.  We had been told by many people that Memphis was a really rough neighbourhood, but then, we'd heard the same about the area in Cincinnati where we stayed, so we weren't that worried, albeit a little wary nonetheless.  As it was, there was no way we'd get to our destination before dark, and we actually found ourself on one horrible stretch of road.  Two lanes, busy, and absolutely no shoulder for us to ride on for long stretches.  At one point, an irate driver honked us off the road.  We did eventually get past the nasty stretch though, paused for some chicken strips at a servo, and then rode to our destination, the DeCleyre co-op, where we could couch surf.  We actually went along a beautiful eight-lane stretch, smooth as anything, well-lit, no traffic, going slightly downhill towards our destination.  Bliss.  It immediately put us in a positive set of mind towards Memphis, although Sundance had a very sore knee from all the pedalling and was literally aching to get to our destination and rest for the night.

We got some tofu at the nearby Kroger, as tofu is a bit of a staple food item at DeCleyre, and then rode the rest of the way to Ellsworth street, where we found the house without too much hassle.  It turned out to be one of those thoroughly charming places, somewhat reminiscent of one of the share houses I lived in once, but larger and more organised.  There were a few people flittering in and out of the front yard, where someone had set up a little campfire in a rusty wheelbarrow.  Very photogenic.  Amusingly, among the various seats around the fire where two wheelchairs and an old backseat from a car.

We met the various inhabitants of DeCleyre, including Lelyn, our moustache-wearing contact.  We got stuck into preparing a communal meal with our tofu, and hung out with people for a little bit before deciding to just pitch our tent in the backyard, as things were still a bit too bright and lively in the house for our tastes at that time of night.  It was actually quite a warm night, the warmest we'd had yet.

The next day dawned bright and warm and sunny, and we gleefully soaked up the warmth and vitamin D in the backyard.  There was actually a hammock hanging in one of the trees in the front yard, which we both tried out.  We also had some social time with the two house cats, a crotchety tortoise shell named Artemis, and a mischievous ginger named Prometheus.

By Sundance:

The day after we arrived, we just relaxed and enjoyed the warm weather, and I made some yoghurt, a pleasure i haven't had since leaving Canada. Although the prospect of relaxing for a whole other day was very tempting, I felt it necessary to get out and explore. So the next day I hopped on google maps, then hopped on my bike and went in search of a phone store where I could get a pre-paid US phone account to replace my old Canadian account. I was successsful at a T-mobile store, since I'd previously found Verizon to be useless in that regard. I also found a camping store where I had to restrain myself from going nuts and blowing our budget completely, and got a new silk liner for my sleeping bag (my old one was getting a bit long-in-the-tooth and had started to tear in places), and a new stuff-sack for my raincoat. I also discovered a health food supermarket and a few other interesting stores, before heading back to DeCleyre.

The following day Yana and I headed in the direction of the downtown district. We came across the other outlet of the camping store I'd visited previously, just in time for Yana to have another flat tyre, so we pulled into the camping store where they had a bike department and Yana fixed her tyre and bought a new,  more comfortable seat while I bought more stuff-sacks, camp-stove fuel, and the like. The folks at the camping store recommended we have late lunch at a Greek-Korean place around the corner, which turned out to be closed, so we went off to a district where we'd heard there were good Vietnamese restaurants, and had some of that for lunch/dinner. On the way back to our residence we found that the Greek-Korean place was open, so we stopped in for a second course of nibblies. 

The following day we returned from a ride, which had turned into late lunch at another Vietnamese place, to meet another couchsurfer, Callum, from Scotland, who was crossing the country on his motorbike.  We chatted for a while, and a bit later, before we turned in for the evening, Callum told us he had been in touch with a local who had a car and could take us for a tour of downtown Memphis, so she came around and we all piled into her tiny car to go for a drive across the bridge into Arkansas, then stopped off at Beale street to wander around and briefly popped into a dreadful karaoke bar because Callum wanted to grab a beer.

The following day Yana and I headed on our bikes down to the waterfront to look around more in daylight. We passed the big pyramid-shaped convention/function centre on the riverfront, cruised down Main street and past the National Civil Rights Museum which was just closing as we arrived. Then we cruised past Beale street and decided to give it a second chance, which proved to be fruitful as we wound-up sampling various foods in a few different pubs/cafes, including seafood gumbo, some crumbed alligator, spicy prawns and chicken wings, a very nice pecan pie and key lime pie. We also heard some pretty good live music.

The following day we got bogged down with grocery shopping, posting some things we no longer need back to Australia, and getting (and installing) anti-puncture tyre-liners for our bikes. The next day we headed back to the National Civil Rights Museum, which is built in the motel where Dr. martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.  It was much more extensive than we expected, very informative, and we didn't get to see even half of it. If you ever go there, make sure you give yourself an entire day. It's worth it, and you'll need it.

We've stayed in Memphis much longer than we intended, and today we intend to head out of town, making a quick photo-op stop in front of Graceland on the way, and head into Mississippi. It's an interesting town, and it's nice to be in the home of The Blues, but at the same time I just can't wait to get on the road again.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Gratuituous image post!

Total distance: 2317.1 km

By Yana:

This time I swear the actual writing will be in a nutshell, and the majority of this post will consist of various photos we have taken along the trip.  We have taken over 1000 by now, of course, so there's no way we could post all of them, but a few will pop up now and then.

Our course to where we are now has taken us to Hickman, where we crossed the ferry into Missouri, came back, then rode into Tennessee, thus having achieved three states in one day.  It was a tough day, but we did it.  Then it was off to Tiptonville. We dropped into the local police station to ask if there was anywhere in town to pitch a tent, and after some hunting around they put us in touch with the Reelfoot Lake Inn, who's owners said we could put up a tent on their lawn. When we arrived, the wonderful owners Ruben and Tina Rodriguez, instead let us have a room for free as well as a complimentary breakfast. So if you are ever in Tiptonville you should stay with them because they're really nice people. Next morning, we saw our first cotton fields and rode through a lot of flat countryside.  A little bit after it got dark, we turf surfed with a friendly couple and their numerous cats.  The following day, we pushed ourselves to one of our longest days yet (only the ride into Cleveland has this one beaten), and made it into Memphis, where we are now comfortably couch surfing/turf surfing while waiting for our muscles to recuperate, as we're both pretty stiff and sore.  Once we have run a few errands and seen a few sights, we will continue.


Clint does the macho thing with a possum that doesn't want to be stroked.


Yes, the things one learns on the road...

What can I say?  Huge rusty old chevies are love.

Holiday home?


 "Now, how best to navigate across the Mississippi..."


A bit of barren landscape that pleases the eye...

An empty little cabin on stilts.  What it was for is anyone's guess.


Crossing the mighty Mississippi.

Proof that we were there, even if it was only for a very short jaunt.

Straight-horned bovines.  What sort of evolutionary advantage they might serve is a mystery to us.


The light was against us at this point, but there you have it.

She's a master at posing. :-)


Ruben's handsome six-toed part-bobcat.


Ruben and Tina, in all their awesomeness.  Go visit them, 'cause they rock!


Crappie Wireless Internet!  Well, I suppose if it's false advertising, nobody will mind, right?

Pick a pod of cotton!

Cookin' in Memphis.


Nice comfy turf surf spot... it's actually the warmest we've been on this trip so far, not counting the times we slept indoors.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Chasey with Casey

Total distance: 2001.7 km

By Sundance:

A quick post update here, as we have internet access again. We forgot to mention an amusing aspect of the departure from Cheryl's place at La Center yesterday. One of the dogs who lives at her place, named Casey, decided to run along with our bikes - and apparently decided to come to California with us. It was good to be chased by a good-natured dog, who wasn't trying to eat us, but after more than a mile we decided we'd better call Cheryl and tell her to come in her car and collect Casey if she ever wanted to see her again. That was quite amusing and put us in a very good mood, as we rode along the delightfully flat countryside with a fair tailwind, before pulling into Wickliffe, posting yesterday's blog update, and heading down to the banks of the Mississippi. Here's a couple of pictures of us with Kentucky on the right, the bridge to Illinois in the background, and Missouri on the left.

Around sunset (which is extremely red and pretty), on our way south from Wickliffe we also crossed the 2000 km mark of our journey. Hooray! That made us feel very accomplished.

As the sun had set, and one of our headlights was malfunctioning, we decided we should try to find a place to turf-surf promptly. After being turned away at a place by an old man who said his wife thought we we burglars, we arrived at a house which turned out to be the home of a state trooper, Clint, and his wife Valerie and their daughter Taylor. Taylor was very impressed to meet people from another country, and we stayed up late talking about everything, and being shown her pet hermit crab. It was also nice to meet a young girl who is very smart (doing well at science and maths), as well as athletic and interested in her health. Kids like that make you hope that they get every opportunity for a good education and a bright future. Clint also showed us a possum he'd captured after it had been eating their catfood. American possums are nowhere near as cute as Aussie possums - they're like a cross between a Tasmanian Devil and a ring-tailed possum. Eventually we crawled into our tent (glad to see that it hadn't been shredded by the numerous kittens in the yard who thought climbing up the tent was the most fun they'd had in weeks), and awoke to be greeted by cows staring curiously at our tent from over the fence around their paddock.

For there is surely nothing more beautiful in this world, than the sight of a lone man facing single-handedly, a half-a-ton of angry pot-roast.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Moving to the country, gonna eat a lot of peaches...

Total distance travelled: 1984.0km

By Yana (mostly):

Time to be as brief as is possible, considering the way this blog has been going.

The last time we checked in, we were leaving our gracious host, Tracy, in Owensboro.  We headed through some pretty country side, and into the nifty little town of Sebree a little bit after nightfall.  Apart from a kangaroo-themed petrol station, we also found accommodation in the form of the First Baptist church.  The Pastor, Bob, and his lovely wife Violet not only put us up for the night, but insisted on feeding us a most excellent spread.  Their church, as it turns out, has hosted many cyclists crossing the country.  One of the recent people this year was a fellow riding around the world on a Penny Farthing, of all things!  Proof that there is always someone more hardcore than you out there, I guess.  But we could say the same thing about a family of three who had passed through as well, riding along on a bike they had made to hold all three of them.

The next day, we had a reasonably frustrating time getting ahead, as we were slowed down by things such as rescuing a praying mantis on the road, and me losing my rear blinky light, which Sundance rode a few miles back to retrieve.  We ended up finding a free primitive campground at a place called Mauzie Lake.

We managed to make a nice early start the following day, and rode into the town of Morganfield.  We hoped to find some information at the local fire station/cop shop about the bike trail and its various rest houses leading through the US, but no dice - the folk there had never heard of it before.  So onwards we went, and crossed the border into Illinois, where we rode on to Shawneetown.  At the petrol station there, we randomly met Tom, a well-preserved 60-something ex-doctor, now author who decided to stick our bikes in the back of his ute and take us on a joyride/guided tour, first through Old Shawneetown, then to his place, where we made our sandwiches for lunch.  We then made to ride through the Shawnee National Forest, and Tom suggested we stay with his stepson Kyle for the night.  This sounded like a good idea to us, but the directions Tom gave us proved to not be the best, much as he himself seems to be quite a champion.  We found a place that seemed to be in the right general area, but it was locked. After some crossing of fields and spider-walking under barbed wire fences in the dark, we met an elderly lady who put us in contact with her granddaughter, Jamie.  Originally, we had only meant to get directions from Jamie, who has lived in the area her whole life.  Instead, she offered us a place to stay, as it was already dark and apparently there were cougars.  So we accepted, made a Mexican-style pizza for dinner, and hit the sack fairly shortly afterwards.

Next morning, we got to meet Jamie's boyfriend Eric.  While Jamie had to go to work, Eric stuck us in his car and drove us to the Garden of the Gods, a very nifty bit of rocky geography in the area.  Sundance climbed up various bits of rocks, including what they call the Devil's Smokestack.  Many very nifty photos were taken.  Then, at midday, we hopped on our bikes and continued to head through the Shawnee National Forest.  It was more scenic and less disappointing than the Hoosier National Forest, although every bit as obnoxiously hilly, and our legs were killing us by the end of the day.  We had considered stopping at Cave in Rock, where pirates had once lived on the river, but it turned out to be a bit too much of a detour over uncertain terrain, so we just shot through Elizabethtown for lunch.  There we discovered just how horrible canned spinach is, before we rode on and stopped in Golconda just as night was falling around us.  We had only done 46km or so, but they had been hard, as we had dealt with a powerful headwind and many hills.  We'd meant to just grab a meal and then keep going in the dark, but the friendly folk at the local pub (The Sweetwater Saloon) convinced us otherwise, and we ended up staying with a fellow named Butch, which of course tickled us.  We didn't get a chance to get a photo of Butch and Sundance together, but never mind.

We managed another fairly early start in the morning, and laboured up a couple of steep-ish hills.  We were once again dealing with a monster headwind, but it was a lovely sunny day, and the scenery flattened out and was really quite beautiful.  We saw quite a few turkeys crossing the road, and also had a brief chat with a fellow in boat on a little river we crossed.  We pushed onwards into the little town of Unionville, having now turned so that the headwind was a crosswind, and it was generally much better.  We filled up our waterbladders there, and then went on to Brookport, where we crossed the bridge back into Paducah, Kentucky. 

Amusingly, while asking for directions to the nearest grocery store, I had an unexpected encounter with a young fellow in his undies.  As there were no open businesses to be seen where we had stopped, I decided to knock on the next-best residential door.  No answer the first time, and the second time I knocked, I heard an irritable "Come in!", so I let myself in as politely as possible.  After sticking my head into various rooms, I bumped into the owner of said voice, who was most surprised to see me, rather than his parents.  Our conversation went something like this:

Him: Oh, sorry, I thought you were my parents.
Me: Nope, can't say I am, sorry.

We cut to the chase though, and he gave me some decent directions, so I let myself out of the house, not being able to suppress a little chuckle at the whole scene.

By the time we were ready to leave Paducah, it was getting dark, but we persevered nonetheless to the teensy little town of Kevil.  Turned out there was nothing there, but a local family was happy for us to turf surf (i.e. set up our tent) in their backyard, so we did.  We then managed another early start the following morning, but discovered a decent-sized technical problem: a big chunk of metal Sundance had ridden over in the dark the previous night had actually managed to split the rim of his rear wheel lengthwise. We rode into the next town, La Center and stopped at a service station, for it was clear the split in Sundance's rear wheel rim it was getting worse by the minute.

We asked a woman (Cheryl) who worked at the servo whether there was abike shop around, and after some checking phone books teh answer seemed to be "no, and even the one back in Paducah is closed as it's Sunday". Sundance decided the only option was to swap wheel rims, so that the split rim was on the front where it didn't take so much weight then ride on to the next place we could find a bike shop, and set about undoing spokes and swapping the rims over. This process took all day and attracted a lot of attention. A group of local bikies who were out riding on their Harley Davidsons were very impressed by our tales of travelling from Canada and heading for California.

The Chinese say that a poor man must stand on a hillside for a long time with his mouth open before a roast duck flies in. Whatever that means, by the end of the day a passer-by had donated an entire new front wheel, and Cheryl had provided us with extra tools, metal-repair cement, and an offer to turf-surf at her family's farm. When the wheel was reinstalled we hopped on our bikes, rode to a store to get some pasta and sauce for dinner, and pedalled out in the dark to Cheryl's.

Being an impromptu roadside repair job, the rear wheel was a bit lop-sided and badly balanced and so Sundance got a ride into Paducah the following morning to get the wheel professionally balanced and aligned. While there, he bumped into a journalist for the local newspaper, The Paducah Sun, who was doing a story abut people who ride bicycles a lot, he got interviewed, and after returning to Cheryl's place we found ourselves being visited by a photographer - so we're going to be in the newspaper this coming weekend! By that time it was a bit late to set off, so we decided to cook Cheryl's family dinner (she had some frozen Tilapia, a type of fish) which we accompanied with broccoli, scooped-out potatoes, marinated sauteed mushrooms, and mixed brown-and-wild rice. They had, after all, been filling us up with delicious canned home-grown peaches until they came out of our eyeballs (yum yum YUMMY!) and letting us stay in their campervan/RV parked in the backyard.

Ummm, oops... so much for brevity.

Today, after packing our stuff, we finally got back on the road, and are now sitting in the town of Wickliffe, in sight of the Mississippi for the first time this trip. Daylight savings has ended here, so the sun is setting earlier in the day, so it seems fitting to note that when the Sun goes down and the tide goes out, they all gather 'round and they all begin to shout...

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Christmas before Nightmare

Total distance: 1665.8 km

After our rest stop at the St Meinrad abbey we headed out of town, straight into a headwind of epic proportions, a headwind so strong that we had to pedal to roll downhill, and Yana got blown off balance a couple of times when the road changed directions and the headwind became a sidewind. It. Was. Not. Fun.

Eventually we made it to the town of Santa Claus. Yup, that's what the town is actually called. As we got there, and turned onto the main road Sundance noticed a rattling noise coming from the back of his bike - the plastic cover plate that sits on the back wheel between the spokes and the rear gear cluster had come loose. So we pulled up at a service station, and then got directions to a hardware store where Sundance was able to borrow a drill and some tools to make some holes and wire the offending plate into position. And just then it started raining! So we dashed into the hardware store, hung out with the friendly staff, and eventually donned our wet weather gear and set off into the rain.

At the top of a hill, we pulled off the road under a church's picnic shelter to adjust our gear. As we were getting organised, a local fellow who introduced himself as Gerald pulled up and told us that since the weather was so nasty we could camp out in his shed. He gave us instructions to his house, and  after a  bit of discussion we decided that having stayed with several folks in Ohio and Kentucky, it'd de nice to sample some Hoosier hospitality. We arrived at his house a little later, having passed the 1600 km mark of our journey just a few metres from his front gate, and he proudly showed us his shed including a beautifully-restored tractor built in 1940, and the old carburetor he was soaking in acid to clean off the old grease and paint and gunk. He introduced us to his wife Debbie as well as their daughter and her best friend (who was pretty impressed to meet a couple of real Australians). They had a son, too, but he was out hunting at the time. He turned out to be a very enthusiastic bow-hunter, which we kinda respected. Hunting with a bow seems like "authentic" hunting, even if the bows used these days are not exactly stone-age technology. In any case, we were given sweetcorn and beans and offered  home-grown barbequed pork. And then we fell asleep on the comfy reclining sofa.

The next day the weather had improved substantially, and we hoped to hit the road, but Sundance decided that his rear brakes needed to be adjusted, and during this process one of the springs in the brakes turned out to be broken. So he and Gerald got to work bending a piece of wire to make a replacement spring. By the time the brakes were repaired and adjusted we decided it was too late to make any real progress so we hopped in the truck with Gerald, who drove us to Tell City to buy groceries. With these, we set out to make a wholemeal pizza and some nachos for Halloween dinner, since it was Halloween night and we wanted to feed our gracious hosts to thank them for their hospitality.

We spent most of the evening cooking, and it seemed that most of our food was well-received.  Quite a few people had come around to visit, and it turned out to be a very pleasant evening.  Sundance even learned how to play Beer Pong, although he didn't participate in the drinking, as he avoids alcohol. Eventually though, we decided to turn in, as it was getting late.  As Gerald and Debbie's daughter was spending the night elsewhere, we actually got bundled off to the two twin beds in her room.  Certainly not complaining.

The next morning, we went about the slow process of getting ready to leave.  Admittedly, we got waylaid by things such as the extremely cute puppy that Gerald had acquired the week before, and which was dogging our feet, no pun intended.  We finally got going in the early afternoon.  We stopped briefly a little after the town of Lamar, as we hoped to get a better look at the herd of bison which lived in the paddock there.  We'd gotten a brief look at them the previous day, heading into Tell City to get groceries, but they were apparently hiding when we came by again on our bikes. A little further along, we passed the 1608 km mark, which meant we'd travelled 1000 miles since we set out on our journey one month before.

We continued along the road, over some extremely steep hills, and past an extremely friendly Golden Retriever who came and said hi while we were briefly stopped along the way.  Afterwards, we actually kept up a fairly steady pace, though Yana's back tyre was losing air, and we established that the little tyre pressure gauge we had gotten the previous day was in fact ineffective and a complete waste of money.  We pushed on to the town of Rockport.  At this point, Yana's back tyre was completely flat, so we had to stop and go through the patching procedure.  We did have some Mexican food for dinner first though, and once we had finished with the tyre, we went in search of somewhere to pitch our tent.  We followed a local's advice and went down one of the larger roads where there was supposedly a campsite.  We did find an RV park, though it was obviously not intended for tents.  However, the caretaker was happy to have us pitch our tent on a patch of grass next to his RV, which was nice.  We got ourselves set up pretty quickly, and turned in, warmly wrapped up in preparation for the frost that had been predicted for the night.

We slept comfortably enough, though the frost did indeed come, as we discovered the next morning.  There were still some things we needed to fix up on our bikes before we left, but leave we did, eventually.  We stopped briefly on the riverfront to have a look at the caves that some locals had told us about.  It was pretty enough, though not necessarily that impressive.  We rode on to Owensboro, crossing the bridge back into Kentucky as we did so.  We went in search of a grocery store, and found a Kroger, where we managed to stock up on some more packet curries for camping.  We then decided to head out of town and towards the next state park.  Unfortunately, just as we were reaching the outskirts of Owensboro, we both were treated to the sound of a loud pop, followed by a merry hissing noise from Sundance's tyre.  Yep, another one.  We wheeled our bikes into the parking lot of the Dollar General store we had just gone past, and got stuck into replacing the tube and patching the puncture.

While we were in the middle of it, a car stopped next to us, and the people inside us asked if we needed any help.  Long story short, we ended up with an offer for a place to stay for the night, as it was getting dark.  We actually fixed a few more things on Sundance's bike while we were at it, including replacing the worn-down brake pads.  Actually, a completely random passer-by provided us with the replacement ones, after asking if we needed anything at all and Sundance jokingly said "new brake pads".  We can really tell we're back in Kentucky.  Somehow the people here are really particularly friendly.  It seems to be a thing that Kentucky takes pride in.

In any case, here we are, hanging out at the place of Tracey and Tom, who are our current gracious hosts.  We're really overdue to do some proper roughing it again soon, though it is always a blessing when someone offers us some turf to surf on.