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.

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