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...

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