Distance: 83.39 mi
Average Speed: 10.6 mph; Max Speed: 33.5
Elevation Gain: 3,871 ft
Average Temp: 86.8 F; Temp Range: 60.8-104.0 F
It has been a long day, and I don’t just mean the distance.
I decided to stay in the airport’s little waiting room last night, although I turned down the AC a bit. I did not need the AC set down to the low 60s. The chairs weren’t the kind you could sleep in and there were no couches, so I stretched out on the floor with my sleeping pad, sleeping bag liner, and my quilt spread over me like a blanket. It was a good night of sleep.
Before my wheel decided to go wonky and start popping spokes, I had this whole week planned out. Now that the plan had a (spoke) wrench thrown into it, I’ve had to make new plans, usually a day or two before I get somewhere. I was surprised to realize how close I was to the Mammoth Cave loop already. I lost about a day to the spoke, a day that could be made up without any fuss by skipping this alternate 80 mile loop. On the other hand, I couldn’t imagine that the Adventure Cycling Association would include an 80 mile detour to a mediocre attraction. Who would do that? Likewise, when I asked people who live in the area they all said it was worth a visit.
After deciding to visit, I had to scope out the park itself online. There wasn’t enough notice to go and book a campsite online, but I saw that they had a fair number of walk-up sites. I could only hope that despite it being a Friday, they wouldn’t all fill up early. I also booked a cave tour. Bruce had mentioned the historic tour. When I checked, there was one ticket left for the 12:45 and I snatched it up.
With all this in mind, I packed up and set out by 6:30 for a long day. One thing I had forgotten to do, though, was pay much attention to the weather forecast for the day other than to check and assure myself that it wasn’t due to rain. The break in the weather yesterday was, sadly, a short one. The humidity was back in full force today by mid-day. Ugh.
Over the course of the morning, I had very little in human interaction. I stopped at convenience store to top off my water and then set my mind towards the next potential refill point. I arrived to find that it wasn’t open anymore. That was fine, though, since I had enough water to make it to the next convenience store. That happened again later in the day. I usually check the addendum to the map when looking for housing and don’t pay as much attention to the towns I’m planning to pass through. That bit me twice today, although not in a horrible way. Both times I had been planning to stop for a break and to top off water because I could, not because I had to.
The roads to Mammoth Cave were typical of the past few days: narrow, winding, and hilly. It was beautiful and would have been even more so if I wasn’t mentally grumbling about the heat and how the hills were slowing me down. The latter grumble was based in the concern that there wouldn’t be any available campsites left if I arrived too late. I also had a few smallish mechanical issues to stop and fix. My front disc brake was rubbing at just one spot on the rotor, making a noise that grated on my nerves. That was an easy fix, just loosening the barrel adjuster on the brake cable a bit. I tried to tighten the back brake as well, but that went less well. I think the brake pads themselves are worn down in the back to the point where I have to force the brake lever beyond it’s normal range of motion. Every once in a while it’ll stick in the braked position. Not fully engaged, but enough to make me stop to manually release it. That’s something I intend to research tomorrow to see if I can fix it or if I should wait until I get closer to a bike shop so as not to accidentally make it worse. After all, it does brake, which is the important part, and I’m only two days ride away from access to a bike shop. I would have thought that the full tune-up I got in Newton would have prevented some of these issues: that was why I got the tune-up, after all.
At last I entered Mammoth Cave National Park, and the road became shady and forested. The trees aren’t large enough to make me think it’s old growth, but it has been left to itself for a while, at least. I turned off the audiobook that I had been listening to so that I could hear the sounds of the forest which ended up being primarily birds chirping, squirrels and other small mammals darting away from my bike (who knew that bikes were scarier than cars), and the occasional car passing by.
I also got to ride another ferry across the Green River. This ferry was smaller, accommodating two or three cars at the most, and was connected to metal cables strung across the river on both sides. The ferry across the Ohio River was a boat that needed to be steered. This ferry, on the other hand, just needed to be started and stopped; the cables would keep it on course. There weren’t any cars on my side of the river, so I got to make the trip all alone on the deck of the ferry, which might have been more fun if the ride had taken more than a minute.
From there, the ride up to the visitor’s center was all uphill. Most of it wasn’t too steep, but it was tiring to climb that hill after having already completed 80 miles in the heat. Turns out that the visitor’s center wasn’t where I needed to go, so I backtracked to the campground itself (it was a short backtrack) and found a spot in one of the loops dedicated to walk-ups. The station was closed for the evening already, so I got the envelope to pay my fee. It’s on the expensive side for a campground considering that there weren’t showers. Or rather, there were showers, but you had to go to the camp store and pay for them. But I had a comfortable evening anyway. The only thing that could have made it better was internet access.
The next place to camp is only about 8 miles down the road. The one after that is in Springfield, 80 miles away. With the tour tomorrow, I won’t get even close to 80 miles, and I don’t want to. Unable to check online myself for lack of cellular data access where I was, I texted Mom with the name of two motels down the road so she could check prices and reviews for me. Looks like tomorrow after my tour I’ll be headed to Horse Cave. It’s not far, but it will mean that my ride to Springfield on the 15th won’t be as long or taxing.
Roadkill count: 8 birds, 1 deer, 2 possums, 1 raccoon, 4 unknown mammals, 1 snake, 1 frog