Biologist on a Bike

Day 59: Booneville, KY to Hinman, KY


Distance: 67.21 mi
Average Speed: 9.8 mph; Max Speed: 34.4 mph
Elevation Gain: 5,831 ft
Average Temp: 80.9 F; Temp Range: 59.0-114.8 F


Jimmy asked me last night if I had an issue with his setting an alarm for 5AM since that was earlier than I was planning to get up. I said I didn’t and commented that maybe I’d get an earlier start because of it. I didn’t wake up to his alarm, but I did work my way to consciousness about 20 minutes later. Once I was awake, he turned on the lights in the pavilion and continued getting ready while I struggled towards coherence and put on water for breakfast and coffee. The morning was a foggy one, and I decided that I was not in the mood for riding in dark and fog before my water had gone from ambient temperature to warm. Jimmy was off around 5:40 after wishing me luck on the rest of my trip. I wished him the same for his much longer journey. And I mean longer both in miles travelled today (114) and the fact that he’s circling the planet while I’m within 700 miles of my destination. Last night I learned that while he’s gotten some gear from different companies, he’s not sponsored beyond that. He’s also trying to raise money for ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). More information can be found on his website, if you’re interested.

After he left, I finished getting my breakfast ready, then gave in to the idea that had been tugging on my mind since I got out of the tent: I went back into the tent and took a ‘nap.’ I meant to sleep maybe an extra 20 or 30 minutes to take the edge off my tiredness. I woke up an hour and twenty minutes later. But hey, I felt much better for the extra sleep. And I only had 67 miles to go today, so it didn’t bother me that I got a late start.

Where I woke up, Day 59. (Where I went to sleep, day 58. I wanted Jimmy’s setup in the photo)

Last evening, I called ahead to Hindman to give the 24 hour notice requested by the hostel run by the historical society there. The phone rang for a very long time. I’m not even sure why I didn’t hang up beyond the surprise that somebody didn’t have voicemail. David from the historical society eventually answered and I later learned that he had fallen asleep in front of the television unintentionally and was grateful that my call woke him up. I called because I hadn’t gotten a response to my text at a different number, and learned in the course of the conversation that a lightning storm had fried a bunch of his electronics, including the computer that the text messages were sent to.

David told me that his parents have been in and out of the hospital recently (the perils of old age, he explained) and so he couldn’t host me, but he could give me an alternate location. He described the church, the church’s youth building, the home of the youth minister, and the home of the lead minister so that I could find somebody to let me in. He then went on to share all kinds of other information. He’s been hosting cyclists since the start of the TransAm in 76 and says it keeps him young. He knows the person who runs the hostel in Booneville and sometimes recommends that people go there rather than the pavilion behind the church, because the pavilion is in a flash flood area. Then he asked if there was still a wasp nest in the shower. There were other bits and bobs of information as well, but the one that stuck with me the most was that according to many people, the next 4-5 days will be the most difficult of the trail. Joy.

I think he was probably right, though. I did begin to regret my late start after several climbs. These were longer and for the most part less steep than the Ozarks (there was one exception where I had to walk up about 150 feet because the grade was so steep that my pedals nearly stopped moving completely and I had to disengage from the pedals quickly or fall over) but shorter and more intense than the Rockies. For all that I whinged about the grades of the Ozarks, none of the climbs were long. Today, several of the climbs were over a mile long. That’s still not long compared to the Rockies, but with the steeper grade it was long enough. And I haven’t even gotten to the tough part based on what I can see from the elevation profile.

I might not have been in the Appalachian Mountains yesterday, but I think I am today, at least based on some of the brief views that I got when I neared the top of a climb. None of them presented good photo opportunities, though, being mostly glimpses through trees. Maybe tomorrow.

That vine took over a lot of space. I wonder if it’s an invasive species.

The roads today were narrow, windy, and too steep to enjoy the descents. Another thing David said was that the roads in the Appalachians follow the contours of the hills more so than in the Ozarks, and this is true. There were a lot of sharp turns. Combined with the grade, narrow road, and low visibility due to the turns and forest on both sides, I had to ride my brakes pretty often. I’m extra glad I got my rear brake adjusted the other day.

Most of the drivers were patient in waiting for me to find a safe place to pull to the side to let them pass. One person buzzed me so close that I could have reached out and smacked the car. More likely at the low speed I was at, I could have wobbled into the car. Another rolled coal on me, making this the third time of the entire trip. But I think most people are aware that they’re putting themselves at risk if they try to pass, since they can’t see around the corner any better than I can. I waved at the people who had to wait a little longer, such as on a descent, and got a few friendly honks and waves back. Just because two people were rude doesn’t mean everyone was.

A typical road

There were more dogs today, but not that many, and like most I’ve seen in the last few days, these tended to stop at the edge of their property, intending to warn me off their property and nothing more. I even told a few of them that they were good dogs when they stopped at the edge of the grass. I think there have been more loose dogs here than in other states, but there have also been plenty of kenneled dogs and chained dogs. And the population density is higher here than it has been in other places. How much of the dog issue is confirmation bias, how much is the fact that there are more people around to own dogs, and how much is truth. Anybody looking for a bit of research to do along their tour in the future might consider doing a more formal record of dogs per home per mile in each state. I’d look at the results.

I had planned to top off my water at Council, not realizing that it wasn’t quite on the path. Thankfully, it was only a half mile out of the way to the gas station where I could top up with water. They even had a little shelter outside with picnic tables where I could sit and eat. Across the street was the post office, so I dropped in to buy more stamps, particularly an international one, since I’m out. They don’t have much call for that, though, and the woman behind the counter isn’t normally the one in charge. She had to call her postmaster to confirm that they didn’t have the stamps, and then sold me a few stamps to reach the postage required for the international one. I’m not surprised that they didn’t have one. I’m more surprised that this is the first post office I encountered that didn’t.

This turtle is not included in the roadkill count because I have no evidence that it was struck by a car. If skeletonized mammals don’t count, neither do turtle shells so old that most of the color has flaked off.

The last few days, I’ve been noticing a lot of small cemeteries. At times it feels like there’s one every few miles. They mostly seem to bear family names, and while I’m not surprised that there are old cemeteries here, noticing so many here makes me wonder why Kentucky has so many more than everywhere else I’ve been.

The hills and descents spent braking heavily meant that I arrived in Hindman around 5PM, 9 hours after I left this morning. There are a lot of churches in this area. I mean a LOT of churches. So when I pulled into town and saw a church, I stopped to consult my notes from David to make sure I had the right one. As I did this, I saw some movement out of the corner of my eye; some kids had spotted me from a window in the house to the left of the church. Four of them came out onto the porch and one yelled, “Hello, cyclist!” I guess I had the right spot. I asked for Pastor Steve and was told that he was in the bathroom. One of the girls went back inside and the youngest, a little boy informed me in a loud and serious voice that, “Daddy is pooping!” I chuckled, glanced at the two girls standing next to him, and then said that “Everybody poops.” The girl who had gone in came out to tell me I could go over to the building next door and he would come give me the tour in a moment. The four children followed me over, and their father followed a few minutes later.

The building is used as a student ministry (youth center), but used to be a Methodist church until they moved across town. It is air conditioned, has a shower, full kitchen, and internet. There is a convenience store in town, but I was underwhelmed by the food in stock, so I went to the pizza place across the street from the church and got a 10 inch mushroom pizza for dinner. There are several game systems around: a wii upstairs and an xbox 360 and playstation (which I couldn’t get working) downstairs. There are also a few comfortable couches, and I think I’ll probably sleep on one tonight if they’re as comfortable as they look.

Tomorrow will either be about as long as today or very long, depending on how the mountains treat me. But in the hopes of making it the very long distance, I’m planning on an early night.

Roadkill count: 6 birds, 1 cat, 1 chipmunk, 1 possum, 1 snake, 2 turtles, 1 frog

Map, Day 59

4 thoughts on “Day 59: Booneville, KY to Hinman, KY

  1. Suzan Lauder

    Holy crap! Look at the wiggles on that road in the map! It’s like the person drawing it had a shaky hand from sitting in one of those vibrating chairs or something! Your photo shows the tight downhill bend and no shoulders. That’s got to be unnerving! Be safe!

  2. Connie Joki

    LOL – Everyone does poop! Loved that, thanks for sharing.

    I wouldn’t think anything would be worse than climbing the Rockies but it sounds like there is but since you conquered the Rockies, nothing is going to stop you.

    Keep on peddling.

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