Biologist on a Bike

Day 60: Hindman, KY to Lookout, KY


Distance: 50.75 mi
Average Speed: 10.1 mph; Max Speed: 32.3 mph
Elevation Gain: 4,712 ft
Average Temp: 76.7 F; Temp Range: 60.8-95,.0 F


The couch I slept on last night was moderately comfortable, and I woke up feeling good. I had set up breakfast the night before, oatmeal in a bowl ready to be cooked, coffee maker just waiting to have the switch flipped, and getting ready to go was easy.

Where I woke up, Day 60

Easy, that is, until I decided that my front tire needed to be topped off. My frame mounted pump can sometimes be a real jerk, and today was one of those days. It just did not want to seal on the valve properly. It took me longer than I had anticipated, and by the time I had the tire refilled I had worked up enough of a sweat that my glasses fogged over.

Eventually I got out the door and made it maybe half a mile before getting annoyed by a small thump, thump, thump of my front tire that I had to stop to check out. So much for an early-ish start to a long day. For a while I rode without issue, but at my first stop that coincided with a town (maybe 25 miles into my day) I decided to take a closer look at the front wheel. I spent maybe half an hour trying to lessen the wobble that had made me stop earlier. I did lessen it, though the wheel isn’t true. It’s just not as untrue as it was.

Satisfied that the wheel was in reasonable enough condition, I started out again. Within a minute I heard a pop. Insert all the swear words you want here, because I’m sure I thought most of them. I only said one out loud though, which I think shows admirable self-control. Because a spoke had broken. AGAIN. I inspected the front wheel only to find that it was the rear wheel—you know, the one that was recently repaired and then re-trued—that had a broken spoke. Again on the drive side, so I couldn’t fix it. At least this time, though, there’s a bike shop not too far from here. I think I can get there without having to call in vehicular help.

With the broken spoke removed and the wheel wobble reduced as much as I could (which was not very much), I did the only thing I could do and kept riding.

Forest and mountains dominate the views (when the forests don’t block those views).

Another mountain pass climbed and descended later, and I was riding along a large four-lane highway. It was nice, because of a good, wide shoulder. And then the storms came. The weather report had called for scattered thunderstorms and I had been hoping for them to miss me. They didn’t. It started out slow and I thought about riding through it until it picked up. Thankfully, just up the road there was a convenience store. Even better, just in front of the store was a little shelter. I pulled in and hid from the rain.

My brother, who watches my progress through my phone had noticed the storms headed my way. Within a minute of my stopping he texted about the big storm I was in. His timing was moderately freaky, in fact. The storm passed faster than my weather app said it would, so I set out again, getting a text as I did so from Mom asking if I was in storms.

It was time for another mountain climb. I’m not sure if it was fatigue from earlier hills or because the hill itself was more difficult, but I struggled on this one. To the point of needing to walk a bit, in fact. I also have concluded that I despite gnats. Those little jerks swarm around my head when I’m riding at low speeds, like up a mountain, buzzing in my ears and landing on my face. It’s not always safe to remove a hand from the handlebars when only riding at 4 mph, but I’ll do it to swat those annoyances away, even if only for a second.

And what followed was another less than fun descent where I had to brake more or less the whole way down because of the switchbacks and low visibility. At the bottom of the hill was the town of Lookout and a convenience store, so I stopped, planning to buy a drink and check my wheels again before conquering the last mountain of the day. I had long ago given up my dream of riding over 90 miles to Council, but it was 3 PM and I figured I could handle the 18 miles to Breaks Interstate Park.

As I started taking my bags off my bike to flip it over, a gentleman started talking to me. He said I should stop at the Freeda Harris Baptist Center where they had food and showers and beds. It was a really nice place. Just over the bridge on the right. And you can have a shower and get a good meal. Some cyclists stay several days. If I were you, I’d do that because there’s a big mountain between here and Breaks. (Yes, I said, I know that. I wanted to get over it today and get it done with.) It’d be better to get up early and do it tomorrow. It’s just over the bridge right down the road on your right, a metal almond building.

He went on in that vein for some time, interspersed with tales of cyclists he’s met, surprise that I was traveling alone because I wanted to and not because I couldn’t find somebody to go with me, and a few more repetitions of where the Baptist Center was and that he would stay there. Just stop in, he said, and talk to the people, and I wouldn’t want to leave.

After a while he went into the store and I looked at my bike, not wanting to start fussing with the wheels only to have him come out and use that as yet another reason that I should stop. He came out and repeated himself more anyway. I don’t’ know why, but his insistence on it really rubbed me the wrong way. He could have just given me the suggestion and let it be, rather than pushing and repeating and pushing some more.

When he left, I sat and looked at the bike considering things. Eighteen miles was possible. I would get to the campground by 5 or 6 PM, which wouldn’t be bad. On the other hand, there could be more storms overnight. And I didn’t want to be stubborn to the point of not taking the guy’s advice just because he annoyed me. In the end, it was the wheels that decided me. I wanted to end early enough to have time to fuss with my wheels and get them ready for tomorrow.

As I was sitting there coming to a decision, a woman drove up and asked if I was stopping at the Baptist Center. She was a volunteer there, she said, and everybody was headed to another town for a meeting, but she would let me in now if I followed her there. So I said I would, once I reloaded the bike. She drove off and I started putting on my panniers in time for the gentleman to come back and tell me that he had been mistaken, the church wasn’t on the right, it was on the left. And I really should check it out… I know he meant well, and I did end up taking his advice, but I still felt irritated. I think it was because I felt a little trapped in the “conversation.” It wasn’t a conversation. He wasn’t talking with me, he was talking at me, and I think that’s ultimately what got to me.

There was already a cyclist there, Daniel. He’s westbound on a super-light setup. His bike and gear together weigh 35 pounds, which is the weight of my bike alone without any gear. He’s an English teacher and has taught in Saudi Arabia, Chile, South Korea, and Myanmar (I might have missed a few places) and had a few interesting stories to tell.

The center has a food pantry that is open to cyclists, and I made use of it. I fried up some canned potatoes for a snack shortly after I arrived. Dinner was something I might have cooked at a campground: rice and broccoli with cheesy sauce and spicy beans. Then I made breakfast for tomorrow using some of the instant pancake mix I bought a few states ago and a can of corn. Corn fritters. Sort of.

Corn Fritter-ish

There’s not enough of a cell signal to get internet here, but there are beds and plenty of electrical sockets for charging gear. It’s all good, I suppose. And the day after tomorrow I should be passing through Damascus, where there’s a bike shop. Hopefully the wheels will hold up for that long.

Roadkill count: 4 birds, 1 possum, 1 raccoon, 3 unknown mammals, 1 snake

Map Day 60

4 thoughts on “Day 60: Hindman, KY to Lookout, KY

  1. Terry J

    “… though the wheel isn’t true. It’s just not as untrue as it was.” Life metaphor.

    I like it that your family is following you in real time. The jabbery man who thinks you’re alone is wrong. There will be a collective whoop heard round the world from your family and friends when you meet your goal.

    About that map. Did some poor soul with palsy draw the route?

  2. Suzan Lauder

    You seem to be a magnet for people who talk too much. Either that or the area you’re riding through has more than its fair share of men starved for attention and you’re the only person polite enough not to tell them where to go. Hahaha!

    Crossing my fingers that you manage to the bike shop!

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