Date: November 10, 2009
From: Pippa Passes, Kentucky ~ Home of Alice Lloyd College
To: Pound, VIRGINIA (First Day in our Tenth State!)
Miles Today: 53 miles
TOTAL MILES: 3,284 miles
Top Speed on this trip: 54.1 mph
Weather: Rainy, Cold, Miserable
License Plates Collected: 5 Montana, 8 Wyoming (2 motorcycle) and 1 Idaho (found in WY), 2 Colorado, 1 Kansas (Gifted from David of Baldwin City), 1 Missouri (To be sent to Grammy’s by our new buddy, Kansas City firefighter Shawn), 1 Illinois, 4 Kentucky (2 Gifted from Beth and Garry Feltus, one gifted from cousin John, one from Hwy. 127)
Broken Spokes: 3
Cracked Rim: 1
I'm almost at a loss for words when it comes to today. It was by far one of the more miserable and challenging days of the trip, yet we still had a couple of pretty great things happen to us today. I'll start on an upbeat note by saying that our friends Bill and Barb went out of their way to meet up with us on their travels from their home in Dillon, Colorado to visit their son in South Carolina. They connected with us in this tiny little diner in Deane, Kentucky out in the middle of nowhere in the heart of coal country. We'd been riding in the rain all morning with coal trucks blowing by us so it was a great pick me up to see some friendly familiar faces. Our visit didn't last too long as they knew we had many more miles to ride before reaching our destination. We weren't really looking forward to going back out into the rain but we were happy to be out of the "greasy spoon" smell. I couldn't get away from the smell all day though. It seemed to have permeated my clothing and stayed with me. Yuck. In all fairness, Evelyn at the diner, was very sweet and because she'd heard me say that I hadn't ever had deep fried dill pickles before, she brought out an order on the house. Not bad but not something I'd order again.
The entire day had kind of a film over it for me. Not because of the rain, or the coal trucks or the hills we had to climb but because of the miles and miles of trash that lined the roads and creeks, all of the empty falling down and unkempt homes and trailers and the many dogs that are chained up in trash-filled yards and left to sit in the rain and mud. Even Gregory said, "I think Kentucky is the saddest state I've seen." (Sorry cousins. We know you live in a nice part of Kentucky but we've seen a pretty sad state of affairs in the last few counties.)
Today we followed an alternate route that was recommended to Mike as being a little less hilly and though we didn't have any hills for about our first 24 miles we still saw several whoppers. We actually went into crisis mode on the last hill, that happened to be on a busy 4-lane highway, and let's just say it was as ugly as things have gotten on this trip. The rain was really coming down hard at this point and we were drenched. We'd stopped several times to check the tires, the brake pads, the spokes, etc. to try to figure out why we were working so hard and feeling like we were going nowhere. We've gotten to this point before and Mike always feels like Gregory isn't doing his fair share and then tries to get him to put forth more effort, Gregory gets upset because he feels like he is giving as much as he can and then there are tears and more frustration. I get upset because I feel like Mike should accept that Gregory is doing the best he can and maybe he should back off and realize that he is a 9-year old child in a very stressful situation that most adults wouldn't be able to handle! "This is a triple bike and requires a triple effort," says Mike. Granted, Mike may have a point that Gregory isn't giving as much as he might be capable of under more ideal circumstances but I think it is wrong to think that just because he hears Gregory humming that it means he isn't working hard enough. I think that it is great that he can hum and stay in a good mood when he is drenched and on the fiftieth+ mile of a miserable day. My first comment to Mike was that Gregory hums, sings and talks to himself all the time so if that is the case he hasn't been working this whole trip and we know that isn't true. Then I said, "Haven't you ever heard the term whistle while you work?" I really feel like Mike and I are at odds on this one and I'm not sure what the answer is, but when he had us standing on the side of a busy freeway in the rain and he wouldn't budge because he felt like he wasn't getting a team effort I wanted to throttle him. I hate to admit it but I got in his face and said, "You know this trip is over don't you?" Not a proud moment I must admit but I was not a happy camper. We walked the bike a few feet and stopped again. "Let's just get there!" I shouted. We rode a few feet and stopped again. Finally, Mike and I just put the hammer down and inched up Pound Mountain one grueling pedal stroke at a time. When we reached the top and saw the Virginia sign Mike stopped knowing I'd want a picture and I said, "Too bad we can't celebrate this." It made me so terribly sad because I knew there was no way to turn this situation around in a hurry. Gregory was so excited to see the 8 percent downhill signs and I was just baffled at his bliss amongst all of the angst. I was still seeing red but managed to pose with Gregory in front of the sign. Mike snapped the picture in the drizzling rain while Gregory held up ten fingers for our tenth state.
Though the next section was downhill, the struggle to end our day was not over. We'd been told to skip the first exit into Pound and continue on to the other side of town where we would find the Travelers Motel up on a hill. (Of course! Why do they always put motels up on a hill!!!) By now it was getting really dark and the fog had rolled in. The roads were getting scary and when we'd struggled up yet another hill and ended up in a construction zone where they had the highway partitioned off with concrete barriers (down to one lane) and were burning trees they had cleared from the side of the road it got really eerie. The cars were lined up behind us and we had to stop on a narrow bit of asphalt to let the vehicles go by. I could have touched them if I reached my left arm out. Right there, with trees burning off to my right and vehicles to my left and rain pouring down my cheeks I got on the cell phone and called the motel. Of course luck would have it that the manager has an accent and is hard to understand. Yes, we were headed in the right direction he told us. "Come about another mile to the flashing light and it is on the left," he says. Well, we get to the light and there is no motel!! Ughhhhhh! We pulled into a little video store were an older lady is doing her embroidery and she says, "Just a couple of hundred yards more and you'll be there." We got back out on the road and still couldn't see it and I let out a scream of exasperation, "Where is it!!!" Finally, we see it perched way up on the hill to our left but of course there is a highway divider in the way and we can't get across. The motel looks vacant. It is dark and there is one car in the lot and not a restaurant to be seen. Off in the distant fog we see a Marathon gas mart and know we have to go there for food and backtrack to the motel once we find a divide across the highway.
As Mike held up the bike, Gregory and I went in the mini mart just dripping wet. I threw six hot dogs into buns, grabbed two Gatorade, a chocolate milk and a Corona plus a couple of bags of chips and that was dinner. But, not until we got to the motel. We crammed all this into the panniers except the chips which dangled from my handlebars and acted as a visual for oncoming traffic. We jetted across the divide and pedaled like mad with our blink light flashing and our new headlight leading the way. Of course some trucker has to blare his horn right as he is passing us and sends our hearts racing as if they already weren't. The motel driveway was a 17 percent grade and we walked it. Well, we slipped up the hill is more like it.
I booked a room with Johann who couldn't believe we were on a bicycle and arriving in a rain storm at dark. We borrowed a rag for the bike and piled everything into the room. The room was freezing cold and smelled overly scented as if some freshener had been used to mask other smells but it was clean and adequate. Mike cranked up the heat and I was stripping Gregory down for a hot shower before he could say a word about being cold. I warned Gregory that if he complained about the room smell I just might bite his head off. Well, something like that. I couldn't get the hot water going without Mike's assistance and Gregory was huddling by the heater waiting for his shower. Once he was taken care of Mike and I had our turns. We passed in the bathroom and had a brief chat but didn't really get anywhere. We are both exasperated. After showers, we finally ate our dinner. Luckily we had a microwave to reheat our hot dogs. We ate in silence until I suggested a family meeting and tried to explain to Gregory how Daddy was feeling. Gregory did give input as to the fact that he was giving his best effort and it made him upset when Daddy asked for more power when he felt he was already doing his best. Mike was still beyond words and our meeting didn't go anywhere. Mike went to sleep and I went into crisis management mode. I needed to do something to turn this day around.
Another bright spot in our day was Alice Hayes, postmaster in Jackhorn, Kentucky. We'd pulled under her overhang to shed our wet pants and dawn our rain pants when she came out and said, "Of all the days to forget my camera." She helped us contact the motel in Pound and even gave us Kentucky postcards. She just knew the local paper would love to do a story on us but at this point we felt we needed to push on and get to our motel, still 10 miles out, before dark. Alice actually offered to call her husband to give us a ride in his truck but we decided we should press on. How hard could 10 more miles be? Little did we realize that we had two enormous climbs in those ten miles and that we'd fall apart. Anyhow, we exchanged numbers with Alice and she said she would check on us on her way home.
Back at the motel, I decided to call Alice and fill her in on our evening and try to take her up on her offer. She was already reading our blog and was glad to hear we'd made it safely to the motel. I asked her if we could take her and her husband up on that ride by getting a lift back to our TransAm route tomorrow. She said she'd talk it over with her husband and call me back. They agreed that they could at least get us 27 miles down the road in the morning (to Haysi) but have some appointments they have to keep. She is actually off tomorrow because of Veteran's Day and she is going to drive her car while he brings the truck which isn't a crew cab. I hope this strategy will put us back in a good frame of mind and that we can salvage what is left of our trip. I don't want to let the weather get the best of us and I don't want to quit but I came pretty close today. I was feeling pretty down about all of the animosity amongst our usually tight knit little team. Everything always looks better in the morning. Let's hope so.