Thursday, December 13, 2012

Up in the Air

I hate flying.

Well, that's not completely true. To be honest, I like the whole “flying” thing, since I get a real kick out of being up in the Earth's atmosphere. It's miraculous if you think about it – applying Bernoulli's Principle by directing airflow over a shaped surface in a way that will provide sufficient lift to pick up a huge metal cylinder full of people, their luggage, a ton of mail, and 250 copies of the SkyMall magazine.

I like the view from up here, too. It's a gorgeous planet, and a lot of it shows no evidence of man and the sometimes lovely but more often horrible things that we have done here. Forests are flatter from a passenger jet, but you get a unique perspective of their colors and textures, and the way that they blend with the rivers and fields and bare mountaintops into what can only be called "gorgeous." I even like the Frankenstein-esque patches that humans have applied, with crops and roads and shiny little towns whose attempt at order proves the natural order of the surrounding chaos.

What I hate about flying is being trapped in the aforementioned cylinder, breathing gasses recently expelled by the people around me as most of us try to behave in this bizarre semi-society to which we are transcendentally trapped. I don't mind the crying baby so much as the efforts of the mother and/or father trying to stifle the child's valid response to being stuck in the mightily shaking cylinder as it heads for what we hope to be a successful landing. (Frankly, I kind of want to cry, too.) I hate the lady in front of me who feels that she is entitled to recline her seat into my lap -- she did pay for the seat, but not my lap -- and I hate the fellow next to me who laid seige to our supposedly common armrest, giving his elbow the right to make regular border skirmishes into my ribcage.

But what I hate most about flying is the feeling of an opportunity lost. When I glance out the window at the ground flowing beneath the plane, I cannot help but wish that I was crossing that terrain in a more intimate mode. The rocky peaks that we are flying above are long climbs that would have been much more painful – and thus more fun – on a bicycle. Once over the snow-capped pinnacle, I imagine the exhilaration of the subsequent descent and die inside, just a bit.

What seems like empty farmland from 10,000 feet is really fascinating country from two wheels. The smells of crops and fertilizer may not always be pleasant, but they are certainly more interesting than the bratwurst burps of the husky man in seat 22E. If you think that the world down there doesn't change much, you just haven't rolled across it at the right pace and been paying the right amount of attention.

When flying over water, I imagine what it would be like to cross it in a good sailboat instead. Spending three or four weeks on a boat that's only 37 feet long and less than 11 feet wide might seem claustrophobic to some, but to me it is an excellent opportunity to perform a series of simple but enjoyable navigational and sailing tasks while I sit and watch and think … and then think a little more. Never are you more in tune with the world than when you are on a sailboat, relying on the beneficence of nature to get you where you think you need to be, but also maintaining a weather eye for the fickle ways that nature may trick and test you.

But today I am on an airplane. It is the accommodation that I must make in order to balance that most precious resource that any of us has: Time.

Emerson said that life is about the journey, and not the destination. In a perfect world, we would always make the most of that journey. But, the sad truth is that this journey does have a destination, if not a point at which our travels end, and so we strike a balance and make a deal with Time ... our benefactor and prison warden.

And so today I look down at a road meandering through tired Kentucky hills and plan a tour for some future summer. I see the white-flecked spume of a wind-swept Gulf of Mexico and fantasize about finding a cutter-rigged Crealock 37 in good shape and fixing her up. And -- if that isn't enough --  I remind myself of long rides that I have enjoyed through similar terrain and sailing trips across this and even wilder waters, and I think, “Well, maybe not now, and maybe even never again, but I once did. My time here may be finite, but I did spend some of it well.”

Monday, December 3, 2012

Stealing My Thunder

This past Saturday, a bunch of us rode my old Cathey's Creek 200K permanent. It was a great day on the bike, starting chilly but getting decently warm later, with a wind coming up out of the south only when we were finally done with the southward-riding part and could enjoy a good tailwind. Eight of us came out, and we stayed more or less together as we pedaled along talking about nothing in particular, albeit in spastic verse as we labored up a few of the tougher hills.

We'd started literally at sunrise, leaving Starbuck's in Franklin at 6:30 am, and hurried through the controls in an effort to finish before dark. I was able to scarf a cinnamon roll at Marcy Jo's and drink half a cup of coffee, but we were barely there 15 minutes as opposed to our usual hour-long breakfast stop. By the time we were 50 miles in at the third control, we were pretty tired.

None of us succumbed to the Bench of Despair, however, and we managed to make it to the finish by 4:30.

By the time I got home, however, and began to tell RandoGirl about it, she had already heard about most of the ride from Jeff Sammons's posts on FaceBook. She had even seen me at the start, and then again at Marcy Jo's and at the Mount Pleasant Grille.

Which got me thinking, again, about the 10 reasons that FaceBook is going to ultimately destroy civilization:

  1. It makes us lazy. Once upon a time, people would read lengthy newspaper or magazine articles. Now, if you can't fit your message into a Status post, nobody will read it. The real world just isn't that simple, so we're all going to end up pretty stupid if we go on this way.
  2. It makes us liars. For the sake of oversimplification, we edit the message down in such a way that it leans the way we want. This happens both with political posts, and with the mindless updates some people love to throw out. (Was that really the best corned beef on rye you ever had? Be honest, now ...)
  3. It reinforces drama. If I want drama, I'll go watch TNT ("We know drama"). If you want to drop Status updates like "OMG! Life sucks!" just to elicit a knee-jerk sympathy chain ... well, I think we know then why your life sucks.
  4. It makes those of us with normal lives feel like ... well, like our lives suck. While you're out there posting beautiful pictures from your trip up the Amazon rain forest, the rest of us are back home working hard and thinking, "Why can't I go do that?" Put a few pictures of the fat German tourist who's on that boat trip with you, too, breathing bratwurst in your ear, or show the scab where you pulled off a leach. Basically, inject a little reality into your self-edited reality show.
  5. It breaks up marriages. I know two people who have at least temporarily lost their spouses to old lovers who rekindled a relationship via FaceBook. It kind of goes back to that self-edited, lying, lazy reality show -- the grass sure looks better from here, and it's easier than dealing with whatever problems you might be having in your marriage. Real problems don't fit in a Status update, either.
  6. It's a time-suck. Sometimes I think that there are people who don't do anything at work other than post crap to FaceBook, and then read and respond to crap that other marginally-employed idiots have posted to FaceBook. Why can't you waste your work day writing a blog like I do?
  7. It lies about us. A couple of months ago, RandoGirl told me that FaceBook said that I "liked" WalMart. I don't like WalMart -- I merely consider it a necessary evil that I must, on rare occasions, visit. Maybe FaceBook knew that I went into WalMart earlier that week to pick up trash can liners, which really makes me concerned regarding the insidiousness of FaceBook and/or WalMart.
  8. It is greedy. It's always suggesting other FaceBook stuff in which I have absolutely zero interest. Bikini waxing? Software to teach me Romanian? Cycling jerseys with Led Zeppelin cover artwork? Where does it get these ideas? And why is Zoosk sharing a link with me, trying to get me to meet local singles? Hooking up with my high school girlfriend isn't enough?
  9. It ruins friendships. Like everybody, there are some people that I enjoy seeing every so often whom I consider "friends." That's real-world, however; if I become Friends with them on FaceBook, I am suddenly subjected to their rants on subjects we would never be so rude as to discuss at dinner. Even worse is the FaceBook Friend from whom you are daily bombarded regarding what they are planting on a virtual farm and/or killing in some virtual gang war. Eventually, you "de-friend" this Friend and he/she no longer wants to be your real-world friend. Yeesh!
  10. Finally, it's a little too immediate. I wanted the chance to bore RandoGirl with a long story about Saturday's permanent, but she'd already seen the highlights in Jeff's posts on FaceBook. If this keeps up, I won't have anything to write about in blogs! OMG, that would suck!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Use It or Lose It

A couple of weeks ago, Williamson County finally finished putting in the new bike lane up Hillsboro Road. Thanks to a decently warm afternoon and a temporary lull at work, I was able to finally test out this bad boy with a quick ride into downtown Nashville.

Since it was a new bike lane, it still had a lot of debris in it ... although, to be honest, later in my ride I found myself on older bike lanes with a lot of debris in them. This lane was so new that they were still putting up the Bike Lane signs.

The lane comes in goes in spots, but overall is fairly good. The nice thing is that it takes you all of the way up to Old Hickory Road, which is kind of the border between Williamson and Davidson counties in this area.

Now, Old Hickory Road itself doesn't mean much to a cyclist. Frankly, you'd have to be insane or desperate to ride your bike on it for long. I know this well, since I used to commute to work on a short piece of it, and that was hair-raising riding.

But, once you cross Old Hickory Road on Hillsboro Road, you've still got a good shoulder. There are then signs admonishing drivers to share with you.

Better yet, however, you then get a bike lane. It kind of comes and goes in spots, just like it's Williamson County brother, but it's better than nothing.

You can take this bike lane (more or less) up to Harding Road.

Past this, you just get a pretty good shoulder. There's also Green Hills Mall, so everyone is driving very slowly anyway. If you're a gutsy cyclist, it's bearable.

I didn't just want bearable, however, so I headed east a couple of blocks and went north through the Lipscomb University campus and on up towards Belmont.

Here, you mostly just have to watch out for cars parallel parking to your right. And, of course, people in those cars opening their doors in your face.

From there, it's easy to go down Music Row, which also has a bike lane. The big recording company offices there were telling me to go have a drink.

At the top of Music Row, I headed east in to town. I either had a bike lane or sharrows thru here ... or, again, traffic was so slow that they didn't care that I was on a bicycle.

I eventually ended up at the new Asurion downtown offices, where I am supposed to get my own shiny new cubicle in December. It's a very nice office, and really cool inside.

If I lived in East Nashville, I would have been able to take the pedestrian bridge to the office. This would have almost been too easy.

Heading back, I went by Bridgestone Arena. They're doing all kinds of construction there, so that even a bicycle going uphill has to hit the brakes.

I decided to take a different way back, so I got on 21st Avenue near Vanderbilt University. This made the third college campus that I had biked thru on this route.

Again, the lights on 21st Avenue are perfect for a cyclist, even if there is no bike lane. Basically, they are timed to make everyone stop. A lot. So, you just peddle along, and the cars notice that the light is already turning red and that they wouldn't have made it anyway, and they let loose a collective, "Meh."

Somewhere in there, 21st Avenue becomes Hillsboro Avenue, and I was again stop-and-going my way past Green Hills Mall. There's one little nasty stretch between the mall and Harding Road, and then you're back in the bike lane. As I said, this bike lane would be great if not for the spots where it just peters out ... probably because the county was too cheap to pay to widen some narrow bridges.

Back into Williamson County again, I passed my old friends on the sign crew.

Then, I stayed in the lane all the way to its end at Mack Hatcher, near Franklin High School. The shoulder is not too bad between there and downtown Franklin, so I went in to see the Christmas decorations there.

Is riding into town in the bike lane like this as much fun as a long ride out into quiet countryside? Not at all. But, it needed to be done. Cars needed to start seeing bicycles in that lane so that they would appreciate that it is there for some purpose other than costing them the shoulder. The more bikes there are in the bike lane, the more people expect us and appreciate that their hard-earned tax dollars actually went for something.

It may not be for everybody, because cars will whiz past you at a pretty good clip. But, if you're a cyclist in the Nashville area that likes to use the bike to actually go somewhere, I urge you to get out there and ride the lanes.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Whiskey Run

Somehow, I've found myself working towards another R-12. That's an award RUSA gives you for riding a permanent or brevet every month for 12 straight months -- basically a year of regular ultracycling. The year, for me, began back in September, so I needed to stretch the streak up to a big "three" by doing a permanent this past weekend.

There was a group going up to Cadiz, KY, to do a permanent there, but Jeff Bauer and I needed to stay closer to home on Saturday. We opted, instead, for the Jack Daniels permanent. This was kind of karmic, since it had been exactly three years and two days since we had last ridden this route.

It had been warmer, then, and Jeff had been riding his tandem with our dear departed friend, Peter Lee. Jeff Sammons had also been with us, along with Mike and Patty Willman on their tandem. In spite of not having the extra horsepower of a big group, however, Mr. Bauer and I moved fairly well south down TN-272, through Lewisburg, and into the country beyond.

As we began heading east on TN-129, we could see that there was still some fall foliage desperately clinging to the tired Tennessee hardwoods. This is quiet, unspoiled farm country, redolent of natural and homegrown fertilizer, where the cows still spook from the insistent clack of a spinning free-hub.

The fierce winds left behind by Super Storm Sandy's passing had finally played out, leaving blue skies and a gentle breeze ghosting over cleared fields. We could have worked together faster in a two-man paceline, but Jeff and I primarily rode side-by-side and had deep discussions about nothing.

Here's Jeff turning off of busy Hwy 231. You're only on this for about a quarter of a mile, of course. Like I said: It's a nice, quiet route.

Things get lumpy again the closer you get to Lynchburg, and you soon find yourself passing the few cottage industries prevalent there.

It is heartening to see that there is still a place for a cooperage in today's world.

After getting cards signed at the distillery itself, Jeff and I scarfed a quick Subway sandwich and began the route back. Thanks to a somewhat later than intended start and a missed turn that gave us four "bonus miles," we were forced to hurry a bit in order to make the most of the remaining daylight.

By the time we got back to Lewisburg, the long shadows were making it clear that we would need to use lights for the last few miles.

We both had tail lights and reflective gear, but had to stop at a "dollar store" for flashlights and duct tape. By the time we were on the very quiet canopied lanes just south of Bethesda, we were slowly picking our lines in the thin beams of our "three-dollar specials" and the evening chill was setting in with a vengeance. I meant to take a picture of our Rube Goldberg setups, but forgot in my foggy frosty exhaustion.

Next time, we'll bring headlights ... or start on time and try not to get lost. Hopefully, that next time won't be three years away.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Ten Thousand in Ten Months

Wednesday, Bill Glass and I did the Natchez Trace Northern Terminus 200K permanent. Mostly, we did it because we are both still sufficiently marginally employed that we could get out on a week day, but also because we had both let October almost slide away without a brevet. Since we are each working on a RUSA R-12 award right now -- which requires that you ride a brevet or permanent every month for a year -- the last day of the month seemed perfect.

It was cold at the start -- just below freezing, which is pretty uncommon for this time of year. We didn't leave the starting control, Starbuck's, until almost 7:30 since we were loathe to venture out into the chill and traffic. After just over a mile on busy Hwy 100, we got up on the Trace and soon began the first long climb there. We were feeling much less frosty when we reached the top.

The previous few days had been horribly windy, but the gusts had abated somewhat. We mostly had a crosswind as we headed south, but had to battle the breeze once we turned north on Hwy 412 towards Hohenwald.

It was about 11:30 when we reached the control, and Bill and I were ready for lunch. We went to McDonald's, and were just finishing up when a local character came by to chat with us for a while. He had apparently had throat cancer or some other malady, and to talk now he used one of those electronic devices with a straw that he stuck in his mouth. Bill and I both had a hard time understanding what he was trying to say, but you could tell that he mostly just wanted somebody new to say it to. We chatted for about 10 minutes before we finally jumped on our bikes and rolled out.

After battling the headwind for another mile, the route take TN-20 down to Meriwether Lewis State Park, which is also on the Trace. This stretch of road was purely downwind, and we easily flew along at 20 mph. Getting to the park, we remarked how it was too bad that we couldn't keep going to Lewisburg.

The wind was crosswise to us again as we headed roughly north back to the Hwy 412 exit, but I noticed that it -- and the road direction -- had shifted just enough to be behind us as we started climbing out of the Swan River Valley. The falls halfway up were very popular.

But then, these folks hadn't ridden their bikes there.

We passed a couple of bare-looking trees full of big, black carrion birds. It was extremely ominous, but appropriate considering that this was Halloween.

Bill was low on water, so we stopped at the Jackson Falls rest area. It turned out to be a very fortunate stop, since there were about 20 Model A's parked there. It turned out to be the Greater Houston Model A Club.

We met a few of the folks driving these cars, and they told us that they had spent the last three days riding the Trace. They had begun in Natchez, did about 200 miles a day, and stayed together at hotels along the way. The previous day, they had arrived in Nashville, but due to mechanical problems (which they told us are almost perpetual with these 80-year-old cars) had missed their reservations at the Loveless Cafe.

It was fun talking to these folks, but as someone once said, "That control isn't coming to us." So Bill and I got back on the road again.

The wind was now fully at our backs, making it easy to cruise along at an easy pace. Our shadows were getting long, however, and we had once again hit the more hilly parts of the route.

The temperatures had warmed up enough that I had taken off my long-sleeve base layer in Hohenwald, and then removed my full-finger gloves near the Water Valley Overlook. As 5 pm approached, however, I had to put the gloves back on. At least I didn't have to try to ride and change back into the base layer.

Pretty early in this ride, I realized that my yearly mileage had hit 10,000 miles. Of the four years in which I have hit five-digit total mileage, this is the earliest year that I've made it. Starting the final descent down to the northern terminus of the Trace, it felt sweet.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

One Last Peak Day

I managed to get out at lunch for a couple of hours last week for a little ride. Ostensibly, I was just going over to the post office in Franklin, but then headed further.

I rode through downtown Franklin, then south on Main Street. One house had gone all out on Halloween decorations.

Continuing down Carter's Creek Pike, the day was just about perfect -- mid-70s and barely any breeze. The clouds told the tale of a tired high pressure cell that had rolled into the southeast, and decided to just sit a while.

I saw two groups of cyclists heading back towards Franklin on Carter's Creek. If misery loves company, joy appreciates it almost as much as an affirmation that you are in the right place and doing the right thing.

Heading next over towards Theta, I climbed Perkins Road. The trees were incredible there at the steepest pitch.

Once at the top, I turned immediately left on Sycamore for a quick descent down to Pope's Chapel. Then, I went through Thompson Station and out towards Bethesda.

My bottles were low and it was time for a candy bar, so I stopped at the market. Sitting there, a van with Massachusetts plates came in, and half a dozen people with new cheap Nashville cowboy boots climbed out. Somebody was looking for Sheryl Crow's house.

Since I was out this way, I headed over to Pulltight Hill.

Climbing up, I could see some more folks at the scenic view pullout at the top of the hill. As I got there, they said, "You must like climbing this hill."

I replied, "Well, this is where the view is."

Friday, October 26, 2012

Lessons Learned: What to Do on the Next Tour

Although I had to cut last week's tour short, I was able to go for long enough that I learned some valuable information. One thing that I learned was that my assumptions on daily distance were correct -- a touring day should not be more than 75 miles or have more than 5,000 feet of climbing. It's probably best to balance these as well, so that your 75-mile days have only about 2,500 feet of climbing, and your 5,000-feet days are not more than 60 miles long. This is the only way to keep the pace down to a level that you can enjoy the world through which you are riding, and not have to suffer the Bataan Death Ride.

Here's some other things that I discovered:

  • There are no good camping pillows. Just leave them at home, and use that nice bag of clothing instead. While lying in the sleeping bag and reading in your tent, use two bags of clothing.
  • If it's a cool night, go ahead and put on a pair of socks. I don't know why my feet get colder than anything else in the sleeping bag, but they do.
  • The E-Werks cache battery is the bomb. Unless it is dead, it will begin charging your iPhone or iPod as soon as you plug it in -- even when the bike isn't rolling and the DynaHub isn't putting out juice. It will not charge your iPad, however.
  • You probably don't need to carry an iPad. I had my netbook with me, as well as my iPhone. That was really enough, since I don't like to write anything more than a FaceBook update on my iPad.
  • The "two nights camping followed by one night in a hotel" plan works great. Ideally, the hotel day should be a little easier, so you can do laundry. My hotel day ended up being almost 100 miles, but I still probably could have washed my clothes that evening. Whenever possible, pick a hotel that has a washer and dryer available for patrons. You can use the sink, but it takes longer for stuff to dry.
  • The rear wheel on my 32cc tires will rub against the brakes if not fully inflated, or if the set screw back at the hub is not all the way in. I may have to see if Gran Fondo can do something about this.
  • The front panniers are still a little too far forward. I adjusted them, and ended up bungee-ing them a bit to keep them from shifting around. The distribution can be exacerbated if I don't put the tent as far back as I can on top of the front rack.
  • Descending with a fully loaded rig, you tend to tense up. When I do that, the bike actually shimmies. If I just shift my weight a little further back and loosen my shoulders and elbows, the shimmies stopped.
  • Stop at stores. You never know when there's going to be another one. If your bottles are full, get one for the panniers. If you're camping that night and there's less than 20 miles to your campsite, see if they have anything that would be good for dinner.
  • Campsites under street lamps are mixed blessings. Yes, you can stay outside for a while and read by the street lamp, but it will also light up your tent a bit during the night.
  • Although I brought a sleep mask and ear plugs, I never needed them. But I will continue to bring them.
  • It's nice to have a bottle of something to drink in your tent. You may think that you drank well during the day, but you didn't really. You will get thirsty during the night.
  • It's also nice to have a candy bar for dessert when you're hanging out in the tent.
  • Try as you may, you will not be able to get your tent's rain fly dry. Morning dew and condensation make it impossible. The best you can hope for is to put it in the hotel dryer for five minutes every third day.
  • Also throw your sleeping bag and the cover for your sleeping pad in that dryer for five minutes. Put in a sheet of fabric softener, too. They may not be wet, but when you clean the dryer screen afterwards you will see just how much hair, little leaves, cracker crumbs, and bits of candy bar were in that tent with you.
  • The quality of the wifi at McDonald's varies.
  • McDonald's is a popular hang-out for retirees in small towns in Tennessee and Kentucky. There will be at least two tables full of guys drinking coffee. They will ask where you are going, and offer you advice on the roads to take. Make sure that they understand that you prefer paved roads.
  • The big busy roads often have wide shoulders, but these shoulders get lots of debris ... particularly gravel. These roads are often shorter, the climbs more gradual, they have more stores, and dogs don't usually come out onto them to chase you.
  • Smaller roads get more dogs and fewer cars, but don't have as much shoulder. They are generally more pleasant until you get to the steep hill, or when a big truck passes you that has no business being on that quiet road in the first place.
  • On a weekday, the front porch of a church makes for a good spot to take a mid-morning break and put on your sunscreen.
One final tip: If you don't want to do an out-and-back tour, get to a town that is big enough to rent you a small pick-up truck which you can drive home. It's not really that expensive, and allows you to see more cool stuff.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

This Was Supposed to be the Easy Day

I slept great Tuesday night, since it was just cool enough to be cozy in a sleeping bag. Getting up just before sunrise, I had a delicious breakfast of corned beef hash, bagels, and coffee, then broke everything down and packed it up. I had retraced my route back out of the park to US-127 before 9 am.

The weather was excellent, with a good breeze out of the south pushing me along. Stopping in Jamestown, I thought about getting another cup of coffee at the dinner, but instead took a break to get pictures and remove my knee warmers and jacket.

There was a fellow watching me, and I called out "Good morning" to him. He just kept staring. It was a common theme with people that I met today: One third thought I was crazy, one third thought I was a fool, and one third thought I was interesting ... for a crazy fool.

I opted for some back roads after Jamestown, some of which had fierce climbs. As I approached Russell Springs, the GPS told me to turn right on Wilson Road. This road started out beautiful ...

... and then it got scary. I've been down too many roads that looked too good to be true, and this one started to have that feel. It begins when it gets narrow, and then there are a lot of leaves and gravel and other debris on it. These showed up right after Wilson Road started going steeply downhill, but by this time I was in for the long haul. Unfortunately, the long haul ended at a creek.

There's actually more road, but it follows the bottom of the creek. I decided to just take my medicine and go back. It wasn't easy, and called for a few yards of me pushing the bike, but who knows what I would have had to climb on the other side of the creek road?

In Russell Springs, I grabbed an early lunch at Arby's, and then took US-127 north to Hwy 80. This road kind of follows the path of the Cumberland Parkway, going east, but still had a bit of traffic. Also, the wind that had been pushing me north was now a crosswind that regularly became a headwind.

Just before Somerset, KY, I called RandoGirl to talk about some stuff that was going on back home. It soon became clear that I needed to get back sooner than this weekend, so I decided to get a rental car instead of a hotel in Somerset. I looked online, and found that there was an Enterprise Rental Car right next door to the hotel at which I planned to stay. Easy solution, right?

Wrong. When I got to Somerset and where my hotel was supposed to be, there was no hotel and no rental car office. I headed back north on US-27 -- the busy main drag there -- and couldn't find it, so I pulled into the parking lot of the Holiday Inn Express and made some calls.

Enterprise said that they have an office there, but that they couldn't rent me a car that I could drive to Nashville. The nearest office with that option was in London, KY, at I-75 ... almost 40 miles away.

Leaving the lot, some folks at the hotel asked where I was going. It turned out that one of them used to do bicycle touring, and we chatted briefly. It was 3 pm, and we agreed that getting to London by dark would be tricky -- the road is busy and hilly, he said -- and he recommended staying the night and going the next day. I considered it briefly, and then decided that I could make it. Besides, I had lights.

Unfortunately, the best way was to get back on Hwy 80, which was now well north of me. I got on Hwy 914 -- busy, but with a good shoulder -- for five miles, and then on Hwy 80. Again, busy, but with a good shoulder.

After five miles, it went from being a four-lane divided highway to just two lanes ... except at the hills. There, the road got an extra lane for slower truck traffic. That lane cut a little bit into the shoulder, but not too much.

At this point, Kentucky must be a series of canyons, because Hwy 80 is always going up or down. It's not steep, but the climbs were long enough, my bike heavy enough, and my legs tired enough that each of them had me crawling along about 5 mph.

My shadow was getting long when the road finally leveled out, and I hammered the last few miles to London.

I got the last room at the Hampton Inn, and the shower there was sublime. After calling Enterprise and reserving a car, I ate a huge dinner and called RandoGirl. She was pleased that I was going to be home soon, and that killed the pain I was feeling in my legs. I had not planned on a 97-mile day, but was glad to do it if it would make my girl happy.