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.

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