Friday, May 30, 2014

Ohio: What a Difference a Trail Makes

We have been in Ohio for the past four days, and it's been such a change from riding in Kentucky.  I don't want to sound negative about Kentucky, but it's clearly a car culture.  In Ohio, we spent 90% or so of our first day of riding (60+ miles) and 85% or so of our second day of riding (another 60 miles) on a rail trail.  It was pretty much riding heaven.

We also saw a lot of wildlife (as opposed to roadkill) on the trail, including bunnies, snakes, tons of birds, and this fawn -
I'd seen the fawn in the distance but couldn't figure out what it was.  My father's answer was, "A chihuahua on stilts."  Yes, I have built-in comedy on this trip.

I also saw a few memorials along the trail.  A couple of them seemed to be for people who had biked and loved the trail, and this one served as a warning -
Even trails are not free from danger, and it was a good reminder to check for cars when the trail crossed roads.

One of the things that happens when you do this kind of ride is that you meet a lot of people.  Some people are just kind of dumbfounded that we're doing this.  There were four women in a Wendy's (I will be swearing off fast food for at least a year after I'm done with this trip) that I felt viewed me as a circus freak.  As the ladyfriend pointed out, this must be the way our son feels when people quiz him about his piercings and tattoos.  I try to be friendlier than I'm inclined to be.  So I smile and act nice.

But then there are those people who want to talk about your trip and their own biking and travels, who are great.  We had a guy come up to us in Kentucky who was going to do the Underground Railroad route with his sons and was out for the day doing a shorter ride.  We had another cyclist turn around to come talk to us about touring, and there was the 81-year man (who I helped reseat his rear tire) who had just taken up cycling the year before.  How amazing is that?  It flew in the face of all the other people who have said things like, "I'm too old; have a bad knee/hip/back/attitude; can't, won't, etc."  We're not out to make people feel bad, but don't expect us to say, "Oh yeah.  Sure.  You're absolved of having to be physically active at all."  Okay, that sounded a little harsh, but hopefully you know what I mean.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Kentucky or The Hills Are Alive, And They're Trying to Kill Us

The last few days of cycling have been rather epic.  One might describe the hills of Kentucky as "rolling" if they are in a car, but on a bike they have been more like mountains.  And relentless.  Here are the elevation profile for the past three days:

On this last one, the final hill was two miles long.  Yes, the hills have been trying to kill us.  But we're onto Ohio and somewhat flatter land.  Yay!  And we're getting on bike trails, so no cars that don't want to give us space.

Speaking of which, I'm thinking about starting a website where cyclists can put the license plate numbers of cars that have crowded or been jerks to them.  Here are three for my father and me:  Ohio vanity plate - HUDLER (I'm pretty certain- definitely HUD..) (too close); Kentucky plate - 117PTP (too close); Kentucky plate - 625BKP (cut me off).   Sure, you may never encounter these people, and they'll probably never know that I've publicly outed them as assholes, but it's the thought that counts, right?

However, it wasn't all hills and bad drivers or dogs that wanted to take a chunk out of my calf, there was some beautiful scenery and these quilt squares on random houses, barns, and buildings all through the state.  It's the Kentucky Quilt Trail, and I took photos of all but three (two I saw before I realized it was a thing, and one I wasn't that into).  They have a map of the state with all the quilt squares here.

You can continue on for the rest of the squares, but before I close, I have a low-brow (another?!) moment.  If I hadn't take a photo of this, my friends would never have forgiven me:

Monday, May 26, 2014

Corvettes, Caves, and Bourbon

We left Bowling Green and made our way deeper into Kentucky.  Robert, our Warm Showers host, rode with us for awhile and came to the Corvette Museum with us.  My dad and I were pretty much just interested in the older models.

But look! Schwimm Corvette bikes!  Check out the brake cable on the one in front.

Even Corvettes, in museums, get flat tires.  I don't think it was part of the display because we saw a number of other cars with flat to semi-flat tires.

In February of this year, a sinkhole destroyed a number of cars displayed in the museum's skydome.  Kentucky & Tennessee have a lot of sinkholes.  It's kind of funny, if you ask me.   You can watch the security camera footage of the sinkhole here.

They pulled the cars from wreckage and put them on display.  These are just a couple to give you an idea.

Robert rode away shortly thereafter,  and my father and I continued our ride.  It was hot and hilly, and we were quite happy to come across this place for lunch -

Yes, there is a place called Pig, Kentucky.  And the Porky Pig Diner had one of the best catfish sandwiches I've had yet.

It was a touring day.   We'd planned on being able to stop and check things out along the way, and when we got to Mammoth Cave National Park, we decided to take the two-hour Domes & Dripstones tour.  Our planning was great as it started to rain just as we headed underground.  We went down about 258 feet below the surface and got to see a number of great caves and passageways.  It was a great tour.

It would've been a great end to the day, but we had a bit more riding to do to get to Bardstown - the bourbon capital of the world!!!!  Unfortunately, we encountered another Corvette along the way, one that passed us three times, the third time giving us barely 6 inches of space.  A red Corvette with a Florida license plate - I guess I shouldn't be surprised.

We rode into town and made a beeline for the Heaven Hill Distillery.  I thought we'd gotten there with plenty of time, but I didn't realize we'd switched time zones!  I hate to say it, but I sulked a bit throughout the display center because a) we couldn't take a tour (and this was my only chance to visit a bourbon distillery on this trip) and b) you couldn't taste anything without a tour.  Okay, I say I sulked, but the woman from a couple we talked to said I was pissed.  I know, sulking is not great, but I was actually really depressed.  Thankfully one of the employees felt my deep, deep sadness and gave us a sample (of the most expensive bottle - $400).  Then my dad bought me a bottle of bourbon that can only be gotten at Heaven Hill, and I bought a cheaper one to share - hah!  

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Natchez Trace Parkway: A Few Thoughts on Its Bike Friendliness

Before we move onto our next adventure getting out of Nashville and on to Bowling Green, KY, I wanted to note a few things about the bike friendliness of the Natchez Trace.  They really sell it as a great place to bike, and in general, it is.  However, there are some things you should know if you're doing a self-supported trip.  There are only three full-service (with running water) campgrounds on the entire Trace and a scant five bike primitive campsites that, as noted before, are not clearly marked.  Also, they should tell you to bring your own food...unless you really want to add miles to your trip.

Water along the Trace can also be an issue.  There are a few additional places besides the full-service campgrounds to get water, but if you don't plan correctly, you could be drinking water you've purified from a Mississippi stream (as our friend Julian had to).  Sorry, but the water in Mississippi was pretty brackish.

Finally, in the section where the drivers are most aggressive (Tupelo), there are no signs indicating that it is state law that drivers give cyclists three feet of room.  You'd think that if it were a problem area, they'd try to make it better for cyclists.  There weren't many Park Rangers driving about, which could help slow some of the drivers, and the few cops I saw were speeding along themselves, without lights ablazing, so I didn't think they were there to make the roads safer for us.

Yet despite all this, it was a really beautiful and pleasant ride.  All the Park Rangers that we spoke with were quite friendly and helpful.  We even got a bike story from one of them.  It's worth the trip, but forewarned is forearmed.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Nashville: Where Claudia & John Get a Day Off

It was time for a day off.   Last night we got to watch the Rangers-Montreal game (I'm soooo excited!!!!!) and caught up on laundry.  Today we took care of our bikes, bodies, and business and then headed downtown.

First stop was lunch at Puckett's Grocery & Restaurant.  I finally got a hot chicken sandwich, which was pretty damn tasty, and had a great beer - Good People IPA from Birmingham, Alabama.

Then I took my dad to the Country Music Hall of Fame.  The ladyfriend and I had gone when we'd come to Nashville a few years ago, but we got there late and couldn't take the whole thing in.  So this time my dad and I made the time to go downtown and check it out.
You can never have have too many hatsgloves, and shoes

Those are some steppy outfits!
I could wear this.
Thought this was a nice take on the bike rack although I'm still not convinced that Nashville is really bike-friendly.

And then, we came back to our home base, and I made dinner.  It was the perfect way to end the day.  Tomorrow, onto Bowling Green, Kentucky.

Natchez Trace: May 19th or This Is What It Sounds Like When Quads Cry

Our last day on the Trace - it was foggy and cool in the morning, but it quickly cleared up and turned sunny and warm.

It was mostly a riding day, with lots of hills.  I really put the quads to the test, and thankfully, they didn't fail me...although they hurt a little.  I guess that's to be expected.
Elementary school kids on an annual death march, I mean, fun walk.
Not even on the map!  War of 1812 Memorial .   Amazingly well-written and error-free!

The view from the double arch bridge, where we didn't see the double arches; I think they were saved for the drivers below.  Typical.
A bummer was that there was no 444 mile marker at the end of the Trace; in fact, there was no sign at the actual end of the Trace, it just dumped you onto a highway.  A sign signifying drivers from the north were entering the Trace was some four to five miles in already.  A bit anticlimactic, if you ask me  (Oh National Park Service, please ask me what I think.  Please.)

So I took a photo of this marker, just off the Trace and on the highway... the wrong direction, which my father took us for 2.5 miles.  Yes, an additional 5 miles - just for fun.  I don't know if that was what Faye had in mind when she thought our trip was going to be a great father-daughter experience.  It was pointless to be mad for too long; we just ground our way through some ass-traffic on Highway 100.  Sure, the signs said "Share the road," but the drivers said, "Not interested."  Eventually, though, we got to my friends' place in Nashville (had to find the greenway/bike route between a Target and a Steinmart - nice!) and off our bikes.  The Trace portion of the program is over.  Onto the next portion - stay tuned!

Natchez Trace: May 18th or The First Rule of Bike Camping Is You Don't Talk About Bike Camping

Our motel from the night before

Chad's Restaurant
Sleeping indoors is definitely not overrated, especially if one has endured a number of nights, and mornings, in the rain.  And while it was drizzling Sunday morning, the weather forecast called for clearing skies.

We'd gone to Chad's the night before (remember?  I had the chicken fried steak - still sticking to only one fried meal a day, thank you very much) and as they weren't open Sunday mornings we asked if they might suggest a place for breakfast.  Well, Faye, who happens to be Chad's mom, offered to let us come in for breakfast while she prepared for Sunday lunch.  Really?!  We went over there Sunday morning, and she made eggs and sausage for us.   It was really nice, and then, after we paid and were going to leave, she said something really nice about how she could tell this was a good father-daughter trip.  (I believe I'd set the record straight, as it were, that I was not his peppy younger wife.) Great way to start the day!
The day did turn out to be sunny but with a cool breeze, which was perfect for cycling.  We stopped at the Meriwether Lewis campground and checked out the memorial to him.   There's a "mysterious death" story here, but I haven't gone on to research it.

My BBQ sandwich with some of the best fried okra I've encountered - definitely freshly made.

The trading post - where we had lunch.
Sunday was also the day the road stopped being pretty flat.  In fact, one hill nearly kicked our asses.  Thankfully, halfway up there was a scenic stop.  Yay!  Reason to get off the bike.

Fall Hollow was really nice and gave us a chance to rest our legs.  For the record, it was a mile long hill at a 13 degree grade.   Just sayin'.

Over the past week I've seen a lot of different animals.  Early on it was snakes (mostly dead on the road), and then turtles, lots of birds (cardinals,  blue jays, and these small indigo/purple-winged things - clearly, I'm not a birder), plus wild turkeys, a few deer, and a quail with chicks.  I'd also seen a number of dead armadillos, but then, I saw these -
live, little armadillos just rooting around the leaves.  I have to say, they were pretty damn cute.  The next day a woman at the gas station (mmm, mmm, good) said they carried leprosy.  Not so sure about that.

Finally it was time to set up camp.  Here's something that's a bit tedious about the Trace and its "bike friendliness."  There is a scattering of "bike primitive campsites" (meaning you can pitch a tent, but don't expect a bathroom other than the great outdoors itself) designated with a bike symbol on the map, but the symbol never appears on any of the signage on the parkway itself.  It's kind of like a club - if you don't already know about it, you won't find it.  Thankfully we found ours that night - it was off the Trace, but at least it was there.
Where we spent our last night on the Trace.
And since I know you're waiting for it - here are Sunday's grammar issues:
Care to add a few commas for clarity and flow?

One of my biggest pet peeves - the comma splice!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Natchez Trace: Where Little Things Mean A Lot Or Sleep, Perchance to Dream

One of the other things I did in Tupelo was send a few things home that I felt I wasn't going to use (e.g. pedal wrench, running shorts, extra clothes) and replace "the most infuriating camp mattress in the world."  It seems that the Slumberjack I've had forever (part of a prize I won) not only didn't want to hold air anymore but didn't want to keep air out either, so every morning I battled to stash the Slumberjack in its bag before it expanded again.  Going with my "buy as local as possible" theme, and the fact that I'm in love with my Therm-a-rest pillow, I bought a Therm-a-rest self-inflating pad (made in the U.S.).  Needless to say, just the elimination of the frustration was worth the cost alone.  I left the Slumberjack leaning against the Dick's where I'd purchased my replacement.

And just for more music variation, here's Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds performing Tupelo,which chronicles the Great Tupelo Tornado of 1936.  We saw some of the damage from the recent tornado as we rode through town.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Natchez Trace: Grammar & Social Commentary

So I've stopped photographing every grammatical mistake I find because, frankly, I'm tired of them.  Here are just a few more.

In addition to finding the grammar or spelling mistakes, my father and I have taken to unpacking the signs for their hidden messages or reinterpretation of history.  At the end of this post, I have uploaded Werner Herzog reading Curious George, which I feel is along the lines of what we try to do.  Enjoy!
Are they referring to multiple storekeepers or was it just one?  And does anyone possess anything?  Also, what's up with that last sentence?

Where, oh where, are the commas we need here?
Some spelling mistakes are carved in stone... guess the Daughters of the American Revolution couldn't afford a proofreader.
It's really nice that "Americans" could travel safely through Indian land.
Uh, by "other men" do you mean poor men? Not unlike prison populations today.

Hi, kids!  Today's lessons is on connotation - what do you think the opinion is of "Indians" in the first sentence?