Day 48, July 21: Ashland to Yorktown, VA



After exactly 100 miles we arrived in Yorktown. Hard to believe the day would actually come.  The swim almost revived us enough to start pedaling back to San Francisco!  After all, it would be a shame to let our excellent shape go to waste. 

What an historic and quant village and what’s not to love about Williamsburg. 

Got home to Newton Saturday night.  Got on the scale and lost a few pounds 19 as far as I can tell.  Approximately 174 before the ride and 155 after…..   Wowza!!!   Now to curb the 6,000 calorie diet!    More to come….

I’m writing this in advance as I likely won’t have time tomorrow as my wife, Sue and my sister, Leslie and her husband, Dennis,  are meeting us at the finish line and swim in the Atlantic.  


Dennis sent me an e-mail reminding me that tomorrow on our way to Yorktown we will be going close to the Gaines’  Mill Civil War battlefield where my great great grandfather (on my mother’s side) Samuel W. Waldron, Jr. served with the Union Army in late June 1862. He was also a secretary to Abraham Lincoln.  
More to come…..   

Day 47, July 20: Charlottesville to Ashland, VA

The penultimate day and hot once again!   Cycled mostly downhill through rolling hills to Ashland.  


Thomas Jefferson at University of Virginia. 


Luckily we arrived in Charlottesville after the rally was over. 


Cycling through country suburbia.  

Good Summaritan to the rescue on a 100 degree day.  A mom and her daughter from Richmond. 



Strolling the aisles to stay cool in the AC of  a country store.  A daily routine….


Coming into Ashland 

Decided to replace my rear tire as it had a few holes in it. 

Boston University’s da man:  http://www.bu.edu/today/2017/mark-williams-bikes-not-bombs/

Stayed in the seediest motel of the trip….

Day 45, July 18: Christiansburg to Lexington, VA

Cool morning at 51 degrees to descend rolling hills to Lexington.  


Nice morning ride.  


Met Alex Hyman from Boston who just started her ride to Seattle. She just left Novartis and will go to  veternary school after she completes her journey.  She asked about the Kentucky dogs and I gave her my perspective.  


Coming into Lexington


Stonewall Jackson was buried here in 1863 after being shot by friendly fire. Robert E. Lee is also buried in Lexington in 1870. 

90 miles today. Onto the Blue Ridge Parkway and Charlottesville tomorrow. 

Day 44, July 17: Damascus to Christiansburg, VA

Another early start today for our climb out of Damascus enroute to Christiansburg (Virginia Tech is located here).  We followed Big Laurel Creek on route 603 most of the way to the pass near Hurricane Mountain and crossed the Appalachian Trail a couple of times.  The ride was lined with blooming white and purple rhododendrons that were 30 feet high. 



Big Laurel Creek


The AT!


Our morning friend at breakfast at the gas station wished us well and was not interested in tenderizing our calf muscles as was the case in Kentucky. 


Climbing the pass


I’ve been taking pictures from my bike as I peddle. I thought I had some good shots of the rhododendrons, but they all came out blurry. 

On the other side of the pass was a most enjoyable gentle serpentine downhill that made for fun banked turns for close to 20 miles.  




A community church in Troutdale; formerly a Lutheran church. 

Coming into Rural Retreat


A former bike shop in Max Meadows


 

A kudzu is an invasive species that is terrorizing the Southeast.  


We could have brought some of the road kill that we’ve seen, but they were closed.  


Between Radford and Christiansburg we liked the bike path.  At 100 miles in Radford we refueled at Sonic.  I had a most tasty hot dog and Mark refueled on chicken strips.  We had our usual Arnold Palmer.  Nothing like another 88 oz to rehydrate.  


Most of 110 miles after the climb was downhill with some short climbs and rolling hills.  We both enjoyed the picturesque mountain views of the Appalachians and the country side of small farms. 

After 9 hours and 20 minutes on the seat (not including rest stops) my butt was sore. 


Sunset in Christiansburg. 

Day 43, July 16: Lookout, KY to Damascus, VA

We got off early today.  We were on the road by 6:20 am, just after sunrise.  We wanted to make up our mileage deficit  from yesterday.  We ended up pushing to Damascus, VA at 95 miles.  

All through this trip we have been overwhelmed by the poor rural areas that we have traveled through.  The lack of infrastructure, poor cell and internet service, food deserts, poor education system, terrible healthcare, the crisis in  methamphetamines and synthetic opioids and the overall poverty level and inadequate housing are just a start.  

Kentucky Blues

The last six days in Kentucky have made this even more apparent.  As you travel east in Kentucky conditions worsen. There is an almost continuous line of rotten and broken down mobile homes that you think nobody is in, but many are occupied – you can tell as the grass is usually cut somewhat or if you are lucky the air conditioning is on.  In the last few days we’ve been a bit glum.  The oppressive and pervasive poverty we’ve ridden through really gets under your skin. Combined with the muddy rivers and streams devoid of life that seem like running cess pools and the never ending barrage of barking dogs that you are constantly scouting out, it just tires you out. 

In Coombs at the Hampton Inn & Suites, our breakfast hostess, Kayla, 22, commuted over 60 miles everyday as that was the only job she could get.  She is a single parent and  has a 2 and 4 year old.  Her parents look after the children. The 4 year old is loosing his teeth and rotting away because he constantly uses his bottle filled with juice (and I’m sure is under nourished) and she is concerned that her 2 year old is not doing well because some days he doesn’t eat much pizza.  She wonders how he’ll survive. She wants to go to college, but can’t afford to go and has to watch the children.  

Just finished the trip and back home and my brother-in-law, Dennis Carroll, sent me the following articles from the Washington Post on Sunday, July 23rd:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/classic-apps/in-former-coal-country-the-working-poor-show-open-contempt-for-neighbors-who-seek-handouts/2017/07/20/b84f8420-4a11-11e7-9669-250d0b15f83b_story.html?utm_term=.4e1885d57c38

Check out this one with startling statistics:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/social-issues/in-rural-america-disability-benefit-rates-are-twice-as-high-as-in-urban-areas/2017/07/22/3e600722-575c-11e7-a204-ad706461fa4f_story.html?utm_term=.66fc47c4737c

Anyway, this morning when we entered Virginia, conditions started improving almost immediately.  At first I couldn’t pin point why we both felt a bit better and soon realized that it was due to the improved conditions we were biking through. One of the first things I noticed was that all of the streams were clear and had fish in them.  The houses and mobile homes all had roofs on them.  

At lunch in Honaker, VA at the Farmers Table we happened to sit next to a women who was a school district administrator for the county abutting Kentucky and she told us that the they loose over a 100 students every year as the parents either move away do to no jobs, the parent(s) go to jail or become opioids addicts.  Very sad.  There are simply no jobs in the area and the synthetic opioids are destroying the fabric of life here.  She said the problem is much worse in Eastern Kentucky.  The school district was able to give its first raise to teachers  in 10 years — 2%!  She said that they hire new teachers every year by the beginning of the summer.  By the end of the summer, they have to start the hiring process over again, as no one wants to teach in this area and they get higher paying teaching jobs elsewhere.  The school district is the largest employer in the county.  

Also in the restaurant were several coal miners who told us quite a lot about coal. Most mining operations are now almost completely automatic and they have robots and mining machines controlled by a few operators at the top of the mine.  What tens of men could do in the past can be done by 1 person now.  Even if coal were to become king again, it wouldn’t create many jobs.  

Maybe our current administration should take a tour through this area. 

Enough for now as we have a big day tomorrow — hoping for 114 miles.  

Bill Coleman called me and told me that he is so inspired by our trip that he and his girl friend, Leigh, will be joining us in Charlottesville and plan on biking with us for the last two days!  

A clean Virginia River with fish in it. 


Mark’s post ride routine at Bobo McFarland’s while we ate.  He’s as good as new each night. 

No times to upload pictures today.  Hopefully tomorrow

Day 42, July 15: Coombs to Lookout, KY

Not as hot today. Fun biking along various creeks and up and down some hills. The afternoon hit us with some long steep ascents at times as high as 15%.

 We ended up not making our target destination of Breaks, VA. We ended up in Lookout, KY. Home of the feuding McCoys (from Pike County) and Hatfields from West Virginia. Some say the feud started over a speckled pig or some left over grievance from the Civil War. In any event the feud finally ended shortly after WWII when a marriage between the two clans occurred

We are staying in the gymnasium of the Babtist Church. Alice Whitetree let us in. In the morning we met Jules Winnfield who is biking from Vancouver to Yorktown on a fixed gear bike. We ended up spending most of the day with him and ended up at the Baptist Church with him. He recently graduated from college and is waiting to hear from the Royal Canadian Mountain Police. 

 We bought chicken salads at the only store in town. A couple of guys with thick accents told us not to go to Haysi or Breaks. It is too far and you have to go over several mountains. LT said he’d bring some moonshine by. I asked him if it would make me blind. He said it is only 110 proof and if I sip it it will do some harm, but not if you slam ’em. He looked around and told me the store owner makes the best. I said it looks like we’ve come to the right place. 73 miles today.  


Eastern Kentucky Terrorists. It seems counterintuitive, but if you stop your bike and yell “No, go home!” You can actually stop a dog attack. Mark, Jules and I did just that and it worked. If we started to bike they would start the chase.    

Can’t load photos today do to poor cell service. 

Day 41, July 14: Berea, Boone Tavern to Coombs, KY

If you want to know what it is like to bike in Kentucky in July,  place your stationary bike in a steam sauna set at about 120 at 7:00 a.m. and start pedaling for a few hours.  At 10:00  turn on 4 heat lamps over your neck and back and turn on a couple more to simulate the heat from the asphalt. Every couple of hours get off and wonder into a store to cool off and buy a gatorade. You can just wonder around your kitchen if you have AC.  As for the dog threat just up your cadence every 20 minutes or so and shout “no” as loud as you can.  


We biked up the Big Hill.  It wasn’t too bad. 


We wanted to ask what a Frosty Ette was, but they weren’t open yet.   


We met Jesse and Wyatt and their dog, Indy where we bought some sandwiches for lunch.  They started in Pensacola and are going to Astoria and then to San Francisco.  Their dog alone weighs 55 pounds. They average 35 miles per day and plan to finish in Mid November.  Wyatt was in the Navy and is taking a break. 

We ate our lunch in Booneville which is in Owsley County.  Owsley County is the second poorest county in the US, but the people are very friendly.  As we pulled up to a bench by a building a man by the name of Bill said please use my office for water or anything else you need to do.  Thank you, Bill. 


Bill Meader’s office. 

A few hills after lunch




We stopped in Buckhorn at the general store and they had everything from paper wasp nests to Timex watches still in their original 1965 case.  


A beautiful church in Buckhorn. 






Appalachia hills


A town before Coombs

 


Coal mine before Coombs

Arrived at the Hampton Inn in Coombs / Hazard at 8:00 p. m. after 97 miles.  We had dinner at Applebee’s.  

Day 40, July 13: Springfield, KY, Elisabeth Goth’s House to Berea, KY, Boone Tavern

Thank you Elisabeth for the best cuisine, massage, visit and sleep in 39 days!   Too short a visit.  Hope to see you in Maine!



We got off around 9:00 am and rode a lovely windy road away from Elisabeth’s place. 


A biking selfie


We didn’t stop here for lunch

The heat and humidity really drain your batteries here. 

In the afternoon we got stuck in a torrential downpour and took partial cover in some trees and bushes for 20 minutes until  the rain stopped.  It was a nice break from the heat and the temp dropped from 94 to 74.  We were soaked!   The relief was short.  As soon as we began to pedal the moisture evaporating from the road and the sun made for ideal steam sauna conditions.  

About 1/2 mile away it didn’t even rain.  A few minor dog incidents – just enough to see how fast you can bike.  


We are staying at the Boone Tavern in Berea.  Berea College runs the hotel and is staffed by students.  Berea College is a liberal arts college and does not charge its students tuition and admits only low income students who cannot afford to attend college. As part of their educational experience every student is required to take part in the campus labor program to help them build skills for their post college lives. 


Boone Tavern


 

Spoon bread — kind of like a corn bread soufflĂ©.  Delicious. 

Day 39, July 12: Falls of Rough, KY, Rough River Lodge to Springfield, KY, Elisabeth Goth’s House

Big push to Springfield and to see my cousin, Elisabeth Goth.  

Falls of Rough Lake


Mark is ready to bike to breakfast 


As usual flowers line the road



Extra fortification.  I wonder if we can tow one of those for dog protection. 

A Mennonite planting tobacco



A hot day to cut hay, rake it up, tie it in bundles, lift it into the cart and put in the barn — all by hand





At lunch I was overwhelmed by all of the tobacco products


We stopped again to eat lunch in Sonora as it was so hot, we just needed some AC and a quick bite to eat with a half gallon of ice tea. 



We left our mark


Nancy was waiting for Art in her RV and we got a tour.  


If you’re in Sonora, at at Brook’s General Store and Cafe. 


Mark and his friends


Bourbon country



Elisabeth meets us at highway 150 and 152 to take us to her house.  We were so happy to see her after 99 miles…

Elisabeth gave us the royal treatment with help from Sarah’s cooking, Ann’s support and Tom the masseuse.  Our visit was way to short.  

We had what was one of the best meals ever.  And I don’t say this because we’ve had poor quality food for the last 39 days. 

  1. The meal.  Salad (with more than iceberg lettuce). Quinoa crusted quiche. Sweet peas and onions. Quinoa. Lamb and lobster.  And for dessert a chocolate flourless cake with  rasperries on top. I had two complete servings of everything.  It was the perfect meal!  

Our cheery host!

After a massage and shower we slept soundly in really comfortable beds.