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It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye

The house woke up much quicker today. I was making coffee when Josh came down, followed shortly by his lady friend, then Kelsey and Jared. We had discussed our plans for the day yesterday so we packed up the car and headed to Strange Donuts, then to Sump Coffee. As expected, the donuts were amazing and unique. One was a chili verde, another Mexican chocolate.

Sump is a highly celebrated coffee shop and roaster, and didn’t disappoint. The owner has an awesomely huge beard and shaved head, and a representation of him is the emblem for the shop. It is also the coffee used by Perennial for their coffee beers. The man is intimidating, partly because of his appearance, but also because of his knowledge. These guys (the owner and other employees present) know their coffee and take it very seriously.

The double shot I ordered was delightful. I smelled it for a couple of minutes and felt caffeinated from that. And the crema could have held a penny, I think. I wasn’t willing to try. After the shot, I got some beans and asked for advice on how to optimize the Aeropress. One of the employees competes each year in the US Aeropress competition and was happy to lay some knowledge on me. It also turned out these guys are familiar with one of Louisville’s local coffee shops, Sunergos. Small world. They were telling me about something called kratommasters, apparently a health supplement they had been trying. They told me it had been working great for them. I think I’m going to look into it, maybe even use it myself. I was already considering adding something similar to my daily routine if I’m being perfectly honest.

Next, we went to Square One Brewery for second breakfast. It was pretty full, but, once again, Jared knew someone and that helped move us along quickly. The beers and food were good, but not great. One beer was particular foul, but another was really nice. Thus is life.

Josh left shortly after that. He had brought me a new cycling jersey that the guys from New Holland sent to me. It was a long sleeve Dragon’s Milk mountain biking jersey, so the sleeves were cut off most of the way, careful to keep the dragons on the shoulders. Jared was kind enough to run me to the KATY Trail near Trailhead brewery. He hadn’t been there so we decided to have some beers.
The beers were completely unremarkable, not off flavored but not exciting. Boring and not easily differentiated between. The nachos were great though. Jared saw me off as I hit the KATY.

The KATY is a converted railroad that ran from St. Louis to Kansas City (really Kansas-Missouri-Texas), and it is the longest Rails-to-Trails project in the US. I had planned to ride roughly 250 miles on it over the course of the next week, hoping to be near Kansas City by Thursday so I could watch the opening game of the World Cup.

The best part about the KATY: no cars. At one point I found a bar, had a couple of beers and got a 6 pack of Heineken to go. For whatever reason, I wanted to drink a beer while I rode, and hadn’t had a safe opportunity to do so until now. So for the next ten miles, I had Heinekens and the open trail.

Eventually I made it to Klondike Park shortly after nightfall. I found my way to the shower house and information kiosk, where I was promptly confronted by a park ranger. She was friendly but stern about certain requirements. It is against the park rules to hang anything from trees, including hammocks. Fortunately, I know some good buzz words related to camping that make park rangers excited. I told her it was safe for the cambium layer of the tree and was highly regarded by the Leave No Trace group for its minimal impact on the environment. The last part isn’t entirely true, but that’s the joy of having more knowledge than someone expects you to have.

I found a campsite, set it up, had a beer and made food. At one point, the ranger came to check on me. We began to talk about visitor regulations, nature, wildlife and plants. As I have a master’s degree in this field, it was easy to impress her, not that I needed to try. The best part was when she offered to let me “raid and eat her bush.” She was referring to a mulberry bush, but Freudian slips are a real thing. We laughed and she left embarrassed. I feel asleep.

Published: June 28, 2014 | Comments: 0

Safety Meetings in St. Louis

I woke up before the rest of the house.  My body has officially switched back to a more normal sleep schedule, so I made coffee as quietly as I could and did some internet stuff.  It took some time to get the house rolling.  Apparently Jared has several stages of waking up, and each one takes some time.  Eventually, we made it to brunch and then to a new local beer store, where we got some bottles to share that evening.

Josh and his new lady friend arrived shortly after 2pm.  Bottles were opened as we devised a plan of attack for the day.  All of us wanted to tour Schlafly with Jared at the helm, so that was first.  Before I left for this tour, Jared had warned me that I wouldn’t be allowed in the brewery if I had open toe shoes.  No problem, I have my crocs with me.  Then when I arrived yesterday, I was informed it was now the policy of no open toe or heeled shoes.  Bullshit.  I argued and he caved, barely.

In order to have a tasting room, Schlafly had to do some interesting licensing.  Rather than have a brewery or malt beverage license, Schlafly operates as a winery, and as such must produce a cider year round.  They are finally releasing the cider to the market this summer, which I am sure will be very accepting of it.  It’s a great, well-balanced cider.

The brewery is highly automated, although not as much as others I’ve visited.  Jared had fun startling me by opening and closing valves and turning on the vents.  He is very at home in the brewhouse, and clearly happy being there.

We toured the whole operation, from hot side to fermentation to filtration to bottling and kegging.  Every station has its own safety regulations, and the whole time Jared was calling other people out on non-safe wear (mostly safety glasses not being worn).  This kid is too safe sometimes, but understandably so.

Post tour, we went to Perennial.  As mentioned previously, Perennial’s head brewer also runs another brewery out of the space, called Side Project.  These are extremely limited release beers entirely fermented with “wild” yeasts and aged in barrels.  The two breweries had recently bought three oak foeders, two for Perennial and one for Side Project.  I was super excited to see those, as well as to taste the rest of Perennial’s beers. (Imagine a foeder as a large, upright barrel, primarily used in wine making)

This trip, I had first encountered Perennial in DC at a SAVOR event at Churchkey.  Side Project had done a bottle release that morning and we arrived a couple hours after it had settled down.  Beers were ordered, friends were made, and I asked for a tour.  Jared knows everyone but isn’t always as forthcoming about my needs.  I needed a tour (maybe not needed, but hey I wanted one real bad), so when I met a local beer blogger who is good friends with the brewery, I threw it out there.  He was happy to oblige.

The foeders were the highlight for me.  In order to get the foeders in place, they had to manual chip a little over 6 inches from a wall.  I may have climbed in one for a better look (it was stained red, and smelled lovely).  We shared another beer at Perennial and moved on to 4 Hands.

At the Strange Donut Festival, I had been able to try a couple of the 4 Hands beers.  They were great, although I thought the orange peel was over played in one (sometimes I fixate on certain flavors or ingredients and can’t “taste” past them.  I’m working on it).  I was excited to try their Passionfruit Prussia, a Berliner-weisse with passionfruit added.  It was amazing.  I did a flight after the Prussia; all were great, but I should have gotten another Prussia.

Next we went to the Schlafly brewpub.  It is the original location, and there is a decent number of beers served here that are brewed here.  We got to try several new-to-us beers and were entertained by a raucous wedding upstairs.  None of us could understand how they were making so much noise, so once my curiosity won over, I headed upstairs.  It was quite the scene with dudes taking their shirts off and waving them over head.  The main noise was coming from one particular drunk and large guy trying to keep time with the music.  He was not succeeding.  I grabbed two butter gooey pies and rolled.

Judging that sobriety was in short order, we headed home to split some bottles.  Jared was nice enough to open Fuzzy, one of the highest ranked and most sought after Side Project beers.  Words don’t adequate describe how amazing this wonderfully peachy, sharply sour beer is.  I wanted to smell it all night, and did a pretty good job of it.  We also opened a bottle of 2nd Shifts Green Bird Gose, one of the best American Goses I’ve ever had.  I was hoping to visit that brewery in the next couple of days and this made me even more excited.

Published: June 27, 2014 | Comments: 0

Schlafly, Strange Donuts, Fun

I woke up in the makeshift site.  Anytime I stealth camp, I sleep really lightly, constantly afraid I will be discovered and…..well, use your imagination.  I got out of the hammock quickly, used the toilet (aka cat holes), and hit the road.  There was a town 15 miles north and I hoped to have breakfast there.  The morning air was full of dew but the temp was nice.  On the way into town, I got passed by a truck which was honking emphatically.  It was one of my friends from last night.  Today had started off great.

I ate breakfast, again biscuits, gravy, eggs and sausage, and rode the remaining 50 miles to Schlafly . The roads going into St. Louis weren’t the greatest, a lot of fractured surfaces with some deep potholes.  There was a large shoulder for a good part of the trip, but that shoulder would suddenly vanish forcing you onto the road.  This is a huge problem when you’re cruising downhill at 30mph with both lanes of traffic full. But I managed.

I arrived at Schlafly Bottleworks around 1pm.  There are two Schlafly locations, Bottleworks (production brewery with attached bar and restaurant), and the original brewpub.  Jared is one of the brewers at Bottleworks, and an all around badass.

Every time I get somewhere I intend to stay for a bit, I immediately strip.  In the bathroom usually, but off with the shoes, socks, riding shorts, and anything else I can.  Then all of it gets laid out on my bike, using it as one big drying rack.  After I changed, I went to every window I could to press my face against it in hopes of seeing Jared in action.  No avail, so to the bar for beers and eventually food.

About ten minutes after arriving Jared came out to say hi.  Turns out he had gone out front, seen the disaster area that is my bike and gear, and knew I was here.  We talked briefly then he went back to work.  Friday is brewery cleaning day, and outside of safety, cleanliness is the name of Jared’s game.

I managed to consumed several beers before he was finished with work.  He only lives a couple of blocks from Schlafly, so we went there to clean up and formulate a plan.  Turned out today was National Donut Day, and a local donut maker was throwing their first Donut Day festival.  All I had to do was pretend like I knew what I was doing, and I could have a pass.  Done.

We arrived before the it began, and Jared took me around to meet all the different beer people.  There were only five breweries there, but all are producing great products.  Eventually I fell in with the guy from Perennial, which was no accident.  I’ve had several Perennial beers, and all have been outstanding.  Not to mention their head brewer has a side project, called….Side Project, that is also amazing.  He had brought a couple of rare bottles, so I buddied up and made friends.

As with most beer festivals, I have a hard time not working/helping.  This one was no different.  Schlafly had two people working their booth, Perennial had one.  I learned the spiel then began pouring for Perennial.  Fortunately, I had investigated the taproom hours and news, so I was able to bullshit my way through most all questions.  I poured for a solid three hours, all the while consuming various forms of delicious beverages.  (read this as Barrel Aged Abraxxas, Sump Abraxxas, 2nd Shift Katy, and Side Project Saison du Fermiere, amongst others).

The festival was pretty awesome.  It was put on by Strange Donuts, and they kept it real strange.  There were a couple of DJs spinning all kinds of crazy tunes.  My favorite was the ninja, yes a damn ninja.  He (or she as I couldn’t tell) came in and set up a blank with their different “tools.”  There were nunchucks, throwing stars, throwing knives, a knife on a string, and some other randomness.  This was no ordinary ninja, it was a dancing techno ninja.  I was amazed and overjoyed to watch the madness unfold.

Later in the night, a hula hooping female came out and put on quite a show.  She overshadowed a sword swallower, who was annoyed to be shown up.  After the festival ended, we visited a new brewery, Modern, that was in the same area.  The beers were good, but I was disturbed by the mash paddles in the corner.  They were cut out with the two owners names, like his and her towels.

We left the festival and headed to Urban Chestnut, a newish brewery focused on German style beers.  I had had the Zwickel beer before I left on the trip, and loved it.  The brewery itself is huge, and, go figure, German designed, with the bar being styled after a German beer hall.  We drank several zwickels and then decided it was time for sleep.  Our good friend Chef Josh was coming in tomorrow, and he would presumably be ready to party.

 

Published: June 27, 2014 | Comments: 0

Popeye, Dew Drop Inn

I left at a decent hour and made for the border of Illinois at Chesterfield, which is the home and basis of Popeye.  There are statues and paintings all over town.  I’ve never been a huge Popeye guy, so I took a couple of photos but didn’t dive deep into the history.  I had a goal: make it to St. Louis in two days, and fulfill a promise I had made months before to Jared.

While taking some photos, I came across a group of Harley riders.  When they approached, I realized they were all French, and fascinated by Popeye and the crazy bike rider.  We spoke briefly, me using broken French and them in English.  Then to the bridge across the Mississippi to Missouri.

Months before I had told Jared, a friend who works at Schlafly Brewery in St. Louis, that I would be riding to see him this coming weekend.  His response was to “pencil it in.”  Screw him, I said I’d be there, so smart ass me told him to ink it in and expect madness.  Therefore, I had to arrive on time, if not early.  Early sounded better so I hoped to make it the next day shortly after lunch to pester him while he worked.

After crossing into Missouri (which Jared informed me is pronounced “Miss-eer-a” in these parts), I passed a local bar.  I’m a real sucker for local bars, and really bars in general.  I had ridden 70 miles at this point, and with the threat of rain impending, decided I needed a beer.  Bars are great places to gain an understanding of the locals and to get information about roads and camping.  I needed somewhere to camp that was safe and hopefully legal.  Instead, I made friends and drink beer.

When I walked in, the entire bar (all ten of the regulars) turned to see who was coming in.  I later learned that each regular arrives like clock work, so my timing wasn’t in sync with their schedule.  I ordered a Stagg, a throw back light lager, a regional cheap beer.  It wasn’t great but the atmosphere made it.  Once everyone settled in, I made quick friends, especially my two nearest neighbors.  One was the local butcher and union enthusiast.  The other worked multiple jobs as trailer park owner, lawn maintenance, and scrapper.  Both were more than nice.  They liked me because I harassed everyone around them, including them.  Regulars are regulars and they all love the sense of community that can exist in the right bar.  These were no different, and having handled similar scenarios, I slid in as one of the regulars.

A couple of funny notes on the Dew Drop Inn.  According to the regulars, it is mentioned in a Charlie Daniel’s Band song on the Easy Rider soundtrack (the song was immediately queued up on the juke box so I could understand).  The funny part is I’m almost certain in the song he says he is in Texas or some southern state, not Missouri.  I kept my mouth shut.  The other oddity was how every patron at the bar had at least two packs of cigarettes in front of them.  Several had whole cartons.  I guess they really don’t want to run out.

By the time I had consumed more than a half dozen beers, I was invited to the next stop four miles up the road.  I threw my bike in the back of my new scrapper friend’s truck, and got a tour of the area.  Here’s so and so’s land, he’s an asshole.  Here’s the local crazy person land, don’t camp here or else he’ll come out of nowhere and kill you.  That’s my trailer park.

We arrived, I ordered more Stagg and fried pickles.  The whole time we were at our second stop, I was trying to get someone to take me far north or to give me a place to sleep.  All to no avail.  Then it was 9pm, I was intoxicated, as was everyone else around me.  My new friend, who was feeling sympathetic, told me there was a V in the road ahead, and some older woman owned that property.  She would never notice me as long as I was gone early in the morning.  Sweet.  Home for the night.

Published: June 27, 2014 | Comments: 0

Foraging for a Good Time

I woke up with a start; one of the stakes holding my rain fly had ripped out of the ground.  The wind was raging, so I jumped out of the hammock and buckled down the fly.  Then it started to rain, not too hard, but with the speed of the wind it seemed terrible.  My Aeropress was buried in one of my bags, but the last beer from yesterday was nearby.  Easy choice: I put my headphones in, opened a beer, and watched the wind storm.  Then I made coffee.

It only lasted a couple of hours.  Nothing too serious, but a great excuse to lay in the hammock longer and not peddle.  It would be a short day to Scratch, and I had told Aaron my plan to try to beat the afternoon storms.  He was extremely helpful, and even offered to let me camp on site (before I could try to weasel my way to that).

Once I had packed and was making to go, my campsite neighbor pulled out from under a tarp the most unusual motorcycle/tricycle/play toy I had seen in some time.  Its best described as a motorcycle front wheel and saddle with the rear end of some ‘80s era sports car.   He made it 15 odd years ago and was more than happy to let me take his picture, which I did.  Numerous times.

I left Crabtree Orchard and headed for Carbondale, a popular town on the transAmerican route.  Passing a Thai restaurant, I decided to eat.  It was a great choice; super delicious and relatively healthy.  From there I fought the wind out to Scratch.  There isn’t a lot around the brewery, especially since its located 2 miles off the main route on a forested tract of land.

When I arrived, Aaron was tagging some new kegs with a stencil he had made, and on the outside table, there was a day old cluster of chicken of the woods, an edible mushroom.  The tasting room is only open two days a week, but Aaron was more than happy to let me taste everything.  The brewery is small, only 2 barrels.  This allows Aaron and his two partners to produce a variety of beers using all kinds of ingredients, particularly foraged and farmed ingredients.

Aaron explained that he had a long love affair with plants, and having grown up on this tract, he was intimately familiar with the regional plants.  We became fast friends while discussing plants and beer.  Fortunately I am also a plant nerd, and love beer.

I sampled through all nine of their beers, including some made with nettle, basil, maple sap, rose, and lotus seed.  Needless to say, each beer was unique and interesting, and the vast majority were damn good.  Perhaps the collective uniqueness made them taste better, but I was hooked and fascinated.  Infatuated with the concept, an idea I had always wanted to explore, I soaked up all the information I could from Aaron.

Once we had sampled thru, he offered to make me a calzone.  Turns out, he built a wood fired oven out back to do bread and calzones during tastings.  I was there on a Wednesday and the oven was still piping hot without any addition of wood since Sunday.   My ingredients were similar to the beers: local garlic scapes, local sausage, local mozz, and spent grain bread using a local sour dough starter.  It was an amazing calzone.

We talked for some time more on topics mainly related to travel, plants, fungi, and beer.  As I examined the tasting room, I realized he had a gum ball machine which contained fossils, dried herbs, and fungi.  Awesome.  Also there was  large muriel on the wall of the Piasa bird, a local Native American creature found depicted on the walls of the Mississippi River by the first European explorers.  And the entire room is lined with dried herbs and fungi.

Aaron had a date, so I set up my hammock and made to relax.  He had filled a half growler for me, so I was set on beer.  It rained and then cleared up, which made the surrounding garden and hop yard glow in the late afternoon light.  It was a great finish to a terrific day.

Published: June 26, 2014 | Comments: 0

Leaving KY; Off Route

After my morning coffee, I explored the biker shelf.  This is an area where previous riders leave extra gear and food stuff that they don’t want to carry.  This communal shelf/box idea is very common on long distance hiking trails, but less so on this route.  It was here where I found a map with a route that would cut off 35 miles of my tour.

There were storms predicted for the next two nights, especially the following afternoon.  I had the good fortune of contacting Aaron from Scratch Brewery in Ava, IL.  I had planned to meet him tomorrow, early in the afternoon.  With the weather looking scketchy and knowing how much distance I needed to cover, I decided to take the short cut.  It would mean riding 95 miles today, and then only 35 the next.

I said goodbye to Russ and Ed.  Ed was finished in Carbondale, IL, where he had resumed his tour last year after an unfortunate accident in Lexington, VA.  Once to Carbondale, he will have ridden the entirety of the trans American route.  Russ was continuing on, solo.  I think he was a little nervous about not having someone else around to ride with.  It seemed to be more for companionship than for lack of experience.  Hopefully, Russ and I will cross paths when I rejoin the route, somewhere in Colorado.

I trusted the Garmin to route me to my starting point for the shortcut.  This was a mistake.  Initially the riding was beautiful, then it routed me through a corn field, as if a road had always been there even though my eyes told me that wasn’t the case.  I trusted my gut (something that has been smart thus far, especially in terms of navigation), and continued on the country road I was on.  Eventually I made it to my road, and began cruising towards Illinois.

I crossed Illinois at Shawneetown, and said goodbye to the Ohio River, but not before saving two turtles in KY.  When I crossed into Shawneetown, I decided to stop at a BBQ restaurant.  At least the sign said BBQ, but when I got inside and read the menu, there was a surprising dearth of anything smoked.  I got the daily special: chicken and noodles, mash potatoes, green beans, “seasonal” fruit (my quotes), and biscuit.  Destroyed it and rode on.

My goal for the day was Crabtree Orchard Lake, located about 35 miles from Ava, and just east of Carbondale.  I toured the entirety of the camping area upon arrival, and eventually found a spot away from the families and children and close to the water.  The lake and park are heavily used, but beautiful.  I had picked up a four pack of Big Muddy Galaxy IPA and was more than happy to tear into that.

The wind was blowing and the temp was enjoyable.  I’ve developed some great tan lines at this point, especially on my thighs (I keep hiking them up so there are numerous lines across my thighs). The sun set over the lake as I finished the third can.  I’d end up keeping the four one until the morning, which as it turned out I was thankful for.

Published: June 26, 2014 | Comments: 0

Roughing it to Sebree

After a comped breakfast at the resort restaurant, I headed out with the intention of riding to Sebree, where there is a church hostel that caters to cyclists.  I’m not crazy about staying at churches, but was excited to meet up with two riders I hadn’t seen since Hayter’s Gap.

The riding was uneventful but flat.  More farms, more coal plants, and a Tyson chicken plant which looked like a nuclear fallout shelter.  Behind it was a coal power plant; it was a great Kentucky portrait.

I’ve grown overly found of Snickers and Gatorade this trip.  Both were available to me on the AT but not so frequently.  They have become my go to snack and drink at gas stations across the country.  The only thing I wish gas stations did was freeze the Snickers for me.  Cold, non-ice cream, shattering Snickers.  Hell yes.  But it still hasn’t happened.

Before I made it to the church hostel, I passed a local diner and was forced to stop and eat.  Forced by the power of my stomach.  After a delightful pork tenderloin sandwich and tots, I headed to the hostel.  It had started to rain but I didn’t have very far to go.

When I arrived, both Russ and Ed were already settled in.  They gave me the grand tour, which was quite the grandiose tour.  The church allowed cyclists to use their youth group area, which constituted the entire basement, replete with foosball, ping pong, multiple rooms, mattresses, a full kitchen, and shower.  My favorite part was how they used AAA state maps to form the entire USA.  It is a great and inexpensive way to create a wall map.

The guys asked if I was in for splitting dinner costs, with Russ acting as chef de cuisine.  Of course I was, as the pork sandwich had already run its course.  They left for the grocery while I showered and got situated.  Although we all beat the rain getting to the hostel initially, they both got drenched while on the grocery run.  I tried not to laugh, and don’t think they noticed when I gave in and laughed at my fortune.

Chef Russ made an excellent spaghetti with ground beef and spicy sausage sauce.  While we were prepping everything, a member of the church came in to lead her biweekly zumba class.  I’ve never known anything about zumba, other than what I can stereotype about it.  I would go into details about the stereotypes in my head, but suffice to say the group of women who congregated for the class fit many of them.  The music was terrible.  The moves hurt me to watch. But I was glad to see such a variety of women working out.  It was painfully clear their health hadn’t been a priority for some time, and several were actively trying to change that.  Good for them.

We tortured them with Chef Russ’s sauce and store bought garlic bread.  Several times we (the cyclists) commented how we genuinely felt bad to be tempting these poor souls who were trying to loose weight with a meal meant to keep us from loosing weight.  As we feasted, we had no choice but to watch them doing their zumba.  Inside I laughed some more.

I slept in one of the Sunday school classrooms where students had written the “Human History According to God” on the walls around the room.  It made for some interesting reading, and I was glad it wasn’t labeled as just “Human History.”  Hopefully, that means there is an understanding of the difference between the two.  Although I suspect not.

 

Published: June 24, 2014 | Comments: 0

Rough River Day Off 

By Sunday, everyone had to return to the real world.  I was able to convince a good friend to both give me a lift up the road and to take my dog back home (which means I got more dog time).  After lazily packing my stuff and cleaning the Cabin, we departed for Rough River, a man-made lake and state resort park.  I was undetermined as to my destination for the day but was considering taking a zero day, mainly because I had partied a little too hard for two days and wasn’t feeling starting to ride at 3pm in the hot sun.

I met a touring couple who had just arrived at the resort park, and we agreed to meet for lunch/dinner.  They were taking their time across the US; a friend was to meet them in CO in mid-July so there was no hurry.  I respect that as too many people seem to be rushing across.  There is no deadline except what you set for your self.  I wasn’t in a hurry either.

I checked in to the resort, and made for my room.  I figured I’d shower and map my ride to St. Louis and Kansas City.  I knew about how I wanted to go but hadn’t finalized anything yet.  Food options were limited to the park’s restaurant, and I had nothing in my food bag.  No snacks except for some old easter candy my mom had sent with the dog.

I later felt justified in my decision as it rained and stormed for a couple of hours that afternoon.   Further, I was able to finalize my travel plans for the next two weeks and make sure the people I intended to stay with knew I was coming.  For real coming.  It seems people don’s always believe you when you say you will ride to meet them at some point.  I was coming with a mission.

Published: June 24, 2014 | Comments: 0

Cabin! Oak! Friends! Cabin!

After a wonderful evening, I woke up early but still took my time leaving.  It was such a great campsite that I decided to have a couple cups of coffee then head out.  As expected I was joined by a group of high school students before they went to school.  There were five trucks, and the drivers had come to the boat ramp to do burn outs before school.  Fortunately I was awake and it was nice out, but the smell of burnt rubber in the morning is shitty.  I waited until they were far away and I knew school had started before I rode the ascending roller coaster to begin my day.

The Cabin is a place that is very dear to my heart.  A group of friends and I have been coming here since high school, and it was our little piece of paradise.  There are several ponds, a bunk house, a cabin from the late 1800’s, and a lake, with an island in it.  We have shared numerous memories and probably lost some as well.  Needless to say, I had been anticipating this day since the beginning of the trip.  And another major bonus…my dog, Oak, would be joining me.

The ride was relatively easy; lots of roller coaster hills as the road I was on went fairly straight across the state.  When I got to Morgantown, I had arrived in known territory.  I stopped for brunch at the Kountry Kitchen, our normal post-Cabin breakfast.  When I was leaving, a group of gentlemen asked where I was going and where I had come from.  After some talk I learned that one of the guys was the uncle of the man who was the caretaker for the Cabin.  Small damn world.

I had ten miles to go from the Kitchen, and knew the terrain well.  There were more hills but also a most glorious destination.  When I got to the road turn off which leads to the Cabin, I put the GoPro on.  I needed to record this for myself for future times.

I turned onto the Heine Highway and was elated, except for the loose gravel hill climb where I almost wiped out.  As soon as I dismounted, I stripped to tights only and jumped in the pond, where I was immediately kissed by a fish (which is a little more than surprising).  I had the place to myself for four hours before the lads arrived.  My dog was more excited to be at the cabin, and only seemed to come to me after she had made her rounds.  Apparently, my friend whose watching her is doing a more than adequate job.

There was beer, pork butts, friends, music, and fun.  We partied until late and did it again the next day.  I may or may not have caused a friend to tip the canoe and fall in the lake; and another friend returned the favor to me. Who cares?  It was an absolute blast.

Published: June 23, 2014 | Comments: 0

Mammoth Cave Detour

I packed quickly and quietly; ate a snack and was ready to leave.  Before I could depart, the lady from the gas station came by to invite me to grab some food for breakfast from the station.  I thanked her profusely for everything and told her I would grab something.  I lied.  She had been so nice to me, and I really didn’t want to take advantage of the situation.  I realized I had to always carry some cash for instances like this.

Today was the day I had planned to ride to Mammoth Cave National Park.  There is a Mammoth Cave connector routed on the maps I am carrying, and I had devised a way to ride half of it, then pick up Highway 70 to the Cabin.  Iv’e been to Mammoth Cave before so I hadn’t planned to tour any caverns, only to camp.

The riding was excellent; overcast, mid 70’s, and not on busy roads.  I was again passed by several farm implements, but also got to save several turtles (I love me some turtles).  I was chased by a couple of dogs, and was finally able to capture a dog chasing me with the GoPro.  Its not the best chase scene ever, but it does give some idea of what it’s like.

Before I entered the park, I stopped at a small grocery for some nightly provisions.  Of course I was in a dry county so no beer.  Pickles, summer sausage, sharp cheddar, mustard, and crackers were purchased and loaded into the panniers.  It was a heavy food load but sounded delicious (and was).

Riding through Mammoth was extremely pleasurable.  Wildlife abounds and the forest seems to glow a particularly healthy shade of green.  When I arrived at the visitor’s center, it was packed with families and children.  I asked the rangers a variety of questions regarding camping, and eventually decided to ride twenty more miles to Holston Ferry, where there is a camping area and boat ramp.

I should have known better than to sleep at a boat ramp in KY.  Not because of rednecks or danger, but the descent and subsequent early morning ascent.  As I cruised towards the Ferry, I passed a high school.  It was the second to last day of school and the students were flying out of the lot to almost freedom.  I passed by safely but made a mental note to pay attention tonight and in the morning.

After the high school the roller coaster descent began.  I was hauling ass as I finally made it to the campsites.  No one was down there, only two parked trucks with empty boat trailers.  It was beautiful, right on the Green River, by myself.  I had already decided to go swimming so after camp was made and I had eaten I little, I donned the GoPro to test its waterproofness.  The water was wonderful and relatively clean (not muddy, certainly trash free).

The rest of the afternoon was wonderfully uneventful.  I built a nice fire, one of my first of this trip, and enjoyed my sausage avec accoutrement.  For tomorrow, I was super stoked to ride to the Heine Cabin.

Published: June 23, 2014 | Comments: 0

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