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Old Rebs and Home Boys

I awoke relatively early, around 7.  It had sprinkled through out the night but nothing too serious, certainly not serious enough for me to run to my new friend’s cabin.  As I was making coffee, my new friend came over to invite me to egg sandwiches, coffee, and conversation.  I had hoped to get an early start on the day, but was curious to hear his story, just as curious as he was to hear mine.

His story was an interesting one.  He was from northern KY and had been called (by a dream) to Elkhorn City, where he eventually ended up purchasing the pay lake and surrounding 25+ acres.  He really needed someone to talk to who wasn’t a redneck local.  He told me that most of the people in town lived off of the government and were thus big fans of Obama and the government.  He wasn’t so much anti-Democrat or pro-Reublican, but rather anti-government.

After almost an hour and a half, I finally excused myself.  He kept going.  I was led to the premier campsite and offered it for the weekend (it was Memorial Day weekend and thus highly prized).  I continued to excuse myself until eventually I was able to ride away, up the terrible gravel hill and into Elkhorn City.  It had been a great conversation, very lively and respectful.  And he was an extremely interesting man, but I had miles to cover and needed to hit the road.

The hills and hollers of eastern KY were quite challenging.  The natural scenery was beautiful, while the cultural scenery was curious and at times sad.  The people living in these areas are poor.  Really poor.  Their properties are covered in trash, with a lot of cheap plastic throw away toys and lawn furniture in most piles.  The dogs are terrible.  I was chased at least five different  times, once by a pack of four large dogs – I managed to out run all of them.

Most of the roads in these parts go straight up hills and then straight down.  There was one climb towards the end of my day that really wore me out.  I stopped to break on top of the hill and was immediately greeted by a kitten.  The first truck to pull up was stopping to make sure I was alright, which I was, so I offered them the kitten.  No takers.  The next truck was going the opposite direction and pulled over without noticing me (I had on a blaze yellow vest, and my bike is covered in reflective material).  The driver (guy) immediately got out and started peeing.  The passenger (girl) got out, and while on her phone did a one handed jean short drop and squat.  I was stunned and grossed out.  I turned to the kitten, a far pretty creature, so as to not have to witness this spectacle of KY culture.  As she was shaking herself dry, she noticed that I was back there.  She didn’t care.  The couple loaded back into the truck and sped away. I said goodbye to kitty and enjoyed a wondrous descent down the hill.

The roads were mostly enjoyable except for one point when the route follows a pretty busy highway.  There is a large shoulder but you are completely exposed, and when it’s hot out, that’s a bad thing.  After turning off that road, I saw a sign I had been waiting for: Elk Crossing Next 8 Miles.  Kentucky has the largest elk herd east of the Mississippi, and I remember when they were first reintroduced a couple of decades ago.  I immediately put the GoPro on and hoped to see one of theses massive beast in my home state.  No luck.

When I arrived in Hindman, I had the intention of buying some food and doing at least ten more miles.  While at the grocery, a pizza shop owner from the next town over (Hazard) kept walking by trying to sell pizzas.  He stopped when he got to me, and mentioned that if I told him where I was going and agreed to send him a postcard, I could have a free large pizza.  Deal.  After eating over half, I realized I wasn’t going anywhere and would need to find a place to sleep.

A call to the local hostel made me realize I should have planned better.  They aren’t always open or ready for guest so I was referred to Charlie, who lived just up the road on the route.  Delighted to have a place to sleep, I headed to Charlie’s.  I had been looking for hammock sites and hadn’t seen any all day.  The most promising ones were down ATV trails, and I didn’t want to get caught stealth camping around a group of ATV riders late at night.  When I pulled up to Charlie’s (a serious uphill drive way), he and his cousin were on the porch enjoying the afternoon.  Charlie is a retired semi-truck driver and he had bought the house where he and his mom were both born before he retired.  Coincidentally, he had lived in the town just south of where I used to live in Ohio.  He was from Franklin; I was from Springboro. He couldn’t believe me but after some discussion of the town he realized I couldn’t make that much information up.  I was in immediately.

We talked for some time, the whole while I kept thinking how I really wanted to change clothes and get out of these tights.  But we talked.  And it was interesting.  He told me all about tractor pulls and his life in them.  I got to see some amazing photos from the 70s of him driving tricked out tractors.  I also got to pick up on some good lingo (“she’d make a Holstein jealous” “her mother looked like a barrel”).  Eventually I made it to my camping site and set up the hammock.  Charlie had invited me to dinner, which I of course accepted.  We had pork chops, potatoes, beans, and long conversations.

A funny gesture of his was how he punctuated a statement.  Where some people raise their eyebrows or do a more Monty Python related nudge with “you know what I mean”, Charlie would take off his hat and stick his tongue out.  I’m quite certain it’s an unconscious move, but was awesome to watch. He had the most majestic KY waterfall I’d seen in a long time.

After dinner, we talked some more until I realized it was 11:30.  I needed to get to bed so I could make it to Berea in two days.  At the time, I thought I only had one day to make it.  Turns out I had lost track of my days and had a full extra day to do as I pleased.  Excellent.

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