Day 53 Harrodsburg to Corbin Kentucky
Looking back down a hill on US 25
Today I decided I'd had enough of riding in Kentucky. Unfortunately, I still have about fifty miles of Kentucky left to ride tomorrow. I'm not looking forward to that, but I can't see any practical way to avoid it. The problem, other than the heat, humidity, and hills, is that most of my Kentucky riding has been on roads with unusable shoulders - made that way deliberately - and that, while most drivers are quite polite, the lack of decent shoulders exposed me to a couple of bad semi drivers today. Now maybe Kentucky, like Quebec, has more than its share of nasty big truck drivers, or maybe I was just unlucky, but I don't look forward to exposing myself again tomorrow.
Horse Country north of Danville
My day started well with a good breakfast at my motel and nice interactions with people who I had visited with at the motel yesterday. It was hot and humid when I left, and stayed that was all day, and there was a light headwind. Given the heat and humidity, the light headwind actually improved the riding conditions. The ride on 127 to Danville was unexciting, although the countryside was pretty and I was obviously in horse country with large beautiful homes surrounded by (black) fenced pastures. When I turned off the expressway and rode into Danville on the old road, the houses were old and quite beautiful and the road ran though old stone fences that seem to be a Danville trademark.
Stone fence and pasture south of Danville
Danville was founded in the 1700s by revolutionary war officers who were given landgrants. Centre College, which has a large and impressive campus, was founded around 1800. The street I rode in on, Maple Street, has many home on the National Historic Register. This was also an important contested area in out Civil war, so, if you are interested in such things, Danville has a lot to offer. I was impressed.
After wandering around the college for a while, I headed east on US 150. Just before I did, I saw a couple on a fancy tandem riding east on 150. I rode till I saw a Dairy Queen, then stopped for a milkshake. While sitting in the DQ drinking my shake, I saw another couple go by on another fancy tandem. When I left the DQ, I ran into three couples walking their across the street before mounting them. I visited with one of the couples and discovered that this was a 'Tandems Across America' group of fifteen tandems. They had left California on June 20th and were scheduled to arrive at the Atlantic in Virginia on the August 10th. I commented that they were sagged, and they responded that their gear was carried for them and some group meals were arranged, but that they had to make each days ride on their own. I didn't ask about where they stayed or who provided the support, but they appeared to be B+B rather than camping types. The first couple I saw were young and looked very yuppie in their matching outfits, but most of the group was older folks riding expensive machines while dressed casually. I followed the couple I visited with out of town, and they headed off of 150 onto 52 east.
The tandem folk I visited with riding ahead of me
The end of the rideable shoulder on 150
The old 150: pretty, but hilly with rumble strips and too much traffic
150 was good riding for a while, but then it joined 150 bypass and I was back on an expressway. This expressway didn't even have rideable shoulders for most of its length. When it ended in Stanford, the non expressway 150 had great shoulders for a few miles, but then had no shoulders for the remaining twenty miles to Mount Vernon. This road is the way cars and trucks get to/from I-75. It wasn't too bad for most of the ride, but there were several times when I badly wanted shoulders to get out of the way of traffic. The road climbs over a lot of ridges, and the climbs are often steep. The 35 mph downhills are fun, but the five mph uphills take a lot of time and energy. It took me a lot longer than I expected to reach US 25 a mile or so before Mt Vernon. When I reached it, I was confronted with construction an yet another ridge to climb over.
Construction at the start of US 25
I had planned to eat in Mt Vernon, but, because the riding was slow, I stopped in Brodhead at a small place that offered a $4 dinner buffet. It wasn't great, but there were no other choices and it did the job. When I got to Mt Vernon, I discovered that there are no places to eat along 25. I also discovered that there is a big, steep, hill on 25 before it crosses I-75. I stopped part way up that hill to get a coke and a candy bar. The lady said 'Oh you poor thing, this weather is too hot for bicycling!" and insisted I stand in front of a fan while I consumed my snack. That was a good idea! It was 90 F and very humid and I was climbing a several hundred foot high hill at about a 7% grade. My body was doing its best to get rid of several hundred watts of heat by evaporating a lot of sweat. It evaporated a lot better in front of that fan in the air conditioned store. On a related note, I consumed one gallon of imitation Gatorade today, along with a similar quantity of water.
US 25 after it crosses I-75
I coasted down and under I-75 at 35 mph, then 25 levels out for a while and almost all of the traffic was gone. Ahhhhhh! Of course it didn't stay level, but, for the next fifteen miles, it was nice riding.
Climbing through a cut in the rocks on US 25
The view to the west from US 25
For the first ten miles or so, the hills on US 25 were fairly gentle, I could ride up them at seven or eight mph, then, maybe five miles before it crossed I-75, the hills got steeper and higher. There was a lot of hot climbing in those five miles! Traffic increased a lot - there is a connector to I-75 - and riding wasn't nice anymore. It just got worse as I got further south and closer to London, and I realized that I was experiencing rush hour, so I stopped for supper at a another small country restaurant. This one had a good special and I enjoyed my $4.90, with coffee, meal and cooled down while the traffic rushed by outside. I looked at my map, talked to the people at the cafe, and decided that Corbin was a realistic stopping point for the day. That meant another fifteen or sixteen miles of riding in traffic, but I was told it was pretty flat, and I figured I could handle it.
Riding in London Kentucky
I had my closest semi encounter of this tour a few miles later while riding through the south part of London. It was on a section of road with a center turn lane, gutters but no shoulders, and light traffic. I was riding the while line that separated the gutter from the road at about 15 mph and traffic was going around me at 25 mph or so, making use of the turn lane. I saw a semi, one of a number that passed me on that stretch, coming up behind me, checked to see that the turn lane was empty, and assumed he would pullover as he passed. He didn't pull over at all, and the lane was not wide, so he came very close to hitting me. I don't know what he was thinking, but if I had wobbled at all as he passed me, he would have hit me. He got my second raised finger of the day. The other was raised for a semi that passed me on the expressway section of 150. He wasn't quite as close because I had about six inches of usable shoulder, but he passed me at a place where the rumble strip part of the shoulder had disintegrated into a large pothole and also put me into a situation where there was little or no margin for error. I think both drivers deliberately put me a risk.
When cars, and even more so big RVs, do bad things, it is often because the driver is incompetent or not paying enough attention to their driving. With truck drivers, it can be because they are out of it from being behind the wheel too long, but, more often, it seems to be deliberate behavior. Since our legal system offers little chance that a driver who kills a bicyclist will be punished for doing so, I think these folks are psychos who use their trucks in a way that can hurt people without causing them to be charged with a crime. If he had hit me, the guy in London would have claimed he didn't see me, the police would have noted that I wasn't riding in the gutter, and therefore it was my fault, and that would have been the end of it.
Riding to Corbin was not great fun, but also not too bad. Sometimes the traffic was heavy and sometimes there was a bit of shoulder. I did see, and exchange greetings with, a recreational cyclist on this stretch. When I got to where 25E crosses 25, I was distressed to see heavy truck traffic - the traffic looked worse than I-75 which I crossed earlier - and unrideable shoulders. If it stays that bad, I may try hitchhiking. I rode on into Corbin, skipped the motel that advertized $20 and up, and stopped at the Holiday Motel where I paid $24 cash for a room with a kingsized bed and a telephone that I can us to access the net. It isn't fancy, but it works.