Paintsville to Pikeville, KY

Heading south from Paintsville in the haze this morning

Well, I should have rented a car and driven from Columbus, OH to Asheville, NC in one day, but I felt like riding and, in Columbus where it was reasonably cool, that seemed quite do-able. Now I'm half way home, in Pikeville, and I don't see any way I can ride home from here. The problem is the weather, the mountains between here and home, and the fact that the heat yesterday and today, has screwed up my body chemistry.

Yesterday I got into heat exhaustion because I was riding in very hot (body temperature) and very humid (air saturated with water vapor) conditions on moderately hilly (one quarter Blue Ridge Parkway ;-}) conditions. Today, as a result of riding in those same conditions while suffering from heat exhaustion, I got so dehydrated that I passed out. I've been there, done that, on both heat exhaustion and passing out because of dehydration before, but under circumstances where I didn't have to continue under the same conditions. This time there is no way I can avoid the heat and the humidity. I saw a weather forecast for the next week at this morning. It was an exercise in how many ways you can say very hot and very humid - one day said Steamy! The climbing gets much harder 25 miles south of here when my route goes into the Appalachian Mountains, so it is time to end this tour.

I saw too many of these signs today, each at the top of a hill that I had had a hard time climbing

I knew this morning that I would have rough time today, but I hoped I would be able to recover some more from the heat exhaustion and be able to climb into Virginia tomorrow. What I forgot about was the, relatively, big hills around Prestonsburg, which I had to ride through on my way here. I was able to ride, slowly, but without a great deal of problem on the flats, but my climbing speeds were about half normal and sweat poured off my body when I was climbing. I climbed about 1200 feet in 40 miles today - not bad by my normal standards - but 800 feet of that climbing was in less than 5 miles near Prestonsburg. That is a lot of climbing for such a short distance and, although I was able to do it, it caused me to become quite dehydrated. Because of the effects of heat exhaustion, I didn't feel thirsty, and, although I drank water because I knew I should, I didn't drink nearly enough to make up for all that water loss.

I rode south out of Paintsville on KY 321 and then took KY 3051 over to US 23. That was nice route with only a modest - < 100 feet - hill just south of town. 23 was also pretty good riding for the next half a dozen miles, but my shirt was still saturated with sweat - for the first time on this tour - within a few miles. When I got to the first of the hill before Prestonsburg, I found that I had to climb it in my lower granny gears at around 4 mph. I think, under normal conditions I would have climbed it in my middle ring at 7 mph. Each time I would climb a hill, usually having to stop and rest at least once, a quick down hill would be followed by another hill. These weren't big hills like the ones south of here. They were each about 200 feet high. They got steeper going south. The last one was steep enough that loaded coal trucks were climbing at at less than 10 mph. I was climbing it at 3.5 mph.

Think about all the rock they had to (re)move to build this road!
This image is from about 10 miles north of Pikeville

The last hill ended about 22 miles from Pikeville, and, from then on I was able to ride in my middle ring. The road follows a creek, heading upstream, so there is some climbing, but not a lot. I stopped at a Civil War memorial about 15 miles from Pikeville to rest and snack and, although I knew I was pushing my limits, I felt OK about riding on. About ten miles later, I stopped at a Subway for lunch. I could tell I was not in very good shape as soon as I got off the bike. I should have realized that I was dehydrated since I was having trouble with my ear canals staying open just like they did when I got dehydrated on the first day of this tour.

I went in, went to the restroom to splash some water on my face and sat briefly because I was woozy. Then I got in line. I had trouble ordering because I couldn't speak clearly, but I ordered my sandwich and then, while it was being prepared, found myself sitting on the floor ;-{. Several folks immediately came to my aid, recognized what the problem was, sat me in a chair, and got me water to drink. The folks working at the Subway immediately called for an ambulance, and somebody got my sandwich for me. I was in bad shape, but not bad enough to need an ambulance, but they didn't realize that. I suspect the ambulance was standard operating procedure.

Drinking lots of water and sitting in a cool place really helped, so I was in better shape when the ambulance got there. I still couldn't talk very well, but that too got better as a I drank more water and talked with the ambulance guys. They were fairly intent on hauling me away ;-}, but I convinced them that I was reasonably with it and semi-rational, so they let me sign off on refusing their services. I was very impressed with the kindness and competence of everyone - except me, of course - involved in this incident.

After the ambulance left, I rested and drank more water at the Subway, then rode on, half a dozen miles, to Pikeville. I had a bit of a headache and was still weak, but riding, on the flat, was OK. When I got here I turned into downtown Pikeville and rode all the way around to the other end of town just to see what it was like - a nice little town - and to prove to myself that I was reasonably functional. Then I found a motel with a room - on my second try, and it was the last room at this motel, at 2:30 PM on a weekday! - and checked in. I've rested, browsed, and had a good supper. Hopefully, I feel better in the morning. Life is pretty good ;-}, but Tour07 is definitely over: A friend is coming to get me and my bike tomorrow.

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