London

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London, Kentucky πŸ™‚ I’m on a completely different route now. This was a long and nice ride today… until I had a flat tire.

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I used the full of my morning stayover to detail the new route. I’m now going completely south east to Tennessee, then back north east to retrieve the official route. I have perfectly spaced out stops, every 50mis/80kms or so. The road is a bit easier. And I’m covering the same ground in 7 days instead of 10.

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With that new plan in mind, and having survived a showing of Hercules, I set route to London this morning ! After all I’ve been through Madrid already, why not London ? πŸ™‚

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Today’s temperatures were meant to be quite low, so I left a bit late. I continued on route 150 all the way until it switched to another number, but it was still the same direction, just not as wide. I was really wary of shoulder crap for the first part. I went through small towns and paused at the last one before Boone’s national forest, Mount Vernon. Nice road, gently rolling through the countryside.

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After my stop, it get just a bit more hilly, and also more enjoyable, riding in the forest. It was also a smaller road, hence less traffic. It was a really nice part. But suddenly my bike started wobbling – typical of a flat tire ! I didn’t have one in two months. I stopped to check the wheels. Everything seemed alright. But the wobbling went on. Another check : the back wheel was definitely out. I tried putting more air into it but it was useless.

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I realize then that I made a rookie mistake : after the Marion explosion, I didn’t buy a new spare. I still had one left, plus a patched up one, but that was it. So I changed the tire, but I was now very eager to arrive ! There was only 10mis/16kms left, that I could do on foot, but it was already late, around 2pm. I’m especially concerned that I may damage the tire during the replacement and be out in the small town of London.

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Fortunately there is a bike shop there, so I set out for it immediately (well after grabbing lunch). The guy looks at the wheels and says he doesn’t have such tubes ! Wow man this is totally standard road wheels ! I made another mistake of not bringing tubes along. But he found the equivalent US measure and of course he had these tubes. Still, I’m going to search for these self sealing tubes (that he didn’t have) and have them installed asap.

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Tomorrow I’ll be close to the state line of Tennessee ! And of Virginia at the same time πŸ™‚

Why am I here ?

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Yes it’s the usual questioning that goes along with “where do I come from ?” and “where’s the remote ?” πŸ™‚ But the scope of my questioning is limited to my current trip.

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As I have now done most of the journey and planning the last three or four weeks, it is a good time to start wondering why I do this at all. And yes, philosophy can happen at 7pm on the front porch of a McDonald’s outlet in Kentucky ! Let’s not discriminate.

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Of course I had this long time dream of crossing the US. But I could have done it in a car, and seen twice as much in less time. Choosing to go on a bike adds a very specific layer of challenge to the equation. You go slower, you have to be more autonomous, and it’s a lot more painful. It’s certainly also more exciting and rewarding, but I guess it is linked with overcoming the difficulty.

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I have done a few years of therapy, and one important learning I had is that you have to define the question, even more than look for the answer. When the question is crystal clear, when you know precisely what it is you are searching, the answer generally lies right by you. That’s the whole underlying script in “Hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy” πŸ™‚

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So my question is more probably “why am I here crossing a whole continent on a bike ?”. And i might add “right dude !?”.

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And beyond the discovery of the country and the people, I think the answer is probably the challenge itself. I enjoy the sceneries and the encounters, but I keep pushing because I want to achieve something. Getting to the other side is the real objective here. As I thought about it the last few days, it feels a lot like a rite of passage. I do this for myself as much as I force myself to do this.

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The decision to do this trip appeared very clearly, when the negotiations to leave my job ended. I would have time, and I would have to do this. And I would have to go east, to go back symbolically.

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And now the underlying question becomes “why this challenge ? What do I expect to get out of it ?” It’s certainly linked to the end of my marriage, the end of my job, and the end of my home owning. Perhaps this is a way to sever the ties, and go back to be able to start something new. It would also be why I accelerated the search for my father, to know what are my roots. That’s the point where I am now in this questioning. I still have to think about it.

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To end on a lighter note, I have been very surprised to listen to a song that reflects so much what I am doing now. And it’s a song by Metallica ! Yes, Metallica, let’s not discriminate. The song is “wherever I may roam”. It popped up for the first time from my playlist after three months on the road. Great random function, apple :p Maybe try to make it more random next time ? πŸ™‚ I mean sure, Elton John, but maybe others too, you know ?

Danville

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Another ride on route 150 to end up in Danville for a stayover… finally. Even if today’s trip was easy and nice, I need to invest in a day off, and also find a better way to reach Virginia.

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The conditions today were ideal : slightly overcast, which meant no burning sun and average temperatures, slow wind and then mostly tailwind, a large shoulder most of the time, and gentle slopes. I was done quickly, so much that I considered pushing to Berea, the end of the current map, for a couple minutes. Until I realized there was no cinema there :p

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Yesterday afternoon I was, as usual, trying to locate shops around me with apple maps. Nothing but gas stations. Ok. Then this morning I left and a mere mile later, here was a full blown Walmart ! Damn. Should I stop or should I go ? I needed to find some way to replace the foam pads in my helmet. I had located a walmart in Danville, but on the other side of town. That would mean a one hour trip, vs a few minutes, but a few minutes right at the beginning of the day. Very difficult choice for me ! But contrary to my former self, I changed plans and went for it (after a good minute of calculations). Found some Velcro for a dollar, which is a ripoff. I’ll work on that tomorrow.

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Back on the road ! Nice views of fields and forests along the way, everything is still very green here. So much so that I sometimes forget I’m in the US, where I saw a lot of desertic areas, or dried out fields. The road goes up and down, but much slower than on the small moutain roads of the normal route. It’s a really nice change. Plus, no farm near the road with dogs.

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I took a small detour on my detour to go through the historic center of Springfield. Another Lincoln memorial – everyone wants a piece of him ! After that the sky went really grey and I thought it would rain, but no, not this time. I continued passing rivers and cattle until I reached Danville. Quite a bit of very large houses and properties on this side of town.

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So I’m ready for a stayover, with a mission : find another route to Christiansburg, Virginia. Eastern Kentucky is not appealing : moutains, dogs, coal trucks, inconveniently placed stops… I spent hours on this map and could not find a way to pass it under 9 days for 375 mis/600kms (10 days with Berea actually). And that’s with a few long hauls ! It seems one solution is to take a completely different route : continue south east through Tenessee and then go back north along the Appalachians ridges. It could be shorter, faster and easier !

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Btw I went to see the latest Planet of the Apes, and it was surprisingly good ! Some shots were even great ! Way to go for a sequel to a prequel to a reboot of a trilogy !

Bardstown

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This is a larger city around the middle of Kentucky. To me a large city is above 10k people now πŸ™‚ It’s also been a second day of rain ! There’s even been tornado alerts over Kentucky. And the movie tonight : the day after tomorrow.

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Yesterday another cyclist arrived at the B&B : Roy, a Norwegian from Trondheim ! Yes, just like Lewis Trondheim πŸ™‚ He’s going along the TransAmerica and plans to be in Washington in a couple of weeks. That’s one week earlier than me :p

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We did the ride together until Bardstown and he continued further. The sky was grey all the way, and we’ve been hit by rain twice, but it wasn’t as strong as the other day. I tried the plastic bags to cover my shoes but it didn’t help :p Another run in the dryer ! Aaand I lost another two foam pads that go inside my helmet, the dryer gobbled them. I lost one in Marion the same way, nothing in the lint compartment or anywhere. Now I’ve only one left, I need to find a way to replace them. That will a quest when I take a day off in Danville !

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Anyway, we rode under the rain without any problem. After a few miles in the fields, we switched to a larger road gaining us around 10 miles and a lot of hills. We also got to see the boyhood place of Lincoln ! His birthplace was a bit off route, but this one farm was right on our detour. Well he only lived here from about 2 to 6, but he said these were his earliest memories, including slavery. It was one of the reasons his parents moved north afterwards.

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Riding on a larger road has a lot of advantages. For one it’s larger πŸ™‚ There usually is a shoulder. The slopes are also gentler, and it doesn’t twist and turns so much. And that means less farms with loose dogs. The main issue is the traffic, but on a rainy Sunday it was ok. So we reached Bardstown in only three hours.

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I wish I could take pictures under the rain and thunder, it makes for amazing views. But I don’t want to risk my phone.

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I had been juggling with options all the way. I could have gone on to the next city, or further on. The stops I had planned are relatively close, I could go a bit faster. But gaining one day here at the expense of stamina is not a good idea (all the while being soaked by rain). My last stop was eight days ago, and my legs are complaining.

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So I decided to remain in Bardstown, a nice town with a historic district that I passed quite quickly. And I’ll go to Danville tomorrow and do a stayover there (so that will be *my* day after tomorrow). I plotted a nice motel close to the cinema πŸ™‚ I haven’t seen a movie since Montrose in Colorado ! That was a month ago ! What marvels could have happened in the meantime ?

Sonora

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A good night’s sleep helps a lot πŸ™‚ It was much easier today, a good ride, with an important milestone.

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I had forgotten about it, today I passed the last timeline. I’m now on the eastern seaboard ! I’m closer to France by one hour πŸ™‚ For all the trip, the sun was regularly rising up earlier and earlier, and with each timeline, I was going back one hour. It was one of the very real way for me to feel I was riding east over the planet. Four time zones is a sizeable distance πŸ™‚

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So anyway, I was very happy when I realized this when leaving this morning. I like having regular milestones to feel I’m moving forward.

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Plus today’s trip was much easier than yesterday. Rough river lake was done very quickly, the road goes along the north part and moves away. Then it’s a nice slow way up on a plateau for the rest of the day (more or less). Quite a few communities around, including Madrid πŸ™‚ A few Amish homes too apparently – I came by a horse carriage.

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Sonora is a small town by a freeway. There is a B&B, well actually that’s the only possible stop around. It’s an old and huge Victorian brick house. Two adjoined houses precisely, and they were hosting a wedding during the afternoon. Lots of rooms, lots of old books, but modern equipment. Very impressive house, the most upper class I’ve been in up to now. Plus they bought the house on the other side of the street and had a lake added !

Falls of Rough

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Now that’s a nice name for a place πŸ™‚ Good thing I did the long trip yesterday, today was harder and I wasn’t too fit.

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Okay sleeping alone in an empty building isn’t the easiest. I had a great evening though, watching LA confidential from a VHS tape while eating the leftover pizza from Marion. The sun went down, I posted on the blog, readied for my bed on a inflatable mattress, read a bit… And totally failed to go asleep. It was all quiet, dark, not extremely comfortable, still all was set. But it didn’t feel natural to be there I suppose. In the end I grabbed a few hours of sleep before sunrise.

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I originally planned to do a short trip yesterday and a long one today. As I did the long one first, today was quite short, and it was a good thing. I started the ride with absolutely no motivation. The first 10 kms still remain tough any day, I have to get warm, clock some distance, while the little voice stills buzzes that I should just quit. Just like the Blerch from the Oatmeal when he goes running (look it up). So, no motivation, not enough sleep, but at least it would be a short ride. Just get on with it then.

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The western plains of Kentucky were quickly over. The hills became steeper, especially right before my destination, the Rough river lake, a blue fractal nightmare. Well I didn’t get to see it today, I stopped at the first motel on the way. I really needed to rest. Maybe tomorrow.

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The road today was ok, still farmlands, cattle, corn fields, and dogs ! Five alerts today, including two that were apparently not sure of themselves. I shooed them back to their yard. “Be the alpha dog !” was one advice I received.

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The second part of the road was more forests and secondary roads, going east while avoiding large cities and busy roads. I’ll probably take detours over the coming days to go a bit faster. I’ve already seen enough American forest for a lifetime πŸ™‚ Beautiful areas all in all, still I’m longing for civilization, where the search for the nearest restaurant doesn’t end up with “nothing within 6mis/10kms”.

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Okay this last photo here is a countryside cemetery. I see a lot of them of course, but my trip isn’t about them. Still, I felt I should post at least one. They are all beautiful, perfectly maintained, natural and… eternally peaceful.

Utica

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An eventful morning and a long nice ride on the western plains of Kentucky. This time I tried staying at a fire station.

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Sleeping on a pile of cushions in a church annex was ok. We had a lot of space and I got up early to get going. But it was not meant to be πŸ™‚ Jerry helped me pack up and, being a tire pressure enthusiast, checked my bike and pushed me to add some air.

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A couple minutes after doing the back wheel, it exploded ! Too much pressure. The self sealing tube was probably not designed for that. Plus, the wheel itself was really worn out. In any case, they both went with a bang, and the sealing liquid dripped all over the pavement like a wounded beast.

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Fortunately Jerry was carrying spare wheels. Otherwise I would have been stuck around, the closest bike shop was back in Carbondale. I also still had my spare tubes. I was ready to depart not too late.

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Now, my bike had been revised by a mechanic in Farmington, four days ago. No warning on the wheel. And before that, two weeks ago in Newton. Apparently French mechanics are not alone in being really bad. In the end it turned out ok though, I have a new back wheel.

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I had planned to stop at Sebree, at another church (a baptist one I think). But I realized it was less than the usual 50mi/80kms I got used to, and it didn’t feel right. Plus, the conditions were great today, nice weather, not too much wind, and gentle slopes going east inside Kentucky.

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Before reaching Sebree, I came upon Tom, a young cyclist going west, with the objective to complete the TransAm in another month ! That would be 100 miles a day. He told me about the stop at Utica, a fire station 25mi/40kms further from Sebree. That got me thinking about it. Still that meant changing my plans, and I’m not good at that.

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I had a quick and bad lunch at Sebree and decided to go on. I was still feeling good and the heat was not supposed to go up. It was a great day for a ride. Still, a sizeable distance was left.

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Right before Utica I encountered Eliot, a Londoner who had been riding with Tom. He helped me with water, I was running out and starting to feel bad. I counted each half kilometer until Utica and the first convenience store.

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So I stopped at the fire station ! No one around, I unpacked and got cozy. It’s more like a communal building, used by cyclists regularly. Kitchen, laundry, tv, air mattresses, but no wifi :p Oh well, I’m starting to get used to it.