Jeff scooted out early, and I woke up a bit later to a full array of services. After my morning reunion with fresh air, I began to avail myself of several. Coffee and microwaves made the cut. I left feeling good.
I ran into Those Girls today. There are a couple girls riding recumbents across the country, and I've seen that they've signed several guestbooks as "Those Girls." Now I know their real names, too. They're taking it easy, so today I caught up. I saw Jeff talking with them at a gas station, so I swooped around and introduced myself. What a beautiful day! What great riding! We stood around and talked about riding, hiking, and general travel. I tried to help diagnose a basic cable issue on one of the recumbents. ("Replace cable.") I also offered advice on crankset choice, and gave them my email address. Totally rad.
I rode for a short while with Jeff. Then boom. I was going down a little on-ramp to a road. A car was coming so I shifted my weight back and hit my front brake hard. Braking from the hood of an STI shifter doesn't transfer that much power, so he side-swiped me, rolled around, and hit the pavement. Basic blood, scrapes and whatnot. I sat around feeling bad for awhile, but then thought it would be best if I just pushed on and gave him some space.
It was his first crash. (Really?) I guess so. I wished it was Nat who side swiped me and fell over. There would be no hard feelings. He would have just poured gasoline on it and rubbed in some dirt. I've dumped bicycles a few times, and no matter what, sometimes it just happens. To Jeff's credit, he didn't mention it much again, and now he's more or less alright.
Now I'm in Kentucky! I rolled into Kentucky in the early afternoon, and it was as beautiful as could be. Then the coal trucks stormed in and made their presence apparent. Then the rain clouds began to glide into view. I paused on the porch of a store, but quickly had a change of plans. I got up and stomped it. I was about 15 miles from the end of the day, and long ascents be damned... I got there quick.
I love people. Not all of them, but I usually give them the benefit of the doubt. Cornbread and warm beans? I'm sitting in a gymnasium having just eaten that. I'm in another church-related free hostel situation. I was intimidated by her t-shirt, and thankful when she didn't try to make Jesus ignite me. She brought me dinner and we had a nice chat.
I like pumping out the miles earlier in the day so I can arrive at my destination and have enough time to horse around with camp chores and relaxation. If there's anyone to meet or talk to, they will present themselves at about dinner time or after work. I was glad to be here to welcome them and thank them for welcoming me. I'm showered and I've been made to feel at home.
I love people. No - not everyone. The good lord knows he's crafted some duds, but I'm not riding my bicycle across the country so I can do the old peer and sneer. I'm not riding aroud for the ol' gawk and squawk. I'm riding so I can meet a man with deep blue penetrating eyes. "Do you have anything muddy?" A man in Damascus asked this of the nice old lady behind the counter at the coffee shop. She looked nervous and confused. "A light muddy cup?" He ventured, blurring reality by another brush stroke. (This man is asking for caffiene, woman!)
He had the best beard I've seen. He looked me right in the face as we talked about bicycles. We might as well have been talking about Oreo cookies for as much as we understood each other. "There's always a higher meaning to these kinds of trips," he opined. "Yeah... definitely," I agreed simply; nodding slowly.
I wanted to run my fingers through his beard. All whiskers were equally long, and it must have taken years of carelessness. There was no cheating - never any undercutting of the low neck hairs. The beard pointed forward at an angle and had the shape of a voluminous upsidedown gnome hat. I wanted to run my fingers through and see if I could find a silver dollar. If I did this, he would have looked me calmly in the face. Silently, his expression would show complete indifference. Or deep understanding. It would be impossible to tell which. A minute later he was stumbling through a coffee order with a confused woman who was approacing a low level of terror at his unprecidented questions. "How much for an espresso?" Two dollars and ten cents. "How about for a whole cup?" The woman tried to figure this out by holding up a cup and pointing to random hypothetical fill lines on the side. Somehow she got to about nine dollars. To her immense relief, he settled on a small regular drip coffee. I didn't propose to this man on the spot. I didn't get his number either, but if I had to venture a guess, I'd wager a confident "7."