Saturday, May 28, 2011

Dry counties and more touring cyclists.

I woke up, broke camp, and pooped next to a tree. I found a pile of ancient Budweiser and Pepsi cans with the antiquated pull-tab method and thin pie-shaped drinking hole. I haven't seen these cans and labels since I was a kid horsing around in the bushes by the Red Clay Creek.

Today started rough. As it turns out, my camping spot wasn't quite as level as it looked. It was close enough to allow apathy, but I've gotten more sleep before. Many times on this trip, I've missed my simple bivy sack. The setup could not be easier, and repositioning is a cinch, even when you're inside the bag. More experience with my tent will reveal whether the added space is a true boon, or an unnecessary luxury. When stealth is a factor, it can be an encumbrance. When heat and bugs are a factor, I would prefer the tent - that night hasn't happened yet. I hope I'm not carrying a full-sized tent for purely hypothetical situations. I try to keep it in perspective: minor mental gear quibbles like this are normal and ignorable.

I started out on some tough hills, and bought a styrofoam cup of shitty coffee as soon as I could. I got a shitty pack of tiny donuts as though that might mitigate the situation. I passed up a 24oz can of Colt 45 Lemonade Blast - a choice I would later live to regret. Dry fucking counties. I should have accepted the extra weight - a small percentage increase in total. It was cheap, too. I'm dumb, but technically it tends to work out okay anyway.

After I got moving, the day was better. I managed to scrape the rust off my legs and overcome the outcome of my stifled sleep. I got around to cruising, and eventually a level of happy confidence trickled into my bloodstream. It was at this time I found Ken and Wayne. I was spinning up a long arduous incline, warming up my legs and fighting over switchbacks. The words in my guidebook: "beware of false summits." I saw bicycles with bags up ahead, and I was gaining very quickly. Something was afoot. It was them - they were walking up the hill.

Ken and Wayne are recently retired 60-something dudes. I cruised alongside asking the requisite questions: where from? / where to? / how here? / what next? You don't have to dig deep into your philosophy bag to stir up a chat with other people who are crossing the same country. They seemed amiable enough, so I hopped off my Hoopty and started walking along. After the next bout of walking began, I bid adieu - we agreed that we would be meeting later at the same free legitimate camping spot behind a church in Booneville.

Booneville, Kentucky. Home of Daniel Boone days. Home of a Dollar General, and not home to any beer. This town was dry without the wit. What they did have was live music, and I aimed to learn more when the sun got a little bit lower.

The accommodations behind the church were simple. A porta-john, a cold shower, a covered picnic table. There was a larger cement slab covered with a roof as well. It was perfect. With that setup, and a small sign welcoming cyclists, you can rejoice. Little town, little place to camp - let me at it.

I revealed that I've been a bicycle mechanic, and Ken was having shifting issues. Since I couldn't just sell him another bicycle, as the best mechanics do, I had to try to fix it. There was friction in the housing causing unpredictable shifting, and it was acting like the derailer hanger might be a little bent. I did what I could with Boeshild and a multi tool. I got it much better, but no bicycle in America will ever be as good as my Hoopty. The Hoop's got class.

I stripped my luggage off the Hoopty and went to see what live music sounds like. I met the guys up at the cafe and ordered cake and coffee. Ken put it on his bill as a thanks for making his shifting better, and I wished I had a new stainless cable to throw into the deal.

The music was bluegrass. Guitar, mandolin, banjo, squawking. This was some rural stuff happening here. Lots of old folks with handheld fans. When they felt the urge, they would stand and tap lazily with special clogging shoes. It wasn't tap dancing - it was clicking around with what are called clogging shoes. Nobody showed much gusto. It was a hot tired romp that hovered around being in time with the music. This was something I didn't know existed. It could be a scene from a movie. There wasn't much emotion in the room, but there were several rows of folding chairs, all full. If I was shown a photograph of this scene and asked to guess the year, I couldn't do it accurately within fifty years.

I made my exit when I got a call from a potential Couchsurfing host in Berea. Yes, I could stay! Yes, two days is fine... and there would be 1-2 parties if I wanted to attend. Did I? Did I! If the pavilion wasn't enough, certainly now I had cause to celebrate.

Then there were six. When I got back to camp, I met Adam and Megan who are riding the same route, having started in New York. I greeted them happily and got straight to the business of talking a lot. Then I adjusted Adam's brakes, told them how awesome bicycles are, and jawed around about bicycles until the sun was definitely no longer hot. The pavilion had a good number of us camping out, and we settled to bed for a cool misty evening.

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