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Grandpa Lost His Mind
A Journal - Crossing America by Bicycle

July 2, 2007      Miles 30      Total miles 3573      Ended at: Pippa Passes, Kentucky


As I was leaving the parking lot in Hazard, a man said, "Looks like your going to have a hot day." I asked him if he knew what the temperature was supposed to get to and he said it was supposeed to reach 82 degrees. That is almost on the cool side where I am concerned. I told him my brother works in Phoenix and the temperatures are already in the 115 degree range. He about flipped out. My first mile out of Hazard was not a good way to start the day. It was a 5% climb but it was on a road with wide shoulders. The shoulders were covered with loose rock and coal. I don't like the loose rock because it can slice into a tire.

These two pictures are of the same place. This is strip mining. I don't know how they do all this but the idea is they blast away at the surface to expose the coal. Eventually the mountaintop is gone and the non coal product is spread on the ground and it looks like a huge parking lot. You can barely see the huge mounds of coal in the second picture. So, instead of huge mountains of solid granite, when it is all said and done there will be a flat surface of tiny pieces of granite, like the picture on the right. I don't pass judgement on whether it is right or wrong but if we want to live the comfortable lives we do, we can't stand in the way of progress.

I talked to a man today and asked him how much the coal miners make and he said they used to make $19.50 per hour but now they make $10.00 per hour. He said they get paid the same whether they are strip mining or deep mining. When they were making more money the mine owners got together and decided to lower the wages. The miners threw a fit and decided to organize a union. One of the biggest mining companies told the workers if they unionized they would shut the mine down. The workers voted to unionize and the mine was shut down. The other mine owners made the same threat and the miners did not organize a union and are now making half the amount they used to. It isn't a job I would want for any amount of money. He told me that all the miners in this area have black lung to some degree.
Here is an example how new roads are designed. The old Kentucky roads would have just climbed right over the top of what used to be a mountain top but you can see they easily lower the road by blasting away the mountains. This is highway 80 out of Hazard and I rode on it for seven miles to Dwarf where I was on wonderful roads but very dangerous with fast moving traffic. The picture on the right shows the rumble strips they have placed about every 50 feet. So, even though they have the great shoulders they are almost unrideable on a bicycle. They about jar my teeth out.

Large and small pieces of coal litter highway 80. They fall off the coal trucks. I expect most drivers around here know not to get too close to them but there isn't much you do on a bicycle when they blast past you. It is very nerve wracking to be passed by the trucks because there is really no where to move to and I am at their mercy.

Here are other examples of why it is hard to find a place to pitch a tent around here. The roads are very closed in and if they are open on one side, it is far too steep to place a tent.

This is the small town of Hindman. Many of the small towns along my route have buildings which are very close to the street. Some homes are built within feet of the roadway.

This is Erin, who probably at this point considers herself a hiker more than a biker. I have learned that hikers always go by a handle and hers is Rodent. We visited for a long time today. She is from Oregon and flew to New York City in February to spend a couple of weeks with some of her friends. After that she hiked all the way across New Jersey to Lancaster, Pennsylvania in two weeks. She ended up with a stress fracture so she stayed with some family in Washington, DC for a couple of months. She then hiked for three weeks on the Appalachian Trail (AT) and decided to buy a bicycle and head for Oregon. She calls her bike Beth for Queen Elizabeth. She was a sixth grade science teacher and decided to take off a year to do some adventurous things while she is still unencumbered. She has also worked as an actress in theaters in California and at Shakespeare festivals in Oregon.