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Grandpa Lost His Mind
A Journal - Crossing America by Bicycle

July 3, 2007      Miles 56      Total miles 3629      Ended at: Elkhorn City, Kentucky


As I was riding today, I thought about all the preconceived notions I had about Kentucky and how they just didn't match the reality of what I saw. A lot of my opinions were formed by others who were going west. For instance, I had one day where I was chased by 12 dogs but the last two days I wasn't chased at all. There are plenty of dogs but most of them are chained or inside a fenced yard. I was told that my last sixty miles would be nothing but trailer houses. There are plenty of trailer houses but most of them are kept up nicely and I could show you exactly the same conditions in any other state in the country. The one thing which is different than all other states is there is not a litter pickup program like other states have. This is more obvious in the eastern part of Kentucky. The parts of the Appalachians I have been through seem no more economically depressed than small towns in Oklahoma, where I live. I saw absolutely no shantytowns. The people in the "K" states, Kansas and Kentucky, are some of the friendliest people you can imagine. I have loved being in Kentucky with the exception of dealing with traffic. I expect it will get worse as I get closer to the coast.
I spent the night last night on the high porch to the right of the house. This is Ed and Charlotte's home and they always take in bikers. When I got there, no one was home so I went to a local church to see about setting up my tent but no one was there either. I went back to Ed's house and his granddaughter was there and told me he was in the hospital. I didn't feel right about staying there but she said to just set up on that elevated porch so I did. To get to this house I had to go up an extremely steep hill. Many homes in this part of Kentucky have very, very steep driveways and I don't know how some of them can be driven on without four wheel drive.

I was on the road by 6:15 this morning because I wanted to ride before a bunch of coal trucks got on the road. It turned out there were very few coal trucks on the road. Someone told me most of them were off for the 4th of July holiday. It was hazy out for several hours today.

A lot of this trip can be psychologically draining if you let it be. If I were to listen to what others tell me, I would have given up on this trip before I ever started. I never once doubted I would make it over any mountain range. Some of them have challenged every ounce of strength I could muster but I knew I could and would do it. That is just the way I am. So today I had to go over yet another mountain. The road to it was very narrow and there were three men standing along the road and stopped me. I told them the Kentucky mountains are hard for an old man and one guy said, "Well, yer fixin' to go over the hardest one yet. You'll be pushin' that bike fer sure." I told his two buddies to bet him on that and they could make some money. I'm sure they were all getting a good laugh at my cockiness when I left but I never once got off my bike. The road had a 10 to 16 percent grade for over a mile. I did have to stop several times to rest but I never pushed the bike.

I wasn't expecting to see Elk in Kentucky. I was told the government introduced them here years ago and the program has been so successful that they now have drawings for hunters to hunt the Elk to help maintain a stable population.

It looks like most of the mining companies make a valiant effort to repair the damage done by strip mining.

I learned another eastern Kentucky term today. The word is holler. One lady told me she was born down at the holler. Later when I asked a man for directions he told me to go to the end of the holler and turn right at the four lane. I asked him what the holler is and he said it is a two lane road. I asked someone else and he told me it is also a valley between a couple of mountains. Actually, the word is "hollow" but I have yet to hear anyone say anything except "holler." So, even though this web site has a lot of useless information it is also an educational tool. I thought holler was just something my wife does.

I was riding up a tough hill and stopped in front of Vernon's house for a breather. He asked me if I would like a cup of coffee or a Pepsi. I told him I would love a Pepsi and it was so refreshing. We visited for half an hour and I was on my way again. He told me how much he liked it that I stopped to talk with him. There is a blocked off coal mine directly across the street from his house.

This is very typical scenery in this part of Kentucky. It is very pretty.

I thought it would be neat to show you a short video clip of the area I am in. This video also demonstrates that it isn't wise to try and film while riding a bike. Click on this link to watch the short video:Biking in Kentucky Then hit the back button on your browser to return to this page. Pardon the expletive at the end. This is actually pretty dull.

This is a fairly common problem on the roadsides. Can you imagine if you were to hit this with your car at night? Many of the roadways here are right next to creekbeds and they get washed away. This one has markers to warn drivers but others don't. They are very dangerous. I am sure the local drivers know where each one is.
My motel for the night is $30 including tax. This cat was in front of my doorway and at first I thought it was a skunk. It wasn't a very friendly cat and it took off when I walked up to it. I think the cat may have thought I was the skunk.