Nine States Down, One to Go!

Today we left Kentucky behind and crossed into Virginia! That was en epic moment for us because we had been pedaling Kentucky since last summer. We loved it there- great people, good roads, gorgeous scenery and really some of the very best cycling days on the entire TransAm. But I have to say it felt really fine to see the “Welcome to Virginia!” sign!
So we are camped tonight at a place called The Breaks. It’s a huge campground that spans the border between Kentucky and Virginia. We had stayed the prior night at a cycling hostel in Hindman run by David (don’t know your last name David!). It was absolutely fantastic there! For $25 David provides an endless homemade dinner complete with salad, main course, iced tea, fruit, beer, a GIANT ice cream sundae, and then a brandy nightcap. Breakfast was just as huge, and while all this is being served, David is washing and drying all your laundry. It was as close as you can get to being home, and we left feeling fully charged for the day ahead.

Good thing too, because today was a whopper!

Bottom line is that today was 72 miles long and extremely hilly (5,100 ‘ of climbing, with much of it very, very steep). We were on the road by 8:30, and finally pulled into Breaks about 9:00 pm. We took a number of short rests throughout the day, but because of the terrain, the going was pretty slow. Of course when there are big climbs, there are also big descents, and there were some super fun ones today! The best was a 5 miler on a narrow country lane that snaked its way through a neighborhood of homes and barns and that paralleled a splashing little creek. Only problem with the descents is that they seem to go by so quickly compared to the ascents……. Why is that?
We had our first rainy day riding today as well. Started off as a light sprinkle, but by the time we found shelter -a car repair place that let us duck inside for a half hour- we were pretty well soaked. But we regrouped, and rode in the final 12 miles to Breaks.
Some final thoughts on Kentucky as we leave her behind……….
Wonderful, friendly, super hospitable people.
Green and scenic and rural with the biggest damn lawns you will ever see ( the lawns are acres in size, many as large as 3 or 4 football fields).
Very rural. This may be an artifact of our route, but we leave with the impression that the vast majority of Kentuckians live in the country.
Proud of its heritage and traditions and history. The folks here love their state, and are determined to preserve their way of life.
Dominated by the coal industry. “Friends of Coal” is not just a bumper sticker, it is a full-blown license plate. Mountaintop Removal is a mining technique used throughout the state whereby the entire top of the mountain is bulldozed away to…..well, you get it. Interestingly, just as with clear-cut logging in the Pacific Northwest, you don’t see (or should I say are not allowed to see) mountaintop removal from the highway corridor. But it is there in a very big way. Mr. Obama has his work cut out for him in shifting away from coal-fired power generation in this part of the country as he presses for clean, climate friendly energy production.
We were told on our first day in Kentucky that the state ranks 48th in education level in the U.S. There does indeed seem to be a lot of people struggling on very low wages. Devon and I have had numerous conversations about how to change that dynamic here. Will let you know when we have that problem solved…..
Very sympathetic about the plight of sharks in the sea, and eager to learn more, and we hope, become involved. Last night, while eating another veggie pizza (thank goodness for pizza, because the menus at local diners in Kentucky are not overflowing with vegetarian options), we struck up a great conversation with a retired gentleman named Rufus which included sharing our shark campaign. When Rufus got up to leave, he slipped us $20 to go towards our campaign.

That’s Kentucky through and through.


A large mural painted on the side of a restaurant in Buckhorn.


Our amazing host David in Hindman


These look a lot like the Tiger Lillie’s we see on Santa Cruz Island.


The third bike belongs to an westbound rider named Tony who we met today.


Waiting out the downpour in Ashcamp, Kentucky.


A roadside overlook very close to the Virginia border.




Devon inhaling another tater-tot. I’m trying to get him to eat more fruits and veggies.

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3 Responses to Nine States Down, One to Go!

  1. Don Volle says:

    Hey Mark and Devon. As I’ve been reading your daily blogs I’m finding myself super jealous of you guys! Sounds like you’re having an amazing trip so far! My thoughts are with you guys! I look forward to vicariously enjoying the rest of the trip together with you guys through your descriptions and pictures!

  2. Renee says:

    Wow! Great blog Mark and Devon. I really enjoyed reading it, and seeing your photos. What an amazing adventure. I wish I had started following from the beginning. Stay safe, looking forward to reading more!

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