Nick on the bike 2005: Oregon to Virginia
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Day 49: Cave-In-Rock to Utica Ky
September 1, 2005, 6:00 PM
Where am I now: (37.60791N by 87.10591W at 490 ft.)
Today's distance: 83 miles

Campsite sounds at Cave-In-Rock SP: "who cooks for you" was there, getting to be a pretty well travelled owl at this point; also sounds of large diesels slowly moving by on the river. Not the same as trains running through Burnley Station, Virginia in the night--barges don't move as fast as trains. It was a humid, out-of-the-sleeping-bag night in the tent, and the whole place was foggy and drippy at first light.

By the time I got everything together & down to the ferry landing, the sun had burned off most of the fog.

The river was muddy and full of floating wood debris, full of Katrina but not flooding. The crossing was smooth, and there were no dogs lying in wait for me on the Kentucky side.

I rode across a few miles of flat flood plain, then the road began to climb through rolling hardwood forest and farm land. This is limestone country, similar to parts of the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, except there are more trees and fewer houses. There are limestone outcrops on the side of the road, and even a few sinkholes.

At Marion I'm only an hour into the ride, but there's a cafe right in front of me as I pull up to the main intersection, and I'm drawn in for breakfast. Towns like Marion along the TransAm bike route must see hundreds of lycra-clad touring cyclists passing through over the course of a year. But the locals are still fascinated by it all. I once more engaged in conversations I've had many times in many breakfast places across the country. Very friendly folks.

Back on the road, I'm quickly out of town & back in the country. Sounds of bugs, frogs and birds seem louder than ever. It's as though everything got it's collective batteries charged with the recent rains.

The roads have a fair amount of up and down, but the grades for the most part don't get me bogged down in the small chain ring, and I make good time. There is very little traffic, the pavement quality is good.

I've noticed that in general, people don't drive nearly as fast in Illinois, and so far Kentucky, as they do in other places I've been on this trip. It's almost like things are in slow motion, with cars running 55 or 60 rather than 75 or 80. There's time for me to judge in my mirror whether or not a vehicle coming up on my tail sees me, whether or not I need to take evasive action. On these roads, many drivers are extremely conservative about passing me on hills and curves, crawling along behind me when there's actually plenty of room for them to pass safely. Of course this doesn't mean there isn't the occasional hotshot pickup truck gunning down the road. This is America, folks.

In a major departure from Illinois, and just about everywhere else I've been is that so far, 80 miles into Kentucky I have yet to see a single bar. That's because there are no bars. There's no alcohol. These are all dry counties!

In rural Illinois, the tiniest of crossroads seem to have one or two bars, but finding an actual restaurant or a grocery store can be a real challenge. Here in Kentucky I don't know that there are any more restaurants and grocery stores than in other places, but maybe they stand out more because of the lack of all those neon beer signs at every intersection. This is not to imply that I wouldn't have preferred to ride into Utica, Kentucky, and find one of those neon signs beckoning in the window of the little grocery store....

Tonight I'm taking in the ambience of Utica Volunteer Fire Company firehouse, which is open to travelling cyclists for overnight accomodations.

I was in the grocery store getting some eats, and the lady behind the counter asked if I was staying at the firehouse. She proceeded to tell me all about it, and extended an intvitation. A/C (it's been very hot and humid today, my shorts are white with salt),

TV, shower, kitchen. It was not a hard sell. It's quite nice, I hope there are no fire or rescue calls tonight, things could get exciting.