Sunday, May 27, 1984
Pippa Passes to Booneville, Ky.
I’m reprinting the day-to-day journal entries for a trip my friend Bruce and I took in 1984. More about the 1984 TransAmerica Tour.
We never stop climbing hills after leaving Pippa Passes, named for a Robert Browning poem, which includes the lines:
The year’s at the spring
And day’s at the morn;
Morning’s at seven;
The hillside’s dew-pearled;
The lark’s on the wing;
The snail’s on the thorn:
God’s in His heaven—
All’s right with the world!
The route heading west crosses one ridge after another. I can appreciate what Daniel Boone and the pioneers had to endure.
We did go through some wide open bottomland nestled between the hills today, though, generally after passing Buckhorn Lake. We saw some cows in pastures today, something we hadn’t seen for many days. Before it’s been pigs, hogs, and chickens. Those smaller farm animals must be better suited for small farms on hillsides.
These hills are gut-wrenching for me. I start out in medium gears, but soon I’m in my lowest — the granny gear or stump-puller. I grind away, travelling 27 inches for every pedal stroke; don’t try to think about how many pedal strokes are in a 4.4-mile climb. My heart pounds and my pulse throbs in my ears. Sweat pops out of my pores, soaking my shirt, running off my scalp and down my face, dripping off my nose and chin onto the handebars and cross bar. I start zig-zagging to reduce the slope. I stand in the pedals. I sit. I stare at a point about three feet in ahead of the front wheel. The thighs have stopped burning, it’s just the joints aching now. When I pull over to stop, the whole forest seems to crash inward toward my point of vision; then it shrinks and zooms far away. I’m straddling my bicycle, getting my air back, spritzing water on my shoulders and legs. Then I put a foot in the toe clip and start again.
Reaching the top, I try to keep pedaling until gravity is at my back. The loaded bike quickly picks up speed and I put a death grip on the brakes — squeeze, release, squeeze, release. Now my shoulders and neck are getting stiff from the wind. Switchbacks appear suddenly. I take the inside line to try and straighten them out. The sharp “S” curves eventually become meanders and the road straightens out and I’m back on the flat with the sun shining overhead. I shift into the bigger gears and take too few pedal strokes before I feel gravity grabbing the bike again for another uphill climb.
We snacked at a little town, where the guy behind the store counter said we had just one more hill to Booneville, our destination that night.
We got the last room in the motel at Booneville, flipped on the TV to watch some Indy 500, then headed over to the highly recommended Campbell’s Restaurant. You can order anything you want here, as long as it’s fried. We walked around town after dinner, heard a dog bark near the courthouse, and wondered how he knew we were bicyclists. But he wasn’t barking at us, he just took off in a straight line right through town. We never saw what he was chasing or what was chasing him. Strange.
Headline: May 27, 1984 — Rick Mears wins the Indianapolis 500,
racing at 207.847 mph. (It was his second victory at Indianapolis;
he has four altogether.)
Our 14th day on the road. Today we came through such Kentucky towns as Hazard, Talcum, Rowdy, Typo and finally landed at Goodman’s Motel in Booneville.
Good cycling day. We covered 75 miles by 4 p.m. The first leg of the day on new Route 80 was great–cool, slightly cloudy, good road and no traffic. There were plenty of mountains today, but we are finally used to them. Still, we have renamed this section “the bed of nails” trail because it has been that grueling at times.
Tomorrow, 50 miles to Berea and goodbye to the mountains of the East [it seems as though I was forever bidding the mountains goodbye, only to be greeted by another set I hadn’t anticipated].
We will stay off the “4-lanes,” as people say around here, and keep to the back roads, where the family farms have their own cemeteries on the sides of the road, right next to their corn fields. No fences. No dividing marks at all. Very unusual.
Photo: A view of the hostel, home on the left, in Pippa Passes
Day 16 — A good welcome to Berea