May 31, 1984
Hodgenville to Rough River Dam, Ky.
I’m reprinting the day-to-day entries of a cross-country bike tour a friend and I took in 1984. More about the 1984 TransAmerica Tour
We pedaled over to the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Site this morning, just up the road from Joel Ray’s Lincoln Jamboree.
The park ranger giving the tour said, “As far as we know, this is where he was born.” Sounding a little cagey? Over in Springfield yesterday we had stopped in the Lincoln Homestead State Park, a woman in the office said, “Older people around here say that Lincoln never would have been born down in Hodgenville in the wintertime, so they believe he was actually born up here in Springfield.”
With my keen reporter’s instincts, I asked him about the discrepancy. He shrugged his shoulders. “Nobody seemed to care where he was born until 1860 when he was elected president.” Makes sense.
The cabin is small. It toured the country on a railroad car at the turn of the 20th century, and came to its final resting place within the walls of this huge granite mausoleum-like building in 1906.
This tour through history gave us a late start, and we were tripped up again in Four Corners where Bruce tipped over his bicycle when a dog ran after him. I know the dog. It was the one that had just chased me. He tried to spray it with his water bottle, missed, and dumped his bike. I sat waiting for him at the Four Corners store for about 10 minutes, wondering what was wrong. He came riding along with a bent pedal and a loose front brake. Later, I was delayed when something — an apple I just ate? — tripped my allergies and I began sneezing uncontrollably.
Tonight we’re at the Rough River Dam campground, site of one of the first paddle-wheel lumber mills in the US (everyplace has to be known for something, I’m coming to learn). Some of the campers had an ice-cream making project earlier in the evening that we eventually helped them finish — eating the ice cream, that is.
Headline: May 31, 1984 —
A vaccine against chicken pox has proved highly effective
in protecting healthy children
against the potentially dangerous disease …
After a leisurely breakfast at Joel Ray’s, we headed over to the birthplace. It was OK. Nothing fantastic. In fact, I couldn’t even find a picture to take. But at least it wasn’t too hokey. the worst was the 18-minute film narrated by Burgess Meredith. He was better as the Penguin on “Batman.” But the rest was nice.
The log cabin where Lincoln was born is encased in a Georgia pink granite structure with 56 steps (one for each year of his life) leading up to it. There is also the sinking spring where Lincoln and his family got their water (it’s still running), and the boundary oak, the towering tree (now dead and cut to the trunk) that marked the Lincoln property.
We didn’t set out for Rough River until 10:30. It was a nice morning. The riding and weather were good today with one major–and nearly disastrous–exception. I went down today, thanks to a dog who was chasing me! I lost control and hit the pavement, scraping myself on the knees, head and elbow. I was shaken but the bike took the worst of it. The front brake is shot. I need a new one. The handlebars were at a right angle to the frame and my right pedal is bent. The frame is scratched, but otherwise intact.
I was so mad at first, then I felt helpless, like everything was ruined and there was nothing I could do about it. Dogs are so damned frustrating. We are chased by at least a dozen times a day. Most aren’t serious, but how are you to know?
There’s no bike shop for a few days, so I’ll have to make due–I couldn’t if we were in the mountains, because a back brake alone simply won’t stop you on any steep descent.
The other excitement today was that we stopped at a country store for juice at about 2:30. An hour later we stopped at another store and the clocks still said 2:30.
Unbeknownst to us, we had passed through a time zone, from Eastern to Central, and pickup up an hour. It was an unusual sensation.
So we made it to Rough River State Park by 4, and had come almost 60 miles. We are camped here by the dam. Tonight, I cooked tuna casserole. We needed a break from spaghetti.
Tomorrow we may try to hit the Illinois border. It’s about 130 miles. I’m not sure if we can do it. Neither is Bis. I’m up for it, though, even without a front brake. We’re going to set the alarm [Bis’ wristwatch] for 4:30 or 5 and get a real early start.
Things are 100 percent better than this afternoon. When I hit that pavement, I was immediately aware of the violence a bicycle could cause, and it really had a sobering–temporarily dispiriting–effect . But perseverance is the key to just about everything, and my spirits are intact once again. Success through achievement, I always say. It’s the only way.
We’re still on the road and heading West.