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Days 50 and 51: The Back of a Police Car...

Updated: Sep 1, 2022

In the morning Gigi made me pancakes, but I had a long way to ride that day so I wanted to get a fairly swift start. I had 140 miles to ride to reach my next Warmshowers hosts in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. Having figured out my route with Gigi, I set off heading south. I was very thankful to Gigi for the great conversation, but also for the food she gave me and for helping me plan my route. Gigi made sure I was well taken care of, which was good considering today's ride would be my largest mechanical of the trip.

Biking from Gigi's house, I had about 35 miles of fairly easy riding to reach the bridge crossing. On the way, I passed through Goreville, Illinois. There, Claudia said the church would host cyclists and provide snacks, an air hockey table, tv, showers, and more! Unfortunately, I didn't hear about it in time to check it out. I'm happy to have stayed with Gigi, but it would have been fun to stop in and check the place out just for fun.

After making it to the highway bridge, it turned out to be shut down for repairs. Often, with construction I encountered, they would let bikes through even if cars were not allowed. They did not make an exception for me in this case. That meant I had to backtrack 6 or 7 miles to where the interstate bridge was. While I had some experience riding on interstates in Utah, it's never pleasant. Especially when all traffic for 30 miles in both directions surrounding the bridge was funneled through the one crossing. And this time I would have to cross a bridge that was about a mile long at least and there was almost no shoulder to speak of. Picture crossing the Bay Bridge on a bike... Not fun... As I approached the bridge, I was actually passing cars as there was a significant line due to more construction happening before the bridge itself, but once I was past it, the cars came by very fast and very close.

In most places, biking on the interstate is illegal, but exceptions are made when there is no alternative route within 10 miles of the interstate, or something like that. That being said, I wasn't thinking too hard about the legality of the crossing and more that I just wanted to make it across safely. Having about a foot of space on the side of the freeway wasn't safe for me, but I almost immediately encountered the other issue with the tight shoulder, all the freeway crud was knocked off and collected right where I was riding... Despite my effort to be careful of what I was riding over, before I was even over the water, I got a flat tire. I could feel the sealant in my tire spraying the back of my legs, and I knew it was bad. When I got off my bike to check, a nail had punctured my tire, but then also come out of my tire again at and angle, which tore a large portion of my tire. I had a patch kit with me, and I attempted to fix the puncture for about 10 minutes with cars whizzing by me, but it just wasn't a safe enough location with enough space to really give me any kind of chance to make repairs. I decided to walk the rest of the bridge, which was probably safer than biking anyways, and try and repair it on the other side where the freeway would have a shoulder again.

The bridge was about a mile long, and it took me a good time of walking and not without a few people honking at me on the way by. It would turn out, someone must have called the police because there was some moron walking his bike on the interstate. Right as I reached the wider part of the interstate on the Kentucky side, a cop car going the other direction towards Illinois spots me and the cops try to yell something out their window. We couldn't really hear each other due to the freeway, so I just motioned at my bike tire and they kept going. 10 minutes later, they had turned around in Illinois and crossed back over to Kentucky and pulled up in front of me.

They saw I had a flat, so now we needed to try and figure out how to get my bike, and me, off the interstate for both their safety and mine. They said I was lucky because Paducah had a good bike shop, but they weren't super common out here and it would be the only one for some time. Ultimately, we managed to take the wheels off my bike and some of my bags too and then squeeze both me and my bike into the backseat of the cop car. They said they would give me a ride to the bike shop and a ticket was never even mentioned. I ultimately explained that I had no choice but to take the interstate bridge because the highway one was closed, which they weren't aware of, but it wouldn't have mattered since again, I think people just pity you when you're doing bike touring. They didn't want to make my day harder than it had been already.

When we arrived at the bike shop, they went in and explained why a cyclist was being let out of the back of a police car in front of the shop and I grabbed all my bags except... I was missing a bag... I usually had two bags on the fork of my bike, but now I just had one... I guessed that in our rush to get us all off the interstate, left a bag on the side of the road. The cops said that they would go back and get it while I waited to get my bike repaired. So that meant they would be returning to Illinois again and then turning around to come back to Kentucky for a second time. I was very thankful.

While I waited for my bag, I went in to the bike shop to start working on getting a new tire. The bike shop was super friendly and said they would get a decent number of bike tourists, but I was the first to come out of a police car. They gave me a free Gatorade while a new tire was found. They didn't have a replacement for the exact one I had before, but they found one that was slightly thinner and more road oriented than the gravel tires I had on before. That would work fine for me since almost all of my riding for the rest of the trip was planned to be on pavement. I also bought some new sealant from them, but they didn't have any tubeless tire plugs to replace the ones I attempted to use on the bridge. So that meant if I had another big flat, I likely wouldn't be able to repair it myself.

Before I left on this trip, I made a bet with my uncle. Having never flatted a single time over years with my mountain bike and tubeless tires, I bet him that I would get no more than one flat on my entire trip across the US. He eagerly took that bet and now I no longer had any wiggle room if I was going to win. While they tried to get the new tire to hold air, the cops came back with my bag, which they found on the side of the road. With that, they were off. It would have been tough if they hadn't helped me out since it was still about 7 miles from the end of the bridge to the bike shop, and I potentially would have had to walk it if not for their help.

The bike shop finished getting my bike together and charged me like $15. I really don't know what happened there. I don't know if they didn't charge for the labor and the tire or what. Again, pity goes a long way... Soon I was back on the road, but before I left they gave me a donut shop recommendation, so I had to try that before I left town.

What may have been the biggest issue with the flat, is it really took a large chunk out of my day. I was already going to arrive at my Warmshowers host in the evening, but now I would arrive well after dark. Luckily, when I texted my host for the night, Barry, he was very understanding and said he would get some Chick-fil-A for me to eat upon my arrival. God, I miss my cycling diet...

Another reason I originally wanted to go south instead of north (where the normal Transamerica route is) was because of the cool geography of the southern area. There's this section of land called "The Land Between the Lakes," and it looked so interesting on the map, I had to check it out.

Crossing over to the land, I went over this bridge that was absolutely covered in some kind of bug. It looked like something out of a movie, and I have no idea what they are.

While you couldn't see the haze in my photos from yesterday, you can see it much better with how red the sunset is after I cross the bridge.

It would turn out, the smoke was indeed not from anywhere around here. It was far too green to have fires out in Kentucky. The smoke actually originated from Oregon's fires and had blown all the way across the US to Kentucky. Pretty brutal. And I thought I had escaped the fires by being in the East...

With the sun setting, I still had 30 miles more to ride. Before long I was using my taillight, and I also dug my headlamp out of my bag to ride with. The roads I was riding were devoid of any kind of street lights as it was mostly farmland. The only positive of that was that cars were infrequent.

What weren't infrequent were the bugs! I've never been so happy to have poor vision in my life! The bugs were attracted to my headlamp and would come out of the darkness in mass to bounce off my helmet and glasses. I had to pull my gaiter up as much as I could to prevent them from going in my mouth. They almost looked cool as they shot by me in the dark. It definitely makes you feel like you're riding faster than you are. For those familiar with Star Wars, the scenes where they enter hyperspace and the stars stretch out, that's exactly what I was experiencing as I rode with the bugs being my stars zipping by... I could also see all the ash and particulate in the air with my headlamp, which I couldn't see as well in the day. Here is one of the bugs that actually stuck to me while I was riding...

After a very long day, both of riding at nearly 150 miles, but also due to the delays, I finally made it to Barry's house. His wife, a nursing school instructor, was asleep. But he greeted me warmly and I did have that Chick-fil-A. Barry was super nice and made me feel at home. Because I arrived so late, we only talked briefly that night, but we both went to bed not too long after.

The next morning, they were up before I was, but I got to meet Barry again and talk a little more at length. Barry was big into Randonneuring. This was a style of riding that was like a small tour, but more of a long distance race. It sounded like a ton of fun, and I hadn't heard of it before. Having rode so much in the past week, and having no real days off since Colorado, my knee was beginning to bother me. Barry said I was welcome to stay a second night and to make myself at home. I was incredible grateful as I didn't have another huge day left in me that morning... Barry and Beth both had work, so they said I could eat what I wanted from the fridge and they would talk to me more that evening. I spent the day relaxing and catching up on TV shows as well as planning my route for the coming days.

Back in Gunnison, CO my host (Jeff) talked about a local specialty to some parts of Kentucky, which was a chocolate gravy sauce. He had found it in Pig, KY, so I knew I had to route through there to try and find it myself. Beyond that, I decided I also wanted to go through West Virginia. West Virginia doesn't have a stellar reputation over here, and I figured that I would likely never go if I didn't visit it now. With that in mind, I started to reach out to hosts along a route that would take me up to northern Kentucky and out into West Virginia.

I heard back from a guy who I would be able to stay with tomorrow night, but the night after that would be harder. I wanted to stay in Lexington, KY, and it seemed like it should be easy to find accommodation as there were several Warmshower hosts in the city, but after contacting all of them, for one reason or another they ended up not being available. However, one of them said they would be happy to ask around for me to see if any of their friends would want to host. I didn't have high hopes, but worst case scenario I would find a place to camp or a hotel or something, so it wasn't a big deal.

When Barry and Beth came back that night we talked more about biking, but also nursing, which Beth had done for many years. Nursing is now my plan for my future, and I think it was in large part due to talking with her. The best part about cycle touring are the people you meet and Barry and Beth exemplified that perfectly. After a very productive day, and a great dinner, we all headed to bed again and I got ready for another long day of riding.

Barry and I!

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