Today was our last in Kentucky and it was a bit of a toughie, namely because the grades got steeper and longer. And this section was pure hillbilly and chasing dog country to boot.
We said goodbye to Steve and Jack in the morning after all staying together in the Baptist Church at Pippa Passes, they are on their last day of cycling before flying back to Washington State. We were in a valley and mist hung in the sky ahead, the atmosphere was a bit jurassic, a giant green jurassic misty bowl.
After about five miles we met a cyclist coming the other way who had been riding since February and had nearly completed a 9,000 circular journey around the entire US starting and finishing in New Orleans. He had the look of someone who'd been on the road a long time, and gave us a gloom and doom report of what was up ahead for us, notably a ten percent grade steep climb and some vicious dogs he'd encountered further back. Well it turns out that some people just like to talk the talk, because yes, there was a steep climb up ahead but it was no tougher than all the others. It's funny how some folks are really pessimistic and almost want to scare you, but actually it just has the effect of making whatever it is they're talking about just not seem half as bad.
As for the dogs, we were on high alert all day. All transam cyclists talk about the dogs of eastern Kentucky, how they like to chase cyclists, how they bite, go for your ankles, and their owners are unsympathetic to help out. All of it is true and we have been chased by a lot of dogs, but haven't been bitten at all, and most of the really scary ones have been chained up or fenced in. It's the beagles and chihuahuas (a bizarre breed for round here because seriously no one looks remotely like Paris Hilton) which have chased us the most.
As we've mentioned already, parts of the Appalachians are desperately poor, today we passed homes where it seemed that most of their possessions were strewn across their front yard, goats were tied up and perching on rocks, cockerills in cages, a woman who was toothless yet not old, singing on her front porch at the top of her voice and sitting in a rocking chair, and litter is much more of a problem here, in fact as well as the usual rubbish we saw several burnt out cars that had fallen down the side of the road into the valley below.
But don't be thinking that it's all grim because this is also the greenest terrain that we have ridden through. Hills, valleys, high slate bluffs, winding roads, forests are everywhere, and for every rotton looking trailer is also a neat little white wooden house with an immaculate garden with model deer parading on the lawn. The contrast is at some times bizarre.
In the morning we stopped for milkshakes at a little independent dairy bar at a place called Lookout. We chatted to a man who said he grew up in the west of the state but moved out here some twenty years ago. He said: 'These mountains just get in to you', and that probably sums it up, how the locals feel about it.
We're also back into black bear country now. We haven't seen any, although a cyclist we met yesterday saw one scamper off into the bushes when he was coming round a corner. We have seen blue herons and lots of little turtles crossing the road. Matt gets all Terry Nutkins when he sees ones and ferries it to the other side so it doesn't get squished by a truck.
So despite me saying that the morning's hill wasn't too bad, it did get pretty tough in the afternoon. We were more tired and there were a few really steep grades which seemed to go on forever. By the time we arrived at the state park, which is a beautiful forest around a gorge at 5.30 pm, our legs and knees were really aching and tired.
And not forgetting that just a few miles before our destination, we crossed over the state line into our tenth and final state of our trip, Virginia.
All the way along we have been telling people that we are cycling to Virginia, and now we are here. But it's not over yet, we still have ten days fo cycling left and a lot of hills to get over!