30 Sep 2010, 10:11am
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ten-mile photos

hello from christiansburg, virginia, and the end of another map section! one map section to go. three hundred and sixty seven point five miles. give or take. i am taking a short day today, from radford (where i stayed with the lees, a kind family i’d heard about from a few other cyclists) to blacksburg (where i’m staying with a couchsurfing host).

i wrote last from haysi, towards the beginning of what i hoped would be a long day. hah! i think i made 28 miles of progress. at the library i met a westbounder named grant who’s headed to san francisco or san diego–he’s never been west of st louis! we ended up getting some pizza down the street and chatting for a good long time. so nice when i’d been feeling lonely! grant also pointed out an excellent shortcut along route 11 that saves thirty-some miles of riding and a whole lot of climbing–and so my 28-mile day didn’t mess up my plans too badly after all. i skipped damascus, but so be it. someday i’ll hike the appalachian trail and go through damascus that way!

slept in a county park outside of council. i set up my tent inside a little playhouse in the playground. cozy enough.

in the morning i rode over some mountains and then hopped on route 11, which is not too hilly and which parallels the interstate most of the way, which means it isn’t too heavily-trafficked either! loved it. still, it was dark by the time i rolled into marion, where i stopped for the night.

yesterday i rejoined the transam route, but not before stopping for second breakfast (I AM ALWAYS HUNGRY) at a country restaurant with a logbook for HIKERS! who sign with their trail names. the last two hikers to come through there were “steamer” and “q-tip.”

running out of time (what else is new). grant told me he takes a photo every 10 miles, no matter where he is, and i thought that was such a cool idea i decided to try it too. here’s my ten-mile photos–except i forget sometimes so some of these are 20-mile photos or 11-mile photos–

27 Sep 2010, 11:22am
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appalachia

some excerpts from my journal–

* 9/15
saw a dead coyote today, roadkilled. in missouri, most of the roadkill was armadillos and frogs. and raccoons–the usual suspect. seen alive today: some frogs, a turtle, a beaver (i think!).

* 9/17
ate for dinner last night:
–breaded & fried catfish
–breaded & fried shrimp
–baked beans
–cole slaw
–tater tots
–lemonade
–apple pie
it was intense.

* 9/17
yesterday morning i startled a herd of deer on my way to the bathroom.

* 9/19
recycling and eating conscientiously with ease–the two things i miss most about portland. [i would like to write more about this when i have a chance!]

* 9/19
people yell stuff at me out their windows sometimes. i am always sort of curious what they’re saying. but they are cowards and i can never hear… it could be “dang grrrl, you totally rock!” for all i know.

* 9/19
“when you are reluctant to change, think of the beauty of autumn” (from a church signboard)

* 9/23
ready to do something sustainable–with my life i mean. that doesn’t take ALL my energy OR leave me restless.

* 9/23
don’t know why i’m stressing so much. i am certainly glad i didn’t have an end date the whole time; it would have driven me absolutely mad (evidently).

* 9/24
it’s not that i have never been away from home for this long–though i think that is also true–it’s that i have never been homeLESS for this long. i have scarcely traveled for ANY length of time without a home to return to, all my things in it, familiar etc. sometimes i get this weird feeling of abstractness when i stop for the night… this patch of ground in kentucky could be ANYWHERE… because it is not HOME, which makes anywhere into somewhere.

* 9/25
appalachians: 1, stacia: also 1? it’s not a zero-sum game. the appalachians win by being really fucking challenging; i win by… rising to the challenge? or dragging myself up them huffing and puffing anyway…

* 9/26
at 11-ish these 3 guys and 2 girls who i guess couldn’t believe there was a tent here [in a county park that a cop had suggested i camp at] woke me up and talked to me for awhile. they were pretty funny and entertaining, so overall i would say that it was a win. but i woke up a million times after that.

* 9/26
kinds of southern baptist churches:
–southern
–general
–regular
–old regular
–missionary
–freewill
–independent
–union southern… or was it union regular?

* 9/26
today was the kind of day for curling up with a cup of hot tea and a good book, not for riding. rain rain rain, cold cold cold, cars goin’ honk honk honk. i am beat. i have eaten a lot of chocolate. the nice thing about cooler weather is chocolate doesn’t melt. i am in virginia. hell yeah. just barely. a mile past the border. at a motel. i was crawling by the time i got here.

* 9/26
i can’t pretend to understand the intricacies of the industry or the region, but it seems to me like the people of this area have kind of a stockholm syndrome situation going on with coal. “friend of coal” is something you see on shop windows, car bumpers, even politicians’ campaign signs. but my understanding is that Big Coal (and to a lesser extent Big Ag) have basically taken this region’s livelihood and health hostage, and the ransom price is… everything. i guess it must be about jobs, right? but coal is by definition a finite resource–eventually those jobs will dry up, whether before or after coal companies have destroyed the area’s every resource–mineral, environmental, human… but what do i know?

* 9/26
i have been feeling bad about the thing i wrote about kentucky stereotypes (making fun of misspelling). seems like in every region the people warn me about the people in the next region, telling me they’re different or not so friendly or you know… and people continue to be just people, usually kind, generous, etc. what do i care if things are misspelled? i knew what they meant, obviously. amusingly, i have at least twice seen graffiti along the lines of “learn to spell mother fucker” spraypainted on the sides of buildings.

* 9/26
the appalachians are way harder than the rockies. i have never worked so hard to go 2.8 miles per hour.

photos–
(just a selection ’cause i’m running out of time again! more here…)


(i was too late for this guy)


(log cathedral in buckhorn, ky. i stopped at a little shop and when i asked to use the bathroom, the guy behind the counter handed me the key to the church and told me to go use the bathroom there. i’m glad, because it was really cool to see this church!)

27 Sep 2010, 10:18am
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virginia

way back in dubois, wyoming, we met a guy who was thru-hiking the continental divide trail with his wife. he told us they sometimes take “weather-induced rest days,” or WeIRD, as in “i feel a little weird today, honey, how about you?” “yeah, me too. let’s go back to sleep.” today i am feeling pretty weird. it’s rainy and foggy and cold. but it was yesterday, too, and it probably will be tomorrow. and i have to make some progress. i was sort of hoping to ride 78 miles today, to damascus–hah! i think i have biked about fifteen miles so far, and i’ve only made ten miles or so of progress. the other miles were accumulated while riding around breaks interstate park in search of a logbook/register that my map told me i ought to sign: “all cyclists are asked to stop in and sign Virginia’s ‘Across State Ride’ book if they have/are going to cycle across Virginia on the TransAm… Documenting the number of cyclists who ride this is important for justification of improvements to the route” etc etc. no one in the park knew what i was talking about except to send me on the next place that might have it. when i finally found it, i discovered that the last person to sign it before me came through over a month ago. maybe half a dozen folks have signed it all year. i think the logbook in that outhouse in the middle of the plains in eastern colorado is a more accurate record of who and how many have ridden the trail.

so yes, i am in virginia.

V for Very Rainy! V for Very Foggy! V for Very Cold!

and of course, V for Virginia! V for Virginia-Yes-That’s-Right-I-Rode-My-Bike-To-Virginia!


(jason put that sticker there, i’m sure)

today, i am mostly tired and homesick. i haven’t had decent (any, really) cell phone reception in a few days and i miss talking to my loved ones. nothing like that and a heavy fog to make you feel alone in the world. it turns out, by the way, that the appalachians are way harder than the rockies.

lots of thoughts to share. gonna try to get the librarians to let me use the internet for awhile longer, but my hour’s almost up…

23 Sep 2010, 12:50pm
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on and on

well, every time i actually add up the miles i have left to go, i am in good shape. at 60 miles a day and one more rest day after today, i actually have 38 miles “in the bank” so to speak that i can cash in if (WHEN!) i need to rest, probably thanks in part to a few shortcuts i’ve taken in the past few days. but here come the appalachians…

i’m in berea, which i love! there is a great little coffeeshop that serves panini and chai! there’s an ecovillage!! bell hooks lives here! there’s a free bluegrass jam tonight! maybe i will bring my ukulele and try to look like i know what i’m doing with it!

anyway, i believe we left off outside of mammoth cave?

the stretch of road between the national park and cave city, ky, is jam-packed with kitschy tourist attractions, with paint that’s been fading since the ’60s. rv parks with bumper cars, a “wildlife” (read: taxidermy) museum, a dinosaur museum, water slides, rock shops, and so on. for example:


(this place was a big bavarian-themed shopping center with a grand total of ONE open shop. plus a “shops for rent” sign and a “for sale” sign for the whole thing. pretty sad)


(i think they are made of concrete. the sign said, “sleep in a wigwam!”)

back into the countryside–


(tobacco drying in a barn)

i was thinking the other day–probably when i caught the stench of a chicken farm (they smell worse than cattle feedlots) or saw a plume of dust/soil tossed into the air by farm equipment–that i am maybe contributing to what michael pollan calls the “supermarket pastoral” genre with my photos of the countryside. like, is it responsible of me to show you how beautiful the country is, without also showing you how ugly it is? i don’t know. y’all should ride your bikes across it and see for yourself. seriously, i am learning way more than i can process while i’m still riding.

i have also started reading a book that was written here in kentucky, purchased by a. in california, and mailed to me here in kentucky–wendell berry’s the unsettling of america. it is very very good. and very very relevant.

anyway.

i think this was in springfield–i was not quite sure how to interpret this mural–your readings? yes, that is obama:

and here’s a whole bunch more quilt squares:


(i have to admit that this particular pattern looks vulgar to me. what is that boy doing exactly?)

these last two are actually in berea, in the “old town artisans village”:

until next time!

21 Sep 2010, 4:39pm
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over, around, and underground

i met jane when she pulled up next to me and asked, “could you pull over so i can talk to you?” she wanted to know about bike touring, which she’s always sort of wanted to do, and i answered all the usual questions. (how far do you go every day? where do you stay? how much weight are you carrying? actually i don’t know the answer to that last question, and i don’t want to know!) she’d actually seen me at the antiques auction outside of marion that i’d stopped at briefly, and had wanted to come talk to me, but was too busy buying things and then i’d left. before she drove off again, she gave me her number and offered me a place to stay for the night. i’d been planning to stay in sebree, but was making slow progress after taking too long in marion for lunch and internetting. so when i got to clay–well, when i got to clay i was immediately approached by a group of friendly thirteen-year-olds who were also dying to know all about bike touring and told me about their plan to ride motorcycles to las vegas when they turn eighteen–when i got to clay i gave her a call and got directions to her house four miles outside of town.

she was in the backyard talking with her brother, who is a farmer and also runs a trucking company with a contract at the local coal mine (dotiki mine, in webster county), to carry the byproduct of the coal getting washed to a pit somewhere nearby and dump it in. he asked me if i’d ever seen a coal mine and offered to take us on a little tour. so we hopped in his truck and went to see…


(the white thing is what the workers ride into the mine on)

and the mine itself of course:

a supervisor there said he’d be happy to take us down if we only had hardhats, but i have since googled the mine and am just as glad we didn’t go in! (it’s got a history of safety violations.) it extends for miles and miles underground, including (she said) under jane’s house. her brother said: “farming and coal, that’s all webster county is. i have to do both!”

jane and her enormous dog, wolf:

about dogs in kentucky–i’d been hearing about them since at least montana! how they’d chase me, etc. on my last morning in illinois, i stopped to put on my sunglasses and an enormous german shepherd came trotting over towards me. for a moment i was scared, but he just wanted to sniff my bags, lick my knees, and have me scratch behind his ears. most of the dogs in kentucky who’ve chased me are the same way. probably helped that wolf was the first dog i met in kentucky–enormous, intimidating, and completely sweet.

next day i rode and rode. at one point i stopped for a snack by the side of the road, and a guy who happened to be outside his house across the street gave me a cold bottle of gatorade. later a woman at a little food mart let me fill my water bottle with ice and sweet tea for free. kentucky has been full of incredibly friendly people! everyone wants to know where i’m going and wish me a good trip. sure, there have also been a few who’ve yelled unintelligible things at me from their cars, and a few too many confederate flags for my liking, but you spend more time with the kind people and it’s the kindnesses that stick with you.

here’s a few cultural things i found amusing or interesting, though:

on the side of a restaurant in southern illinois: “the Best Food in So. Ill.!” might want to reconsider the abbreviations…

and a sign: “GED classes Thrus. 8AM-2PM.” that’s right, class is on thrusday. forgive me; i couldn’t help but enjoy the confirmation of stereotypes in that.

gregg called me when i was a bit past fordsville to give me beth’s number–they’d stayed with her the night before. i was pretty thoroughly exhausted by then–i’d ridden about eighty hilly miles–and she pretty much made my night when she offered to come pick me up when i called her. she and her husband (who was away on family business) moved to kentucky three years ago from new jersey, and they have cosmopolitan interests like art and literature and wine… our conversation over dinner was as satisfying and refreshing as the beer and risotto. yes, risotto! it was delicious.

they also have three sweet dogs: norm, nicky, and robin (the calmest border collie i have ever met).

beth also told me about the large quilt squares i’d seen painted on the sides of barns a couple times. apparently some years ago, in ohio, a woman’s mother was dying and bedridden, and to cheer her up, she decided to paint her favorite quilt pattern on the side of her barn, which her mom could see from her bed. her neighbors liked it so much that it caught on, and it’s since spread across the country. it’s become a tourist thing, a way to get people off the main highways and into smaller communities. beth has been involved with the group in grayson county that paints the squares for a few years. homeowners who want one can fill out an application and pay a small fee (for materials) and then work with a “pattern committee” who help them figure out what pattern and colors they went. then it gets sent to the “painting committee,” which beth is a part of, and they get painted on two big 4′x8′ boards, which are put together when it’s hung on the side of the barn. she showed me one they’ve just finished:

and here are a few i’ve seen since then:


(on the side of the fire station–if i remember right–in caneyville)


(in a different county)

beth gave me shortcut directions to mammoth cave and i set off again in the morning…


(their long driveway)

“upgrades” to my “cockpit”–
1. lizard: good luck charm given to me by joe, who i met in hutchinson, kansas.
2. cyclocomputer cover: keeps me from obsessing about speed, mileage, and time, while allowing me to track same.
3. turquoise duct tape: stops migrating handlebar tape in its tracks!
4. wild turkey feathers: picked up by the side of the road.
not pictured: shenanigans the tiny plastic pony, given to me by laura at our going-away party in june. in missouri i finally bought superglue (to fix my glasses) and superglued ‘er to my front fender. the next day, in the rain on the katy trail, she fell off. i actually backtracked at least half a mile to look for her, but she’d disappeared… i suppose she’s running free up and down the trail!

so to see mammoth cave, you buy a ticket for one of a whole bunch of different tours. i bought a ticket for the only tour left the day i got there (sunday), the “frozen niagara” tour. luckily it turned out to be pretty cool! none of my photos really turned out, of course. but here you go:

one of the coolest parts was at the beginning of the tour–once we were all in, the ranger turned off all the lights and lit a bic lighter, to give us the experience of seeing the cave the way the first explorers of it would have (by lantern light).

i’ve got only four minutes of computer time left at this library, so i’ll have to stop there. i’m in springfield, kentucky, in eastern standard time!

20 Sep 2010, 11:09am
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still moving forward

i know that stopping here at this library will sabotage my progress for the rest of the day, but i’m ok with that. anyway they have a one-hour time limit (or 30 minutes if someone’s waiting, and someone got kicked off for me, so who knows) and won’t let me plug in my camera memory, so maybe i won’t be here so long after all. today’s one of those frustrating days where i can either go 40-odd miles or 80-plus, as far as places to sleep go. 80-plus would be ok–my body can handle it, mostly–but either (a) i am really slow these days (possible), or (b) it is getting on into autumn and there’s less daylight, and i worry about running out of light. excuses, excuses, right? so i’m taking a short day today. yup.

i have been really struggling mentally the past few days with the “am i gonna make it??” question. counting miles obsessively. i was scared that i’d set this goal for myself and i wouldn’t be able to make it–wouldn’t be able to say without qualifications that i biked across the country, would have to rent a car or something to get to my train on time, etc etc. i wanted to go to mammoth cave national park, but it would add such-and-such extra miles, and could i really afford to? and so on.

when i called my mom and asked her whether or not i should go to mammoth cave, and she said “of course you should go”–that was the point at which i could finally step back and remember that my other goal on this trip is just to have fun and learn stuff and talk to people and see the scenery and smell the roses. what am i trying to prove by getting all the way to yorktown (which, in any case, is on the chesapeake bay and barely counts as the atlantic ocean)? i have already proven that i can bike a long way (closing in on 4000 miles), that i can ride up mountains, and so on.

i have also been struggling with the really steep hills around here–so steep i inch sloooowly up them in my great-granny gear and my lower back cramps up. momentum doesn’t work–seems like even if i ride hard on the downhills, it’ll only get me partway up, and then i’m extra-exhausted from trying. i kept waiting to figure out how to do them, to learn some lesson from them, like i did with long climbs in the west (slow down and get into the groove) and the mean winds in kansas (slow down and stay in the moment). but maybe the content of the lesson of these hills isn’t how to get over them–it’s that i gotta stop worrying about whether or not i will. even as i’ve worried and stressed and pulled out my hair about whether or not i’m gonna make it… i have been moving forward. i’ll be in eastern standard time by the end of today.

and i’ve been having a good time! i went to mammoth cave and it was pretty awesome. i don’t think i’d ever been in a cave before! it looked sort of unreal, like the whole thing had been carved out of styrofoam or something.

i’m gonna go at the pace i need to go at, and if october 7th is approaching and it looks like i’m gonna be late, i’ll figure it out then–whether that means renting a car or something or pushing really hard when it doesn’t matter if i can’t bend my knees for a week afterward. hah! in any case, if i’m being exact about it, i already can’t say i’m biking across the country, ’cause i skipped the pacific ocean part and went right down to eugene from portland. so what’s a couple hundred miles on this end, then, if i didn’t care at that end?

lots to write about when i have more time: jane, who pulled over to ask me about bike touring and then invited me into her home for the night; beth, who actually came to pick me up just before dark after 80 miles when i was ready to drop, and then cooked me an amazing dinner; and more.

p.s. i just bought a new sheet of postcard stamps and i’m just dying to send you a postcard! if i don’t have it already (and if i haven’t sent you a postcard yet on this trip, i don’t have it), email it to me: staciafuchsia at gmail dot com.

17 Sep 2010, 1:05pm
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state #9

hi there! i crossed the mississippi! i rode across illinois! i crossed the ohio river! by ferry! now i am in kentucky! state number nine of ten! bam! pow! i am kickin’ ass and takin’ names! sort of.

i’m in marion, kentucky, where i picked up not one, not two, but three(!) amazing care packages at the post office, from my parents, my grandparents, and a. it was like christmas! thank you!

just in case: if you want to send me something (cookies?), you should call me when you’ve got it all ready to go and i’ll let you know where i’ll be in four or five days. if you send it priority mail, that seems to work well, and it’s more reliable time-wise than regular parcel post.

so far in kentucky i have:
* been offered a ride by a trucker (ok, that was on the ferry),
* bought snacks at an amish variety store,
* witnessed a country outdoor antiques auction, complete with tent and fast-talkin’ auctioneer, and
* been added to a church’s prayer list (i’ll take all the help i can get, right?).

i’m only a third of the way into today’s ride and it’s getting on into afternoon, so i’m going to make this quick ‘n’ dirty. in chester, illinois, at the eagles lodge where they’ve got a nice little bunkhouse for cyclists, i picked up a nice notebook someone had abandoned, and i’m finally keeping a paper journal on this trip, so i can fill you in on all the details later (mostly wildlife and waxing poetic about the morning light and complaining about knee pain and so on).

last photos from missouri:

and then…

(my sweetpea with swee’ pea)


(on the mississippi river floodplains)


(a by-no-means-uniquely ridiculous hill)


(yeah)


(illinois also has a big rails-to-trails project! not as long as the katy trail, though, and i think it runs north-south)


(turtle rescue!)


(this was in somebody’s garden, with some benches. things like this are why i love the transamerica trail!)

the ferry!:

kentucky:

okay. i gotta get going.