21 Sep 2010, 4:39pm

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!

Of course I am now trying to figure out where I can put up a plywood quilt.

Love you,

Just a note to say, may you have “Sunshine and Tailwinds” on the rest of your journey! Gota your page off of a journal on CGOAB.com, thought I’d check it out. We hope to do a Transam in a few years!

Take care, Ride Safe, have FUN

B.J. and JoLynn Ondo
Colorado Springs, CO.



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