Sunday, 19 June 2011

Day 16: Slowly leaving Appalachia

Day 16 
Hindman to Booneville 64 miles

Woke up in my big tent room today, and got ready for breakfast. And what a breakfast it was! Bowls of strawberries, grapes, apples and cereal.
Today I was going to ride with Sam and Cory, two guys I had first met in Damascus. They were going to have a rest day there to let Sam's knee get better, but somehow had managed to catch me up! I found out that this is because they ended up hitching a lift over the worse part of the Hayters gap climb, so were able to get from Damascus to Breaks park in a single day. Its kind of cheating, but I think it depends on how much of a 'purist' you are. Some people would never think of getting any help from a motorist, but Sam and Cory, like me, are slightly more pragmatic. Its an adventure, and part of that adventure is having to do things differently than you might have planned.

We set off at about 8.30 in the end, and the first section was a lovely gentle downhill section of around 15miles. We were able to cover the distance in little over an hour. We then joined a main road, with two lanes of traffic in each direction, which had some steep climbing sections. But as this wasnt a mountain pass road, the climbs tended to be very straight up and downs, rather than twisty turny roads. After a series of these, we reached a Walmart and stopped for a breather. The weather was looking pretty threatening by this point.

We set off, and within 2miles the heavens opened. We sought refuge under an abandoned petrol station awing and, when the rain got too heavy, in a bathroom and lighting shop! There was some huge bolts of lightening and the rain was coming down in sheets.
It got much worse than this before it got better
We ended up losing probably around 90minutes waiting for the storm to abate, but when we eventually left, the riding conditions were not too bad. After another lovely downhill grade of around 10 miles, we reached Buckhorn Mountain. This was a series of climbs over the mountain, but didnt look to be as bad as previous days. It seems to be the case that locals always think their local mountain is the steepest/toughest/tallest around!

One thing I found today, riding with other people, is that I was much less inclined to stop and take rests. Maybe its a pride thing, but I didnt want to show weakness in front of other people!

As it happens, we did stop on the first climb for a puncture. Cory's front as flat so after a bit of faffing around (he had brought the wrong type of spare inner tube!) we set off again for the summit. But it was still more time lost in the day. Buckhorn Mountain was one large climb, and then a couple of smaller up and downs at the top. Managed to break my top speed twice during the descents – 40.7mph and then 41.2 on the next one!

We also met a couple of eastbound riders. These were serious cyclists, rather than tourers. They had a support driver with them who was towing a huge RV/Caravan which they slept in as well as carrying all their kit and, I imagined, a full bike workshop! It has taken them just 33days to get from the Californian coast to eastern Kentuky! They had averaged over 100miles a day. But if I had a super light road bike, didnt have to carry any kit, and had someone to sort everything else for me, I reckon I could go quite a few miles a day too! In all likelihood they would be at Yorktown within a week, but I dont think its as impressive a feat as doing a coast to coast ride where you have to take everything with you on the bike. Its not really an adventure, just a purely physical challenge. But they seemed like nice guys, and I made use of their stand pump to get a little extra pressure in my tires!

After getting down the final descent we stopped for ice cream but still had around 20miles to Booneville, our destination. Most of it was rolling up and downs, with a couple of short sharp climbs. The sort of ones that at the start of the day would have been fine, but after 50 miles, and many hours, it was a bit of a struggle. I just keep telling myself “It will be getting flatter”!

Eventually arrived into Booneville at about 7pm – with all the delays it was a long days riding. But it was 64miles, pretty much equally yesterday's mileage, and I was feeling pretty good. We decided to get food first, as we were all pretty hungry, and then pitch our tents afterwards.

Found a small local diner called “Dooleys”, which was fantastic. They had a bluegrass band playing in one room, and all the people in the diner were coming up to talk to us and ask about our trips and wishing us well.

When it came to ordering our drinks, we asked the two waitresses if they had beer, but apparently we are in a 'dry' county. Although I did get my third comment of the trip about loving my accent. And no mention of Canada this time.

A little later the two waitresses pulled up chairs next to our table and asked if we still wanted beer, as they might be able to sort us some out! We said we would be interested and that we would be back after making camp.

Tonight was camping in the local church. They had a fenced off area around the back for cyclists , and also had a small undercover area, a shower and a loo! There was also a guest book to sign. Saw a few familiar names, including one english guy called Travis, who constantly appears to be 2 days ahead of me!

After putting up our tents and showering, we went back to Dooleys. Although sadly we didnt get our beers!

Tomorrow the plan is to get to Berea, which is about 50miles away and also the end of the second set of maps. The maps describe Berea as the TransAm's “gateway to the Appalachians”. Which for us means it more like the exit door!


  1. Hi Mike, Dad will speak to you on Skpe at about 7 i think he said. Hope your ok.

    Text or e-mail me when you can


  2. well done so far Mike, good to speak to you on Skype.

  3. i agree on the carrying your own stuff issue. There's something about the self-sufficiency element. On TV at the moment is a program about the guy who walked across the amazon... it would just be daft if there was a van behind him with supplies.
    Maybe you can fit a piece of bamboo into the broken spoke!?!