Thursday, August 25, 2011

Days 28-32: Where There's a Wheel, There's a Way, and Kentuck-Y? Because We Have To

8/19 Day 28: Paint Creek State Park, OH to Deer Park, Cincinnati, OH 0 miles

            We realized that the UPS truck wasn't going to arrive first thing in the morning to such a rural location, but we still had high hopes when we woke up. As soon as the camp store opened at 9AM, Ben went up to ask about the delivery. They said that normally the truck doesn't arrive til noon or even later some days. While certainly frustrating, this wasn't the worst thing we could have heard, so we went about our morning at a relaxed pace and went up to one of the pavillions by the front of the park to wait. We waited, and waited. The group suggested, around noon or so, that Ben make a phone call to Velocity to see if they had a tracking number for his part, so we could see what the package's status was. He seemed confident that it would be on time, sent an e-mail, and we continued to wait.
         Finally, around 1:30 we decided to call Velocity and hear the bad news. While, yes, they had shipped the part the day before, no, it would not be arriving today. Some error resulted in the package being shipped regular delivery, and it wouldn't arrive until Monday. Not good. Waiting any longer was simply not an option. I began calling every bike shop within 75 miles to see if anyone could help us out. We still had no way of getting to said bike shops, but first thing's first. After four or five shops passed me off to another local shop that "might be able to help," a place called Jim's in Deer Park, a suburb of Cincinnati, said that they had a wheel with a 10-speed hub sitting in the shop they would sell us. Ok, one thing off the list. Now how do we get there?
          One of the park volunteers, Paige, had said the day before that she might be willing to drive us to a bike shop if they had what we needed, so we went off to find her. Cinci was, understandably, a little too far to ask her to go since it's at least a two hour one way drive and it was a Friday afternoon. Paige called her son, her other son, and another camper she knew would be on his way into the park that day who lived near the area where the bike shop was. All of this turned out to be of no avail and we were left to brood over the next step. Courier services? No dice. Delivery? No. We made as many phone calls as we had ideas, but all seemed to be dead ends. Paige came back a few minutes later and suggested a taxi service that was based 25 miles away in Hillsboro that might be able to take Ben or all of us to Cincinnati. We had all thought of cab services before, but no one really wanted to pursue it too far, knowing that the costs would likely be high for a 70 mile cab ride. But, we were stuck.
Ben's bike takes the short bus.
        I called the cab service asked them how much it would cost to get us out of Paint Creek, and they said for just Ben and his bike it would be $150 bucks. I hesitated, but asked anyway, how much it would be to get all of us there, and did they even have a vehicle capable of it. As it turned out, Hillsboro Taxi also does a lot of non-emergency medical transport- a.k.a. they drive seniors and sick folks to hospital appointments in the city from areas out in the boonies. So, they had just the vehicle for 4 cross-country cyclists with fully loaded bikes: a handi-van, fully equipped with a wheel chair lift. Only a measly $175 bucks... We were basically up a creek and they were selling paddles, so it was time to pony up. It wasn't until about 5 or so that the handi-van rolled up and our driver, Steve, jumped out to give us a hand with the bikes.  Steve is a 26 year old HIllsboro resident, has a lip ring, and was a generally chatty and pleasant person- bascially the last guy I was expecting to see driving a handi-van to our rescue in the middle of nowhere Ohio. We loaded up our bikes, our handicapped bike, our baggage, and ourselves then embarked on the 2.5 hour drive to Cincinnati. During the ride we saw all the sights that the area east of Cinci had to offer: fields, corn, a zebra grazing in a dudes front yard, and, well, yeah, basically all we saw that was interesting was the zebra.
           We pulled into Deer Park, a suburb of Cincinnati, around 7, Steve dropped us off, and we decided that before we made any arrangements or decisions about the night, we needed a meal and a beer. We took a spot on the patio of Molly Malone's, a generic Irish bar with pretty good food, and ordered some beers. While we drank our first round and waited for our food, we started talking to the table next to us about the trip. When I told them we were planning on sleeping in a park or behind the church next door, they said that they lived just around the corner and we were welcome to camp out in their back yard. We jumped on the chance, and ate and drank a little more at ease. After the restaurant, we wheeled our bikes down the street to their house and set up shop in Phil and Wanda's back yard. They were extremely accomodating, nice folks who just wanted to help out some total strangers. They gave us a cooler full of waters and beers, access to their basement bathroom, and the run of their yard and patio for the night. We had a couple more brews and fell asleep, still not out of the woods, but closer to rolling again. Jim's opened at 10 the next day, and we planned to be waiting outside the door.

8/20 Day 29: Cincinnati, OH to Warsaw, KY 49 miles (1203 miles)

The deer try to tell Ben to avoid the bad neighborhoods,
but we ignore them.
           We slept in a bit for the third day straight, knowing we had until mid morning to schlepp Ben's gimpy bike down to the shop a couple miles away. We crawled out of the tents to see a couple deer meandering in Phil and Wanda's yard, clearly none too spooked by us, and a pot of coffee with four mugs sitting out on the patio table. We delightedly partook and our hosts headed out to do some morning errands, but said they'd give Ben and his bike a lift to the shop when they got back. The arrangement suited us fine; so we hung out a bit, sipped our coffee and packed our stuff. When they got back, Ben loaded up and left with them in short order and the rest of us rode to the shop close behind, happy to be riding again.
           Jim's Bike Shop was probably the nicest, best stocked store we've been to since Boston. The staff was helpful, and Jim himself swapped the rims on Ben's bike. We spent probably an hour at the shop poking around and buying odds and ends before Jim had everything squared away. We were very, very happy to finally be back on the road after our long exile in Paint Creek and the doldrums of bike-ride-less days. The folks at Jim's also have a blog, where they posted a picture of us out front and a couple sentences about our trip. Check their site out at: www.jimsbicycleshop.wordpress.com they're good folks and deserve the web traffic. From Jim's we set out south through central Cincinnati, which was basically a straight shot through some pretty crappy neighborhoods. There were people screaming at each other, a woman crying on the side of the road with some man yelling at her, and a few other samples of the urban maelstrom to spur us on our way. There were nice parts of Cincinnati, of course, with some scenic river-views, a sweet little park, and a couple good places to eat on the Kentucky side of the river. There is something slightly soothing about being in a city. About knowing that anything you might need you can find, that a bike shop can't be far, and that emergency services are available should the need arise.
That's what a grilled cheese donut looks like.
        We spent most of the morning at Jim's, so by lunch time we had only gone around 10 miles or so. We decided to stop in at a little place across the Ohio River called Tom + Chee, a specialty grilled cheese shop that features grilled cheese donuts. Amazing. We all ordered, sat down, and dug in to our excellent and innovative sandwiches. I had a double-decked pepperjack with beef, hot cherry peppers and a caprese salad while Erin got down to business on her Oh My Goetta sandwich (Goetta is, apparently, strictly a Cincinnati thing. It is pork shoulder cooked with steel cut oats to make a kind of meat loaf, then it is sliced up and comes out kind of like a hash) and Mandi ate a grilled donut with marzipone cheese, marshmallow, chocolate, and graham cracker pieces. While we ate, we noticed a lot of guys with cameras running around and it didn't take long to find out that Man Vs. Food from the Travel Channel was doing some filming there today. They actually stopped letting people in shortly after we were served so they could begin shooting. We were a little amused at all the excitement, but then excited ourselves when the host of the show, Adam Richman, arrived and shot his first scene in front of the building with our fully loaded bikes as part of his background! After this he came inside and the crew went around asking people to do one-on-one scenes with the host- just so happens Erin and I were chosen.
Shot of Adam and the production crew
by our bikes.
          The crew broke down how it would work by basically saying, "We'll give you a sandwich and tell you what it is. You'll take a bite, enjoy it, smile, and then Adam will sit down with you. You guys will talk, you'll say how much you like the food, and that'll be it." And that's basically how it went. I got a chance to chat with Adam a little before and after our scene, and he was a pretty nice guy. We talked about the bike trip (on and off camera) and he had a lot of great things to say about Portland. He also told us to watch out for wild dogs on our rides through the back country, and we shot the breeze about minor league baseball, bike riding, and a few other things. It was a pretty interesting experience, and it never would have happened if we hadn't come on this trip and broken down in the middle of nowhere, Ohio. After we were done we said goodbye to the crew and got riding again. We had most of the day's riding to do and it was almost 4PM.
         We busted out the miles in short order over Kentucky's low, rolling hills and found ourselves sleeping in a city park in Warsaw, KY by the river at nightfall, with the local police chief's blessing. After the summer concert, where they mostly played country standards and songs about Dixie at top volume, which pushed our nine o clock bedtime back a couple hours.  Either way, it was a tough few days to not be riding, the feeling of being stuck, and the helplessness and frustration were really palpable. To finally fall asleep somewhere that wasn't Paint Creek State Park, with working bikes, was a huge weight off our shoulders.

8/21 Day 30: Warsaw, KY to Charlestown State Park, Charlestown, IN 70 miles (1273 miles)

         Warsaw's city park was a dingy, well-used place with trash strewn all over the ground and bulging out of the trash cans. Cigarette butts carpeted the shelters' floors and you could smell the bathrooms from anywhere in the park. In short, after we ate breakfast, we weren't sad to leave. Our plan for the day was to do a little bit of extra mileage if the terrain permitted, because we were about 100 miles away from Louisville and had a place to stay lined up in town by way of www.warmshowers.com. We figured that if we did a long day today, we could take a shorter one the next and see the city a little bit since none of us had ever been to Louisville. Off we went and it wasn't long before we entered our tenth state on the trip, Indiana, at Madison. We ducked in to The Downtowner, a nice little sandwich shop on main street, and inhaled our lunch. We also made a point to talk to our prospective hosts in Lousiville, Forrest and Beth, to get their address and let them know we'd be in town the next night.
         After Madison, we had to climb  the ridge that borders the river valley to get up and out of town. Forrest told us there was a beautiful state park right next to Madison called Clifty Falls State Park that we should see if we were in town. So, on our way up the hill we turned in to the park to see if we could check it out quickly. Unfortunately, there is a $2 entrance fee for Indiana state parks, and a big hill right after the entrance. We decided we didn't want to pay $2 admission for hill climbing when we could climb all the free hills we wanted on our route, so we turned around and hit the trail again. Once we reached the plateau that comprised the rest of the area along our path for the day, things got pretty easy. We had pretty moderate temperatures (only 90!) and a lot of scenic, fun to ride rolling farm land to cruise on. The day actually flew by and we hardly made any significant stops until we got to Charlestown, IN where the Charlestown Pizza Co. is located.
Erin, Ben, and I cruise past some soy.
        We were as ravenous as I think I've ever been when  we pulled up to the restaurant. We had made it a bit of a late day- it was already around 7 when we arrived- and we had ridden 67 miles to get there. Somehow we managed to eat two 14" pizzas, breadsticks, and drink a couple beers a person. We were planning on camping at the Charlestown State Park, and we were under the impression it was only about 1.5 miles from the restaurant, which is why we stuffed ourselves with such abandon. Shortly, we discovered that the road we intended to take was a dead end, and it was actually about a 3 mile ride to the campground. We also were disappointed to learn that while, yes, Indiana state parks only charge $5.72 for primitive camp sites, no, they didn't actually have any primitive sites at this park. Yet another in an endless litany of lessons we've learned: always, always call ahead. We ended up paying the entrance fee for the park, and then paying $18 for an electric hook-up.
        Paying for camping has become more and more annoying the further west we get. There is so much open space out here that we could literally put a tent almost anywhere. The only things we use at the parks are the showers and water taps (and the electric outlets if they have some we can surreptitiously charge our devices at) and we know that when we pay for an electric site we have no chance of actually getting our money's worth because we aren't hooking up a camper. So when it was time to pay for our site, I tried my best to convince the security guard to just let us pay the price of a primitive site, and we would camp out in one of the picnic areas. He was not sympathetic, and we coughed up the dough. For those of you shaking your heads and thinking "they should just stealth camp more." It's easier said than done with four people and four big bikes, and we do our best. Often though, paying for the site is worth the peace of mind knowing you'll have a shower at the end of the day, and won't be kicked out in the middle of the night.  We showered and set up camp quickly, since it was already dark, and decided we would just sleep in a bit, to at least get that out of our site.

8/22 Day 31: Charlestown, IN to Louisville, KY 30 miles (1303 miles)

          We woke up a bit late, ate some oatmeal, and took our time getting things together as we knew it would only be a short ride to the city. We rode the 2.5 miles out of the park back to the road, and set off toward Lousiville. We were all a little excited to get a nice lunch at one of the city's restaurants and see the sights, whatever they were. A quick ride over some backwoods farms and hilly pastures had us in Clarksvile, right across the river from Louisville. We crossed the river at the (crazy to cross on a bicycle, but the only way) 2nd Street Bridge and headed straight to Forrest and Beth's house to stow our baggage. Forrest greeted us at the door after we wandered around a bit finding the place. He proved to be a good host, and a very relaxed guy. We found him watering the garden behind their house; he told us later that Louisville is in the midst of a pretty bad drought. We saw further evidence of the dry-spell throughout the corn fields int he neighboring area the next day. Cornstalks were dried out and broken in half in many places. He let us throw our things in their front room, and recommended a new Mexican place down the street called La Rosita for us to get lunch. "The best Mexican food from here to Mexico city, just get something you've never had before," was his advice.
View from our seats at the ballpark.
        We rode our unburdened bikes over to the restaurant and tried our best to figure the city out. Forrest and Beth live in an area of the city called Butchertown that used to have a huge number of meat packing plants and slaughterhouses. It is still home to at least one plant, and probably more. The area of town we were in, the eastern side of Market St., seemed totally empty at 2PM on a Monday. There was no one in La Rosita, despite their excellent food, and no one out walking on the streets at all. We came back from lunch and chatted with Forrest in his living room while we kicked back a few beers. Forrest had to pick up Beth at work around 6:30, and then run an errand for work that would take him all the way up to Indianapolis. We decided to fill the intervening time with a trip to Louisville Slugger Field to watch the AAA Louisville Bats play the Toledo Mudhens (matchup of the century). When we told Forrest this, he laughed and said he'd never been to see them play despite the fact that the stadium is about a mile from their house. "We make good bats in Louisville," he said, "But not good baseball teams."
           After he left, we walked over to the stadium and bought the most expensive, best seats available... for $11 bucks. We settled in and watched a pitcher's duel between Edinson Volquez, and some guy on the Mudhens as we participated in the night's promotion: baseball bingo. It would take too long to explain what exactly this is, but just assume it's what it sounds like. Suffice it to say, also, that we didn't win. We had a couple beers, and relaxed in the mostly empty stadium. I love baseball, and being at a park, so this was a lot of fun for me. We had to leave in the 8th, just as the Bats fell behind (they ended up losing after their rally fell short) because Forrest was due home around 9:30 and was making quesadillas. We walked back to their house, met Beth, and hung out with her while she got dinner started. Forrest and Beth, for the sake of a little more detail, own some pedicabs in town, are very in to canning their own veggies, preserves, and salsa- which were all amazing- and have done a significant amount of travelling, much of it by bike. They're very DIY oriented and definitely thought we were wasting money by wearing bike shorts, not wrapping cut up sweatshirts on our seats, by using sport water bottles instead of plastic bottles, and using tents instead of tarps.
            Dinner was excellent and the quesadillas were very satisfying. We stayed up pretty late for us, chatting with our hosts, until we couldn't last any longer and passed out on our sleeping pads (Forrest and Beth used towels and clothes when they toured) on their living room floor.

8/23 Day 32: Louisville, KY to Brandenburg, KY 58 miles (1361 miles)

Unused bat sits outside of factory:
officials now suspect those who ordered
it were playing a practical joke.
        We didn't wake up til around 9 or 10 and Beth made us a 2 dozen egg scramble for breakfast with some of their homemade salsa- really delicious. We stayed on for a couple hours talking with them and didn't roll out til about noon with a lot of thank yous for their generosity. Warmshowers is very cool, and if you travel at all and are open to staying with strangers, you should consider signing up. You'll meet some interesting folks for sure, but Beth and Forrest said that in their years of hosting people, they've never had anyone dangerous or too weird stay with them. On our way out of town we made a stop at Cake Flour on Market, a very highly touted bakery that had some unbelievable muffins and a lot of well-crafted confections for sale, and the Louisville Slugger Museum for a quick picture. We would have loved to take a tour, but we had a full day of riding in front of us and not a lot of day left to do it in. We re-crossed the river into Indiana and began wending our way back southwest.
     We climbed one real big hill on our way out of Clarkesville that Forrest said would be our last big hill til the Rockies and the maps said the terrain might force us to walk our bikes. We ended up hardly breaking a sweat on it, since it wasn't anything compared to the Appalachians, but we rewarded ourselves with some ice cream at the top anyway. The pleasant rollers we had seen a few days before were back, and made for easy riding most of the day. The uphills were a little longer, and the downhills a little shorter, it seemed, than the other day but we rolled right along until we hit Corydon, IN. Corydon, we learned, was Indiana's first state capitol and is home to the Constitution Elm Monument, in remembrance of the old elm tree under which Indiana's constitution was signed. Other than this tidbit of knowledge, all we still know about Indiana is that its capital now is Indianapolis, the Colts play there, the Indy 500 is in Indiana, and that... they grow corn, tobacco, and soybeans there. All I can say about it otherwise is that their dogs generally don't seem to chase us as far or ferociously as Kentucky and Ohio dogs.
Parked next to some tobacco fields in Indiana.
             Weighed down by all the knowledge we had gleaned from Corydon, we rode on until we reached the Ohio River yet again, to cross back into Kentucky at Brandenburg. Our long morning in Louisville meant that when we crossed the river and got to the outskirts of town, the sun was well on its way to setting and we didn't yet have a definite place to sleep. We decided to ride into town and see what the local church scene had to offer. We passed a couple, but there was either no cover for camping or no access to water. We finally came across one that looked ideal after maybe 20 minutes of searching; it didn't have any neighbors except for a park, had water, and even a shelter if we got any rain. We usually try to call or knock on any doors that the church may have before throwing tents down, and this time was no exception. There was a small house situated on church property with a car parked in the side garage and we assumed the priest must live there.
          I took the asking duty for the day and rung the doorbell. A plain-faced man with graying hair wearing a blue button-down and khakis answered the door and I asked him if he was the priest. He said that, in fact, he was and wanted to know what I wanted.  "Well, we're four cross-country cyclists and I was wondering if we could just put a couple tents behind the church for the night." He seemed annoyed and perplexed by this question and said, after a pause, "Uh. Where exactly would you put them? I've never been asked the question before." I gestured toward the expansive property and said, "Well, anywhere you'd like us to put them. It's totally up to you." He then asked me to lead him to the spot we would want to put them, and I walked across the lot and pointed to a patch of grass in sight of his house, "Right here, or, really anywhere would work. We've already ridden 55 miles, and if we could stay here it would be really nice." I wasn't making much progress, I could see, and he sort of stood there a bit vexed and anxious about the whole situation. "Where would your restrooms be?" he then asked in a manner suggesting that if we couldn't brick and mortar some up with full-plumbing in the next two minutes, there would be no option of us staying here. Ben had joined us at this point and pointed out a port-o-john in the neighboring park, saying that we could simply use it.
        It was becoming clear the priest simply didn't want us there as he said, "If the police came by tonight, what would you do? I don't want you to be arrested." I explained that that was the entire reason we had asked him in the first place, and if he didn't want us to stay we would gladly move along. "That would probably be for the best, I would want the police to kick you out." So, off we went. This was by far the most negative experience we have had trying to stay at a church, which I found out was a Catholic church. Someone told us before the trip that you can usually stay at any church you want, except Catholic churches. I didn't believe them at all at first, but in a month of traveling the only two churches we were given a hard time about were Catholic. We decided, after nearly another 30-40 minutes of searching after the church to just call the police dispatch and ask them where we should stay, a tactic that has worked in the past. Erin called, and got a helpful woman on the phone who, after calling the police chief to check with him, directed us to the town's fairgrounds. The fairgrounds had water, shelter, and electricity... and were a mile down the road from where we had turned off our route some 5 or 6 miles of searching ago. All's well that ends well, I suppose, and after our standard pasta with beans we hit the hay dreaming up letters to write to that inhospitable clergyman.

3 comments:

  1. You guys are just about 1/3 of the way (or have surpassed that since this re-cap)! Keep pedaling! More pictures of food and cats!

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  2. I want more pictures of food too! And interesting but not terribly surprising about the churches!

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  3. "Damn hippies crapping in the church parking lot and smoking their pots."

    ReplyDelete