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Brian Cray - Budget Travel

Hitchhiking, Train Hopping, & Backpacking

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Booneville Billy the Ex-Marine

Booneville Billy the Ex-Marine

Buckhorn, KY

I started off the morning being chased down by two fierce dogs. The one was smaller and ran out of gas rather quickly, but the white, mixed pooch would not back down. He ran after me for over a half mile. I was tempted to pull out my knife, but decided to continue on and eventually he capitulated.

Buckhorn, KY

More vacant land in Buckhorn, KY. This is how much of my bicycle tour through KY was on the TransAmerica Trail. Some beautiful cliffs though.

I was not able to charge my electronics last night since there were not electrical outlets at the Hindman Settlement School, which I found odd. Anyway, after about 20 miles I spotted The First Chuch of Chavies and stopped there to rest. I refueled, charged my devices and watched the men work in the freight yard across from me. I wanted to go over and ask them the procedures for prepping the trains to hone my skills on freight hopping, but it was far too hot out so I decided to watch from afar instead.

Buckhorn, KY

Right outside of Buckhorn, KY. The barren land shows the desolation of the towns ahead.

After resting for a bit, I picked up some food and snacks at the local mart in Chavies. My goal for the day was to make it to Buckhorn State Park, which was only another 20 miles away.  A 46 mile day is still progress towards the ultimate goal. My legs feel like they are getting stronger with each pedal I take, but yesterday I just needed a break so I tried to go at a slower pace.


A little waterway off to the side of the road.

At Buckhorn I was able to dive into “War and Peace” by Leo Tolstoy, which is supposed to be one of the best pieces of literature of all time.  I fed a stray pooch the rest of my trail mix, which is when I met Billy. A 35 year old retired marine from Booneville, KY. I have much respect for this man. He was a marine for 12 years, served five tours. His humvee struck an explosive, which damaged his leg, knee and lower back.  Now he receives $3700 a month from the military and an additional $800 a month for his three children for his VA settlement. The man has full custody of all three kids since his wife left him and he cannot fathom her whereabouts.  Despite his rough life, the deeds he put in to his country and children has paid off. He’s the youngest retired person I have ever met and luckily he was not injured badly during the war. I wish him luck with his retirement. Before he left he told me if I needed anything to give him a holler.  He lived in the green roof house over the hill. I thanked him, but wound up sleeping across the street behind the Buckhorn maintenance building, which is where I left the book, “Crime and Punishment.” Hopefully whoever finds it enjoys it as much as I did.

Buckhorn, KY

Slate cliffs are all over Kentucky.

The countryside is beautiful, but one depressing, continual theme as I pass through each town is the emptiness. At one time there were a plethora of businesses booming in these areas, but now it’s not uncommon to only see one or two operational businesses in a town. Most of the places I have traveled everything is abandoned. It’s like going through a ghost town after the zombie apocalypse.

Buckhorn, KY

Buckhorn, KY and its winding roads that lie ahead…

I am also going through some of the poorer regions of our country. It’s sad to see the way some people must live, but it definitely gives me a different perspective on life and I appreciate mine more because of it.

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