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Brian Cray - Hitchhikin', Trainhoppin', and Wanderin'

Wanderin' the world, at will, by any means

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Kentucky

Lost, Naked and Cold

Lost, Naked and Cold

New Haven

I took a rest day yesterday. I slept in until 7 AM.  Jimmy made me a cup of black coffee and we just lounged around watching television.  He let me take a shower, which felt amazing, as I have not had one in days.  We were supposed to head out to that party on Old Bloomfield Road, but Thomas was far too hungover and cancelled so I decided to pack up the rest of my belongings and head out.  Before I left Jimmy gave me some apples for the road.  They picked them up off a job they were landscaping.  The apples were quite delicious and it was the perfect snack to munch on while riding.

I left around 2 PM and said bye to Jimmy.  I headed towards Bardstown where I found a nice little restaurant called, “A Down Home Barbq.” I ordered the pork dinner, which came with two sides of mac n’ cheese and potato salad.  The tender pork melted in my mouth and had the right amount of barbecue sauce.  I ate slow to savor the moment.  The tangy taste and sweet aroma of the mac n’ cheese and potato salad definitely filled me up.  I wish I could have taken some with me on the road without it spoiling.  As a parting gift they gave me a piece of cornbread…now normally I am not a fan, but I scarred it down in the matter of seconds.  The sweet, crispy taste went well with the dinner and all for a fair price of $7.00.

New Haven

I slept through a down pour in New Haven, KY in the woods. The only time I got caught in the rain so far on this trip!

After that scrumptious meal I pedaled onward to Old Kentucky Home Campground.  I scoped out the place and realized it was not plausible to stay there due to the orientation of the campsite.  I would have been spotted.  So I tried to head towards the next campsite, which was a little over 25 miles away. The sunset and dark clouds loomed in so I went into overdrive.  I knew I would not make it there before dark or before the storm so I kept my eyes peeled for a decent place to sleep.  I found a stealth spot behind a fire house, but I wanted more tree coverage in case it rained.

A few miles down the road I stumbled upon a cozy spot in the woods off of Route 52.  Just as I began setting up my shelter it began to downpour. My book of , “War and Peace” destroyed, my journal waterlogged, clothes saturated, backpack dripping wet.  I won’t lie, it sucked, but I knew this night would come eventually.  I stripped naked and curled into a fetal position inside my sleeping bag, zipped up my bivy sack and engulfed the tarp over me to protect from the rain.  I barely slept, but once it stopped I dozed off peacefully to gain a few hours of rest.

At the moment, I am tidying up my panniers and waiting for my clothes to dry at a church off of Route 47.  I hope to make it to Louisville so I am one step closer to Indiana to visit Trevor.

Jimmy the Kingpin Meth Lord

Jimmy the Kingpin Meth Lord

Springfield, KY

I ventured off the trail this morning since I could not find the unknown road I was supposed to turn onto.  A lot of streets are not named so I decided to head down Route 52 to 27.  I stopped at Paint Lick Methodist Church to charge my electronics and indulge in some reading.  I biked another 20 miles and stopped at another church on 152 South to eat some food and replenish fluids.

Springfield

Right outside Springfield, KY after a long day of biking I need to find a spot to sleep.

I continued on down the road where I met up with Brad and Naomi who gave me directions to the nearest campground. I told them my story and they offered me water and a handful of home-grown tomatoes for the road. They offered to drive me to where I was headed but I kindly declined.  That would defeat the purpose of the trip.  I ventured on down the road and picked up some snacks at Rose Hill Food Basket.  The sunset looked like a bright orange flare spread throughout the sky intertwined between the clouds.  I knew darkness was approaching and I needed to find shelter.

Springfield

Look at the beautiful sunset in Springfield, KY.

So I stopped on the side of the road, which is where I met Thomas, Jimmy and Robert off Route SR 55 along with their dog Boo-Boo. who growled and almost pounced on me.  I just pet her head, gave her attention hand she left me alone. The group saw me biking down the road and offered me a beer. I kindly accepted and asked if they knew where the nearest campground was located. Naomi and Brad told me there was one about 16 Mike’s from Rose Hill Food Basket, but the state park did not have a camping area. They told me the closest one was 13 miles away and I’d be biking in the dark.  We pounded down a few more brews and Thomas offered me a spot to sleep in the lawn.  We began talking about my trip, and the mafia, an officer’s execution that took place a few months back and real estate.  Thomas is 37 and looking to retire by 40. He has nine investment properties and a lawn care business.  He lets Jimmy stay at the property we were drinking at to get his life back together.  He got involved with the wrong people and did ten years in jail for schedule I drugs.  I got to know all three of them pretty well that night.

Thomas informed me that the people around these parts are genuinely nice, but most are involved with the mafia in some form such as moonshining.  If someone tells you they do not like you, you best move along and avoid confrontation.  Everyone owns guns in these parts.

As for the police officer who was executed on May 25th right down the road on Route 55 they have no leads.  The murderer placed trees in the road around a bend and the officer got out of his personal vehicle to move them.  He was shot once in the chest and twice in the face.  They still have no leads in the investigation.

After much conversation it began to get dark so we went inside and drank a few more to avoid the bugs.  Jimmy went to bed, the others left and went home and he gave me a spot on his couch to crash.  This has been the most comfortable spot I have slept in about a week so I appreciated it.  They invited me to a party tomorrow that starts at 10 AM and goes to 4 AM off of Old Bloomfield Road located off Route 162.  I need a rest day and it may rain so I figure I might attend the party to relax and rest up for Sunday.

Springfield

Looks like a smaller version of Step Falls in Scranton, PA, but in KY.

Berea

Berea

Berea

The open road to Berea, KY!

I woke up early this morning to avoid any visits from the park rangers. I packed up my bivy sack and hit the road once I left “Crime and Punishment” in the crack of the maintenance door. I’m sure someone will appreciate it.  I struck up a small conversation with a white supremacist redneck who was leaving the post office.  He asked where I was headed and gave me one piece of advice.  “Stay outta rednecks’ way when ridin’…they will hit ya an’ just keep goin’…they don’t givadam.” We parted ways and he wished me luck. 

Berea

Pulled off to the side of the road to take in the nice view of the Appalachian Mountains in Berea, KY.

I covered 25 miles with relative ease since most of the route was downhill at this point with minor hills here and there.  I stopped at Warrens Chapel to refill my water and charge my devices. I rested for 2 hours and hit the road stopping to ask for directions to a passing vehicle on the whereabouts of route 421.  An older gentlemen gave me directions and told me I’d have a steep climb in about 9 miles.  I kept moving at a steady pace and made a few stops for food and snacks. I grabbed pasta for later and pulled off in Berea at Frosty-Ette where I indulged in a yummy, vanilla milkshake with a delicious chili dog.  The food out in Kentucky is fairly cheap. I spent less than five dollars on that meal and it filled me, which says a lot since I’m constantly chowing down on any food in sight. 

Berea

Cruising down a steep grade past a bunch of cliffs.

I continued on down the road and approached a steep 6% grade hill. Luckily I raced down the hill instead of slowing climbing up it, however, I heard a loud thud as I approached the bottom half mile then I realized I had another flat tire. This time the back tube died out on me.  The two punctures were small enough to be patched so I saved the tube and replaced my back tire with a new one.  Right as I finished the repair a younger fellow who resembled the country version of peanut butter Rich asked if I needed a hand and advised me to hug the rumble strip since it’s a rough road and there were shards of glass as you approach the guardrail.  I thanked him for his hospitality, but I fixed everything and stopped at a local Baptist church in Berea.  I plan on sleeping here tonight in the back by their maintenance shed.  I am no longer worried about being seen much around these parts.  Everyone is so friendly, but just for precautionary measure I’ll make sure I am not seen.  It’s been over a week now since I paid for a place to sleep so I’m able to budget more money towards food and bike parts.  I am officially done two maps; I am in the top 100 on the Strava CTS Bucket List Challenge and I should be in Illinois in a few days.  Everything is going even better than imagined.  Just thinking about where my next adventure will lead me.

Berea

An old barn sitting on top of a big green hill.

Buckhorn, KY

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.

Buckhorn

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.

Hindman, KY

Who Let the Dogs Out?

Who Let the Dogs Out?

Hindman, Kentucky

I biked 90 miles today and made it all the way to Hindman, KY. Down the road I met a few cyclists going to Yorktown, VA. Mel and Stan who were both older, retired gentlemen.  They informed me to watch out for vicious dogs ahead and that there were a few nice places to sleep at in Hindman, KY.  Stan gave me Steve’s number if I needed to rest at the Baptist church, but I wound up finding a different place to stay at Hindman Settlement Building, which was once a boarding school for kids in the late 1800 and early 1900s.

The trek today took much longer than expected because I road 10 miles north when I was supposed to go west on Route 122. I didn’t look at the map when I met up with Stan at BP Gas station. This made the trip a few hours longer, but I wound up finding a nice discount general store called Gary’s Discount where the owner let me buy 6 little debbies, a pack of glazed donuts and box of powdered donuts for just a dollar. The box of donuts wound up being straight mold. I scarfed down three before I realized the strange, stagnant taste, but I had gone too far. So I ate soup to get the taste out of my mouth.

Hindman, KY

Cycling down the back roads of Hindman, KY

Aside from that I had a handful of dogs try to attack me. I ran out of pepper spray but noticed raising your hand works well. If you keep cycling they tend to just run out of gas and leave you be. I actually just put a coffee cake in my mouth when I was on the verge of getting attacked. I peddled as fast as I could and got away. I could have sacrificed the food, but I was hungry and it appears I made the right choice.

After getting to Hindman I met Phil and Jone who let me shower at their apartment and fill up my camelpak with water. They have me a spot to sleep near the settlement building in the grass area. I passed out in minutes from exhaustion.

Hindman, Kentucky

More winding roads right outside of Hindman, Kentucky…

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