Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Election Day

So today's the primary election in Kentucky. I can't say that there's much buzz about it in the places I've traveled the last few days. I've seen a few Hillary Clinton signs along the roadside in rural areas, but the majority of signs are for candidates in state and local elections. I hadn't seen an Obama sign until I rode into Berea this afternoon. However, I did see a sign posted with a variety of other candidates' posters that read "Elect Jesus For Savior."

Last night on CNN there was a story about Clay County, Kentucky, which sits just to the South of Owsley County, where I was staying the night. The report was gauging the political climate in this forgotten corner of Kentucky. It's the poorest county in Kentucky and one of the poorest places in the country. The per capita income is $9,600 per year. Essentially, the conclusion seemed to be that there was little interest because there is little belief that elections have any real impact on the residents' lives.

Based on my rides on the backroads of Kentucky, the counties I'm riding through are little different from Clay County. A majority of the housing on these roads is permanently-placed trailers. Trash heaps in yards are a common sight as are shuttered businesses like the one pictured below.

Every house seems to have three dogs and every third house doesn't lock any of them up. Though I've yet to be seriously bothered by dogs, it is common to ride down a road in the middle of nowhere and see two or three dogs traipsing down the side of the road. Maybe they're scavenging for food.

As for the rides, yesterday I was on the least pleasant roads of the trip thus far--four lane divided highways with a steady stream of coal trucks and high speed traffic. The coal trucks left a cloud of dust in their wake that eventually coated my teeth. There was a fairly wide shoulder, unfortunately it was rumble stripped and covered in rocks, coal, and assorted other debris perfect for popping a tire. The ride ended on a high note though. I stayed just outside Boonesville in an old church and schoolhouse that had been converted into a B&B. Cam and Don, recent retirees from Seattle who are also biking the Transam, were also at the inn.

Everything that was wrong about yesterday's ride was right about today's. Linda, the owner of the B&B, provided directions on a shortcut to Berea. The first half of the ride was full of wonderful rolling hills, a light and easy ride spent waving to farmers on their tractors and a few passing drivers. (Not that all Kentucky drivers like bikers. I've been honked at from the opposite lane many times in Kentucky, while this never happened in Virginia. I'm not sure if it's an F.U.-get-off-the-road-in-your-spandex-shorts honk or a hey-that's-cool-a-guy-on-a-bike honk. I'll choose to believe it's the latter, but my gut tells me it's the former.) The second half wasn't as enjoyable but still legions better than yesterday. And it included a ride down the aptly named Bighill, a two mile descent with a 6% grade.

I'm now in Berea, a small town known for its Appalachian arts and crafts. On Saturday I tweaked my left knee a bit and have been favoring it the past few days, especially on the climbs. I'm hoping a rest day tomorrow will allow for a full recovery and it will give me an opportunity to explore the town.


Andy said...

Had a 19 mile 6% downhill yesterday! You've got that to look forward to..

JRoot said...

I've known several graduates from Berea College in my day - that's in Berea, KY if I'm not mistaken. I suppose there's not room in your pannier for local wrought iron works...maybe next time.