Day 13: Hindman to Booneville
After a huge breakfast provided by David, the man running the Bed and Breakfast, we were headed out of Kindman in the direction of Booneville, and it was going to be another intensely hot day.
The first 10 miles were a breeze, but then the route dumped us onto a four lane road in full sun, with rumble strips alongside the roadway, and a large shoulder riddled with sharp looking objects.
The highway was headed through a hilly area so we were going either 6 mph or 25. We finally got to Hazard, and made a pit stop at a Walmart. After restocking my PB&J, sunscreen, and Gatorade, we moved on.
After the climbs of the day before, we were hoping for an easier day, but we didn’t get it though, because here were hills with endless switchbacks.
As the day went on, we got to about 15 miles outside of Booneville. We were in a very rural area, and were about to head up another long climb, when the skies got dark again.
We had two options: head up the mountain and hope that we made it across before the storm started, or backtrack until we found some shelter. Possibly because of some great intuition, or maybe because we wanted to put off the next hill as long as possible (likely), we decided to go back and find some shelter.
Along the windy back road, we saw a house with a large barn and a long porch. Karey walked up and knocked on the door. I figured they must not get too many strangers knocking on their door so I was a little wary.
When the woman who lived there opened the door he explained the situation and they invited us to sit on their porch.
As we sat there, she asked us if we wanted anything to eat or drink, which we politely declined, not wanting to take advantage of their hospitality. She insisted, however, and eventually we gave in. We were invited inside, and talked to the man of the house, named Connor.
The couple looked to be in their fifties and had a 4 year old daughter. Connor talked about the difficulty in finding work in the area, and said that although Booneville had gotten a lot of rain in the past month, the valley he lived in hadn’t seen a drop.
It seemed like today was going to buck the trend, as heavy rain began to fall. As the rain fell, he told us that he had lived in the area his whole life.
The man said “when a hillbilly lays down his roots, he doesn’t budge”.
We talked for a good hour and a half, and then the rain stopped and the sky cleared. We moved onto Booneville and the big hill seemed like nothing after a long break and two chicken patty sandwiches.
Because Karey was going to be riding alone for two weeks, his parents had planned a road trip, roughly following his route. They were on their way to Boonville as well, and invited me to stay in the Bed and Breakfast they were staying at.
The Digh family greeted me with friendliness and hospitality and we grabbed dinner at a local restauarant.
Back at the Bed and Breakfast, I hopped into the soft bed and was out within seconds.
Day 14: Booneville to Berea
After a few days of tough climbing that we hadn’t really anticipated, today was going to a be a short ride (45 miles) to Berea, Ky.
We had heard Berea was a college town, which generally means coffee shops, restauarants, lots of wifi, and nice lodgings.
It was a Sunday morning, so traffic was light when we pushed off for the morning.
The roads today weren’t as hilly: we were finally leaving the Appalachian mountains behind.
When rode along uninterrupted when we came to a road closed sign. We had heard that the road was closed here due to the construction of a new bridge. Most people just pushed their bikes through the tiny stream underneath.
Today, however, the tiny stream was a rushing muddy creek because of rainfall overnight. We didn’t feel like riding with wet shoes, so we opted to go over the unfinished bridge.
A layer of rebar had just been laid down over the bridge surface so we unloaded the bikes, brought the bags across, then walked over with our bikes. Further along the road, we rode past a crumbling house with a sign saying it was built in 1880. We didn’t see any ‘No Tresspassing’ signs so we explored.
The house was divided into two sections with a breezway and outdoor staircase in the middle. We walked up the creaky stairs and found that the upstairs was gutted from a fire. We later found out that the house had been occupied until a few years ago when it burnt.
We headed westward to Berea, passing through towns named Sandgap and Bighill. The climbing was gentle compared to what we were used to. When we got to Berea, Karey’s parents graciously invited me to stay with them again.
We stayed at the historic Boone Tavern, a recently renovated hotel run through a partnership with Berea College.
Berea College was established as a center of learning for Appalachian youth in 1855. It was established by an abolitionist and admitted black and white students, until it was forced to segregate by the Kentucky legislature in 1904 until 1950.
The town had a nice city center and Boone Tavern especially stood out. I camped out at a café having a coffee (which has been rare during the trip) and blogging, as the Digh family explored the town. It was disorienting to be in the café because it was the first time in a while that I was surrounded by people my age in hipster clothes, talking without southern accents.
My legs were sore from the past few days and it was nice to have an early end to the day. We ate well at the Tavern restaurant for dinner, preparing for a long day the next morning.