Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Don't tread on me

Falls of Rough to Bardstown 7/30/11

We've entered a new part of the nation, one filled with rich history. Where the landscape holds such strange visual paradoxes as a Hummer and a horse and buggy. People on the road drive with special care on the winding roads. Everyone waves. The hospitality is unusual. Today at the bottom of a hill stood an unshaved man in a stained gray shirt, holding two bottles of ice cold water.

"Saw you comin' up the hill a while back. Thought I ought head home and catch you." We had heard tell of this mysterious kindness but never really believed that people are waiting at the ends of their driveways to help us. It is real.

Later today a beat up cream colored truck from the seventies cruised slowly in front of us. Three kids under twenty were stuffed in the bench seat with the windows down. The truck pulled in two driveways ahead of us. A tall, tan boy, maybe 19 threw himself out, reached in the bed and pulled out his BMX bike.

"Tell me you're coming to ride with us." He nodded and grinned. His gear ratio was so ridiculous it was a struggle for him to keep up. His rear cog was the size of a spool of thread. He asked us where we were going and where we were coming from.

"Woah. Sick."

When he was satisfied with his answers he veered off without a goodbye, hurling his bike and himself into the truck in the same effortless fashion he had disembarked. This interaction made me grin for about an hour.

Coming up into Bardstown we began to see rows of enormous gray buildings with tiny windows and black stained streaks down every side. Something akin to a jail, a concentration camp or really, really bad dorms. Don't fret. It's nothing so sinister. Whiskey is sleeping. And slowly maturing to delicious bourbon.

We rounded a big bend and the trees opened to reveal the Heaven Hill Distilleries gate. After 95 hard miles, a nice shot of bourbon sounded like good medicine for sore asses and low morale.

Closed. Five pm. Chris looked like he might throw a tantrum or cry. He laid down in front of the door in protest. It's like Uncle Denny driving all the children to the water park, coming to a stop in the parking lot, and proclaiming "Well, there it is" and then turning around and leaving. Poor Chris.

Went to McDonalds for a consolation milkshake. Scooted our sad and tired bodies to yet another dumpy motel. Chris and I resolved to eat the remainder of all the camping food that has been sitting at the bottom of our panniers since Utah. I microwaved water and filled all the bags. We sat on the beds, with wet heads, trying to choke down dehydrated food.

"Bleck. I'm going to the grocery store. You stay here." I put on street clothes and moved to leave. I got half way through the parking lot before a group of 15 motorcycle people stopped me. A million questions about the bike trip followed with, "Well, where ya goin' now?".


"Nope. You're not." They poured me a big cup of something homemade that tasted like high test Boone's Farm. "Where is yer man?"

I jogged back over to the motel room. Chris was on the bed looking pityful.

"Free. Beer. Sandwiches. Come now." His eyes lit up. We walked back to the party. It had rained on us earlier that day, just a refreshing drizzle. But now the sky opened up. So happy we were not stuck out on a ride. We huddled under the awning, drank beer, ate jerkey, talked bikes and laughed until we nearly peed our pants. We compared silly tans, bike seats. They tried to sell us their old motorcycles. One of the bigger fellows was dressed in a Hawaiian shirt, shorts and big black leather boots stood up whilst we conversed. He took off his boots, walked to the pool in the pouring rain and stepped in as though he was not expecting it yo drop off. Funny guy.

Politics divided us but we managed not to strangle one another. It often surprises us to find that Harley flags are almost always coupled with tea party flags. These people aren't rich. They're blue collar. But they hate the idea of paying into social programs. Oh that apple wine allowed me to speak my peace on welfare.

They patted my little head like I was some naive little child. "I've seen these people. They've figured out the system. They are driving Cadillacs."

I tried my best to get across that even a man who squeezes the system to the last drop is a not a rich man. It didn't go so well. Eventually we went back to drinking and telling jokes. I was too tired to fight. One of the ladies of the pack gave me a turkey sandwich. We shared stories about teaching.

We were dead tired and I was unable to drink more while thinking about the 90 mile ride ahead of me. In the end, I was glad I went to bed. But I certainly could have stayed up all night, singing and carrying on.


  1. Hi Lauren and Chris, Enjoying following your blog. Checking your location everyday. Fascinated by your journey. I was affected to see that you have passed into eastern Kentucky, an area with special meaning for me, I spent the summer of 1973 in Letcher County as an intern on the Mountain Eagle newspaper. It's close to the Virginia border in Whitesburg. I looked up your route. It looks like you'll pass through the county just north of Letcher--Pike County. Similar territory. Well, I imagine things have changed in almost 40 years, but not enough. Strip-mining was the big issue then. It still is. And a less than fortunate economic situation. Not many hotels back then. And the mountains. Different from Rockies. Correct? But beautiful country. Much to say. Ernest and I are proud of you both. Lauren, thank you so much for the card. We were glad to hear from you! Take care. Aunt Maureen

  2. I think the biker's Tea Party affiliation comes more from a deep-seated disregard for the government coupled with an equally deep-seated love for their country, which plays out into a disrespect for people who take from the government but don't seem to give back. It's a viewpoint from a very specific vantage point, and it doesn't necessarily give them a view of the other valleys and hills of the American experience, but it lets them see their view really clearly. It's good enough sometimes that people are kind-hearted, despite the politics. And you are a pollinator of another viewpoint. They will now always associate your politics with a view that is tempered by their experience of meeting you. Good work, Lor.

    Ride On, Ride Hard. Get Home Soon.



  3. PS: If you come across a Bluegrass Festival in the mountains of Kentucky or Virginia, I recommend it. Attended one on top of mountain in Grundy,VA. Very nice.

  4. Just a little FYI, this blog has done 3 things for me;
    A.) replaced my facebook tab on my favorites below the web address
    B.) pushed me to want to tour so bad (hence the trip this fall)
    C.) made me want ice cream sooooooo bad all of the time. (It's sick really....)