We survived Kentucky hill country! Phew! There were times that were a bit touch and go in terms of morale and conviction, but the northern Kentuckians rallied and cheerleaded our remaining miles and hills and heartened us to see it through. We left Lexington on a bike trail that made for a pleasant exit (far better than our entrance!). We stopped off at a Warm Showers host tucked away in a quiet rural neighborhood, where we were fed well, offered comfortable accommodations, and given a window into the lay of the land. As we traveled the country roads north we soaked up the beautiful country landscapes that offset the challenge the hills presented.
A funny aside: as we pass through small towns, the boys quantify how many horses the town is (reference the expression: one-horse town) as though it is a unit of measurement. Recently, water towers have become a unit of measurement as well. “This must be a pretty big town because it has TWO water towers! Yeah, it’s a two-water tower town.” We camped in a variety of parks, (private, state, and county campgrounds) and were met with beautiful grounds, ample deer (photo courtesy of Tango), and friendliness at every one.
One day stands out in the middle of these camping days when we were chugging up yet another hill. As Team Eleanor was dripping sweat while pedaling painfully slowly up a hill a dog started barking at us. A man then stepped out and saw us and yelled, “It’s only downhill from here.” I replied between gasps for air, “I hope so.” His wife then stepped out and instantly invited us to Sunday dinner. I informed her there were three more behind us, so the invitation was bigger than she realized. “That’s okay. We’ve got enough for six.” Really? Okay. “Sure, we will join you for dinner.” In the blink of an eye, Team Frank arrived, all four kids were loving on their cow dog, and place settings for an extra six people were set as though we had been expected. And sure enough, they did have enough for all of us and then some. This extended family congregates for their noon meal every Sunday, something I think to be rare and precious in today’s busy world. Icing on the cake, literally, was a birthday celebration at the conclusion of the meal. Conversation was easy, the family incredibly friendly and hospitable, and our well-fed bellies taxed our waistbands. We said our good-byes and went on our way, thanking God for the timing that enabled us to meet this openhearted family. As we continued pedaling, one of the family members passed us on the road. We were on yet another hill and she informed us this would be our last one before town and wished us well. Upon our arrival at the grocery store in town a cashier ran out into the parking lot and said, “I assume you’re the bikers from Seattle?” Yes. “Here, the lunch crew left you this [money] as a gift.” Really?! We were speechless. How thoughtful, generous, and unexpected after having already given us so much. We were touched to say the least.
After our circuit of campgrounds we went to another Warm Showers host. As we rode through their town we instantly recognized buildings that suggested a military installation past. The town was idyllic atop a ridge with well-maintained, older homes; people outdoors and engaging; and friendly drivers. As though that was not endearing enough, our hosts took it to the next level. The Montana family warmly welcomed us. They invited Lil’ Mo to attend their daughter’s Kindermusik class, where we discovered the teacher to be a woman who had given us a thumbs-up signal earlier as we rode through town. Lil’ Mo dearly misses her beloved preschool, so she was beyond tickled to be in a class setting with a same-age peer group. The teacher took her in stride, the hosting child helped introduce her to the class, and Lil’ Mo beamed.
Friends and family filtered through the Montana family’s beautiful home for the duration of our stay, and every single one was a beacon of kindness. Their kids were amazing hosts and playmates for ours, the adults were great sources of conversation and insight, and we were fed a bountiful spread for dinner and breakfast.
The Kindermusik teacher’s husband stopped by in the morning. He is also an avid cyclist, and adjusted his schedule to escort us across the Ohio River. He gave us bike maps for Ohio, solicited another friend to assist with the escort, and called ahead to a bike shop to see if they had a chain for us. His helpfulness was such a gift—no stopping to figure out and memorize the next set of turns, no effort needed to uncover which bike shop will meet our needs, and he had answers to our questions about what lies ahead (FLATTER terrain in the short-term! Yay!).
Needless to say, our morale is high and the entrance into Ohio was easy. The bike infrastructure across the state is impressive and leads us to see blue skies and butterflies ahead despite the muggy and rainy forecast, because it will all be at achievable grade, mostly on rail trail bike routes. Onward we go!
Postscript: We compiled a list of the most frequently asked questions we field on a daily basis. Feel free to check out this new tab if you have lingering questions about how we keep this small army moving.