Eastern Kentucky has been quite an adventure. The riding has been absolutely gorgeous, windy roads with little hills (only a few insanely steep ones) and green all around. The part of eastern Kentucky that threw me off was the amount of trash in the beautiful natural surroundings. It seems like the trend is to throw your trash in your own yard and let your house rot. It was pretty crazy to see the houses in such run down conditions and the owners just drinking and smoking on the porch. Some raised their beers to me as I went by, but most just stared with a look of horror.
The houses that scared me the most were the ones that smelled strongly of chemicals and had aggressive dogs attached to chains and “keep out” signs. I put two and two together and assumed the residents were cooking meth and doing drugs, so I biked by as fast as I could. When I got to the first “eastern kentucky” town, I realized my prediction about the meth houses might have been right. Almost everyone I saw seemed strung out and had thin wasted away bodies with yellow or missing teeth. It was literally straight out of the “don’t do drugs or you will look like this” adds.
When Ale arrived at the dairy bar (place I had chosen for lunch), we discussed the ride. I asked her quietly if she had smelled the meth houses. She responded with, “o, I thought the chemical smell was sharpies; I thought ‘dang these people really like to color.'” haha so while I had been preparing to fight off crazy meth users, Ale had been picturing people coloring big posters in their house.
After we had agreed that these people were indeed on some sort of drugs and the houses might be dangerous, Ale and I decided to get out of Kentucky as soon as possible. We road up and down insanely steep hills (I’m talking over 14% grade – double the legal grade for roads) in the pouring rain, in order to power through to Virginia.
One of our last nights in Kentucky, we stayed at a cyclists only lodging place. The last cyclist hostel we stayed at was absolutely incredible, so we were excited to stay at another. However, this one was much different. The price was $50, which made me think it was going to be really nice, but I was wrong…
The first impression was definitely not ideal. The driveway was crazy steep, so steep that I had to switch my shoes so I could properly push my bike up without slipping on my butt. After struggling up the 600 meter driveway, my calves were cramping and I was breathing very hard. I was greeted by David and his 20 cats. David had iced sweet tea waiting for us, and a big smile. He was very nice, but I got a bit of a weird vibe about the situation. We stood there talking while he waited for Ale and me to finish our tea. I don’t like sweet tea, but apparently it is the thing to serve in Kentucky, so I tried to be polite and take a couple sips.
sidenote about sweet tea: The southerners (the ones that I have met on this trip) simply don’t understand if you don’t like sweet tea, it’s like sacrilegious. When I asked David if he had water, he was so confused. “But you haven’t finished your tea, why would you want water?” I felt like telling him, “because I have been riding for 7 hours, I’m dehydrated, and I don’t want caffeine before I go to bed. O ya, and because I think sweet tea tastes gross and I never asked for it and I paid $50, so I would like some fricken water.” haha, little harsh, but thats how I felt in the moment. Instead of going with what was going on in my head, I responded with, “I would just like some water as well because I am worried about staying up late with caffeine and I feel a bit dehydrated.” David responded with, “O ok, I will water your tea down.” What?????
Finally I started moving towards the tent we would be staying in, because after being in dirty wet bike clothes for hours, I was ready to be clean and warm. I grabbed my clean clothes and David showed me the shower. It was a definitely one of the more sketchy showers I have been in. I was nervous to touch anything because there was mold and spider webs everywhere. The shower also smelled like rotten eggs, which was nice.
I got out alive and after Ale experienced the shower, we shared a look of horror then sat down for dinner. It was a nicely set patio dinner, which would have been amazing, if Ale and I didn’t get eaten alive by mosquitos. Since David had kindly offered to do our laundry, I had a pair of shorts and a tank top for my protection against the bugs. The food was plenty but was a bit weird (one of the dishes was a sliced raw onion. David had asked me if I like onion and I had said yes, I didn’t realize he meant by itself). Ale and I ate while the cats roamed around and kept us company. The dinner was not what I would have chosen, but it was food and I was grateful for anything. And then something amazing happened: David came through in a big way for dessert. He made sure he would be remembered as the ice cream man (not the cat man). He knew the way to my heart.
We talked for a bit after the food, and David kept bending the conversation toward mountain lions, poisonous spiders, and deathly snakes. He told stories such as: one time cyclists (two women) got attacked by mountain lions while riding and their faces got eaten off. Sweet. I personally do not appreciate when people try to scare me with stories such as these, but totally play along and give them what their looking for so I can get out of the conversation as soon as possible. “Oh wow! Really?! How scary!!” I exclaimed. David seemed thrilled and told a few more stories before we thanked him and went to bed.
When we got in the foul smelling tent, we flipped down the air mattress and several spiders ran across. Perfect. Ale was freaked. I was more annoyed than anything. I couldn’t believe we had spent $50 to sleep on a nasty under inflated mattress in a spider filled tent. Fortunately we had climbed lots of hills and were exhausted from the day’s ride, so we were able to fall asleep for a couple hours. This was after I reassured Ale multiple times that we would not be killed by spiders or snakes (she still duck taped all the possible holes in the tent just in case).
We awoke and played with world’s cutest kittens before eating lots of fruit and making our way out. We thanked David, and I decided it might have been worth it after all. It was an experience and definitely better than sleeping in a park with no shower.