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  • Writer's pictureJoe.Cannon

Days 42 & 43: A love/hate relationship with the roads in Kentucky

Two more days of riding through rural Kentucky. I love the winding roads, hills, lots of greenery, and light traffic. The drivers here are generally very courteous to cyclists—which is important because the winding roads mean they often have to wait for a chance to pass us. But I also hate the really steep (10-14%) hills, the heat and humidity. Together, the good far outweighs the bad.

Day 42 was a long, hot, humid day. With a slight (5-10 mph) tailwind, coming after two shorter days, and with me rounding into good riding shape, I had one of my best average speed days. That said, the last 15 miles or so were hot, humid, and rough.

On Day 43, I found my way back to the TransAmerica Trail (and the RideWithGPS route I have on my Garmin bike computer) routes and had a pleasant ride to Berea. I am now in the Eastern Time Zone, so a 6:30 departure was early enough (sunrise is about 6:20) to stay cool and arrive at my de station by noon. Within an hour it was raining in Berea—and kept raining on and off all afternoon. I expect some rain tomorrow, too. No thunder and lightning though, and this rain might cool off the temperatures for the next few days.

On the ride these last two days I met some fellow eastbound riders (I have not seen westbound riders for about a week): two TransAm racers and two Belgians. I met Julio, a 56 year-old American from Houston, TX on Days 42 and 43—both times at refueling stops (convenience stores). I also met Rodrigo who is 30 and from Guatemala on Day 43. The Belgians were Stefan and Piers. We met at a little Bike Campground where the proprietor Mary lets cyclists camp for free in part of her yard. She also offers cyclists water. So I stopped and we all chatted for a while. Some photos below.

The dog report.. I am starting to see those ”loose dogs” that I talked about in a previous blog post. Here is what has happened so far:

  1. On Day 43, mile 96 a very large dog came running off the porch of a nice home. He ran along next to me, about 3-4 feet to my left, watching me. I was so tired and stunned, I did not even get to my air horn. He (I will use he for all the dogs) never got that close and I just out-lasted him.

  2. On Day 44, a medium size dog came out after me. I thought he was in a fenced yard, but he jumped right under the fence and kept coming. I gave the air horn one blast and he was stunned. He stopped and then just slowly walked off the road as I took off.

  3. Same day, another smaller dog started running after me. I questioned whether to worry about the small dog and then remembered my friend Jeff being bit by a small dog while on his bike. I gave the air horn one toot. He was startled and slowed, but then kept running. But that extra few seconds gave me time to get ahead and leave him behind.

  4. Two other dogs came from a house on the other side of the street. While they ran along with me, they never got into the street and were not a threat. Well trained I guess.

  5. One other dog came out as I was starting a downhill ride and never got close because I was going so fast.

I was happy to see that the air horn is easy to grab and works well without hurting the dog. I also have pepper spray if I feel more threatened, but I would rather not use it because it might hurt a dog.


Day 42: 107 miles, 5062 elevation (1 really good Wheeeee!)

Today was a mixed day of riding. I got out early to beat the heat. It was humid though—100% humidity at the start, dropping to 80% by the afternoon. A light tailwind was much appreciated and I made pretty decent time early.

Unfortunately, I lost my paper map and then lost the TransAmerica Trail route. I usually follow the RideWithGPS route that shows up on my bike computer. Bruce created this. But for this segment, I knew Bruce‘s RideWithGPS directions went off-route at about mile 70; Bruce and Dave plan to stay at an off-route hotel in Bardstown. So I could not use their electronic route or the paper map. My third fallback is the on-route signage (Bicycle Route 76 signs usually appear at every turn). Somehow, I missed a sign or it wasn’t there, and once you lose it and don’t have a map, you are not likely to find it. I went down a few dead ends looking. I then turned to Google Maps, which got me to my hotel in Springfield, though not on the TransAmerica Trail. This brought extra stress and about 4 miles more riding than I planned. The good news is that the map I lost was only through Berea (tomorrow), so I have other ACA paper maps for the rest of the trip.

There was one really good Wheeeee. Most of the downhills were winding and a bit too stressful to let out a good wheeeee. One had lots of potholes. But the long one in a canyon on the Relive video (no photo or video) was awesome. Right through a canyon with walls on both side and into a valley. Very cool.

Day 43: 71 miles, 4327 elevation (3 wheeeees!)

Today was a somewhat easier day squeezed between two hard days. Lots of low-traffic roads. There was a lot of steep climbing, but I feel pretty strong right now. FYI. I didn’t realize my camera lens was dirty, so you see some smudged photos and video in this Relive.

How do you stay fueled?

A few people have asked what I eat and drink. Let me start with the hydration question. It’s tricky figuring out how much to drink. I like to pre-hydrate and drink about a quart of Gatorade and have two coffees before I even start to ride. Out west, this was over-hydrated and would end up peeing 2-3 times in the first hour on the road. It wasn’t hot enough to need that much fluid. But starting in Colorado and Kansas (and since) this has been a good strategy. I particularly like Gatorlyte and Gatorade Zero which are low calorie options. Gatorlyte also has electrolytes which are necessary when you sweat a lot. I also drink water, but probably the same amount of Gatorade (or Body Armor or Powerade).

As for food, I am not saying my strategy is the best, but here is what I do. In my normal life (when not exercising 6-10 hours a day), I eat “keto.” This diet is low carb, moderate protein, and high fat. If you are on keto, you teach your body to use fat for fuel. This is called being “fat adapted.” If you are not on keto, you may “bonk” (scientific term for running out of energy) if you are exercising hard but don’t have enough carbs for fuel. But my body is trained to use carbs and fat. The good news is that I don’t bonk, even if I have not eaten carbs. My body can use either source of fuel. That said, while I am on this trip, I am not trying to avoid carbs. In my training, I discovered that a typical long day would burn all my carbs and start using fat (I measured the ketones in my blood to know).

So what do I eat? Anything I want. When you are burning 3-5000 calories with your exercise, you need fuel. That said, I do not like to eat too much before and during a ride. So my breakfast is usually light and may not occur until 25-50 miles into my ride. Even then, I might just eat a Clif bar or have a sausage biscuit. On my rides, besides Clif bars, I usually have some trail mix (nuts and M&Ms). I tried candy bars (I love Take Five and Salted Nut Roll) but I didn’t feel good down the road. I do not like to eat a true lunch (like a sandwich or stopping at a restaurant) during a ride. I did that once early and it did not agree with me. So instead, I snack along the way and eat a big meal when the ride is over.

As for those big meals. I eat a lot of burgers and fries, pizza, salads, and Mexican food (chimichangas are my favorite). Since I need carbs, I try to have at least a couple of beers every night—usually buying a tall boy or two to drink in the hotel room. I also eat ice cream a couple of days a week. I often eat that big meal at 2:00 or 3:00 in the afternoon. That leaves me in a tough position for dinner, since I like to be in bed by 8:30-9:00, I don’t want to eat a later dinner. So I usually eating a salad or some snacks (pretzels with that beer).

Bottom line, I am not overly healthy or (I think) overly unhealthy. I am eating a lot more carbs and sugar than I do in real life.

Photos and more stories

Here are a few photos and short stories from Days 42 and 43.

Julio is from Houston and racing in the TransAm Bike Race. I saw him on Days 42 and 43. This is his third time doing the race. Unfortunately, Julio is having a hard time physically and not feeling so great. To avoid the mid-day heat, he has been getting to bed early and rising very early (like 1:00 a.m.) to start riding while it is still dark. He thinks this crazy sleep pattern is messing him up and he was obviously frustrated.

Day 42 was a long, hot, humid day. With a slight (5-10 mph) tailwind, coming after two shorter days, and with me rounding into good riding shape, I had one of my best average speed days. That said, the last 15 miles or so were hot, humid, and rough.

Some of the best riding of the whole TransAmerica Trail has been here in Kentucky—especially when you get these forested roads. The shade really cools things off. And the winding roads are so pleasant, even when you are climbing 8–10% grades.

Stefan and Piers are from Belgium. They are doing the whole TransAmerica Trail. They started in Oregon. They packed (and lugged) all their camping gear but regret it. They only camped “5-6 days” and now that it is so hot and humid at night, they don’t see camping any more.

Tomorrow (Sunday) could be a big riding day. The ride I am planning is 100 miles with 7000 of climbing, including some pretty steep stuff. First, I have to decide whether to ride. The weather forecast has changed from occasional light rain to scattered thunderstorms. I am going to wake up at 4:00 a.m. and see how it looks. I don‘t mind a bit of light rain, but I want to avoid thunderstorms.

One option would be to not ride tomorrow and stay another night in Berea. Alternatively, because the weather is supposed to clear up by later morning or early afternoon, I could just get a later start and not ride as far. From looking at the ACA updates, there may be an option to stay at a hostel in Booneville (about 50 miles down the road). I have reservations in Hazard and Breaks that could be moved out if necessary. Decisions, decisions. This reminds me that when I outlined criteria for my decision-making about when to ride in my last blog post, safety needs to be number one.

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