May 2, 2001

5/2/01 Buckhorn, KY

55.3 miles

Outside the Pippa Passes hostel

We got a later start than we wanted, but we were able to get an inexpensive breakfast at the college. Mrs. Madden said a lot of cyclists head to the next hostel in Booneville, but that's an 80 mile day with lots of hills. Mike and I decided to wait and see. But we aren't going to kill ourselves for a few extra miles.

Even leaving early, we had to contend with heavy traffic with people going to work. People were patient and we moved off the road to let them pass if we could. Traffic through Hindman (population 800) was a little heavier with lots of trucks, but we pulled off the main road soon.

After that, it was a pleasant ride through places like Carrie, Emmalena, and Dwarf. What a contrast to the next seven miles on a divided highway that seemed to go up forever. Near Hazard we got off to then ride a shoulderless two-lane for another 8 miles, with the heaviest truck traffic we've seen. Not only are you drained by the hills, but the white knuckle riding trying to keep out from under someone's wheels was exhausting.

Looking at the map, we had a huge climb, and the locals commented on those same climbs. I stopped off in Chavies for a little break (and a little ice cream). The guys inside said that it was warmer than normal and they were in the middle of a draught.

The ascent ended up being three separate, long hills, with frequent blind turns in the sweltering heat. We stopped so often, I lost count. After what we thought were the first two hills, the mail lady asked us if we were lost. "You've got the worst two hills still to come," she said. That sure made our day -- NOT! We skipped the Buckhorn Lake Resort Campground because it was at the bottom of a 4-mile descent off route. We kept at it, headed for the campground by the dam, only a 1/4 mile off the road.

What made this even more difficult for Mike was he was having a little bowel trouble due to something he ate. If it got any worse, I was going to suggest stopping at least until it got cooler. But Mike was anxious to keep going.

Finally, what goes up, must come down. It almost seems unfair, that the hours it takes to get up these hills, takes only minutes to fly down.

A FedEx driver told us to stop and sign the bike register at Starks Grocery in Buckhorn. Even after telling us there were two more hills to get out of the valley, they tried to convince us to go 20 more miles to a hostel instead of the campground. We thanked them, but we were just too tired to make that distance.

The RV portion of the campground was the nicest I've seen this trip. Each spot had river access, plenty of space, big manicured common area, the works. But the primitive campsites seemed like an afterthought. We had a slanted campsite, wooden table, and we were near the road.

But we did appreciate the showers and we decided to cook and eat at the main pavilion. Afterward, Bud, the campground guest director, told us we might get a ticket for camping on two tent sites when we only paid for one. We explained that we would move if someone needed the space, but we kept our tents up because they were the only flat spots. "Don't say I didn't warn you!" he said, but with a smile.

After dinner, we ended up going down to the high school to watch part of a double header baseball game. Buckhorn lost the first, but by all the shouts later this evening, they must have won big during the 2nd game. The umpires were state troopers -- guess no one would argue with them.

I built a nice fire and let my mind just take in the outdoors. It's just so quiet, your mind can't help but to slow down. And the stars at night are just spectacular.