After two days of not feeling my best, I woke in Marion in my hotel room with the intent to make things better. I was up and out of the motel at 4:45AM, then made a short stop at McDonald’s just up the street for breakfast. After breakfast, I was on the road by 5:15 after stopping at a gas station for supplies before leaving town.
The morning went well and I was rolling along good, making few stops and feeling much better, both mentally and physically, than I had the last couple days. I felt like I was out of my funk and ready to finish the race. I made my first stop in Dixon. When I came into town and found no sort of services, I asked a young lady who was having a rummage sale if there was a gas station or something close by. She said that there was one just right up the street a ways and I headed off in search of it. Unfortunately it was nearly a mile off the route to the station and all down hill. I found the spot, grabbed supplies and headed back up the hill to the route.
The sun was heating things up rather early and it was so humid. The humidity had been a factor since Missouri, but it was one of those things that crept up slowly as we traveled east and I didn’t notice until it had been day after day for a bit. The biggest issue with it was that my bibs and jersey were soaked and would never dry. It made it miserable to live in and frankly unsanitary, but there was nothing to be done. I would wash and dry them as I could, but that wasn’t possible every day.
A little before 11:00, I went through the tiny burg of Utica and stopped at the general store there. The old woman that runs the store makes sandwiches and I had one as well as filling up on drinks. By this time, it was getting pretty hot and the break inside her neat old store while I waited for her to make my meal was welcome.
Not long after leaving Utica I came to a fork in the road, of sorts. My GPS was showing that I was supposed to stay straight on the road I was on, but the signs that Kentucky had recently put up to designate the official Trans Am route showed I should turn right. There had been a few times where the GPS file had differed from what I knew to be the route, so I wasn’t 100% confident in it. With the road signs being brand new, I figured I would be fine to follow them. I found out later that the ACA had recently re-routed a few places prior to KYDOT putting up the signs. The signs are the official ACA route. As for the race, some folks went one way and some went the other. It depended on what form of navigation they were using. In the end, I’m not sure that it made much difference, but I could only imagine that it had to be very confusing for some of the racers.
I stopped again in Fordsville at a gas station there. I needed to cool off and fill up on fluids, so I went in, sat down in there deli area and ate. I didn’t stay too long and once I was cooled off a bit, I hit the road again.
On down the road I stopped at a gas station at the turn off for Rough River Dam State Park. I ate an ice cream and chatted with a touring cyclist that was headed west. He was a talker, and if you know me and my extroversion, that is saying something. When I could get away from him I did and headed on down the road. Just a couple miles ahead, the sky was really darkening and a storm was threatening. I saw a family restaurant and went in to eat and hopefully escape the storm. It looked like a thunder boomer that would pass fairly quickly. I sat at a table that had a view to the south and west so I could watch the weather.
As I waited for my food and ate, I was checking the weather on my phone. There was quite a bit of nasty thunderstorm action coming, but at that moment, I seemed to be in a lull. The storms were just little blooms of orange and red with small outlines of green around them on the map. About that time, I saw Luke Kocher ride by. That spurred me to finish my food quickly and I got back on the road.
Not two miles down the road, the rain came. It was a slower, steady rain that didn’t seem too offending and from what I had seen on the radar, it was not the part I should be worried about. I kept riding in the light rain, keeping an eye on passing cars and the darkening horizon to the southwest.
That southern sky was really looking bad and the wind was picking up, which was quickly getting me to a point that I wasn’t comfortable riding any further. I noticed a gas station just 100 yards or so past where the route turned to the south and toward the looming storm. I decided to stop and wait it out.
I stepped inside the store to buy a soda. While making my purchase, I mentioned to the old man running the store that the weather was looking pretty rough and I hoped he would let me hole up there for a bit. He said that would be fine, but he was closing in 5 minutes and would be locking up. At that point, I would have to leave. Hmmm. Well…. I thanked him and said that if he didn’t mind, I would just wait outside under the canopy that was over the gas pumps so he could lock up and go on home. He gave me a wary eye and said ok.
I went back out to my bike and the sky was starting to look apocalyptic. Dark swirling clouds were off in the direction I needed to go and the wind was buffeting hard. I took cover under the eave of the building as the wind picked up all manner of debris and blew it across the lot. Then the rain came. Water flooded from the sky in a fashion that could only be described in buckets. There was no way I would ride in this. I just waited.
After maybe 30 minutes, the wind subsided and the rain slowed to a sprinkle. I thought that it would be my chance to move on, so I hit the road again cautiously. The road was a really small lane that looked more like something from Europe than America. It was barely wide enough for two cars to pass and wound through farms and farmhouses with tractors in front of them. The sky still had a very menacing look, but I was hoping that I would be able to scoot down the road in between storms. Soon it was obvious that the storms were no longer the seemingly solid bubbles of precipitation that I had seen on the radar. Everything was coalescing into one big green glob with nastier bits strewn about.
I rode on through the rain a bit as it increased. Soon I could barely see for the monster drops falling. I saw a small country church and rode over to it, taking refuge on the porch. No sooner than I stopped, the rain slowed some. I stood under the porch for 10 minutes or so, wondering what to do, then decided to take off again. A few minutes later the buckets came again, only this time it was accentuated heavily with close lightening strikes and massive booms of thunder. I saw a structure along side the road that looked like a picnic pavilion, except under the pavilion was electric and phone boxes. It was the best thing I had, so I rode underneath it and parked. The wind howled and the lightening got very close as the deluge came with abandon. I was very thankful for my hiding spot.
After another 30 minutes or more of waiting things out, the lightening subsided and the rain slowed to a steady pour. I was getting cool sitting still and with the threat of a lightening strike seeming to be gone or at least slightly muted, I got back on the road. I rode along in the rain wiping water out of my eyes constantly. I looked up a drive way to a house and saw Luke standing on the front porch, so I turned and went there to meet him. He had been riding along in the rain and much like me, sought refuge where he could. We knocked on door to see if anyone was home, but nobody answered, so we just sat there and watched it rain awhile.
Of course, just minutes later a lady pulls in the driveway. When she got out of her truck, I fully expected her to be freaked out that two strange, scraggly looking guys were waiting on her porch for her, but I was wrong. We explained why we were there and she was super nice. She said that we could stay as long as we liked, but did point out that there was a gas station a few miles down the road. She also mentioned that she thought they closed soon. The problem we hadn’t considered was that we had just crossed into the Eastern Time zone and lost an hour. We thanked her for her porch and the information. Then right on cue, the rain started to slow. We took off together, riding in the light rain.
Luke and I rode near each other and chatted a bit, but then the rain started coming heavier again and so did the lightening. Good grief! Right away we saw a church and once again sought refuge on the porch. Another short break let the lightening let up and we set off in the rain again, hoping to make it to the station before they closed.
A few minutes before 9:00PM we pulled up at the gas station. Soaked, a bit cold and tired, we went inside and gorged on junk food and gas station pizza. While eating, I checked the radar. It wasn’t good. The rain was set in and the storms would intensify over night. I asked the station attendant about any motels. He said that there were places to the north or south off route, but they would be 12 or more miles one way to get there. I wasn’t going that far off route. He then offered to give us some cardboard and we could sleep in the “old car wash” on the north side of the property. I was leery about it. He then mentioned that the Italian pair were over there sleeping as we spoke. Luke and I both decided that it would be best to stay and at least be out of the weather. While we sat and ate, Jason and George came through. They said they planned to ride on. I thought they were nuts.
Luke and I took the broken down cardboard boxes that the attendant gave us and went the direction he pointed. Just 50 or so yards away was what remained of an old car wash. The walls still stood, but the floor was dirt. At least it was dry. I leaned my bike up against the wall, laid the cardboard down and then my bivy on top of that. I crawled in my bivy, still in my wet clothes and set my alarm for 5:30AM, which was when the store would open. I had made 153 miles on the day. It was nothing stellar, but much better than the prior two days.