// Parting ways //

May 12, 2010

There is quite a bit to explain in this post, and I hope you’ll forgive me if it seems a bit off, as it completely breaks the format of all of my previous entries. After much thought, I have decided to prematurely discontinue my participation in the rest of the trip. It may come as a surprise to many of you but it is a conclusion that I came to after much diliberation, with myself, my family, and with Dawson – and is one that so far I am confident in. There are a number of things which lead up to me making this decision, and I am just going to describe a very limited portion of my thought process – because I feel that the followers of this blog deserve to understand.

I want to eccentuate the fact that I am not leaving on bad terms, nor am I thinking negatively about the time and energy that I spent on this. The month that Dawson and I spent on the road together will be cherished in my memory forever as one of the most fantastic adventures imaginable. Nothing specific happened to turn me off from continuing, nor have my positive feelings towards Dawson changed. I have simply decided that the lifestyle that is necessary to do a bicycle tour such as this is not one that I am as comfortable in as I had anticipated.

The aspect of the lifestyle that I was having the most difficult time coping comfortably with was the eventual disconnect that occurred (and would continue to occur) between me and the rest of the my world. My relationships with my family and friends are crucial to my well being, and I found that the times without cell phone service, or the long periods when the charging of phones was impossible, were the hardest for me. In the early portion of the trip, we were able to maintain our cell phone batteries for longer periods of time – and I was able to keep contact through phone calls and text messaging. The further we got the harder it seemed to continue interacting with those people, and I began to notice the effects that this disconnect had on me.

Another disconnect that was growing was the infrequency of access to the internet, which caused there to be more time between when I’d actually get to post the entries that I’d written – and even less frequently have the time to read all of the wonderful comments and respond to them. I found that this blog was really an important part of the experience for me – that being able to share my adventure with my family, friends, and the world was as important as the adventure itself.

I began to notice these things within the first several weeks of the tour, and at that time Dawson & myself discussed it at great length. I wanted to make sure that I gave it a fair chance before making any decision, as I am aware that things can change quickly. After a month on the road, I recognized that these disconnects were increasing rather than decreasing, and that the premise of another two months from here seemed somewhat daunting. I expressed my concerns to Dawson again, and once again he was supportive of me doing what I felt was right, but that he would continue nonetheless. I told him that if I was going to leave, that I would make a decision within the next several days. In that time, my feelings did not change, and in fact I became more confident in the fact that I wished to stop.

I shared this with my mom, and being the caring mother that she is, she set out to find the means through which I would get to my final destination, which is still Portland, Oregon. Later that same afternoon she called me back and told me that I could take an Amtrak train from Carbondale, IL (just ahead of us on the trail) to Chicago and then on to Oregon. It is nearly midnight on May 11th, 2010 – and I am currently on said train, en route to Portland. I shared the official news with Dawson that afternoon, and he passed it along to his parents back home.

He expressed to them his desire to complete the trip, even on his own, and his parents support his wish to do so. They arranged a place for him to pick up a package of some things he needed (spare tire/cell phone/etc.). While I know that Dawson is somewhat disappointed that he will no longer have me to keep him company, he is also a bit excited because he tends to ride a quicker pace than I, and will now be able to make some better time.

As far as our fundraiser for the National Coalition Against Censorship goes, I want to reitterate my continued commitment to their cause, and to helping to raise awareness about the importance of combating censorship. All past and future donations that we receive will obviously be forwarded to the NCAC, and Dawson is still proud to be biking for that cause. My intention is to remain commited to not only spreading the word about Bike For Progress, but about the NCAC and the censorship issue as a whole.

I hope that you all can understand the decision that I have made, and not hold it against me. This will be the last post on this blog for now, unless Dawson changes his mind and wishes to update it. He will, however, be updating the Bike For Progress Facebook Page, so if you’re interested in following, please visit http://www.facebook.com/bikeforprogress

I am going to end this final post with a short quote from the novel Anthem by Ayn Rand.

I stand here on the summit of the mountain. I lift my head and I spread my arms. This, my body and spirit, this is the end of the quest. I wished to know the meaning of things. I am the meaning. I wished to find a warrant for being. I need no warrant for being, and no word of sanction upon my being. I am the warrant and the sanction.

It is my eyes which see, and the sight of my eyes grants beauty to the earth. It is my ears which hear, and the hearing of my ears gives its song to the world. It is my mind which thinks, and the judgement of my mind is the only searchlight that can find the truth. It is my will which chooses, and the choice of my will is the only edict I must respect.”

Thank you for following along, for all of your comments and kind words, and for your continued support.

-Matthew Lang Sottile

We awoke in our tents quite cold as the temperature dropped almost 50 degrees during and after the storm – but both dry. After getting our gear packed up and back up on the road, we discussed breakfast. We decided that we weren’t going to cook anything in the morning because we didn’t want to take the time, plus it would mean that we’d be cooking twice in a day (a major waste of fuel and time). We knew there were two towns within the first 30 miles of riding to do, so we figured we’d just eat our snacks for breakfast – and then replenish them in town.

I ate almost all of the rest of my snack food, besides a half bag of trail mix which I saved for the road. We got out on the road pretty early and ran into the same wind issue as yesterday – except this time the temperature was in the mid 50s instead of the mid 90s – so that same wind which felt good yesterday was indeed making us feel quite cold this morning. Luckily, the temperature did raise up to the mid 70s by the afternoon, but the wind remained. Again we were riding straight into it, and it was slowing us down considerably, but we knew that we were close to the Ohio River (which marks our crossing into Illinois) so we pushed on ahead.

In the mid afternoon we arrived in Marrion, KY which is the last big town before the river crossing. We replenished our snacks at a gas station, and headed into McDonalds so that Dawson could have lunch, and so that I could use the WIFI to upload at least one blog from the past 5 days. We hung around in there for about an hour, and then got back on the road.

We continued on to Tower Rock Recreation Park, another 5 or so miles, and set up our camp for the night. We cooked our pasta, as we almost always do, and headed to bed.

We awoke and ate our leftover pasta for breakfast once again, and were out on the road pretty early. The forecast for the day said scattered thunderstorms, so we prepared ourselves for the potential rain in the afternoon. The winds were quite strong once again (a sign of the approaching storms) but with the 90 degree heat that onset fairly early, the wind mostly just served as a means of keeping us cool. It did slow us down quite a bit because the winds were blowing directly at us, and therefor making even flats feel like an uphill.

Though we weren’t making the best time, we continued along and at around 25 miles in we crossed through Sebree, KY. After checking out the maps and knowing about how much we were riding each day, I had concluded that our positioning was just a little bit off: it seems that we always fell about 20 miles short of a town with camping, or ride 20 miles past one. In Sebree we stopped for a moment and discussed the idea of taking a short day in order to offset our mileage, so that we could end up closer to places with camping services over the next five days. However, since it was still so early in the day, we decided to continue on ahead.

The winds never broke that day, and actually got considerably stronger as the afternoon went on. I have no actual weather information to back up these statements, but I would have to estimate the regular winds between 15 and 25 mph, with gusts stronger than that.

After crossing through Dixon, KY in the mid/late afternoon we could for the first time see the storm clouds in the distance. Before that the skies were clear, but one could tell just by the feeling that the weather was not calm. By this point we had traveled just over 41 miles in the day, and I decided that I would rather pick a spot to camp and get my tent set up before the rain came rather than after. Though Dawson still felt we could ride further towards the storm and risk getting wet for some extra miles, he agreed to set up camp.

We picked a grassy spot next to a bridge that we could tell that someone owned but it seemed like an area that even the owner wouldn’t care too much about. I set up my tent and packed away the items that I was sure I didn’t want getting wet (camera, computer, and clothes bag) and we sat on the bridge and waited.

Several hours passed, along with several of the storm clouds, without a drop of rain thus far. However, eventually as the sun was beginning to set we saw a section of the storm that appeared to be coming straight for us. It was also the first time that we heard thunder and saw lightning, so we knew that this was a bit more serious. We decided to just eat cold rice for dinner quickly and head to our tents.

After eating and each heading to our tents, we spent the next hour our so shouting to maintain a conversation over the sound of the heavy fall rain on our tents. The sun had set by that point, and as the rain got so hard we could barely hear one another, we decided to go to sleep.

05/05/2010 —

May 10, 2010

In the morning we awoke to our first full day in Central Time and started off with our breakfast – the leftover pasta we saved from last night.

We got on the road pretty early –  but not before having a pleasant interaction with the man who runs the campground with his wife. He even went as far as to offer us another nights stay on them – but we had some riding to do and graciously declined.

The riding today was similar to that of the latter half of yesterday: sections of flat connected by longer sections of rolling hills. The skies were clear and blue, without a cloud, and again it was 90s (peaking at around 94 degrees).

We cruised along through the terrain pretty quickly, and I am sad to say that the ride was a bit boring. There was nothing special to look at – and it caused the hours to blend together.

Before I knew it we were over 50 miles for the day – and we decided that we’d ride another 5-10 miles to Utica, KY since the map listed it as a town with a campground.

Once we arrived in town we checked out the listing for the town and found that there was camping available at the Utica Elementary School Park. We rode until we found it and called the listed phone number to find out that the school was closed down, but that we could still stay under the pavilion if we wanted to.

We hung out for a while, as there was a little league softball game in the fields out back, and eventually cooked & ate our dinner. After the game was over and everyone else left, we set up out sleeping bags and pads on the cement floor of the pavilion and went to sleep not long after.

On to more exciting days…

We woke up a little late but got moving pretty quickly – we took down all of the cycling clothes that were drying on the clothesline in our room, packed up, and headed on our way.

Still in Bardstown, we stopped at a small cafe called Java Joint. Dawson had a club sandwich, and I quite enjoyed my Italian Grilled Cheese Pannini (whole wheat bread, American & Provolone cheese, tomatoes and pesto). However we were both still hungry – so we stopped at Subway also on the way out of town.

It wasn’t long before we saw our first “High Water” and “Road Closed Ahead” signs for the day. After our experience yesterday, we felt that we were old pros, so we confidently continued on through. When we finally reached the point where the water crossed the road, we were surprised to see that it was considerably more than yesterday.

Nevertheless, we took off our shoes/socks and headed out into the depths. For a while we could see the tall grass beside the shoulder sticking out from the water, but the further out that we got – the less grass was visible. At around halfway we decided we’d reached the deepest point – around waist deep in water.

Luckily we learned that due to the air in the tires and the waterproof bags – the bikes have some buoyancy in deep water – and float on the surface easily with a hand to guide them.

Unfortunately, Dawson forgot that he had his Iphone in his shorts pocket while he crossed – and ended up submerging it for close to ten minutes. Needless to say, the Iphone is no longer operating.

For a while after that we were riding without issue, but again we saw high water signs. We came out at what appeared to be a lake – but only a few days ago was a corn field.

This crossing was not as deep as the first, but was the longest section that we ended up crossing – and was still deep enough to get our upper thighs wet at the deepest points.

While the experience added some adventure to the day – it was also considerably slowing us down. Each time we had to take off our shoes, outer shorts, and if really deep, our shirts.

The day continued on like this, and even in the sections where the roads were clear, we still witnessed ridiculous amounts of flooding.

Around 5ish we came across what would end up being our last water crossing for the day. The water came up on a bridge – so we leaned our bikes and began to prepare to cross. Moments later I heard a pop from my rear tire. We decided to cross and fix the flat on the other side.

As we were coming across the waist high water, we saw two cyclists on the other “shore”. Once we got over there we spoke to them about our trip. Since it was getting late by that point, Dawson asked if they’d mind us camping in their yard. They’d mentioned that they lived not even a quarter mile from the water, and they graciously told us it would be no problem.

I fixed my flat (caused by glass on the bridge – it cut a solid two inch slit in the tire and tube) and Dawson took advantage of the situation and went for a swim in the flooded road.

Once I was all set we rode up to the house where we met up with our hosts for the night: Craig and Lisa.

We enjoyed much pleasant conversation with them, and they even ordered a pizza for us – which we all ate together, and after we headed to our tents in the lawn for sleep.

We couldn’t be more grateful to Lisa and Craig for their generosity towards us, and for allowing us the chance to get to know them a bit. Thank you.

We awoke to the beautiful sight of the sun coming through the window of our room, and knew that we would be able to get back onto our bikes and continue our adventure.

We packed up our stuff, ate our complimentary breakfast (again) and headed out on the road. While everything was still pretty damp from the several days of intense raining, the weather was fantastic – we couldn’t really ask for anything better.

We came across the first river not too long into morning, and the sight of the flooded area around the river proved how much rain the area really got.

As we went along, we continued to witness the flooding that had occurred over the past couple of days. While I ended up getting a bunch of really beautiful pictures of the flooded areas, unfortunately water can be a really destructive force as well.

We stopped on a bridge over rushing water for lunch, and I got a couple of shots of a small side road that had been completely covered with 4 or 5 feet with water. I thought the “Slow – Children Playing” sign next to water was amusing.

We just continued riding as we always do, and eventually someone coming the opposite direction stopped and warned us that there was quite a bit of water over the road up ahead. We checked out the map, and as soon as we realized that a detour would be an additional 15 miles or more, we decided that we were just going to go ahead towards the high water.

As we came up on the water across the road, we saw that there was a Department Of Transportation truck parked near the end. We went up and talked to the guy inside, and he informed us that the water was over the road for maybe 500 or 600 feet and that they weren’t sure how deep it was.

We went on ahead, and when we reached the edge of the water, we both decided to take off our shoes and socks – as the water was clearly going to be deeper than our feet. We began walking our bikes down the road, through the river that had overflowed it. The first section was fairly short, and only about 10 inches deep at its deepest point. The second and final section was considerably longer, with a much stronger current of water flowing horizontally across the road. At its deepest point, it was probably close to 16 inches of water – which almost submerged our front panniers, and came up on our legs enough to get our shorts wet.  We made sure to get some pictures to have a record of such an event.

Once we made it out the other side we saw that they had actually closed the road to traffic while we were going through – so I guess we made it just in time.  After that point we climbed up to a higher elevation so we didn’t see any more flooding.

By this point it was already close to 4 PM, and we were nearing our hopeful destination for the day: Bardstown, KY.  We were riding into town by 5ish, and decided to get a hotel and do our laundry. I checked on the Iphone to make sure that the place had machines, which it said it did. To our dismay, we found out that they do not after we’d already booked the room.

Luckily there was a laundromat only a half mile down the road, so we unloaded our bikes in the room and rode with just our laundry. We sat outside and ate Subway while our clothes washed and dried, and then rode back to the motel as the sun went down.

We are supposed to have at least 3 or 4 more days of good weather before the thunderstorms return, so we’ll see how that goes. This adventure continues…

When we awoke, we checked the weather to see if it was anything similar to what had been predicted. It was: heavy thunderstorms and high winds all day, along with a tornado watch and flood warnings. We decided to take a day off.

We spent the day in our motel room. I caught up on the episodes that I had missed of House Season 6, as well as watched some Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. I’m not too sure what Dawson did, but I’m mostly certain he did not enjoy sitting around all day long.

PS: This is the first day in almost a month that we did not ride our bikes at all.

We woke up to the sound of thunder and heavy rain hitting the ground. For about an hour we both just laid in bed and checked the weather and discussed our options. We saw that tomorrow was supposed to be considerably worse, so we decided that we would try to get a good day of riding in, despite the rain.

We packed our stuff, ate breakfast, and loaded on our rain gear for a pretty intense and wet day. While the last time we rode in the rain was pretty cold, today was actually quite warm. In the mid to high 60s by noon, the rain was almost soothing and we found that being out riding in such weather was a great experience.

We cruised along at a pretty quick speed for a lot of the day, and were making really good time. All the while, it poured and poured.  Every once in a while we’d hear thunder and see lightning in the distance, but never close or often enough to make us worry in the least.

For me the day really seemed to fly by, and before I knew it we were crossing the 55 mile mark for the day, and rolling into Harrodsburg, KY. We checked into our motel (that we reserved in the morning as motivation for making it all the way in the rain) and ordered some pizza.

We spent the rest of the night just relaxing and watching television, and fairly early were both asleep.

Again, no pictures today – I don’t want to risk ruining my camera for a couple of pictures.

Today we woke up at our usual time and got moving pretty quickly. Dawson already had his tent packed up and was pumping his tires when I exited my tent, so he started getting breakfast together while I pumped my tires.  We saved half of the noodles from last night so that we wouldn’t have to cook in the morning, so breakfast was quick.

After packing up we headed out on the road, which continued with the rather hilly terrain of yesterday. We were climbing for a lot of the morning, but the weather was beautiful (even a bit hot, in the high 80s  already by 11).

We stopped for a quick break after about an hour of riding, but kept up a pretty steady pace.

By mid afternoon we knew we were closing in on Berea, so we took a longer break at a gas station – enjoying some cold drinks and sugary treats.

We arrived in town by 3:30 or 4, and after locating the information/welcome center we headed to a motel to check in.

We both showered, after sweating in the mid 90 degree sun all day, and then headed out into town on foot. First we stopped at Mario’s, a local pizza place, where we split a large cheese pizza. Then we went on to check out the Berea International Festival, which just so happened to begin tonight. We walked around for a little bit but it seemed to be winding down – so we walked to the other side of town.

There we went to the Main Street Cafe for dinner #2. Dawson had a Greek Chicken Wrap and I had the veggie burger, as well as some delicious cheesecake. With quite full stomachs, we walked all the way across town as the sun set, and arrived back in our motel room for a night of restful sleep.

Today we woke up and ate oatmeal and bananas for breakfast in our motel room before heading out on the road. We headed out of Jackson on Rt. 52 towards Irvine, KY so  we could follow Rt. 25 to Berea. 52 followed the train tracks for much of the morning, but the terrain was hillier than yesterday (the train stayed level as we went up and down next to it.

Though we were climbing more than yesterday (not hard because we barely did at all) our sprits remained high and we cruised along swiftly. The weather was nice and warm, in the mid 80s by noon, with just a bit of headwind and quite sunny all day. After the days of rain we did this week, a day like this is quite welcome.

We stopped for lunch about 12 miles into our ride, and then for lunch #2 by around 25 miles in. It was at this point that we apparently rode past our turn and continued a bit too far south on Rt. 11. However, we realized our mistake pretty quickly and asked some locals for the best way to head to Berea. They directed us towards Rt. 587, a hilly but pleasant ride – but after not even 10 miles we realized how close we were to being back on the TransAmerica Trail. Once we came to this realization we decided that it would make a lot more sense to just follow the maps, rather than ride a route to which we have no maps, that runs parallel to it. We rode about 5 miles South and met up with the TransAm route in Vincent, KY.

We stopped for lunch about 12 miles into our ride, and then for lunch #2 by around 25 miles in. It was at this point that we apparently rode past our turn and continued a bit too far south on Rt. 11. However, we realized our mistake pretty quickly and asked some locals for the best way to head to Berea. They directed us towards Rt. 587, a hilly but pleasant ride – but after not even 10 miles we realized how close we were to being back on the TransAmerica Trail. Once we came to this realization we decided that it would make a lot more sense to just follow the maps, rather than ride a route to which we have no maps, that runs parallel to it. We rode about 5 miles South and met up with the TransAm route in Vincent, KY.

As we were closing in on the 40 mile mark and our legs were hurting a bit (we both had become accustomed to riding the much flatter terrain over the past 3 days) we decided to look for an appropriate camping spot.

Not too far outside of Vincent we came across a bridge that had a nice clearing of grass next to it, which appeared to be town or state land. We decided that we’d just camp out in the open, without hiding and worrying about being “caught” – and that we’d just relax out in the open and wave to anyone who comes by. We hung out for a few hours in the sun, just relaxing and talking.

After that, we cooked our dinner – a whole huge package of Instant Egg Noodles, which we mixed with a can of Sweet Peas. There was more than enough to save a bunch in a plastic bag for breakfast in the morning – which also keeps us from having to cook again when we wake up.

Once we ate our dinner and cleaned up, we both spent the next 45 minutes cleaning and performing regular maintainence on our bikes to keep them pretty and performing in the ideal way.

Not too long after, we retired to our tents for sleep. Tomorrow we will be in Berea, KY – the Arts Capital of Kentucky, the state’s fastest growing city, and one of the fastest growing in the nation. We intend to find something interesting to do there for Friday night.

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