16. Chaplin: And Shades of Escondido

2nd Kentucky Posting

Written in my tent on Saturday night, October 8: east of Bloomfield, KY, off of Highway 62.

  • 8305 – Early Thursday evening, October 6: east of Central City. The edges of the pavement are grooved like this, or in some not-too-different manner, in all of the states I’ve ridden through so far. If a driver falls asleep, or just drifts off the road while fiddling, say, with an electronic device, the rattling this uneven surface causes on his tires will alert him to the danger. Good idea. But it’s also a big nuisance to somebody like me because it’s practically impossible to negotiate with a heavily loaded bicycle, at any speed. In some cases, what’s off the pavement to the right would be unstable and dangerous; it could tip me over instantly. Gravel like what’s seen here, for example, is treacherous. Sometimes there’s nothing at all – just a deep gully, or some obstacle like a piece of garbage or a pile of dirt. Gotta keep an eye out for anything like that. It doesn’t take much to turn over a bicycle. If there isn’t any oncoming traffic, what’s coming from behind will pass me wide on the left – nothing to worry about, except just to keep an eye returning to the mirror on my glasses. If there’s nothing coming up from behind, the oncoming traffic is no problem either because I’ve got a whole lane to myself. But if both lanes are occupied – especially by large vehicles like trucks, semis or RVs – then I have little choice but to stop and get off the road. Once a couple days ago, I did this so quickly, in such an unfavorable spot, that the bike pitched over on me. It takes a lot of strength to pull it off the ground again, then muscle it back up an incline to the pavement. This dance with deadly highway traffic reminds me of when I was touring Patagonia half a dozen years ago. There’s this stunning pinnacle of stone in the Andes there. The peak has an Irish name, which I forget, but it’s so well known that it was featured on the cover of the guidebook to Argentina that I carried and studied daily like I’m studying my DeLorme atlas pages every evening now. Experienced climbers come from all over the world to “conquer” that peak in the Andes – and every year some of them die there. I can remember photos of rock climbers scaling sheer faces of stone – like El Capitan, in Yosemite, California – and how just contemplating those images would make my palms sweaty. I don’t like heights, and I’m definitely not a climber. But I am a seasoned vagabond, in numerous modalities, and my means of travel now does have certain elements of risk. What kind of serious travel doesn’t? How could the sweet rewards of freshness and openness occur if there were no risk? I am reminded of an aphorism to the effect that the difference between an ordinary trip and an adventure is that, in the latter, you might not come back alive. There is no way around it. Every journey of the dedicated vagabond is a metaphor of life – whose one, most certain characteristic is that no one gets out of it alive. The core components of authentic rambling are at the essence of real living too – challenge and uncertainty, joy, exhilaration, skill, planning and foresight, alertness – as well as a bit of luck, or grace, or providence (whatever you want to call it). All of these contribute to one’s presence “on the edge,” as they say in my books and classes on yoga – which beats the hell out of any drearily conditioned routine. 
  • #8306 – A lovely and placid evening on an untroubled road, which is the kind of payment you will usually get in exchange for taking up the challenge. I slept two nights ago in that same patch of woods, a little ways farther ahead, on the left. 
  • #8308 – A mist still clings to the fields, as I look to the north from an ascending section of the bridge over the Green River, which forms the border of Ohio County. 
  • #8311 – Still facing north. Notice the rope on the lower left, suspended from a tree limb. So simple, and so much fun … to play, to swing far out and then let go in a place like this, when you’re a kid. 
  • #8313 – Another pleasing view. I think the countryside in Kentucky is the prettiest I’ve seen so far. This may be in part because the weather is so perfect, and because the autumn has clearly begun. This isn’t even the part of Kentucky I thought I’d find most appealing – still on the other side of Lexington. 
  • #8316 – Another stretch of quiet, country road. The sun is still close to the horizon, and the morning mist up ahead has not yet burned off. 
  • #8315 – Somebody’s work is almost done. The hay is rolled up neatly. All that’s left is to gather it and store it. 
  • #8318 – I see quite a lot of this – junk shops, or antiques, depending on which dialect of English you’re using. 
  • #8319 – Main Street, Beaver Dam. Just after a nice breakfast at the Green Tea Café. 
  • #8323 – Real autumn colors, and another perfectly clear sky. 
  • #8326 – County by county, the road is tended and surfaced differently. But the same gracious countryside continues. 
  • #8328 – Strings and Things Trading Post. I stopped in the vain hope of laying in a couple beers to enjoy while listening to the ballgame on Friday (yesterday) evening. Not far back up the road, I’d missed my last chance for the next hundred miles or so. Another stretch of dry counties … back in the Bible Belt. 
  • #8331 – Here is one of several selections of musical instruments inside. The woman tending the “trading post” told me her husband was a musician. This region is the home of Blue Grass, you know. 
  •  #8333 – The bicycle is often a conversation piece. That’s fine with me. I love to chat with folks along the way. This time, it started out: “Where are you going?” (In disbelief.) How far have you traveled? How can you ride that thing?” 
  • #8330 – “Come to Kentucky!” Ken (left) moved up here from Alabama because he bought a house. He’s been gardening all his life and says, “You’ve got to play around in the dirt.” Ken’s buddy Thomas (right) was watchful and taciturn. He didn’t second Ken’s enthusiasm … nor did he contradict it. 
  • #8336 – Set deeply back from the highway, as is customary, this home is not one of the more elegant ones I’ve seen. But it does have a typical aspect of well-tended graciousness. 
  • #8347 I had to scramble last night, as the sun was going down and I encountered a stretch of relatively well-populated road that offered no likely camping sites. At last I noticed the opening to a field in this little burg. I found an inconspicuous spot well back from the road, shielded on one side with a border of trees and brush. 
  • #8349 – Another rosy dusk, looking back towards the highway, all of my camp-making ready for the night. 
  • #8354 – Big occasion. Maureen of St. Louis has kept me informed by email regarding the Cardinals intoxicating come-from-behind bid for glory. St. Louis is one of the most passionate baseball towns in the USA. Maybe that’s why, having grown up there, I still love the game, even though I long ago quit being a dedicated fan. The Cardinals played last night in Philadelphia, to determine the division winner in their best-of-five-game playoff series. That was worth pulling out my radio for, and giving the evening to. I raised a scratchy but adequate signal from KMOX out of St. Louis. The Cardinals came out ahead – one to nothing – the single run having been scored in the top of the first, on a lead-off triple and double. I asked several times along my way, but still haven’t heard how the Cards did in Milwaukee this afternoon, starting the series that will produce the National League champions. I anticipate that – should I come across a roadside tavern tomorrow afternoon, with a big screen TV showing the Cardinal-Brewers’ game – I wouldn’t be too much of a purist to stop and while away an hour or so inside. 

More on the Redbirds:



  • #8356 – This morning, Saturday. There is always a telltale imprint where my tent was pitched the night before. 
  • #8359 – I never lay my bicycle down on the ground for the night. I always find a tree, or something, to prop it up against. If nothing else is available, I use my walking stick – as shown in the Illinois shots I took with Jon Voelz. But that’s a last resort; I prefer to keep the stick with me in my tent at night. Aside from the aesthetics, this makes it easy to unload my bike in the evening and, as seen here, to saddle up again the next morning. I always hang my helmet up too, with my riding glasses and trusty mirror inside. The glasses are normally fogged in the morning, and need wiping off. My reading glasses are another matter. They go into a case which I keep in the larger of two zippered pouches on the front of my handlebar bag, seen here on the ground at bottom center. 
  • #8361- The way back out to the road this morning – along the very edge of the field, then right. 
  • #8362 – Today I had another “day without dollars.” No spending, no touching of money. I need to restrain my profligate spirit and get budget-conscious again. It’s amazing how just a couple mouthfuls of simple fare will take the edge off your hunger. Also, how instant coffee can taste perfectly fine when that’s all there is. I sat here in the parking lot of a convenience store, where the lady inside was kind about letting me wash up in the restroom and take hot water from her beverage dispenser. That’s a lot less trouble than setting up my camping stove. 

Next morning, Sunday, from Miss Denise’s Grill and Grocery in Chaplin, KY.

  • #8421 – Miss Denise, proud proprietor, friendly and helpful to a fault. 

Never a dull moment. Turns out Miss Denise, a gal about my age, lived in California for many years, starting at Valley Center in San Diego County, right next to Escondido, one of the critical stopping points on my own life trajectory.

What I was able to write last night is about as far as I can get on my laptop battery. This includes a lot of weighing and sorting through the latest haul of pictures.

Amazing luck, but Miss Denise has wifi here. She says it was the first thing she put in. So I’ll be able to post before I leave.

  • #8364 – How much difference a day can make. View from my breakfast “table” yesterday. 
  • #8367 – Someplace in here there may be a bargain, a treasure, just what you’ve always been looking for. If you’ve got the time to search … and room on your rig to carry it away. 
  • #8374 – Just what I was looking for … autumn colors, a clear blue sky, pleasant temperatures. And, lo, I still have digital “space” on my camera to pack it away. 
  • #8375 – Another frugal meal break – peanut butter, crackers and two cups of hot tea. Not as attractive as being waited on and having something hot. But it still feels good to chow down, and get out of the saddle for a spell. 
  • #8377 – “Can you move your bicycle up against the wall?” I’d had it propped up next to me on the nice, soft couch. No problem, of course, but the tone of irritation in the owner’s voice reflected a general truism: The more affluent the area, the less friendly, generous and accommodating the people are going to be. The woman at the more countrified convenience store I’d stopped at earlier was actually solicitous about whether I’d gotten enough of her free hot water for my instant coffee. The owner at this later, much more spiffy-looking spot did agree to let me draw 2 cups for my tea. But he came out and questioned me as I was finishing up. Someone had made a mess at his coffee dispenser, and he was sure no one else had used it. I insisted I hadn’t touched anything but the hot water spout. I also offered to clean up the mess anyway, but his employee had already done this. I’m not sure whether he believed me or not, as he returned inside. He did mutter “you’re welcome” when I thanked him again for the hot water. 
  • #8379 – If I had only known I was going to come upon such a large and beautiful crafts fair in Bardstown, I wouldn’t have promised myself not to spend or handle money yesterday. Interesting and good spirited as this gathering was, I didn’t linger there too long, amidst all the pretty souvenirs, savory food and enticing beverages. 
  • #8382 – A peculiar feature of this event was that I didn’t see a single person who wasn’t white. 
  • #8384 – Until I was just about ready to leave, when I came across John here, peddling his line of delicious barbecue sauces.

  • Fortunately, he had some free samples laid out for the passers-by, so I can attest that what I dipped those little weenie bits into was downright yummy. Speaking of black guys, as I was leaving town, I propped up my bike in the shade of a building so I could peel off my T-shirt and study my map. I was accosted by a very black man with a cheerful, African-accented voice, assuring me that I was indeed, still in Bardstown, KY. After I’d recorded his image and extracted the outlines of how he got to be where I found him, I was required not to divulge any of these specifics, about a certain well-traveled, educated and experienced professional man … wielding a broom in the parking lot of a small Kentucky town. I told him about talented immigrants I know in New Jersey, who experience the same visitations shame. And I reflected – yet again – on the subversive strategies of our ruling “elites,” who aim to vitiate and weaken the Euro-Christian nations by swamping them with alien folk, then provoke conflicts among these disparate social elements. Like it or not, my guess is that these people are here to stay. I have wondered if the successful counter strategy may not entail a sort of jujitsu – going with the flow – accepting, and banking on, the bedrock of our common humanity to prevail against the criminal sociopathy of our unduly selected rulers. Encounters, like the one I had with the good-natured African fellow yesterday, help to persuade me that “going-with-the-flow” acceptance – redirecting the Adversary’s own vectors of force, to bring him down – is the proper way. This is consistent with a haiku I learned from a student of Japanese culture and a mentor of many years in San Francisco, which translates something like this: “When caught in a riptide, surrender, not resistance, will bring you to shore.”
  • #8378 – Back to the fair: “I heard a sweet voice, so tenderly calling … I knew it must be the voice of my Savior.” 
  • Quintessentially American – 



Incidentally, I can’t remember where or how (or even if) I (really) heard this … but the one song most associated with my dad’s English-born father, which he (allegedly) used to always hum or sing, was another Stephen Foster classic – “Beautiful Dreamer.”

  • #8385 – Picturesque Central Bardstown. On a busy Saturday afternoon. 
  • #8388 – Historic central Bardstown. 
  • #8391 – These shoulder-less bumps are the worst and deepest I’ve encountered yet. Moreover, this section of 62 was fairly busy. But there is a way you get into the groove of a difficult passage; you actually feel like you’re dancing with your weighty and cumbersome machine, simultaneously watching forward and aft, to keep in synch with the traffic, like some basketball artist maneuvering up a hostile court; then at just the right moments you’ll sit one number out, patiently wheeling off the road and pausing to let the lines of vehicles stream through in both directions. 
  • #8395 – A brief spell of relative calm, as shadows lengthen from the west. 
  • #8396 – Please excuse. I know … old barns are such a cliché, in paintings and photographs. But I couldn’t help myself. 
  • #8397 – Bloomfield. Another pretty little “wide spot in the road.” 
  • #8399 – Well back from the highway. Walking my heavy rig up towards the campsite I’ve already sought out and settled on, about halfway up the tree line here. 
  • #8401 – This is a trick I haven’t used in a while. A strong, overhanging limb will work just as well as a tree trunk for keeping my parked bicycle upright. You can’t see it too well here, but the front wheel is kept in place by another strap, holding it to the frame. I carry more of these straps than I need – in long, medium and short, but mostly long. They are another illustration of the fundamental truth that it’s often the simplest articles which are the most versatile and necessary. 
  • #8405 – Ouch! Walking beside your bike, or just standing next to it and hoisting it back upright, with the heavy-burdened front wheel subject to swinging violently and pulling the whole machine askew with it, can expose your shins and ankles to a slicing action by the peddle. Yesterday morning, as I was leaving my breakfast perch, I had such a mishap. I was squeamish and avoided looking at the little gash, until I was set up in my tent for the night, by which time it had stopped hurting. 
  • #8408 – Pre-dawn this morning, Sunday, as I gather my gear and saddle up. 
  • #8415 – Pretty view as I walk off of the field beside which I’d slept. 
  • #8418 – Looking back out towards the highway, beyond the “No Trespassing” sign, pointed in the opposite direction. In fact, this one had been damaged; the only parts you could read properly stated “No Hunting. No Fishing.” No problem. All I wished to borrow was a few square yards on which to rest for the night. Thank you. 
  • #8420 – Cattle ranching is a common sight. You find about as much pasture in these parts as you do farmland. A lot of horses are kept here too. 

Finally, a couple of sobering thoughts. Among the interesting bits of information Miss Denise fed me with my ample breakfast were stories off the front pages of Friday’s and today’s Kentucky Standard, both of which issues I have before me as I write.


Today’s lead is titled “Man indicted for throwing infant boy into ditch.” Denise added, “This is the kind of people who live around here.”

Friday’s horror story was about a Bloomfield man, “one of two inmates who escaped” the Blackburn Correctional Complex a week ago and are still on the loose. I might not have slept so easily last night had I known these desperate characters are prowling around the area. It isn’t the coyotes I hear sometimes yapping and howling in the night that are most to be feared; the two-legged varmints are a lot more dangerous.

Church is out now, and the lunch crowd is drifting in. Denise knows all these people. She says everyone in this town of 600 is related.

The sky is overcast, but it’s still supposed to get up around 80 this afternoon. Time to get this posted, settle up with Denise and roll out a few more miles.


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