19. Jackson: Another Dry County

Thursday, October 13, 2011

East of Beattyville, just off Hwy 52

Across a grassy field from the road, right above the North Fork of the Kentucky River. Lovely spot. A bit noisy, but the traffic will subside later in the evening. A steady drip of rain is falling, but it’s not too cold, and the new fly on my tent will keep the moisture off of me, even if it rains hard tonight – which I expect it will, at least one more time. Most of the afternoon was very wet, after I left Irvine. There were spells of heavy rain. The sun is supposed to be back out tomorrow afternoon. So maybe I’ll let myself sleep in, not push against the elements. I’ll get far enough if I get a lazy start.

Leaving Stanton late yesterday afternoon, I encountered the longest and steepest climb so far. I had to get off my bike three times, when traffic approached from behind on the narrow highway, then lean my weight into it and push my two-wheeler up the steepest pitches at one mile an hour. I might have been able to peddle all the way up, had it been safe – don’t know. My heart was pounding faster, and I was breathing harder than at any time I can remember recently. Glad to know I can still get pumped up like that at 62.

But I was gloomy and sad as the day ended yesterday. Just a normal progression of moods, I suppose, with certain bleak memories from the past weighing on my mind. My old army pal had left a message for me, which I recovered after setting up camp in a rather awkward spot, on a steep hillside. I called him back, and he made me laugh, which felt good. But I still had troubled dreams – somehow, somewhere (New York?) I was waiting for flights to arrive, connecting with England, but there had been three crashes involving the same airline, killing over 700 people, including one of the many females in my ex-wife’s family, with whom I had some kind of a pending amorous encounter.

I listened to a bit of the St. Louis – Milwaukee playoff game on my little Sony radio. Exciting as it was, I got sleepy around the 4th or 5th inning, possibly due to the exertion of my climb out of Stanton. So I turned off the radio and went to sleep with the Cards leading 4 to 3. I was gratified the next morning, when I logged on in Irvine, to see that my team had won.

I would consider it a big waste of time to follow baseball closely. The last year I did so was in 1964 – when the Cardinals had a powerful team. In fact, their whole infield played on the allstar team that year, plus their ace pitcher, catcher, and at least one of their outfielders. But something dire happened to me in the early spring of 1965, and I never followed baseball closely after that. I still love the game, though. If I stumble on some people playing in a park, or see a game in progress on a TV screen someplace, I almost always stop and take in at least a moment of it. It almost mesmerizes me. And whenever my childhood hometown team ascends to the upper extremes of baseball glory – which is not all that rarely – my emotions get engaged, and I cheer them on.

I got a very early start this morning. It sprinkled rain as I was packing up, but then it desisted. I’ve never been chased by dogs so fiercely or so frequently as I have here in the hinterlands of eastern Kentucky. I can’t remember how many times I pulled my stick out of its scabbard today. At one point in the morning, several large ones came after me, snarling and barking. Luckily, I was on a rather long downward stretch, and I outran them. I’m packing an 8-inch Bushman blade, which I’ve kept discreetly in my rear right pannier. I think I’m going to load it in my handlebar bag now, in case one of those fiends ever gets its teeth into me, and I have to seriously defend myself.

  • #8519 – City Center, Mount Sterling. Wednesday morning. 
  • #8520 – US Route 460, very good road here, sliced through the stony mountain, south of Mount Sterling. 
  • #8524 – Looking south on 460 – obviously, the way is going to get hilly farther on. 
  • #8526 – After the long and very steep climb out of Stanton, I rode along a ridgeline until I plunged back down to a lower elevation the next morning, at Ravenna and Irvine. There were a lot of sharp ups and downs along this extended ridge, but none of them went up or down very far. Here is a view to the west, after I’d climbed to the top of the ridge south of Stanton late yesterday. 
  • #8528 – Again, it was hard to find a campsite. All of the relatively rare, level and cleared patches of ground were claimed as someone’s property – generally with watchful guard dogs on the prowl, as often as not unleashed and unfenced. So I started looking early, and took what I could get. Here I camped on a steep incline, on a corridor cleared for telephone lines. I positioned bundles of clothing and rain gear beneath the right side of my inflatable mattress so I could have something approaching a level bed to sleep on.  
  • #8527 – Looking back up towards the side road I camped beside. 
  • #8529 – Looking to the west at dusk, from the side road below which I made camp last night. 
  • #8530 – Still up on the ridgeline, not long before I descended sharply into Ravenna and Irvine. 
  • #8533 – Leaving Irvine/Ravenna, here is a view downstream of the Kentucky River, back the way I came. I note that the middle of my three water jugs is missing in this photograph. I didn’t realize it was gone until farther up the road. Did I leave it at the Lunch Box in Irvine, where I had breakfast, and where the waitress filled it for me before I left? Maybe I can contact my lovely waitress Emily there, see if she found it, and if she’ll mail it to me in Clifton. I was really sorry that I lost that thing. It took me years to find water jugs like this one – and the other one, still on top here – which didn’t impart a nasty flavor of plastic to the water. They weren’t cheap either. When I entered the Lunch Box and asked if they had wifi there, Emily said they didn’t. But she soon returned with the password to the owner’s private wifi. Over and over, I find the small-town people go out of their way to be helpful and kind. Emily is a sophomore at the college in Richmond. Her field is criminal justice. Speaking of which, when I asked for her opinion of 9-11, she appeared not to have thought about that particular crime. I gave her the address to my blog site and told her to keep her eye on the big picture, i.e., not to get lost in the minutea of rehabilitating petty criminals, however well intentioned that may be. 
  • #8537 – National forest or otherwise, there is still economic activity, of various sorts, in these hinterlands. Here we see cattle-raising, which is rather common. 
  • #8542 – Aha! An accessible stream at the side of the road, but out of sight, and a break in the rain. The last time I got properly cleaned up was back in Illinois. 
  • #8547 – It’s not the same as a hot shower, but the soap and shampoo makes it almost as good, and there’s something glorious about plunging naked into a clear stream and bathing at a natural spot like this. 
  • 8561 – The lovely place where I’m set up tonight. 
  • #8557 – I use my old ground cloth to cover the bicycle and make it inconspicuous. The reflectors, shiny metal parts and reflective strips on my panniers would sparkle in any directed beam of light. 
  • #8551 – View through the extended flaps of my rain fly after I’d gotten my camp set up for the night. 
  • #8559- Yesterday at the same hour I was glum, but this evening it was deeply satisfying to lead against a sturdy tree trunk beside my tent, with a very light drizzle falling, sip Southern Comfort from my elegant titanium mug, and watch the river water drift slowly past, with all of my efforts of the day behind me, and no urgency to do anything or be anywhere but where I was. 

Friday afternoon, from the McDonalds at the north end of Jackson. The fellow at the gas station next door told this was the only place I’d find a wifi hookup in town. When I asked if they sold beer – so I could have one with the game tonight – he told me I was in a dry county. It’s astonishing how many dry counties I’ve been through since northern Arkansas. I was expecting hills, flat tires, rain and traffic, but this took me by surprise.

  • #8566 – A gorgeous fall day. This morning’s ride was one of the prettiest stretches I’ve seen yet – cool temperatures, clear sky, golden leaves falling steadily, no serious hills, not much traffic … and I only got chased a couple of times by dogs. 
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Comments
  1. Tammy Kelley says:

    Glad to meet you on your long journey. I am the lady at the Prestonsburg Walmart giving flu shots yesterday.

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