15. Central City: East of Providence

5 Oct 11, p.m. in tent

First night in Kentucky. I’m east of Providence, off Hwy 41, near the point where it’s joined by 2280. I covered 66 miles today, aiming for 80. Try again tomorrow.

Got an early start, rolling before dawn. Leaving the woodland park above Golconda, on the gravel road, I encountered an unmarked, white sheriff’s car coming in the opposite direction. The sheriff had a lot of questions. They’d found plastic tubing up there – meaning kids doing methamphetamines. The gate had been opened when I returned the previous evening, but I hadn’t heard anything at all during the night.

Very cordial exchange. When we’d finished talking, Jerry S. gave me his business card and said if I was ever back in the area, I should give him a call. 8 years younger than me, he advised that the country had changed a lot, meaning it’s not as innocent and safe as when we were kids – an assessment I agreed with. He warned me about campgrounds like this, that they attracted unsavory people. In fact, I’d been put off by the amount of litter I noticed around the spot where I camped.

Not much later, I was chased by a large dog, one of those types with long, red hair. He didn’t really look vicious, but I always run when they come after me. This guy didn’t have any trouble keeping up – even with me in my adrenalin-charged fight mode –  and he didn’t give up the chase either, as they normally do when I clear their immediate territory. Of course, I whipped my stick out right away. When he got really close, I whacked him on the nose with it, and he dropped back. Closest encounter I’ve ever had with a dog; only time I’ve physically fought one off. I’d been daydreaming and didn’t notice him until he was close to me.

Here is the latest haul of images.

  • #8225 – Yesterday evening. This time I was back from my day in town before dark. Pulled all of my gear out of the underbrush where it had been hidden. Some would stay with me in my tent for the night. The more distant pile would load onto my bike so I could have an earlier start in the morning. 
  • #8224 – Discreet location, camoflage covering. I left most of my gear in these bushes during both of my days in Golconda. 
  • #8226 – I hid my main wad of cash and documents somewhere else, in a small, gray stuff bag under this pile of leaves. 
  • #8227 – About to remount my front panniers and pack a few items so I’d get an earlier start in the morning. 
  • #8223 – Looking downriver from the end of Main Street in Elizabethtown. 
  • #8235 – Same spot, looking upstream 
  • #8236 – And straight across the Ohio River, towards the Kentucky shore. 
  • #8238 – Looking up Main Street from the river. Nice bed & breakfast on both sides, same establishment – the less imposing and elegant half is visible here. One of the locals told me later that it’s overpriced. It made me think of Elizabeth … and not only because this was Elizabethtown. She won’t sleep in a tent, but she might find a place like this appealing. 
  • #8245 – Super breakfast spot. The menu has a picture like this on the back cover – with two touring bicycles, not one, leaned up against the front of the building.  Right where Hwy 146 crosses Main Street – you can’t miss it. 
  • #8240 Small town prices, generous portions, delicious food. I ate two breakfasts here for less than $15, including a $2 tip. This was the first round. It looked so pretty I just had to take this picture before demolishing it. I eat a restaurant breakfast almost every day when I’m bicycle touring. Dollar for pound, breakfast is generally your best deal in restaurant fare. After three weeks of travel since leaving Kirkwood, this was as good as anything I’ve seen so far. I just started reading The Sleepwalkers – by Arthur Koestler – A History of Man’s Changing Vision of the Universe. I took a good, long break here, and got far enough along to sense that it’s going to be as good as the reviews on amazon said it is. I’d wrapped up my spare library pretty well in plastic bags and stowed it at the bottom of my left rear pannier. But those hard rains I went through in the first portion of my ride were penetrating. I’ve learned that plastic bags aren’t good enough. This volume was at the bottom of the stack, and soaked up most of the moisture. 
  • #8241 – Small world. My waitress, Jonni (pronounced “Johnny”), was born in Phoenix, Arizona, and resided for years in Bakersfield, California. Who would have ever thought. She moved to Elizabethtown to look after her widowed grandmother, and now owns property here. She says it’s a good place to live. 
  • #8250 – Waiting to cross the Ohio River on the free ferry at Cave in Rock. The lady (about my age) who took this picture was reading her Bible – Galatians, to be exact. I warned her about the New Age translations (search “Gail Riplinger” and “AV Publications” for persuasive arguments on this theme). But she was satisfied enough with what she was holding, though she acknowledged the Devil doesn’t show up with horns, a pitchfork and a tail. 
  • #8261 – The ferry approaches. 
  • #8276 – View upstream as we are crossing the river. It looks gorgeous from a distance, but when you gaze right down into it, the water does have a filthy aspect. I wasn’t all that sorry to have missed my chance to swim in the Ohio. 
  • #8279 – 4th state and counting. 
  • #8283 – Highway 91 south. Kentucky is a much less affluent state than Illinois. The first thing I noticed was that the road is narrower and less well maintained than the one that had brought me to the ferry. But there was very little traffic, and it was pleasant going through this stretch, all the way down to Marion. 
  • #8285 – Marion. Another small town main street, population about 3200. I am seeing – and soaking up impressions from – quite a swath of the Middle America that can scarcely be imagined when you’ve lived in northeast Jersey for eleven years already. 
  • #8290 – Northwest Kentucky countryside. So pretty … in so many places along my way … I wasn’t expecting this. 
  • #8295 – The next piece of quiet backcountry road. On an afternoon like this, with the temperature in the 70s, the natural, relaxed – or default – position of the muscles on your face is something not too different from an idiot’s grin. You just can’t help but smile. It’s a lot less crowded here, but otherwise, in this respect, it’s like the Jersey Shore on a glorious summer day – everyone’s face is lit up and beaming. 
  • #8297 – One corner of what I took to be the crossroads at the very heart of Providence, KY. The downtown was run down and tacky, as this picture suggests. Lots of weathered red brick and boarded up windows. The surrounding countryside was tidy and picturesque. This image might do with a bit of cropping, but I read it as another exquisitely textured thumbprint of Father Time. 
  • #8300 – Where I’m sitting now, some hours hence. This view is facing west, pointed just north of the setting sun. It’s very dark and chilly as I write, the waxing moon hoisted pretty high. There is still a good bit of traffic on 41, a couple hundred yards to my south, right where it joins with Route 2280. 

Next morning – Thursday – sitting in Huck’s, a gasoline/convenience pit stop a third of a mile south of the turn off to Hwy 70 East.

Big pain in the neck. The Internet, which is why I stopped here, won’t connect, even though my “connected” icon at the top of the screen shows solid black. Computers are such a headache. I’ll have to try again someplace else.

Meanwhile, more wasted time. Plus an awful breakfast sandwich for $3 and horrendously obnoxious pop oldies off the radio, cranked up on loud. The coffee isn’t bad though. I’m going to change into my riding shorts and get out of here.

Hwy 41 from Providence was moderately harrowing – loads of traffic and very little shoulder. I did a lot of dodging and slowing down, even getting off the road a couple times to let the two-way rush ease off. I’m hoping 70 from here to Central City is more accommodating and less heavily trafficked. I’ll pick up a major highway there – 62 – and follow it nearly all the way to Lexington. It should have a decent shoulder at least.

The chill, damp morning was very pretty when I got up. Dark at first. Then soft colors emerged slowly through the shifting shades of gray, as a heavy mist gave the panorama of fields a surreal quality, and orange sunlight spread increasingly across the eastern horizon. I half noticed all of this, delicately beautiful moments quickly passing, as I went through my routine of putting things away, taking down the dew-sodden tent and loading my bike.

Thursday afternoon

Enjoyed a delicious Mexican lunch on the southwest edge of Central City, where 431 meets Highway 62. Spent more time there than I expected … after my waiter asked me what I was reading. The lunch rush was over, I was about the only client in there, and that got us started. I almost felt like I was in New York again, sitting in a coffee shop, talking non-stop with Scott Summers. Eustaquio doesn’t know as much as Scott. But who does? Topics we touched on included Free Masonry, central banking, royal bloodlines, the ancient Middle Eastern origins of secret societies and occult knowledge, symbolism on the dollar bill, Biblical connections to much of this and more. How gratifying to come across this awareness – and the passionate search for understanding – at such an unlikely moment and in such an out-of-the way place. Surely this is a hopeful sign.

  • #8302 – Waiter, Eustaquio M. Of Puerto Rican, not Mexican heritage. 

Posted from the Central City Public Library.

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