80% chance of rain!
That’s what I would be riding in, and since there was one more trail that I wanted to walk, I was up and out of my room early. The trail led me to The Towers overlook but since it was a misty morning, the views were limited. Even still, my walk into the woods was intriguing, even mysterious, as I had no idea what was around the curve in the trail.
Once back from my walk, I hit the dining room for breakfast and just as I finished and walked outside, the rain began, although lightly. The housekeeping staff gave me some extra plastic bags (to pack wet things in later) and I left the Breaks.
With each mile, the rain came harder, but it wasn’t so hard that I felt the need to pull over. I rode on some twisty, turning, beautiful roads. Oh how I wished I was riding them on a sunny day! The rain seemed to emphasize the poverty in some of the very small, remote communities that I rode through. Signs of support (and opposition) to the coal industry were everywhere.
As I rode, I kept wishing I could stop to take photos, but the rain kept coming down. I rode between rocky, tree covered hills on my right, and river beds and ravines on my left. Simply gorgeous! The weather forced me to rearrange my route slightly, and at one point, I turned around and out of Kingdom Come State Park when I hit an unpaved, incredibly hilly road called the Little Shepherd Trail.
My goal, since I was riding alone, was to stay safe, be smart, and have a different outcome from my ride last fall. In other words, arrive home safely. Even still, I was disappointed that I would not be able to explore the park, named after a Civil War novel, “The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come,” by Kentucky author John Fox Jr. Kingdom Come State Park preserves 1,283 acres of unspoiled wilderness.
At one point I was forced to stop for road work. A 25 minute stop. On a steep hill. Holding onto the brake. Unable to go forward, backward, or to get off the bike, I watched crews work to straighten out an incredibly curvy road through a tiny little hill town. Phew! My guess it will take years to finish that road.
After about 4 hours, the rain slowed and finally stopped, and I stopped for gas. Since I’m not able to share photos from the ride, I thought you might want to see the result of the ride on my pretty bike.
My plan was to stay at Pine Mountain State Park, but when I got there, the lodge was booked. It was time to ride on, explore the surrounding area, and think about where to stay for the night.
As an aside, by now I’d also learned that not only were the State Parks in Kentucky alcohol free, but the entire part of the state in which I was traveling was DRY. According to Wikipedia, “the alcohol laws of Kentucky lead to a confusing patchwork of counties that are dry (prohibiting all sale of alcoholic beverages), wet (permitting full retail sales), and moist (occupying a middle group between the two)”.
Of the 120 counties in Kentucky, 55 are dry … and those are the ones I was riding through.
When I walked into the Visitors Center at Cumberland Gap National HistoricalPark, I was greeted by a wonderful Brit who not only gave me information about the park, but also a list of nearby hotels, and directions to Pappy’s Beer & Wine. In order to get to Pappy’s, I had to ride through the very cool Cumberland Gap Tunnel, out of the state of Kentucky, into the state of Tennessee, and then back into Kentucky with a bottle of red wine safely tucked into my saddle bag.
(photo credit: http://www.roadstothefuture.com/Cumberland_Gap)
After securing a hotel room for the night, I rode to the top of the Cumberland Gap, “the first great gateway to the west”, where the buffalo, the Native American, the longhunter, the pioneer all traveled this route through the mountains into the wilderness of Kentucky. For many, it was the way to a new life in the frontier wilderness. Through the Cumberland Gap, a natural passage through the forbidding Allegheny Mountains, passed the Wilderness Road. Hacked out in 1775 into by a party led by Daniel Boone, this road was one of the main arteries used by the settlers who occupied the region between the Appalachians and the Mississippi River (http://www.legendsofamerica.com/ky-cumberlandgap.html).
This cabin, a replica of an original pioneer cabin, stands near the Visitors Center.
The ride to the top was one 180 degree turn after another, with each turn an elevation change. Thank goodness there was little traffic as I was challenged by that ride. While my photos from the top of the Gap reveal the continued overcast, foggy day, I thought you’d appreciate seeing one that I downloaded. The first are mine, the last is not.
As I stood there, looking at that beautiful scene, the mists and clouds rolled right over me.
This is what I hope to see when I return on a beautiful day.
I spent two hours in this national historical park, but could have spent more. So much history, so much to learn! As evening approached, I checked into my hotel and found a wonderful locally owned restaurant in downtown, historic Middlesboro. A delicious meal at Shades Coffeeshop was followed by a lovely plastic cup of wine in my hotel room surrounded by drying bike gear. Ah, life is good!
And tomorrow, my Kentucky adventure continues!