Possibly the hardest ride so far; due to coldness, headwind, steep hills - and no energy to go up them. It could be because I was almost within striking distance of the Atlantic coast and so psychologically my body was preparing itself for the winter hibernation I would be treating it to when I got home. Densely wooded hills in Kentucky, and across the southern border into Tennessee, my twelfth state. It seemed even poorer here and outside every trailer a dog either chased me down the road or would have done so had it not been tied up. It's kind of nice to cause excitement, as it is when I go into stores and restaurants. All the women stared at my legging and day-glo cagoule-clad form in Subway today. In their dreams. One of these women ordered a 12 inch sandwich with all the works. How could she eat so much? I had already biked 30 miles, but a six inch one was enough for me. Then again Tom had packed some pecan and hazelnut chocolate cluster things (another of Becky's delicacies). He had also given me an emergency army rations meal, which would apparently magically transform into a hot meal with the addition of cold water.
Even with Tom's meticulous route drawn out on a piece of paper, I still had to stop and ask several people for directions, and still made a couple of wrong turns. In Norris a woman definitely gave me a bum steer, but once again a Warm Showers host came out looking for me. Jeff lived here with his wife, Jenny, and their two young sons, Nicholas and Eddie. Nicholas, the elder of the two, at five, had given up his room for me. His room was a visual feast, with fluorescent solar system mobile, wildlife posters – and real wildlife in the form of African something or other frogs in an aquarium. They were so warm and attentive (not the frogs) plying me with extra portions of tonight's scrumptious spaghetti bolognese, along with Banana Pudding (a Southern staple) and Earl Grey tea. Both from the very county they lived in, Jeff was the Principal of a school and was a keen cyclist. With his friend (who joined us for dinner with his wife) he had ridden across the country five years earlier and completed other long distance journeys. What was particularly impressive (and gave me hope for the future) was that Jeff's friend was in his late 60s. Both tall men, the two of them slept in a tiny two-man tent, and as Jeff's friend worked for a legal firm he had had a joke pre-nuptial agreement drawn up stating that Jenny couldn't stop Jeff from going on any long distance rides. They had also cycled in Holland, and Jenny & Jeff had done missionary work in Latvia. They told me stuff about Tennessee, including how an atom bombs dropped on Japan (either Fat Boy or Little Man) had been built at a secret location up the road. Jeff agreed with me that it was a poor state and that some families had lived on welfare for generations. Apparently some of the children at his school only had cooked meals at school.
Not serious Scrabble players, with only a tenuous grasp of the rules, it was nevertheless sweet of them to take on an a pro like me. Jenny played a blinder for a novice in MARK (39) with the M on a double letter and the word tripled, but I managed to produce CUM to seal victory.