We left Golconda early this morning, trying our best to get out of the Victorian era mansion where we stayed without waking anyone. By 6:15 we were on our bikes and riding down the street where vendors were already getting grills and smokers ready for the town’s annual BBQ competition, and we were sort of sorry to leave before the festivities started.
We pedaled over to the convenience store in town and got some coffee and yogurt and juice and sat on the curb to eat our breakfast, which is always an invitation for folks to chat. Clearly we have crossed into the south, where conversation is a gift and an art form, and I am loving the advice, stories, and recommendations that are coming our way at every turn.
The ride out of Golconda was tremendously foggy so we were more than a little worried about cars being able to see us, but heartened by a woman who took the time to roll down her window as she drove past to tell us “stay safe out there.” We rode through the Shawnee National Forest, and it was beautiful though steamy, and by 8:30 a.m. it was already 90 degrees so we stopped in Elizabethtown to get some cold drinks and cool off inside. An older fellow asked about our trip as we were at the cash register, and left and returned to the store with a brochure for us about Hardin County IL and told us a bit about the state parks, and that the county was the primary source of fluorspar for the United States for many years and his dad was one of the miners, and he gave a fluorspar rock to Dan and wished us well.
Our next stop was in Cave in Rock, an old river town where there is a cave that was a hideout for pirates, and where we needed to wait for a ferry to take us across the Ohio River into Kentucky. It would be the last town with any services for the next 40 miles so we found the one open cafe, refilled our water bottles, got a lot of advice from the people eating breakfast there (especially about Kentucky drivers), and had a piece of delicious homemade peanut butter pie and coffee, which was way better than a Clif bar for a mid-morning pick-me-up.
It was lovely to be out on the river in a boat, even if it was just a car ferry and we were squeezed in between our bikes and several cars, with a breeze and a great view. I was thinking about the conversation in the Cave in Rock cafe where a horseman and his wife had a lot of questions for us, and when I said we lived on the Mississippi, she said “well we are partial to the o-HI-o River ourselves.”
The route on the Kentucky side took us through Amish country, and along the Trail of Tears, which was another grievous wrongdoing in our nation’s history to ponder for many miles through the woods and fields that Cherokee and other tribes were forced to travel as they were resettled. There were lots of wildflowers blooming in the ditches along the roads, including Queen Anne’s Lace and different kinds of daisies and pink wild roses, and gads of thistles with their beautiful purple heads and prickly leaves , and there was little car traffic.
It was thankfully a little overcast for most of the afternoon and we made slow but steady progress through the heat and hills. We made it to Smithfield and had a late lunch in the town’s one open convenience store/cafe and will say more about that later, and ended the day in a Motel 6 next to the interstate, too far out of town to get in and back for dinner by bike before dark, so we ended up eating dinner from the convenience store as well. That, my friends, has become the American way.
Tomorrow we are heading into the Land Between the Lakes and have a short day of riding (50 miles), and look forward to some time to read and perhaps swim and nap.