1,000 Miles

With the Appalachians in my rear view, I’ve been making some serious tracks and hitting some major milestones.  Last week, Eastern Time turned into Central as I entered into the second time zone of four.  July 2nd marked exactly 1,000 miles into my 4,300 mile journey. Today, I bid a fond farewell to Kentucky and cross the Ohio River into Illinois via Ferry, entering my 3rd out of 10 total states.

The rolling hills of Kentucky have been beautiful and graceful.  Although they aren’t nearly as tall or steep, the long flat stretches and head winds between the hills require constant pedaling, making the milder inclines feel much more challenging than I’d assumed.

Meeting other cyclists along the way has been fun and inspiring. We were honored to say “Hi!” in passing to Evan Deutsch, who finished 1st place and set a new speed record in the 2017 Trans Am Bike Race.  We got to talk with Jon Lester (who finished 2nd place), met an awesome father / daughter racing team, and other cyclists like us who are touring cross country.

Yesterday, as I was cresting the rolling hills, it dawned on me that I’m really going to miss the declines.  Letting my legs rest while the breeze hits my face and uses the sweat that I shed on the way up to cool me on the way down.  Gravity graciously alotting me just enough recovery time to take on the next incline.  I’ll never forget.  Those Blue Ridge climbs killed me and brought me back to life every time.  Breaking, then building me.  Breathing in cadence with the pedals, anxious to receive my visual reward at each mountain top…  Making my body switch to auto pilot, as inclines are very much a MENTAL endeavor.  It was a whole system that I had figured out pretty well, and even grew to love and embrace.  I honestly look forward to the Rockies…  Until we meet again, mountains!

While looking around a grocery store in Booneville, KY, I received a phone call from my riding partner, John, who was only a few miles behind me.  Typically, we never make calls while riding, so this was concerning.  He had crashed his bicycle into a ditch on a steep incline, sending him over the handlebars and bending the front tire rim badly.   I tracked down a police officer, who had an ambulance pick me up at the store and drive me out to John’s location, where we loaded up his panniers and bicycle.  The paramedic, Wendy, then loaned us her personal vehicle for 3 DAYS so John could be seen by a doctor and to have his bike repaired at Mike’s Hike and Bike in Richmond, KY.  Luckily, he is able to continue this journey and is experiencing little to no pain while riding.  Marines are basically superhuman, turns out.  The generosity Wendy showed us was beyond anything I ever imagined…

I’ve met some seriously incredible Veterans and civilians alike throughout this state, including Navy Veteran John Briody, who served aboard the actual USS Intrepid!!  The Intrepid is now a Sea, Air and Space Museum, located at Pier 86 in NYC.  He shared some incredible stories with me – I could’ve listened all day!!

In Berea, KY, we met up with a Marine that John served with named Russ Carson.  What a solid human being…  Served in the Marine Corps for 8 years, continued his service as a Contractor overseas, coaches kids’ sports, and plays semi-pro football for the Kentucky Patriots on the side.  Plus, he’s laid back, fun to be around, and also helped support my journey!  He treated us to Gold Star Chili, which is a 5-way chili chain similar to Skyline, which we have in my home state of Ohio.

I had the pleasure of meeting Tara and her two sons (ages 10 and 7), who are cycling across the country on a 3 person Tandem Bicycle.  Unbeieveble.  Imagine the experience they will gain at such a young age!  They’re acquiring invaluable skills and overcoming challenges that most people won’t be introduced to until adulthood, if ever!  Huge kudos to Tara – a brave, brilliant, and loving Mom.  We got to spend two nights together, including sharing a small cabin at Alice Lloyd College to hide from a massive storm and flash flooding.

Another highlight was running across Rick and Theresa and getting to stay in their 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom vacation home.  Seriously, the kindness and generosity of people never ceases to amaze me…  Cyclists!!  Check out City Gone Country Inn, located near Sand Gap, KY.  They will pick up you and your bicycles and make you feel like royalty!  What a TREAT…

Whelp, as it turns out, my “no flat tire” luck has finally run out, haha…  I had THREE flat tires in the span of 5 days recently, and I couldn’t be more grateful to Stephannie and the staff at Halcyon Bike Shop in Nashville, TN for the maintenance and repair class they gave me before beginning.  Each flat was quickly and successfully patched and I’m still using my original tubes!

On Tuesday, June 27th, the most amazing early birthday present in the world awaited me at the Brook’s Cafe in the tiny town of Sonora, KY.  My PARENTS!!!  My amazing, wonderful, loving parents.  My biggest fans.  My heart.  I was completely taken by surprise!!  Everyone knew except for me!!

My parents mean everything to me.  They’re exceptionaly kind and warm to everyone they meet.  They raised me to be selfless and empathetic, encouraged my individuality and creativity, and taught me how love should feel and be shown. They’ve believed in and supported every single one of my dreams.  All I want for this lifetime is to continue to make them proud and all they want is for me to be happy and at peace.  <3

We spent a couple days together in Falls of Rough, KY and enjoyed a cozy cabin, putt putt golf, good food, and made plenty of memories.……followed, of course, by a “Kniffin Goodbye”, which are notoriously the longest goodbyes in the history of goodbyes.  <3

Thank you all so much for the birthday wishes!!  I celebrated my 34th birthday on July 1st (Saturday), and the week has been full of surprises!!  I spent the day cycling 43 miles from Falls of Rough, KY into a town called Utica, KY, then slept at a Volunteer Fire Station.

This journey seems surreal some days.  There’s no quick fix to any method of self help.  Consciously taking small steps in the right direction will slowly begin creating a peace inside, accompanied by subtle results that might go unnoticed at first.   Big changes that happen gradually tend to be more successful and sustainable.  There’ll be exciting little realizations throughout the process that feel almost like a dream.  As I look at the beauty around me, listen to my tires tread the pavement, feel my legs burn and the sun hit my back, I realize this is actually happening.  I didn’t just talk about it…  It’s really my reality!  🙂  I’m being patient and trusting the process, but I’m anxious to feel the real healing begin.  Maybe it already has…

July 2nd in Dixon, KY marks the 1,000 mile mark…  My goal?  Cycle the next 1,000 miles in under 25 days.  As the elevation flattens, I can’t wait to discover and tackle the new challenges that await.  I believe taking the inclines out of the equation will allow for more energy to explore my mind while cycling.  Get lost in my own thoughts.  I’ll be honest.  The most treacherous terrain I’ve traveled through is my own mind, but it’s time to get unguarded and let this journey do it’s job.

// NOTHING FOLLOWS //

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