I rode from Harrodsburg to Berea in the late afternoon/early evening after saying goodbye to the Davis family. I arrived in the Folks Arts and Crafts Capital of Kentucky early evening and took a spin around the adorable city and through Berea College. Purchased a bourbon ball (a bite-sized chocolate treat with filling flavored with bourbon) and bourbon pecan fudge. My warm showers hosts, Andy and Page picked me up in town and we drove about 6 miles out to their home. They have two daughters (one in MS and one in HS) and 7 dogs! Andy and Page are up early, so they showed me what I needed for food and shower and went to bed early. The next morning, Andy made me eggs for breakfast and we chatted about school health, since he's worked in and around that area as well! Andy and I jumped on our bikes and we rode into town together. He showed me around his work building (Gear Up/Promising Neighborhoods at Berea College- he's a data person!) and pointed me in the right direction to head to Slade Kentucky, in Natural Bridge State Park near Red River Gorge. Thanks to Andy and Page for hosting me!!
I cycled 65 miles to Natural Bridge State Park and the ride wasn't only beautiful but got me mentally centered again on my trip after so much time off the bike and hanging with friends socially. That alone time helps me get back into what I'm doing and why I'm doing it. I thought a lot about how Kentucky for me, is associated with my friend and colleague Jamie Sparks. Most of the KY experiences I've had- Keeneland, Bourbon Trail, work training events have been with him. And, being someone from a very different place in the country, the south intimidated me a bit. I talked different, I had a very different upbringing and I always felt like a visitor in a foreign state. I fell in love with the state, the experiences and honestly, Jamie, however this trip gave me the opportunity to make this state my own. I've had my own adventures here and I feel confident and welcome to be here as a guest, an American versus a foreign visitor. I might still talk funny to them, but I've made Kentucky my own special place. I still love it here. There is something that draws me. The beauty, the people and the access to the outdoors.
I arrived at Natural Bridge State Park in time to take the Sky Lift (basically a ski lift) up to the top of a large hill to see the bridge. This area is picture- perfect and I wish I had a better camera lens to capture the scenery. I ended up hiking in the area and back down to the bottom of the Sky Lift where I had locked my bicycle. You know, why not put in 4-5 miles of hiking after a 65 mile bike ride?!?
I got to Miguel's... a Pizza Restaurant/Campground that hosts rock-climbers from all over the world. I didn't hear a Kentucky accent, until Jamie showed up the next day! I set up camp, ate dinner (big salad and pizza, with my favorite topping- broccoli) and crashed super early. On Tuesday, I had a big breakfast at Miguel's and Jamie showed up. We planned to do a 30+ mile day ride/loop together and enjoy the Red River Gorge. It was dreamy to ride without hauling 80-90lbs! Within a couple of miles, I looked down and there to the right of me off the shoulder was a beautiful, lone daisy. Looking up at me shouting, "I'm here! Pick me!" I haven't seen any in Kentucky and being my favorite flower and feeling daisy- guidance and support in the west, it's been awhile. I picked the daisy and it stayed behind my ear the entire day. Serendipitous to see one while riding with someone I care about so much. We rode for about 4 hours, stopping to play darts, enjoy hot dogs and beer at Sky Bridge Station in Pine Ridge. We chatted most of the way riding, except for when I was killing it on the uphills and Jamie was... well, he was too! ;) We finished about 4 hours later after a gorgeous ride. Jamie and I put on our swimsuits and went to the nearby State Park pool at the Lodge and cooled off, even though the weather has been perfect- low 80's. We got back to Miguel's, showered, played some basketball (Jamie beat me at HORSE) and enjoyed more pizza and salad. I introduced Jamie to broccoli on pizza (we had chorizo on there too) and his comment was, "I think this is the best pizza I've ever had!"
One thing I should mention about Jamie is that he's an amazing planner when it comes to trips. So, he brought a big Gatorade cooler (yes, like sports teams have and the same one he brought on our road trip a year and half ago to New Orleans from Nashville to see UK basketball win the 2012 National Championship!) filled with Yuengling Beer, ice and his delicious homemade salsa I love. After eating pizza, we spent the rest of the evening chatting, telling stories, laughing, drinking some beer in the lawn chairs he brought and listening to music. At around 10:30pm, unfortunately his allergies kicked in, so he drove back home to Morehead (about an hour, and at that point sober, btw). It's always hard to know what to write, what to share, how personal to be, but I'll say this... when I'm with Jamie, I want time to slow down. And when he drove away, my heart sank, as it always does. And a car came by and I thought, 'maybe he came back?' but it drove on by. And yet again, I know it'll be months until I see him again.