Thirteen: “I Think You Missed Your Turn” (Berea to Lincoln Homestead Park)

Miles: 78
Total: 884

You know, that neither-nor kind of light, the light that’s not really, the light that interchangeably means incipient dawn or incipient darkness.

That kind of light that means you’re getting a wicked early start, that or you slept through the entire day and are up just in time for a fresh goodnight.

I was out of the tent about 5:30 a.m., ready to get down the road while it’s cool. The more miles in before a midday break, the happier I am. Today, it turned out to be about 50 miles before I pulled off in Harrodsburg for lunch and to use the library.

I love libraries. Entirely possible I’m biased by the A/C, but every experience has been great. Friendly staff — the librarian in Berea had (and I assume still possesses) a British accent, which really classed up the joint — and a chance to contact home (you can only do so much computing on an iPhone, especially away from major cities and fat data coverage.) Damascus, Virginia, has a gorgeous facility that caters to AT hikers and bicycle tourists. They even have a register to share who you are, and where you’re from.

ANYWAY. Bicycle route signs disappeared a few days ago, but this wasn’t an issue because all the intersections were labeled. Not the case today, where I had three unlabeled streets within 15 miles of Berea. I missed an anonymous right to stay on SR 595 and ended up in Paint Lick (what a name, eh?) where my unfolded map flagged Steve down. He lives in town, does a little touring and hopes to have a B&B&B open in a couple years (bed, breakfast, brewpub) and asked what would draw cyclists. I told him a beer and place to put a tent up would do it for me. He said Garrard County’s wet (and made a little sign of the cross), and that there’s a park where you could camp, except there’s a tent revival currently in progress (yeah!). I backtracked about two miles, made my turn and then carefully watched my map and odometer for a right onto the unmarked and aptly-named Ninja Bridge Road. Nailed it. A little later, on Jess Ray road, a pickup passed me and the driver said, “I think you missed your turn” with the dignified amusement you save for Lycra-clad weirdos who pass through town every summer. Sure enough, back about 100 yards was my unmarked intersection. Some Good Samaritan cyclist had attached a safety triangle to a telephone pole. Thank you, kind people of Kentucky.

As the sun rose higher, the wind picked up. Without all those huge hills (the little peaks in Western Kentucky are called knobs, as some Berea-folk informed me) around to stop gusts, you trade one demon for another. A fresh hell. Variety is the spice of life. It wasn’t too bad, actually, except for the stiff crosswinds that occasionally pushed me sideways. I tacked accordingly to avoid grazing passenger compartments.

In addition to a fab library, Harrodsburg is home to Fort Harrod, Kentucky’s first permanent settlement (built by James Harrod in 1774) and probably just as important as Boone’s Wilderness road in westward expansion. Near the fort is the chapel where President Lincoln’s parents married and a gargantuan Osage orange tree, dating from the late 18th century, 88′ tall, 76′ around and the unofficial national champion (split trunk).

More pastoral landscape through Rose Hill — pleasant riding and views with a fair number of ups and downs.

Cruising in to the home stretch, I stopped for a photo of a farm sign advertising BueLingo, a double-stuff Oreo cookie of beef. The owner came out and we talked for a little bit. He told me that while he’d never been to Pittsburgh, Kentucky had it all. In fact, he bet a Texas army buddy that Kentucky has more lakes than the longhorn state. You’ll have to do your own fact checking on that one.

I’m stopped tonight Lincoln Homestead Park’s picnic pavilion, where I’m resisting my tent despite a highly motivated mosquito population. Cyclists can camp overnight for free. There’s no shower, but I’ve got running water, flush toilets and electricity. Just down the road from the pavilion is the park proper. It’s home to the cabin Nancy Lincoln (née Hanks) called home while Thomas Lincoln courted her. In addition, there’s a replica of the cabin Thomas grew up in while raised by his mother, Bathsheba, after Abraham Sr.’s death. I’m too late for a tour, but a sign says some of the furniture was made by Thomas Lincoln. An accomplished woodworker and important father, he wasn’t a great farmer. Next to the cabins is an 18-hole golf course, and part of the park. Nothing like teeing off that par five just a few dozen yards from history.