Southern Kentucky Bike Tour
With our wives gone to Europe, Joe Argabrite and I enjoy our freedom by taking off on a five-day bicycle tour of southcentral Kentucky in early July. Starting in Elizabethtown, we head in a clockwise direction to Columbia, Lafayette (Tenn.), Russellville, and Beaver Dam before winding up the trip back in Elizabethtown. Following is the notes from that bike tour. Duc
We set out from E'town heading south under a leaden sky full of promises of rain. But despite the threat, it only got to spitting a bit around Upton, and a fine misty rain stopped us momentarily on Marshall Ridge Road high on the ridge north of Greensburg. Other than that, the cloudy day stayed pretty comfortable. It was a great start to a bike tour.
Staying close to the I-65 corridor, we rode south to Upton then started to cut southeasterly across the top half of Hart County toward Green County. Entering Green County near Powder Mill, we were finally out of the familiar territory that I usually ride out of Elizabethtown. We traversed a succession of roads with scenery to die for: roads with sinuous curves along the creek banks, leg-busting climbs up to the ridgetops with even better vista and the requisite screamers down to the creeks. The hills quickly set the tone for this tour: we'd be seeing lots of them.
Some of the best roads today: Bales Rd. in northern Hart County; Doc Ward Rd. going into Summersville; Ray Chaudoin Rd./Marshall Ridge Rd. between Summersville and Greensburg; KY 417 south of Greensburg; KY 1913 (Haskingville Rd.); Skinhouse Branch Rd. into Adair County.
We had lunch in Greensburg after waiting out the drizzle on the ridge outside of town, but it cleared up by the time we left and stayed clear the rest of the day. Other than a short stop in Upton and a store stop in Summersville in addition to the lunch stop, we kept on rolling on the up-and-down roads of southcentral Kentucky.
We were befuddled a bit by the roads in Columbia, but found the Best Western in due time and it was a pretty good place to stay: convenient to restaurants and fast food joints, even a Wal-mart was within walking distance. We were all set to having pizza for dinner, coming to within five feet of the door, but I decided to look for what else was available when we spotted the Chinese buffet. A much better choice, although as far as food goes, it wasn't the best chinese dinner we've had.
An early start took us out of town before the commute traffic even got a chance to get going. We went southbound on KY 61 quite a way before the road was improved to have a shoulder about 6-8 miles before the county line, but we turned off of it to the exquisitely beautiful Toria Road, and then KY 535 along Flat Rock Creek into Metcalfe County. But there the fun ends. A steep climb into Edmonton portends the difficulties ahead. We couldn't find a café in town for breakfast, and asking for directions from the locals only produced more stresses, even wrong directions to a closed restaurant on top of a hill, of course! Frustrated, we ended up back at the little store on the south side of town where we had a sandwich and a break under the trees across the street.
Leaving Edmonton on KY 163 wasn't as bad as I had feared: the traffic is sparse and we had relatively good sightlines most of the way. The turn-off at Goodnight to the very nice Goodnight-Beaumont Road couldn't come at a better time for me, as I was about to burst from needing a potty break. South of the junction with KY 80 (Smiths Crossroads), however, the traffic picked up a little more going toward Tompkinsville, a bit more than I care for. So Joe and I parted company near the Monroe County line. He would continue straight on 163 while I take to the side roads, with plans to rejoin for lunch in Tompkinsville. Well, that was the plan. As it happened, I got to town and looked high and low for Joe with no success. Thinking he might have waited for me out on the edge of town while I took that old road going into town, I reversed course and went looking for him, then waited nearly half an hour before Joe finally showed up. He had gone shopping at Wal-mart. For a memory card for my camera. But he bought the wrong thing! At any rate, we had lunch and a cold, cold break at the Subway in town. Outside, it was getting hotter by the minute when we left T-ville heading to Gamaliel.
Our original route was to take us through Gamaliel to the state line at Bugtussle, that quirkily-named crossroads which have drawn many a cyclist there. Alas, a wrong turn in Gamaliel took us directly south into Tennessee. Instead of retracing our route, we went ahead with a new route toward Lafayette. Which turned out to be a stroke of serendipity, as we came across the beautiful Salt Lick Creek on a rickety one-lane bridge on Parkhurst Rd. The creek was excellent for sitting a spell and dipping one's toes in the cool, clear currents. We did just that, lingering for nearly an hour, knowing that the end of the ride is near and there was no need to hurry.
We had a little bit of difficulty locating the Budget Motel, the lodging for the night, partly due to the increasingly clear pattern of locals not able to give concise directions. And the accommodation is less than desirable — Joe's words in describing the bathroom: Don't touch anything! It was just a place to sleep and spend the night. Enough said. For dinner, we again wandered by the strip mall and spied another Tray's Garden for Chinese food. Wonder if this is connected to the one we ate at last night in Columbia?
[Lodging note: when planning the tour, anywho.com showed the Budget Inn as the only lodging in town, but we did see a Hearthstone Inn on SR 52 on the way out of town, which looks to be a much better facility. We'll keep this in mind should there be a next time.]
What a great day all around!
The fleabag motel, of course, didn't offer any kind of breakfast, so we moseyed on down to McDonald's for breakfast, which was a good thing, since it gave us a good full stomach to start on. SR 52 out of Lafayette turned out to be great for cycling, with a wide, clean shoulder while the sharp hills have been graded out to mere inclines. We followed it through Macon County and halfway through Sumner County before veering off toward the northwest for Mitchellville.
The road into Mitchellville, SR 259, was a great one that took us through Mitchellville and out to US 31W just south of the state line. Neglecting to pack a map for Simspon County in Kentucky, I convinved Joe that I remembered enough of the roads (from WACKY/TACKY) to take us into Kentucky a bit before swinging back south again on the way to Orlinda. What folly! We spent I don't know how long wandering in Simpson County before finding our way, blindly, back into Tennessee and on to Orlinda. But then our luck turns for the better, as we stumbled into the recently-opened Mailroom Café, which occupies the former quarters of the Orlinda Post Office, after the Postal Service moves into its palatial new dig just east of town. The lunch wasn't much, but the rest and break from the building heat outside was a welcome relief.
After lunch, we rode through some of the prettiest territory of the entire trip, which is not a surprise to me, as this region of south Logan County is one of my favorites. We crossed back into Kentucky at the southeast corner of Logan County and worked our way northwesterly toward Russellville and the end of the day's ride. We meandered along the Red River, even briefly dipped our toes into the cool water, stopped to admire an old country church, and rode along miles and miles of perfect country roads.
Near Russellville, Joe took KY 100 directly into town from Corinth (about 8 miles out), while I took a roundabout way in via Stevenson Mill Road — I just didn't want this great day of cycling to end. I stopped for many photo opportunities of wildflowers along Stevenson Mill Rd. and arrived in town at least 45 minutes after Joe arrived. But therein lay another pleasant surprise of the day: Joe had gone down to the store and brought back a six-pack of Coronas. A cold beer after a day in the sun was better than anything at that point, and two were even better!
[A note about lodgings, again: both the Best Western (at the junction with the bypass) and Comfort Inn (a couple of block west) are good places to stay on KY 80/US 68 on the east side of town. The Comfort Inn is a little easier to walk to a restaurant and store across the street, though.]
It was hot, hot, hot!
We had an early start leaving Russellville. We took KY 79 out of town then a very scenic road, Homer Road, whose name, along with Dunmor, provided easy sources for our lame puns all day. But missing each other in Lewisburg, and the long section of gravel on Iron Mountain Rd. put us through the wringer mentally, so that by the time we got to Dunmor, we were halfway to a struggle on the bike. The roads and scenery are still good, it's just the mental strain from the long gravel section that wore us out. The small café in Dunmor was a necessary oasis for a break and a much-needed breakfast.
We took Forgey Mill Rd. out of Dunmor to head over to Butler County, and for some inexplicable reasons, this 10-12 miles section was the hardest of the day. The rear flat Joe suffered on his bike added to the herky-jerky pace of this stretch. By the time we got to Huntsville and its smoke-filled grocery store, the day's ride has turned into a slog, made worse by the increasing heat.
Although I've been through it before, we still had a little difficulty locating the ferry in Rochester, but we eventually crossed the Green River uneventfully with a car and a pick-up truck on that little ferry. Wow, it was crowded on that ferry!
Southern Ohio County, through which we rode to get to Beaver Dam, is a place unlike anywhere else on the trip so far. The huge generating plant at Paradise dominates the horizon to the west, with billowing steam from the enormous cooling towers adding to the perception of the heat and humidity all around us. The terrain is undulating with no large trees: this area has been thoroughly strip-mined and is now in the process of being reclaimed by the Peabody Company. The scale of the operation boggled the mind, at least giving it something to work on in this stretch of desolated road going through Cool Springs towards Beaver Dam.
With it being a short day, we got to Beaver Dam way early — about 1:30 local time. Plenty of time to sit around in the Days Inn room, even after cleaning up and walking down to Denny's for a late lunch. A long, lazy afternoon!
[For future references: the Rochester ferry operates between the hours of 7 am and 5 pm, and is closed on Wednesday.]
The end of the ride is near. With the weather being as hot as it was yesterday, and today being the last day, Joe and I agreed that an early start was in order. We woke up a little after 4 (local time) and were down at the deserted Denny's to have breakfast a little after 4:30. By the time we were ready and checked out, it was bright enough for riding, but the sun has yet to rise over the horizon. That wouldn't happen for another 20 minutes, when we hit Sandefur-Liberty Church Rd. east of town.
We pretty much just kept going through Windy Hill, through that curious crossroad of Neafus, and into Butler County a bit before entering Grayson County. Joe had to take a break under a shade tree for a bit at a place labeled Peth on the map. While he lay back to rest, I found some serious blackberries on the porch of the old, abandoned store next door. What great treat, without having to worry about the brambles.
Another long pull across southern Grayson County finally put us into Leitchfield and just in time for lunch. Luckily, we spotted a little restaurant not far from the courthouse, which meant not having to go out by the WK Parkway for fast foods. Danny Adcock, a former neighbor on Elmwood and one-time tandem rider, surprised me by pulling up as I dismounted in front of the restaurant. He was on his way to the lake and happened to see me cruising through town, and he stopped to say hello.
With lunch taken care of, we again parted ways. Joe was to take US 62 straight in, while I would hew to the original intended route and take KY 920 out of town for a more remote way to E'town. Figuring I have a longer way to go than Joe (a given, but not knowing how much farther) but determined not to be too far behind him, I kept at it pretty good the entire way to White Mills Junction, aided by the nice tail wind most of the way, and some unexpected nice flat roads near Limp in western Hardin County. The effort paid off as I got to the store there about 10 minutes before Joe, even with the potty break taken at the county line. (The measured distances turned out to be 22.5 miles vs. 16.5 miles.)
Together again, we rode in the rest of the way to E'town by way of Bacon Creek Rd. and Glendale, arriving at about 2 pm to end a satisfying cycling tour. No sooner than I hopped off the bike and caught my breath that I was already looking forward to another tour.
Best Western Columbia Inn
The Hearthstone Inn
Photos of the Tour: Photo Collection
Copyright ©2003-2005 Duc M. Do. All rights reserved.
web posted: 28 November 2003
last updated: 8 March 2005