Day 13: Leaving Virginia and Loving Kentucky: Cumberland Gap National Park, VA to Corbin, KY
55 miles (89 km) – Total so far: 714 miles (1,149 km)
Just before rolling into the campground last night I saw a warning sign for the Cumberland Gap tunnel. ‘Huh’ me thoughts, ‘I didn’t realize I had to go through a tunnel’. A few hours after that thought sunk in I figured I might want to see if I’m allowed to ride my bike through it. Nope. Google search revealed that the old road over the mountain was abandoned after the tunnel was completed, so I couldn’t go over the gap either. The path around would add about 70 miles and 4-5 thousand feet of vertical climb. Mild to moderate panic started to set in. I walked around the campsite asking various folks with pickup trucks if I could get a ride through the tunnel in the morning. I got plenty of sympathy, but no offers to help. As a last ditch effort I called the tunnel control booth, which surprisingly had its phone number published. They said, no problem, just roll into the HazMat lane and they’d take me through in a pickup truck. So much for my no cars plan. This would have bothered me before the trip started, but a certain pragmatism has set in at this point, so I didn’t sweat it. What did bother me was the idea of my bike somehow getting damaged… and I hadn’t even named her yet. To remedy that situation, I present Persephone.
Persephone loaded on the back of a pickup for the drive through the Cumberland Gap tunnel
The Cumberland Gap Tunnel from inside the HazMat escort truck. (The bike’s in the back)
Goodbye Virginia. Don’t say I never loved ya.
Just after entering Kentucky I found a grocery store that was actually open before 3PM. They had produce. I got giddy just thinking about fresh food. The difficulty of finding fresh food has really astonished me. It made me realize how much of our food stream is really just manufactured rather than grown. Also, it takes a ton of oil based energy to get the fresh food we do have to us. I think when I get back I’m going to go nuts creating a garden. In the meantime, I’m switching to two days of food in my packs every time I fill up instead of just one. The extra weight is not as big a deal on the more level roads, and I just can’t stomach another Powerbar or Cliff bar lunch again.
Fresh produce! I’m going to cry.
About halfway through my ride, I came to a junction where I switched to an alternate route directly to the Northwest to get out of the mountains. It sets me up much better for the next few days. Originally I was avoiding this ‘Northwest passage’ since it was primarily along a US highway. But, traffic was incredibly light. So, I went for it. Easy Peasy. So far, Kentucky has been beautiful, and the art very avant garde:
An art installation near Corbin,KY
A Kentucky road near Corbin,KY
A huge levee door near the Cumberland river