And on the Seventh Day...

I'm sitting in a hotel room in Huntington, West Virginia watching Sixteen Candles. It's a pretty awful movie if you ask me, but it does have three things going for it: Anthony Michael Hall, who is hilarious every moment he's on screen; Joan Cusack — she's only got the one headgear joke that gets repeated over the whole course of the movie, but then, it's Joan Cusack; and John Cusack, who is also has a one-joke bit part, but does it quite well.

All this by way of saying, I'm sure you're tired of hearing how hard this is.

Today was actually a pretty good day. It had its warts — another flat and several incredibly hard climbs — but I did my 67 miles in about eight hours and ended up where I've urgently wanted to be for days: on the verge of a break.

The most notable event of the day was my crossing of the Big Sandy River. This waterway is actually neither big nor sandy, but it is the border between Kentucky and West Virginia. I've never biked in West Virginia before. Here are some observations, based on almost zero experience of the state so far:

On crossing, the standard of living plummeted visibly. This is saying a lot, because Eastern Kentucky isn't exactly Wall Street. To be fair, the contrast may just have arisen from the west and east aspects of the town of Louisa, but the roads are manifestly crappier in West Virginia.

Not to dump on the state. It is every bit as beautiful as I've always heard. It does seem immediately different from Kentucky, in a way I can't really describe. Maybe I'm just happy to be out of Kentucky. Kentuck didn't exactly worm its way into my heart.

My first sight of Huntington was rows of crumbling houses. I arrived at my chosen motel around 6 p.m. You may be aware that I'm usually ready and willing to stay in the absolute worst motels imaginable, so long as they are cheap. So given that, you should be able to draw some conclusions from my reaction to the Coach's Inn, which was to turn around and ride another 7 miles to a Radisson on the outskirts of town. Coach's looked like a crack house — the crack house most of the crack heads are afraid of.

Another hour of struggling across town, including an erroneous climb up what must surely be the highest peak east of the Mississippi,, I wound up here. It's not ideal — the crap location means I will have to get on the bike again tomorrow, if only briefly, in order to get into town. But what I saw on my journey across Huntington was pretty enticing. Once you've put the slums in the rearview mirror, the city is quite nice. I rode through some beautiful neighborhoods of gorgeous old houses and brick streets, through a lovely park full of joggers and walkers. I caught a complement — "so cool" — from a couple of (I assume) Marshall's students. That's a great counterweight to the hip-hop aping hick who told me this morning, "I'd never get on a bike like that — it looks dangerous."

Just what I wanted to hear at the start of a long day of highway rides.

Anyway, I can't begin to express how happy I am to be here. I fear my return to the pedals is going to come too soon.