Who'll Stop the Rain?

This was supposed to be an easy day. 33 miles to Corbin, Kentucky, then lunch, then an easy 21 mile ride to tonight's campground. The first leg was indeed a breeze. I arrived in Corbin at around 1pm (having started late this morning) and stopped by Runner's Sports Shop for some supplies.

Let no ill ever be spoken of this store! I spoke to Tommy, the owner, on the phone yesterday. He told me that the shop was closed on Sunday but to call his cell and he'd open it up. Indeed, he got to the shop before I did and called me when I was still four or five miles outside of town. When I arrived, he not only got me the spare tubes and CO2 cartridges I needed, but he offered to let me camp out back of the store. He offered me the use of all the store's facilities (laundry, shower). When I insisted, somewhat against my instincts, that I had to press on, he asked me to text him from Manchester to let him know I'd made it safely.

That, my friends, is a bike shop. And a really good guy.

Now, I had a notion that I would spend this post writing about my interactions with people on the road — a sort of answer to a friend's charge that my writing and photos are people-free. That's somewhat true, but the explanation will have to wait. The 21-mile leg to Manchester was hair-raising and I'm largely spent.

Really, it was the six miles I wound up riding after the 21-mile leg. The first sign of trouble was Clay County Campground, which wasn't there. There was no sign it had ever been there, though there was a nearly vertical climb to find this out.

I got back out on the road intending to ride on into Manchester and find a motel. That's when the rain came. This was my second thunderstorm of the day, and this was the most severe. It's rained every day of this trip so far — usually pretty steady but light enough to make riding bearable. This was buckets. Whole bathtubs of water being dumped on me, or rather sprayed like BBs into my face at a 45 degree angle.

I kept riding. And then the dogs appeared. Three of them. Big, fast, slightly mangy looking mutts with bared teeth and globs of saliva streaming from their mouths. I hit the gas, but I had a big climb in front of me. All the way up the hill the dogs chased me. Over a long stretch of flat road they chased me. A good half mile they chased me. They were the world's most persistent dogs.

And then the road dropped. A steep decline — my opportunity to escape. I picked up speed and the dogs seemed to be dropping behind. But something was wrong. My bike started to wobble slightly. The wobble became a fishtail, and very quickly it was completely out of my control. I was sure I was headed for the asphalt, but I put my feet down and the bike mercifully stabilized.

Naturally the goddamn dogs were right there.

A few hundred yards down the road I got off and examined the back wheel. Another flat tire. I was less than a mile from the motel, so I just walked the rest of the way (down a road called Muddy Gap Road, which was exactly what you would expect). Ironically, just as I trudged into the parking lot, I noticed a sign indicating the Clay County Campground, one mile ahead.

But you know what? I think a near-death experience merits a motel.