With a smooth 70 mile ride today, we made it to a church hostel in the town of Marion for our last night in Kentucky. The day had ups and downs, hills and flats, sun and shade, and farms and more farms. At one point, all I could see was the narrow road I was on surrounded by walls of corn in every direction. Although the corn fields provide less scenic views, they tend to have less of a stench than other farm fields, so I don't mind them much.
The only stop we made was at "Classic Cafe" for lunch in Dixon, which turned out to be one of our better meals in a while. When we walked up to the counter to pay, the waitress informed us that our tab had already been taken care of. She pointed at a vacant booth and explained that the woman that had been sitting there paid for us. I was so wrapped up in what I was doing that I hadn't even noticed anyone else in the cafe, but this woman had recognized us as bikers and was so kind to treat us to lunch. It's tough to explain how it feels when strangers do these kinds of things for us; humbling is the only word that comes to mind, but it's more than that. I wish we could have thanked her in person, but thank you so much for the meal, mystery woman.
Immediately after entering Marion, there was a sign welcoming cyclists to the town. We found the church hostel shortly after, but were met with locked doors. Posted to the doors was a note for cyclists welcoming us and providing phone numbers in case we couldn't get in. Less than three minutes after the call was made, an older man named Tom shuffled up to us with the ring of keys jingling in his hand. Tom instructed us to follow him to the other side of the building because it would be easier with our gear. When we arrived at the other entrance, I saw what Tom had meant. The door was at the top a flight of stairs, but he proudly showed us the ramp that they had built for bikers. After we wheeled our belongings up and in, Tom gave us a tour. What we thought was just a church was actually a three floor building with classrooms and lounges. We were told we could go anywhere and use anything with compete freedom. Upon entering the room where cyclists stay, it was obvious how much they love hosting. There was an entire table with hand written diagrams to the closest restaurants, a picture of the ferry that we will have to ride to Illinois tomorrow, journals for all the bikers to sign, and notes and signatures from people on the inaugural trip in 1976. It's apparent how much pride many of these communities take in being a part of a such a unique tradition like this. I'm always so overwhelmed by the kindness of those that take us in, but I'm also so thankful for all the cyclists that have come before us and have created these relationships with these incredible people and communities. I couldn't imagine doing this trip without the existence of these relationships with the towns that we've ridden through.
After rinsing off in the shower in the boiler room (it was clearly constructed soley for the cyclists that stay here), we went to dinner up the block. When we walked in, a woman sat up in her chair and remarked, "Oh, cyclists!" I was in basketball shorts, a vineyard vines tee shirt, and Adidas sandals, so I asked her how she knew we were biking. She quickly responded that they can always tell. We spoke a lot about a little until our perky waitress showed us to our table. The waitress looked around and leaned forward, resting her hands on the table. She whispered that the pizza was really good and that we should try it. I'm not sure why they'd want to keep that a secret, but I appreciated that she let us in on it. Although she had me curious, I wasn't feeling too adventurous; I really don't think I'm pretentious being from New York, but I may be a little when it comes to pizza. She asked us about our trip and became very excited when she learned that we started in Virginia. Apparently she had lived there for a bit and missed the views. She looked out the cafe's French doors with disdain and called Kentucky "nature's ashtray." I was a little taken aback by her dark but poetic line. There's not much you can say in response to that. Nature's ashtray- what a good line; I won't be using it, but I sure got a kick out of it. Well, tomorrow morning we are catching the ferry to Illinois and crossing Kentucky off the list. I am looking forward to using another mode of transportation other than a bicycle for a change.