Pearl Jam practice run, day 1: Cincinnati, OH to Corinth, KY

Oh, what a first day touring. Before the story, let’s do the index.

Miles ridden: ~55

Dogs that chased after me: 4

Confederate flags on cars witnessed: 3

Roadkill passed: 17? 19?

Times ridden off the road by an asshole truck driver not giving me room: 1

Minutes after sunset that I arrived at my stopping point: 12

Gas station attendants who told me to be careful after giving me change for my Gatorade: 3

Music: Grateful Dead, 9/26/1993 and 9/29/1993 @Boston

***

So today is the first of a four day, out-and-back tour from Cincinnati to Lexington to see Pearl Jam on their Spring 2016 tour. I’ve been looking forward to this since the band announced the tour dates in January, and as it’s a nice 200 mile jaunt two weeks before I head to New York I figure a practice run being fully loaded was served to me on a silver platter. Also, some people go to church. I go to rock shows. For my money, a Pearl Jam show is like the Vatican. I’ll gush about that after the show tomorrow.

I’m utterly spent right now and devouring some late dinner, and I’m sure crashing is in my near future. But since this was a practice run, it feels instructive to tap out what I learned today on the ol’ iPhone.

In short… I haven’t trained enough. It was my first day riding fully loaded – two rear panniers, two front, a handlebar bag, and a rack pack strapped to the rear panniers. I packed everything I intend to bring with me in two weeks, and holy fuck, does it make my bike heavy. My experience in the past is limited to probably half of what I had on my bike today. Pedaling the bike used to be effortless for me and today was like riding through molasses. That doesn’t feel evocative enough for the challenge I experienced but the pain in my legs won’t let me think of something more clever at the moment. 

I started in Clifton, about a mile from downtown Cincinnati, and at first I felt exhilarated. I was ready to go and feeling good after a way-to-late start around 2:30. I crossed the Ohio River on the Roebling Suspension Bridge, which was itself a trial run for the Brooklyn Bridge I’ll be riding over in a couple weeks. That’s where I took this:


(I wanted to avoid posting pictures till I actually start the cross-country ride, but what the hell.)

I weaved through Covington, KY to make my way to Dixie Highway, which I took all the way to where I stopped tonight in Corinth, KY. Climbing the monstrous hill to Ft. Mitchell was slow, plodding, and incredibly satisfying. It’s a pretty damn formidable divot in the earth, and I was worried about getting up it in the saddle. But I made it, and celebrated by dodging traffic in Northern Kentucky by hitting the sidewalk for a few miles. I hate that I did this on so many levels, not the least of which is me being a pretty overzealous bicycle right to the road guy, but there was zero shoulder, tons of indifferent cars, and I was still learning the balance and momentum of the fully loaded rig.

Looking back now I think I grinded up that hill with too much gusto, which wore me out quicker than I would have liked. The constantly rolling hills of Kentucky did a number on me – barreling down in a short blast, only to have my bulk come to a near standstill once it was time to pedal uphill again. And that happened a lot. But, learning is what today was all about. I have to pace myself better going forward. Slow and steady wins the race… Hence “Steady Jeff”.

To be perfectly honest this was not my favorite day on the bike, and more times than I’d like I thought to myself “do I really want to do this for 100 days??”. But I ended strong, yet cranky, at Three Springs Campground and the people here are lovely. Their wit when I came in the office made the pain of the previous six hours worth it:

“You look like you’re riding a bike!”

“Oh god, I’m so happy to be here. I started in Cincinnati this afternoon and I’ve got about 50 pounds of gear on my bike.”

“Well, we’re full. You’re going to have to ride a hundred miles to the next campground.” (Boisterous laughter)

So I’m here now, splurging on a rustic cabin where I can charge my phone and MP3 player while I crash on a futon with a wood-burning oven warming me through the night. Which is what is about to happen. Tomorrow I head into Lexington, and we’ll see how the legs are in the morning…

-J

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