Today's Route: GPS Tracks
I didn't really think I was going to die, but this admittedly far fetched thought did cross my mind today. First off, there were the dogs. I sprinted away from no fewer than three surely rabid mongrels. The Appalachia mountain people apparently aren't shooting at strangers any longer, or dropping stones on them from bridges, but a remarkable number of them leave their dogs untethered. Serendipitously, rear panniers turn out to be excellent protection against dogs trying to sink their teeth into one's leg. Dog ownership rates appear to be at least as high as in Hoboken - by this I mean seemingly every household has a dog - except that mountain people tend to have several dogs. Then there was the cold and the heavy rain. I'm prepared for rain. I'm prepared for cold. But for the sole reason my gloves aren't waterproof, I'm not prepared for both. I can ride w/ wet warm hands, but cold wet hands = fingers that don't work well. It got so bad I couldn't switch gears w/o using my entire hand, and when I finally found a place to stop for lunch (read: warm up and figure out how to get to my hotel), I literally couldn't hold my sandwich. In addition to the dogs, and the cold, and the rain, there was the unexpected three mile dirt road into unknown mountains, the GPS that indicated I was not on a road, the iphone with no reception when I needed it most, the unfamiliar rural poverty, and the general sense that green minded bicyclists pedaling from NYC to San Francisco are not embraced in the heart of coal country. All these factors contributed to a heightened level of anxiety.
Yet, when I did stop for lunch, I met and spoke with two very amicable coal miners. I even admitted to being in the renewable energy business. They politely and somewhat jokingly suggested I keep that info close to the chest. Coal drives this region. Hazard, where I stayed the night, has an annual Black Gold festival featuring prizes for best coal truck. The pizza place I went to for dinner had dozens of pictures on the wall, featuring generations of family and friends working in the mines. Mangled mountains, their tops sheered off to cheaply extract coal, are abundant. Coal dropped from overloaded trucks litters the streets, and falls from exposed seams alongside the road. Coal mining is not just a livelihood for people in this area, it's central to the region's culture.
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