So we emerged from the underground, blinking into a misty, soggy sunlight. The rains were still falling and we resolved to escape them. South. To the sun.
It’s a 45 minute drive from Louisville to Radcliff, Kentucky, but it’s like driving back to what I would assume is the mid-60s. Everyone is just cool. We went to Radcliff to look up a friend of Tim’s who runs an car shop there. Tim hadn’t seen Vern in almost 30 years, but that has little to no bearing on Tim Pease. If you’re a Pease-friend, you are for life. We wheeled into Vern’s shop and walked in. Behind his desk there are Armstrong keepsakes; the Wheaties box, a big poster and some smaller photos.
Vern is originally from Michigan but has been in Kentucky for a good long while now. He’s moved shops and interests a few times, even surviving an explosion after one of his employees knocked over a 55 gallon drum of gas that dripped into the pilot flame. The first explosion blew him out of the garage and into the street. No one was hurt, but his shop at the time, a completely redone old gas station, burned to the ground in front of him.
He can also ride bikes. He told us about the time he rode with George Hincapie up Racoon, Sand and Lookout Mountain in 32 degree weather, in a driving rain, where the decision was, in its essence, to stand on the roadside and freeze to death or climb on the bike and freeze to death that way. Basically, Vern’s done some shit in his day and you won’t find a nicer guy to tell you great stories.
We waited for Vern to finish up a few things at the shop and had a late lunch at Christi’s Cafe. While I highly doubt you will ever find yourself in Radcliff, Kentucky, it might be worth it just for an omelette there. The place is done up as a 50s dinner, but with more pink than you’d expect. I immediately fell in love with our waitress, whose thick accent made me ask her to repeat herself a few times. I just liked the way she talked, guys.
Now it’s 3:30 in the pm and I need to get on a bike like heroin. I’m itching. I’m ready to roll. It physically hurts, the need I have to get mounted up and pedal. Like a person with a missing limb needs a hospital, I had to get on my bike. “Tim, I gotta get on a bike”, I said, 492 times. We followed Vern to his house and I jumped out, got some vague directions to Flaherty, Kentucky, 16 miles north, and booked.
My phone sucked. It put me on two highways and sent me back towards Radcliff twice. I gave up on it and rode by feel, like a Jedi. The roads in the area are amazing. Most of them are narrow and unstriped, with just enough room for two cars to cross without hitting. Barely. But every driver was very cool, slowing down, waving, saying hey. I turned the 16 mile ride to Flaherty into almost 30, getting lost and going way, way, way past it before doubling back and finding Vern and Tim, who’d just done a little spin before the group ride.
We met Kenny and the gang out in front of his house. A little jar (okay, a pretty big jar) of moonshine was passed around before everyone got rolling, and we took it slow out onto “The Green Loop“, which is marked the whole 28 miles. And you’d need it marked, as there is not a single straight road in Bullit County, or Meade County, or all the other counties we apparently popped into. It was a pretty small group, but very laid back, especially after we hit the first hill. B-Knob Hill, as they call it, hits 14% and just stays there for almost a quarter of a mile going over the top. It was sweeeet.
The rest of the ride we would go a bit faster, sit up, get back on the gas a touch, then chill back down. It was a darn good time, and I was digging the constantly rolling hills and wide open fields, especially as the wind picked up to a solid 20mph. It looked and felt like the Amstel Gold Race, with all of us hitting the gutter in the crosswind and easing up if anyone really got dropped. Kenny and the guys were all in their 40s and 50s and rode tough, and hearing them talked made me think of a NASCAR commentary stream, but with bikes. “I told ‘um, I ain’t got ’nuff ere in ma tires fer thees!”, and so on. Great guys, and a great ride.
There are a ton of llamas in this area of Kentucky. A lot of the local dairy famers have given up on cows, with so many factory farms taking over further south. Milk production is a tough game, and many have sold their herds and equipment, found other jobs, and have llamas in the fields for a bit of side cash. Llamas look at you like you’re an idiot and are somewhat low on my favorite animal list.
Go ahead and find Shepardsville, Kentucky on a map. That’s where we are. Just chilling. It even has a 24 hour Subway, which makes me want to throw up in Rick Pitino’s leather loafers.
Tim Pease Outfit of the Day:
Team issue 2015 Einstein Racing kit and long tights, because it was 58 when we left. It felt warmer. Kenny and the guys had bare legs, but had fall or winter riding shoes on, and one guy had on an all-out winter thermal jacket.
Deep Thought of the Day:
Don’t ever ask if anyone has ever gotten lucky in Kentucky because at dinner last night, at least a quarter of the women in the place were pregnant.
So it’s now Day Five and it’s bike time. The game plan is ride out until I feel like riding back, and with the weather only getting warmer this afternoon, I might be able to get a good long ride in before we dump into the car tomorrow.