I had a dozen or more addresses during my 60 years in Attleboro, but I could always — at least from 1963 onward, after Interstate 95 was constructed — think that I was no more than a mile or two from the Main Street of America’s Eastern Seaboard. I could never entertain that kind of a notion here in Knott County, Kentucky, or so I thought.
“Never” ended Monday, June 11, 2018, when I readjusted my outlook on how Knott County fits into the geography of these United States after recognizing that our home here on Kentucky Highway 582 in Pine Top is just a few miles from another of America’s Main Streets, albeit one for bicyclists.
Long-distance bicyclists are not an uncommon sight when we take a drive on Route 7 along Beaver Creek or 899 as it winds beside Caney Creek or 160 as it follows one of the forks of Troublesome Creek into Hindman, the county seat. Portions of these state roads are also portions of U.S. Bicycle Route 76.
In seasons of fair weather, you rarely have to wait more than a few days to see someone laboriously pedaling along these roads. The riders always win our admiration. They have crossed over the Appalachians from Virginia into Kentucky, only to find that their hill-climbing is far from over. The riders also win a dose of sympathy. Etched out of hillsides, the roads here are narrow and don’t provide much of a comfort zone should two motor vehicles be passing in opposite directions.
I met a couple of the touring bicyclists two years ago when, after they had found a place to roll out their sleeping bags somewhere on the Hindman Settlement School campus, they dropped in for a free dulcimer lesson at the Luthiery downtown. Two weeks ago, my cousin Jordan Pigman met a couple near his home off Route 7 where one of their bicycles had broken down. His rescue via a pickup truck ride to Whitesburg was heralded in a blog post by the cyclists, we learned after somebody figured out how to get it translated. They were from the Netherlands and posted in their native language.
The sight of one or two bicycles now and then doesn’t make much of an impact and after awhile becomes part of the routine. But Monday, when we had some business to take care of in Hindman, it seemed like there were more bicycles on the road than cars or trucks.
The first caught our eye because of the flashing lights mounted on his bike. “What a good idea,” said Chris, my wife, with her thoughts on the narrowness and curvy-ness of the roads. A quarter of a mile away we spotted an identical bicycle with the same equipment. In due time we spotted a man and a woman on a tandem bike, followed by another man and another woman hauling small trailers with their bikes.
An explanation for all the two-wheel traffic came on our trip home. A group of about 10 bicyclists came into view. They were followed by a van emblazoned with the words “Bike the US for MS.” We saw a second support for the MS fundraising ride pull into the parking lot of the local shopping center, Holly Hills Mall.
I didn’t try to get an interview with any of the riders. I’m retired. And they had a lot of hills to climb before the land starts to flatten out near Booneville and Berea, Ky., the next leg of their journey. Still I gave them a bigger dose of the admiration always given to bicyclists seen in Knott County. They are taking on an incredible bicycle-riding challenge and doing so for a great cause.
From what I can glean off the Internet, the MS bicycling fundraisers are going on all through the summer. Some 80 different routes are listed, though some of the 80 seem to be portions of longer trans-national routes. It seems most likely that any participants from Sun Chronicle country would choose the northern tier route, which runs from Maine to Oregon. Knott County is along the Trans America Route, running from Virginia to California.
The late Jim Minutoli of Attleboro once told me of his bicycle ride through Knott County on his way home from California. He visited the offices of the local newspaper, The Troublesome Creek Times, and spent the night at a campground on Carr Creek Reservoir.
I’ve often wondered if there are others from The Sun Chronicle area who have made the same trek. If so, I’d like to hear from them. My contact information is below.