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Day 23: Whiskey, Rain, & Queso-in-Bed

Today offered another installment in this journey's continual series of lessons on changing plans on the fly. I've never been brilliant with improvisation — I didn't get into the one improv group I (hesitantly and misguidedly) auditioned for in college, and in the kitchen, I'm generally the baker while Beau is the cook who continually frustrates anyone that asks for his recipe for anything ("I mean… a teaspoon? A tablespoon? I don't know, till it tastes good"). But, I do feel like I'm slowly getting better at improvising in life, if not on stage. You've got to stay nimble on a bicycle.

We got up before the sun this morning, but dragged our feet a little on the way out of Danville. We were sleepy, and the wonderful Andrew and Laura (also up early) offered us socially distanced pancakes on their back patio. Then, before we were even 4 miles away, Beau realized his new handlebar mirror had fallen off in the grass in our hosts' yard. Andrew hopped in the car and drove it back to us. Good humans.

We had a flexible day in mind — we thought we might aim for Loretto, somewhere that put us back on the trail (Danville is a bit of a divergence) and then aiming south towards Mammoth Caves National Park. (The caves are a more major divergence, but they're so worth it that there's actually a detour built into the TransAm called the Mammoth Caves Loop.) We thought we might try pausing to taste some bourbon along the way, being in Kentucky and all. There was a distillery on our route called Limestone Branch, and we were excited by the fact that they make a bourbon called Yellowstone, which gives some of its proceeds to the National Parks Conservancy. So we headed that way. (The early hours gave us a lot of excellent light. The skies are getting bigger. Also, we're apparently in Amish Country...)

About the distillery. No need to make a bad story long here, but the short of it is: Do Not Recommend. Yeah, we tasted some bourbon, and some of it was even pretty good (the Yellowstone itself, not so much) — but it turns out Limestone Branch is basically a bougie mini-distillery also owned by the Beam behemoth, who have their hands in pretty much 98% of Kentucky bourbon production. Our tour guide was genuinely creepy — a big, loud-laughing, stale-script-reciting good ol' boy who reminded Beau of "a-sad-clown-meets-an-auctioneer" and made me think of Champ Kind from Anchorman… Except, you know, actually terrible because he's a real human being and not a character in a parody film. This dude specialized in that aggressive kind of faux-jocularity where someone insists on holding eye contact with you as they tell shitty jokes. (He also haw-hawed his way through the fact that, back in the 1920s, the Beams naming a bourbon Yellowstone was a straight-up shameless marketing ploy, capitalizing on people's enthusiasm for a newly founded park more than half a country away.) He made our skin crawl. So, yeah, we drank a little bourbon, felt not great about it, and prepared to get the heck out. The only thing I can recommend in good conscience about Limestone Branch are the dogs: there are a bunch of gorgeous chows and some kind of pretty aussie-like pupper just wandering around there being fluffy and friendly. 10/10, much better than the humans.

We were ready to move on from Lebanon, but literally the minute we pulled out of the distillery, the rain struck. And not, like, cute rain. The kind of rain where, after 2 miles of riding, we were already soaked through. "This is stupid," I said out loud to myself before spotting a Hampton Inn off the road to the right. Was it more expensive than we wanted it to be? Yes. Was it the right decision? Also yes. In the immortal words of The Mountain Goats, "I'm pretty hardcore, but I'm not that hardcore."

And, frankly, we were still feeling the effects of our 87-mile day before. We posted up in a hotel room, ate a large pizza, and immediately passed out for two-and-a-half hours. When we came to, we grogged around gratefully, watched some crazy videos about Adventure Racing (again… not that hardcore 😳) and ate cheap Mexican food in bed while watching the animated 1970s Watership Down. Sometimes, you need queso and bunnies. Then you can bike on.

Fresh laundry. It's sooooooo warm.

Day 23 — Danville to Lebanon, 35.2 miles, 1475 feet of climbing, 1 sudden downpour, 2 bed picnics.

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