[Note: I’m skipping Louisville for now because it's taking me too long to write up. I’ll circle back later.]
As per usual, I’m off to a late start. I pedal away from my host’s house close to 11:30 AM. I’m already fretting about the time required to reach Brandenburg, Kentucky, home to Jailhouse Pizza inside an old prison. That’s gonna be a fun dinner if I ever make it out of Louisville... alive.
The Dixie Die-way
Before I can depart, I need to replace the chain lube I lost leaving Pittsburgh. I ask the owner at Bike Courier Bike Shop the best route out of downtown and towards Fort Knox. It involves traveling west through the proverbial wrong side of the tracks where I want to limit my exposure.
I casually ask his opinion by reciting names of roads on my itinerary.
“Camp Ground Road?”
“Cane Run Road?”
“Lower River Road?”
“Route 31… west… uhh [scrolling down the map]… also seems to be called the Dixie Highway?”
—Oh yeah, we call that the Dixie Die-way. You’re not going to want to travel on that. The Indiana side has much less traffic. Stay out of Kentucky.
And so it goes, I’m going back to Indiana. After feeling good vibes from their drivers, I’m not unhappy. Part of me wants to bike in Kentucky, but learning about the Die-way quells any curiosity. Had I not stopped at this bike shop I might have become a statistic.
Into Indy (again)
I recross the Big Four Bridge and admire the riverscape that divides two states. A brief yet enjoyable ride on the Ohio River Greenway transitions onto local roads and a closed bridge that the bike can squeeze through.
On the bridge I’m stopped by a guy on a motorcycle who asks if I know of any cheap houses to rent because he’s gotta move out of his sister’s place pronto. I can't imagine living with my sister and offer him my support, but do I really look like I’m from around here? Riding this bike. With a New York license plate. (PS - I still love you, sis!)
New Albany is the best Albany
It’s a little after 1:00 PM when I roll through New Albany, which I’m pleased to see has a bike lane. At a red light I look right and see the giant stenciled logo of the New Albanian Brewery. It’s hot outside. I’m way behind schedule, but decide to detour just to see what’s going on. Not to stop, just a slow roll to see inside the rolled up garage doors. If I don’t take a peek and satisfy my curiosity, I’ll be thinking about what I might have missed for miles.
The next thing I know I’m sitting at the bar. Sampling a Naughty Girl, but ordering Bob’s Old 15-B. Ordering a crab cake sandwich. Ordering an Ancient Rage. It’s a vicious but pleasurable cycle. The beers are fun and the bar company is fantastic.
There’s Sarah the server, who is playfully hazing me. Food manager Stacy is doing paperwork and asking me about my journey. Also present is patron Matt, a manager for an industrial services and hazmat response company. He looks like he played quarterback and was homecoming king of wherever he’s from, which I learn is Fort Scott. He, too, is interested in the bike, which now has a New Albanian sticker on it because I’m loving this place.
On Matt’s way out he gives me his card and offers a place to sleep, but warns that with a wife and three kids it’s a noisy house. Fort Scott is north out of my way, and I’m having enough trouble just getting beyond a stone’s throw from Louisville, which sits right across the river.
I get up to leave, but am pulled back in as more people arrive. In comes the owner Kate, the brewmaster, and the guy who painted the giant stencil logo, which is the reason I’m there in the first place. They're having a comedy night at 7. Should I stay and crash on the couch?
Kate orders me a beer on the house and we gather for a picture just as Stacey’s husband arrives. She wants me to meet him. They live in Lanesville, which is on my route, and because it’s getting late she wants him to give me a ride to the top of the Corydin Pike, a twisting uphill affair that’s hard even in a car. But it’s far better than the Dixie Die-way, which she says earns its reputation.
Stacy has a Jeep Wrangler. Her husband has a Honda Accord. We try the sedan. It worked in Cambridge, Ohio with a Volkswagen Jetta, so how about an Accord in New Albany, Indiana. Out comes the car seat in the back and some signs in the trunk. Rear seats fold down and the awkward logistics dance begins. No matter how hard you push, a gorilla won’t fit into a fish tank. And neither will Countri Bike into the trunk of an Accord.
I’m on my own two wheels from here on out. At almost 3:15 PM I push away from the curb. With 40 miles ahead of me I’m totally screwed. There’s no way I can reach Brandenburg before dark. I scour the map for an alternative resting place and settle on Corydon, which is only 20 miles away and home to Big D’s Smokin Butt, Point Blank Brewing Company, the Kintner House Inn and first capital of Indiana. To summarize: BBQ, beer, B&B and history—just what every small town should have.
Sorry Kentucky, I’m sold on Indiana. It’s after 5pm and the sun is turning the landscape a burnt yellow. I’m a few miles from Corydon and ring Kintner to bargain for a good rate. Alice answers the phone and won’t have any of it.
However, en route I catch the attention of someone who emails me later.
I'm sorry I don't connect with Evan, but at least the Kintner Inn proves to be a great choice. So good I stay an extra day.