BOBBY AND THANE TACKLE THE TRANSAM; Waving good by to Kentucky: live, laugh and love

Wednesday May 22, 2013

Boo and I completed our cycling swarey through the entire state of Kentucky yesterday. As we put the bicycles on the ferry that took us along with several motorist and a band of renegade motorcycle riders across the river that markes the border between states my mind once again raced.

I truly thought that when we reached the eastern border of Kentucky that the terrain would flatten and the climbs of Virginia would be nothing but a beautifully haunting memory. I could not have been more wrong. The climbs of Eastern Kentucky were nothing short of brutal in spots. Eastern Kentucky was a land of brutality. The massive poverty we cycled through made my soul cry. Children with no hope of ever escaping. Many of the beautiful people I had the absolute pleasure of photographing have never left the county they live in and I know in my heart of hearts their children probably never will either. As one 14 year old young man with ripped cloths and torn shoes told me at a gas station convince store.. “Hyouall in hillbilly country nowwww”. Although the stories of dogs chasing cyclists were absolutely true I found their owners to be nothing but friendly. Every person I encountered in the miles between Eastern Kentucky and its cousin to the west had taken up the habit of smoking or chewing tobacco. Regardless of shape, size or color if you aspire to live in Eastern Kentucky you must consume large amounts of tobacco and eat nothing but foods that are taken directly from the deep fryer! Oh! And going to the dentist is absolutely out of the realm of possibility. It was here too, in a small diner in the town of Burgin Bobby and first met an incredible soul afftecionately know to his friends as ‘Rough Stuff Bobby’. Rough stuff saw Boo and Chester all loaded up outside on the porch and he wandered in to introduce himself. He spoke with a heavy British accent and told us he was traveling the same route we were. When we invited him to join us in our ride he accepted and we have been so very blessed to have him as a brother on this journey every since. His stories of his adventures cycling all around this world we live in are fasicinating and his ability to climb steep grades at the age of 68 is unbelievable. I am pround to call him a friend

As Boo and I continued to head west the terrain really never flattened out but everything else about this ride took on a slightly different flavor. Gone were the tarpaper shacks and caged live chickens in everyone’s front yard. And the old man who told us about where his “Grand pappy brewed moonshine till the poollece blew up hisss stillll “

They had been replaced with rolling farmlands filled with majestic horses and massive herds of Angus beef cattle. Replaced by crop farmers making a living selling corn and tobacco and according to one awesome dude on a four-wheeler who stop us along the road to offer a cold beer from his back pack ‘Heeyy, theys lots of em growing marijuana round theses parts toooo’.

Two days ago I actually passed by a wild rose bush growing against an old fence. It was an incredible shade of pink and white and from the seat of my bicycle it smelled like magic. Out of the right side of my vision I saw it as it went by on a climb at about 8 miles per hour. 30 seconds later I turned around after telling myself, ‘You truly need to stop and smell the roses Thane’. I did stop and smell the roses in the state of Kentucky. My camera caught the viciousness of poverty. My camera caught the faces of the people living the only life they know. My camera caught the difference between the haves and have not’s in this state. And from the beauty of the faces I have seen they live, laugh and love everyday as best they know how.

Life is simpler after the brutality of a climb is behind you. Even if another climb is in sight you feel that you have accomplished something magnificent by simply beating the odds and making the uphill journey.

My absolute wish is that a few of the beautiful people embellished in this poverty that haunts my soul can simply beat the odds and make the climb out of the economic wars that rage in Eastern Kentucky.

All too soon my barge ride across the river came to a conclusion. As I looked back I once again felt a tear run down my cheek. Taking one last photographic image of the beautiful state of Kentucky.

Maybe this crying thing will happen every time Boo and I cross into a different state.