When bikepacking turns into carpacking.

Three full days of doing nothing. I’m usually very good at doing absolutely nothing, but not when it’s forced upon me. It gives me too much time to think, too much time to worry and I’ve done a lot of both. The doctor at the hospital told it should take 2-4 days for the swelling to go down and for me to be able to use my hand again, and while I can use it a lot more, it’s still very swollen. But you can see my knuckles! It’s actually starting to look like a hand again!
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The hand as of Wednesday. 

On Monday I basically did nothing, except decide that I was going to stay positive and keep cycling as soon as I felt better! I watched movies and kept icing my hand.

On Tuesday I quickly checked my bike, and somehow managed to bend the handlebars back to the almost correct position. The gears are working which is a relief! Then I took a walk into town, to go to the sheriff’s department to see if I could get a copy of the accident report. Unfortunately it wasn’t done, but I got to have lunch at a cute place called the Kentucky Fudge Shop.
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On Wednesday I woke up, went to have breakfast again and the same guy who had been working for the three previous mornings looked at me, and once again asked if I wanted to lengthen my stay by another night. They’re used to me here now… and yes, I did. Since the accident happened, my main focus has been to rest Monday to Wednesday, and then keep going on Thursday. But my hand is still not in good enough shape. I can clench my hand, but especially the area over the knuckles is extremely sore. I went on a small ride today to test the hand out, but every little bump made my hand hurt. I also almost panicked when a car came up behind me, but I just have to keep going. Fear is not something that I’m going to let control my life, I am in control. I also noticed that when I went a bit faster and used the breaks on the left side, they squealed quite a bit. I think I’ll have to have a bike shop look it over after all.
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Delivery pizza, an iced hand and HBO. I feel like this is becoming a ritual… 

I had talked to my parents earlier that day about how maybe I should rent a car and get out of this town at least, but decided against it and that I would ride on on Thursday instead. Those plans quickly changed now, and within an hour I had rented a car from Thursday to Monday, arranged to be driven to the car rental place in Danville to pick it up, and planned my entire upcoming week. It feels good to actually take action, even if I wish it was by getting on my bike to cycle. But I’ll be back in the saddle soon again, my hand needs more rest first. It felt good to finally have decided on something, so happy again I decided to go to the local community pool to tan and swim some. The guy working at the hotel thought I was crazy for going for a 30 minute walk there, but at least gave me a coupon to get in for free. I like how I can always just answer “I’m Swedish” as an explanation to when I’m considered crazy here.
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A medium blackberry lemonade from Wendy’s. I repeat, a MEDIUM. Only in America…
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So this is my itinerary for the upcoming week: 
Thursday: Pick up the car, load all my stuff and drive to Santa Claus, Indiana. There is a huge theme park and water park with a Christmas theme, and I am so excited!
Friday: ROLLERCOASTERS!
Saturday: Pack up and drive to St Louis, Missouri. I will be staying in downtown right next to the Gateway Arch. I’m really excited about doing all the touristy stuff, and luckily my cousin has lived there previously and given me a lot of pointers on what I should do. Also I’ll try to find a bike shop for Elsa.
Sunday: Seeing everything St Louis has to offer.
Monday: Leave downtown St Louis and head for Six Flags outside of town. Return the car and then it’s time for more ROLLERCOASTERS!
Tuesday: ROLLERCOASTERS!
Wednesday: Hopefully I’m feeling well enough to finally start cycling again.

So for a week or so, this won’t so much be a bicycle touring blog, but I hope I’ll be back in the saddle soon. I just don’t want to push my hand too hard already, and maybe make it worse again. I’m super excited about my week though, and I’m very thankful that I’m able to actually change my adventure to fit my new situation, even if it’s just for a week. I am definitely not one of those people who feel the need to cycle every single centimeter/inch, but it would have been nice to be able to say that I actually did cycle across the entire country. But who cares really? I don’t, and this is my adventure, it’s just taking a different shape for a while.

Once again, thanks for all of your comments and get well messages, I appreciate it!

When things don’t go as planned.

So I set off from Berea on Sunday morning, heading towards the transamerica trail despite google maps telling me that there was a shorter way with less hills to Harrodsburg which was my destination for the day. But I had decided to follow the official route, so off I went. I was feeling pretty good, but the hills were pretty brutal and I had to stop and walk up some of them. I hadn’t had one of those days since the middle of North Carolina, it felt like the roads were constantly going up or down, never a flat surface in sight.

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Can you see the deer?

As I was taking a break after an uphill, I heard a “hey there” from behind me, and I met my first other transam tourers. They were three men who had all started cycling by themselves but were now traveling together. They were doing much longer days than me though, so after trying to keep up with them for a little while I let them go and pedaled on in my own pace again.
IMG_2375That turned out to be both a good and bad decision. Good because I could stop and help a turtle to cross the road. It got a bit scared when I grabbed a hold of it, but then wandered away again. Bad because if I had kept on cycling with them, I might not have missed a turn, and had to make a huge detour.
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I also cycled past some Texas longhorns, and had to stop and take a picture. As I was doing that, a woman came out from the house and asked me about my trip. When I told her what I was doing, she ran back in the house and came out with some beef jerky made from her grass fed longhorns. That is what we call a trail angel. 
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But as I cycled on, I soon realized that I had missed a turn earlier on, so I had to make a very steep detour. It was getting pretty hot by then, but as always, it’s just to keep on cycling.

It was pretty slow going, especially with all the hills and the heat, so when I got to Burgin less than 10 km from Harrodsburg I decided to stop at a small restaurant and have lunch. After a hamburger and some cold drinks I headed on towards Harrodsburg, eager to be done with the day. And that’s when it happened. I had been thinking all day that I felt that the cars weren’t as respectful here, and that they were driving much closer to me. I wonder if it’s because they see so many cyclists coming past, that they get tired off it?

As I was slowly heading up a hill, a car was trying to drive past me while a car was coming by in the other lane, and she came too close to me. BAM! From that moment my memory is a bit fuzzy, because I went into instant shock. I realized that she had hit my hand and my handlebar, because my bike glove was ripped open and my hand was very rapidly swelling. My handlebar was also bent out of shape. I saw the car pull over further ahead, but then I got so dizzy I had to lean forward. I remember that I was cycling again, but then I woke up and realized that I must have fainted and dreamt that I was cycling. I was suddenly surrounded by people holding me and my bike upright, and I had no idea what was happening. I fainted once more, and the people surrounding me had to lift me up to get me off the bike. I was going into shock, but there were so many nice people taking care of me, getting me sweet tea and keeping me focused. After a short while I was able to respond to questions, and by then the police and sheriff had arrived.
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Where the red dot is, is where I was hit. SO CLOSE! I was almost in Harrodsburg… 

Someone kept my neck locked into position, and a very sweet man named John told me he would keep my bike and trailer safe in his garage. After a while an ambulance arrived and I was strapped to a board while being poked and prodded. They wanted to make sure it was only my hand that was hurt, which luckily it was. I was taken to a hospital in Daneville a bit south of Harrodsburg, and I was so happy that I had sense enough to remember to bring my computer bag where I keep my insurance papers. At the hospital they x-rayed my hand, but luckily nothing was broken. I can’t believe how to be honest, because her entire mirror broke and flew off the car when it hit my hand. But I was obviously under some type of protection that day.
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I was hurting pretty bad though, so after a lot of waiting around and trying to figure out everything with my insurance, they helped me get my painkillers at a pharmacy and then called Sharon’s car service to drive me to my hotel in Harrodsburg. I was a complete mess the entire day. I was crying on and off and just felt very small, and very much alone.

But I was picked up by a lovely woman called Sissy and she was so nice that I cried some more. Before she let me go she prayed for me, and we cried together. I got into the hotel, still a sobbing mess, and managed to tell the man working there that I had a reservation. He then helped me call John to ask him if he could drive my things to the hotel, which he could. There are some amazing people in this country, that’s for sure. Despite the horrific day I had, I felt so well taken care off. John has also called me today, just to make sure I’m doing alright. Yes, I’m meeting some amazing people on this trip, that’s for certain. And the police were amazing, and the paramedics who rode with me in the ambulance. They kept asking me ridiculous questions to make sure I was doing alright, and joking with me to keep my mind off the pain.

When I got to the hotel, it was 17:40, and I knew my mother would be worried sick. I had not been able to get a hold of her the entire time while I was in the hospital. I had a message telling me to call her as soon as I saw that, so I did. Having to call your mother in the middle of the night to tell her you’ve been hit by a car is not a fun thing to do, that’s for sure. I hope I never have to do that in my life again.
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I kept icing my hand all night and the swelling went down a bit, and I even managed to get some sleep. I was feeling very, very sad though, and thought several times about what my next move would be. I did consider quitting, I considered getting a car instead, and even going home. But I will not let this bring me down. It was a slight bump in the road, but it was just my hand! It could have been so much worse, and I’m very grateful that it wasn’t. But one thing is for sure, from now on this trip will be by my rules! No more doing things because it’s what I’m “supposed” to do, I decide!

And I’ve decided that I want to have fun. As much fun as I possibly can. This is not just about cycling, this is about adventure! So watch out America’s amusement parks, water parks, adventure parks and anything else that might sound interesting, I’m coming for you! This trip is taking a sharp turn, but I hope you’ll still be along for the ride. I can’t wait to get back in the saddle, and head out on this new and improved adventure. As far as I’m concerned, it can only get better from here. 

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Bill the Tropical Storm, and the path less taken.

It’s here. I’ve reached the very famous point in a bicycle tourists life. It took me two weeks, but I am finally there. What I’m talking about? The point where I am constantly hungry of course, and have started to require very large amounts of food very often during the day. So just a fair warning: this blog might now turn into a food blog instead.

Compared to how I was feeling two weeks ago, this is such a relief. Especially since food is SO good! I’ve had a lot of food during my days here in Berea… but first things first! Or well, first thing is food so. On Thursday afternoon I was walking across the street to get some dinner, it was only around 16:30 but I was absolutely starving. That’s when I saw my first other tourer! He looked lost.

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I went to a place called Cracker Barrel which is a chain restaurant that does southern type home cooked meals. After consulting with the waitress about what to get (I always open any conversation I have right now with “Hi I’m Cecilia, I’m from Sweden and I’m very hungry because I’m cycling cross country, what food should I get?”) She very kindly pointed me towards their sampler which I didn’t regret one bit! Ugh, so good. And the strawberry lemonade wasn’t too bad either. I tried getting a beer but was informed that Madison County is a “dry county“, meaning that they’re not allowed to sell alcoholic beverages. I was in shock to be honest, I’ve never heard of such a thing before… But looking at the map from wikipedia clearly shows that I’m right in the middle of it all. 
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Red is dry, yellow is moist/mixed and blue is wet.

And that was the American lesson of today, moving on. Or no wait, I have more. The day after I woke up to rain, but it wasn’t that bad, very light rain. I put on my Sweden jersey, picked some flowers and wished Sweden a happy midsummer. After that I took a walk into town, which turned out to be such a cute place. Berea is very focused on the arts, and there were galleries and shops everywhere. They also have a liberal arts college which is really cool, because every single student who goes there gets a scholarship that covers the entire cost, and it was the first college in the south to be both coed (=both men and women) and interracial. Amazing. That was the second lesson for today. Now I’m done I think. I might also point out that all education in Sweden is free, no matter what college or university you want to attend, maybe that’s why I got so excited about this college. Third lesson of the day for you, aren’t you feeling lucky?

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It really showed that it was a college town, because I actually saw people walking! For once it wasn’t just me! The entire town is filled with these amazing houses, and it had a great feeling to it.
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I had lunch at a place called Main Street Café that I had been told would be a good place to eat, and they were right. The first thing I saw on the menu was a fried green tomatoes sandwich. Um, yes please! Fried Green Tomatoes is a movie I’ve seen so many times, so of course I had to have it when I finally saw it on a menu. It was just delicious. I was literally sitting there making so many noises because of how good it was, that the waitress came to check on me several times just to make sure I was doing okay…
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After that I walked right back home and watched Fried Green Tomatoes on Netflix.

Oh, and that morning as I was having breakfast (pancakes if anyone’s interested) (and cereal and these delicious southern things called biscuits that reminds me of scones and also lots of coffee and maybe a muffin), the weather channel was on. The first thing I heard was “A warning for Kentucky tomorrow, as tropical rainstorm Bill will enter the area. Expect flash flooding, thunderstorms and please stay inside if possible.” It took me about 5 seconds before I had walked up to the front desk and booked my room for another night. I like having fun. Flash floods does not sound fun, or safe.

During the afternoon, the rain began, so I decided to order pizza for delivery. Oh wow, I’m so sorry, this is really turning into a food blog… but it was just such a cool process! Or I thought so at least. I ordered online and got to design my own pizza which was fun. Then I got an email with a link to the process of making my pizza. I could see exactly what was happening every single minute after I placed my order, until it was delivered to me. I was impressed.
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On Saturday morning I woke up to pretty heavy rain, that was ongoing for the rest of the day. It was extremely windy as well, I tried stepping outside for a moment, but was drenched within seconds. I’m so glad I decided to take another rest day… so it was a great day of Netflix, some route planning and eating as much as I possibly could.

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But I have really been thinking a lot about the transamerica trail. Why is it so important to me? I’ve been looking at the map and found these places that I would love to visit, but they’re not on my route so I can’t. But, isn’t the point of this entire adventure that I’m in charge? That I get to do exactly what I want to do? My favorite poem is kind of cliché, but I have loved it for years. It’s Robert Frost’s Road Not Taken.

I shall be telling this with a sigh 
Somewhere ages and ages hence: 
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— 
I took the one less traveled by, 
And that has made all the difference.
I’ve always felt that those last lines of that poem lies very close to my own heart, for several reasons that I’m maybe not ready to share right here right now. But I want to take the road less traveled by, and I always have. I want to be spontaneous. I haven’t even begun cycling on the transam, and I am already wanting to break free from it.

But I will give it a chance. A small chance. Because I have seen that there’s a town called Santa Claus (!!!) not too far from here and it has an amusement park and also there’s Fort Knox nearby that would be so cool to see, and there’s water parks and Six Flags theme parks and I have a very serious feeling that I might head north for a while… But like I said, we’ll see. I can afford to give it two days before I have to decide 😉

And to finish this off, I think my Keen sandals tan is coming along quite nicely… (monkey emoji that covers its eyes)
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Thanks for reading, see you on the official route (maybe)!

Bluegrass state.

My afternoon in Middlesboro, Kentucky was pretty great. I spent some time by the pool, swimming and enjoying myself while my clothes dried and then I got dressed and walked across the road to a mall. Well, it was called a “mall” but that’s not the word I would use… I bought my movie ticket and first thought he said that it cost $14,25 and thought that that’s the same as in Sweden then. But then I realized he said $4,25. That is just insanely cheap.

IMG_2074_2The movie was great, but it didn’t take me long to realize why it was so cheap. The audio was really bad. Like if I had to rate it, I would say that the video quality was maybe 8 and the audio 5 at best. I had a hard time hearing what they were saying from time to time (ugh, sometimes I miss subtitles…), and I heard others in the theater say “what did she say?” several times too. I guess you get what you pay for…

Anyway, the day after I got on my bike and headed out of town towards London, KY.  I knew that I had about 90 km to go but the road was great and once again a nice fog kept the temperature nice and cool. The Kentucky landscape is pretty hilly, but as long as they’re not too steep it’s fine. The views make up for it.
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After 87 kilometer in 4 hours and 40 minutes I made it to London, just in time for lunch. Once again I just felt so strong and powerful, I love that feeling. London was a cute little town, nothing like its namesake in England though.
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I checked into my hotel and of course the bike gets to stay close to me even at night. I love her so much, she’s so comfortable and I’ve realized that every other bike I’ve owned has been too big for me. Elsa is much smaller and fits me much better, it doesn’t put as much stress on my body and I’m not hurting as much as I’ve been previously. She’s perfect! After a long day in the saddle my knees sometimes gets a bit stiff when they’ve cooled down, but other than that I’m feeling pretty great.

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I thought we should take a look at what’s in my handlebar bag. At the bottom is my big camera and my gopro, but the things that I want easy reach for is my wallet, my phone, trail mix and skittles for fast energy. Sun protection for my lips is a must too! My Garmin is great for telling the speed and other interesting facts, but I never use it as a gps even though it has that too. Google maps on my phone is much better for that. And on my arm is my RoadID, with my information and my parents contact details. Better safe than sorry…

Oh, and I’m in a Swedish magazine called Veckorevyn this month! This is a photo my sister sent me of my adorable niece Lovisa looking at the article about her aunt. Cutie!
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Anyway, this morning I tried sleeping in for a bit, but no such luck. I woke up at 5:30 as usual… After breakfast I got back on the bike and immediately realized that the cool air of yesterday was long gone, today was hot and humid already at 7 in the morning… Though I only had to bike 68 km today, they would be a struggle. So. Many. Hills. And after less than 5 minutes two dogs were chasing me down a road, barking like crazy and running in circles around me. I hate it, it’s super scary and I’m so scared of getting bit. I love dogs, but I’m not a fan of people not tying them up or using them as guard dogs. Let me tell you, guard dogs do not love cyclists. So far I’ve counted to 18 rather angry dogs chasing me during 2 weeks on the road, and even more barking at me from inside fences thankfully.
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I LOVE seeing that sign. But it’s double, because after a downhill, there is usually a huge uphill waiting. 
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My fully loaded setup. I love Elsa and I think Bob is pretty great too. 
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I really struggled today because of the heat, and with the repetitive hills, and it doesn’t help when I ride past someone and he calls “why are you doing that, you’ll get overheated!” to me. Some people are so helpful.
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Taking a break at a gas station. I’m completely soaked in sweat, my hair is drenched and my shirt is completely wet. So attractive… Oh well, this adventure is not about looking my best, it’s about pushing myself to my limits, which I’m doing daily.
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I got SO excited when I cycled past this sign! Bridges of Madison County is one of my favorite movies. But then I learnt that it’s not set in Madison County, Kentucky, but in Madison County, Iowa. Oh well…

And then finally the climbs were over and I got to the sign telling me that I was in Berea. This is significant because this is where I’ll get on the official TransAmerica Trail that goes coast to coast across America. After Charlotte, this has been my main goal for these first weeks. But to be honest I’m feeling a bit anxious about getting on the official trail. At first I thought it was a bit complicated to plan my own route and I longed for the day I’d get to use the transam map, but I’ve actually really enjoyed it lately. I’m scared that I will feel too restricted having a map that I absolutely have to follow… like it’s not really my own journey anymore, if you understand what I mean?

But we’ll see. I’ll give it a try at least, I might love it! Otherwise it’s not harder than just getting off, and head in another direction. Everything is possible!
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So far I’ve cycled for two weeks and I’ve made it 943 kilometers. I’m feeling pretty strong, but the heat is still a struggle. For now I’ll keep on doing the early mornings and stop cycling at around lunch time. I’m getting a little bit faster, so hopefully I’ll still make it across the country in time. I think I’ve made it pretty far already, in just two weeks so I really don’t see the point in riding full days until it might cool down a bit.

This adventure is about the journey, not the destination. The journey won’t be as great if I’m pushing myself too hard and not enjoying things outside of cycling too.
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Tomorrow is a big Swedish holiday called midsommar, which I will celebrate with a rest day in Berea. It seems like a cosy little town, and my legs need some rest too.

And for those who doesn’t follow me on Facebook or Instagram (go do it now!) here is another comic I made the other day. I really enjoy singing, though I’m very bad at it. I very often sing to myself when I cycle, and this might have happened once or twice (or five times) on the road…
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That is it for now, happy midsommar everybody! Have some snaps and pickled herring for me too! I might try to gather some people to jump around a tree singing about little frogs here too, but it would probably get me arrested so maybe not… Yes, we do that on midsummer, see video below or click here for more information.

Up and down, is the way of life.

We all know that what goes up must come down, both in life and in hills I encounter on the road. When I woke up in Greenville, Tennessee yesterday morning I was not in a good mood. I have no idea why really, but I didn’t want to do anything. I didn’t want to pack my things, I didn’t want to have breakfast and I definitely didn’t want to get on my bike and cycle. But I did, because it’s what I do. I knew that I had a pretty short day ahead of me, just 60 km to Bean station where I planned to stop for the day. I knew it was going to be a hot day, with up to 36 degrees celsius in the afternoon so that is why I’m keeping to short days and I start riding as soon as the sun goes up. I talked to my mom and said that I felt lazy for being finished for the day by 11-12 already, but that is silly. 60 km is a good distance, and I like having all afternoon to myself.

But first, let’s take a look at this little comic I drew. I feel like it pretty accurately describes the general feeling of cycling. IMG_1945_2

But anyway. I headed out of Greenville and google maps kept wanting me to follow the smaller roads, but I wasn’t having it. There was a highway heading straight north towards Bean station that had a nice wide shoulder, and after a while there was even a sign that said that it was actually a bicycle route, so take that google! I can make up my own mind. Sometimes.
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The heat was pretty intense even in the morning hours, but I was making very good speed and was at Bean Station at 11 in the morning already. The last few kilometers to the tiny city were amazing, just by a lake and I was stunned by its beauty.
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Boys collecting garbage by the road. On their vests it said “I am a drunk driver” so I didn’t really have to guess why they were out there… 
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It felt good to have arrived so early, especially since the heat climbed to 97F/36C later that day. Way too hot to be out cycling… But the hotel, um. I felt like I would leave having been bitten by fleas or bedbugs or something other disgusting. I was not a fan, but I didn’t really have any other option. At least it was cheap. I took a ride in the afternoon trying to find a place to swim, but it was all “private property” and “no trespassing” so no such luck. It’s really making me miss the Swedish everyman’s rights. But I got to ride my bike unloaded and wow, it was so strange. It almost felt wobbly because I’m so used to the extra weight.

Despite the status of the hotel, I slept okay that night and was up before sunrise as usual. After a delicious pizza breakfast I set off, knowing that I would have to climb a hill pretty early in the day. It looked very steep according to google maps, so I had already settled for that this would be another hiking day. But sometimes I’m wrong. I started slowly cycling up the hill, and it went perfectly fine. I just kept on going and before I knew it I was standing at the top looking at the sunrise.

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And as I stood there, I started crying. I cried because I was happy. I cried because it was so beautiful. I cried because I felt so incredibly strong, and because I’m actually doing this adventure, despite struggling from time to time. I just felt so thankful. And then came the downhill and I just kept crying because wow, Northeastern Tennessee is beautiful. Yes, I cry a lot, but these were happy tears so everything’s fine!
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A fog arrived after that as you can see, and just made the day even more beautiful. It also made the temperature drop, which is the reason I’m loving whenever there’s a fog now.

There were a lot of hills today. A lot. I’ll show you the graph later, but I think I climbed almost 800 meters in total. And I cycled every last bit of them, which really boosted my confidence. In my favorite movie “Into the Wild” there is a quote which I kept repeating in my head throughout the day:

“It is important in life not to be strong, but to feel strong, to measure yourself at least once. If you want something in life, reach out and grab it.”

Right now, I’m feeling very strong, and I’m measuring myself daily.

The day was simply amazing, and the most beautiful views so far. Once the fog went away it got pretty hot again though, so I was sweating buckets. So attractive when your shirt is completely soaked, don’t you think?

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IMG_2033_2Happiness after having climbed upp a big hill.

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Sweaty? Naah…

When I was almost at Middlesboro which would be my stop for the day, I came upon a tunnel. A tunnel that was forbidden for me. Despite that I kept going, and came upon someone who worked there just before the beginning. He jumped out of his pickup truck and moments later my bike and trailer was loaded onto it, and I got to ride next to him in the car through the tunnel. Apparently they get plenty of cyclists each day, and they would rather give us a ride than have us ride through a dark tunnel with nowhere to escape. Thank you very much for that!
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I was dropped off on the other side, and was officially in Kentucky! Woho, state number three!
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After that it was just a short ride into town, where I stopped for a milkshake before continuing on to my hotel. It was only 10:30 (!!) but they were super nice and let me check in early. They usually let me do that, and I am so thankful for that. Now I’ve spent the afternoon by the pool, with my hand washed clothes drying next to me. Luxury with pool and hotel, but the clothes kind of reveals my status of homelessness… 
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Tonight I’ll go to the mall right across the street to see a movie, and feel like a normal person. Going to the cinema is my favorite activity at home, so I can’t wait! And yes, of course it’s Jurassic World I’ll be seeing… I’ve been excited about it for months! 

Height and speed of the day: 
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So many hills, but I cycled up each and every one of them and it felt amazing. I’M SUPERWOMAN!

Tomorrow I’ll continue my journey north, and the plan is to reach London, Kentucky.
Honk if you see me on the road!