Cycling through coal country, headed to Va.

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 29, 2013

Editor’s note: David Freeze is biking coast to coast. His trek started June 10 in Oregon. He’s sending dispatches from the road to be published in the newspaper, at, and on his blog, “Gotta Run” at

Last night’s heavy showers left some lingering clouds early this morning. The air was cool, with a slight northerly breeze. I left Hazard, Ky., about 6:30 a.m. Hazard is just south of the Transamerica Trail, and I wanted to take advantage of that. Teresa Combs at the Combs Motel told me that I could see some beautiful scenery by taking a southern route back to the trail, and that is just what I did.

No coal trucks were running, but they will be tomorrow. I saw plenty of them sitting and raring to go.

One of the things most noticeable is all the mining signs along the roads. Hazard, on the north fork of the Kentucky River, has become the center of the coal mining activity. Most of the land belongs to huge coal companies, and thousands of tons of soft coal have been shipped from around Hazard alone. Large seams of land have been used for strip mining, a process that takes away the natural cover and exposes the coal.

One report says that 70,000 men are totally disabled from black lung disease. Yet the people are cheerful and naturally nice. They constantly wish me safe travels when they see my bike, and usually a conversation gets started about where did you start, how far to go, etc.

I went to Whitesburg, Ky., early this morning and then caught the trail again on Highway 119/23 just in time to climb a brutal little mountain right before the town of Lookout. That is where I will spend tonight in the Freida Harris Baptist Center. Greg and Alice Whitetree offer a cyclist’s hostel here in Lookout. Total mileage today was 67.

Tomorrow morning, I want to conquer another series of mountains, enter Virginia, and make significant progress toward Damascus, Va. If all goes well, somewhere in the Damascus area will be my start back to Rowan. Also, at some point soon, I hope to regain cell coverage. Verizon has now been out of service for 14 days during my trip. Locals tell me that Verizon is embroiled in cell tower rights issues, and the less populated areas continue to lack coverage.

I have now been on the road for 49 days and have covered over 3,600 miles. Some of my early experiences in June seem such a long time ago.

There are still new adventures each day, and I love planning my effort. My body is still doing pretty well, and I have no real physical issues. Thanks for all the positive emails and calls, and especially the prayers. There is still plenty to do and lots of roads to cover. With that in mind, it is time to eat, shower and sleep. Probably could use more of all three.

David Freeze lives in Rowan County.

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