Having survived the Rockies and making it over passes between 9,000 and 11,500 feet, it seemed ridiculous to assume that there might be anything harder to contend with during the remainder of my journey across the United States. Kentucky certainly did not occur to me as the State in which my legs would suffer the most and my mental toughness be tested that much. All the while seeing the imaginary finish line on the East Coast getting closer and closer.

Leaving Indiana, I picked up the TransAm Trail again in Whiteville, KY, only to leave it again to head southeast instead of east. The reason: the route had an optional detour to Mammoth Cave National Park built into it, however, instead of making it an out-of-the-way detour, I decided to head straight towards the south entrance of the park.

Camping inside the park and taking a short tour of a comparatively tiny section of the cave the next morning gave some highly desired variety for my daily routine. From there I was back in rural Kentucky and I noticed a slight change in scenery, different colors like bright yellow hues started to show up in the landscape, which also began to get more saturated with greens.

The further east I went, the hillier it got, heading towards the Appalachians. The problem, from a cyclists perspective, isn’t so much their height, but the steepness of the roads that take you up and over those 480 million-year-old mountains. While the longer passes have a more gentle grade, roads over shorter hills of a few hundred feet reached grades of up to 11%. A tedious endeavor, especially because those came in the form of rolling hills, where one would coast down one hill only to find the next steep grade already waiting around the next bend.

Finally, as if that box had not been ticked off during this trip yet, bad weather in the form of heavy rain was waiting for me as well, which, in combination with the steep climbs, wasn’t a duo I was too keen on meeting. The truth of the matter was: I couldn’t do much about it, I just had to deal with it.

Monitoring the ever-changing weather forecast closely and trying to find indoor overnight spots to at least dry out and stay dry overnight, I managed to reach the Kentucky/Virginia border after a few days filled with elevation gains that, in parts, surpassed my average efforts in Colorado.