Day 14: The Ducks of Hazard
Updated: Jun 18
Tuesday, June 14
Wayland, KY → Hazard, KY, 41.7 miles 2,500 ft elevation gain
First things first I’d like to address the title of this blog post. Yes, it’s amazing. Yes, I thought of it while I was napping in a room filled with duck memorabilia. No, this is not the most relevant part of Hazard, KY, but when you get an opportunity to make a pun like this, sometimes you just have to seize it. Or seas it, if you’re a duck.
For those in the dark about this title, it is a reference to the Dukes of Hazzard, a TV show set in fictional Hazzard county, Georgia, and it’s about the escapades of two cousins living there. This is all according to Wikipedia since I’ve never actually seen the show.
Anyways, let me tell you a little bit about our escapades over these past few days. We left things off in Wayland, KY, a town of 400 people and about 2 square miles, tiny. We stayed with the mayor of Wayland, Jerry Fultz, and his incredible wife, King. Jerry and King are some of the most caring people I’ve ever met. They treated us to a delicious breakfast of pancakes and bacon in the morning, and then took us on a tour to the local high school gym. The high school is not still in operation, but the gym is used for various community events.
Talking to Mayor Jerry and King about Wayland was like being transported in time. For example, Jerry referred to the policeman at one point during dinner. To which I responded, “Just the one policeman?” And Jerry said, “Yes, we have one policeman. His salary is about half of the city’s budget.” I was charmed.
Another story is that one day Jerry gets a call from one of the people living in the town (he gives his personal cell phone number out to just about everyone he meets). She tells him in a frenzy, “There’s a fire behind my house!” Jerry calmly responds, “Okay, do you want to call the fire department maybe?” She does end up doing this, and the volunteer fire department takes things from there. I was charmed.
Constituents frequently show up on Jerry’s front porch if they have a problem. They sit in the chairs out front until Jerry can help them. Jerry loves this. He says “This is good!” I was CHARMED.
Jerry and King are such caring people, to us and to their community. Small town life is something I am not used to. I say I’m from the suburbs, but Newton, Massachusetts is a city of about 88,000 people (orders of magnitude larger than Wayland). I am charmed by the neighbors all knowing each other, the way life is a little slower out here, the way roads are referred to as “hollers”**, and the Kentucky accents everyone has.
**"Holler" is the regional dialect pronunciation of "hollow," referring to a broad natural hollow, as of one a creek has carved, i.e. a small valley. Colloquially, this has led to the somewhat tongue-in-cheek definition that a "holler" is called such because of the need to "holler" to communicate with the nearest neighbor. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Butcher_Hollow,_Kentucky
Biking this day went so smoothly! There were really no incidents (sort of a first for us), and we arrived at a stopping point after about 25 miles where sat, played basketball (Franklin and Sophia), played with bugs (Simone), played the melodica (Robert), played with his camera (Maxwell), and played with the new air horns we purchased to fend off the pups that chase us (Mariela).
This was a pretty easy day of biking, only 41 miles, but it’s been pretty cool noticing ourselves getting stronger. My sister, Justine, took “before” photos of my legs pre trip, and I’m excited to see how my muscles progress over the course of the trip. It has been incredibly rewarding to track how much easier hills are starting to feel as well as how we are getting faster!
Some things we saw on the bike ride were: so much Kudzu (Pueraria). Kudzu is an invasive vine native to eastern/south eastern Asia, and it's a part of the Legume family. Kudzu has some pretty cool features, like its nitrogen fixing root nodules, a common feature of the fabaceae family. But its less cool feature is that it is very invasive; kudzu spreads and covers native plants, outcompeting them for resources. However, apparently a lot of the buzz about kudzu being “the vine that ate the south” is unwarranted. Bill Finch, a naturalist, wrote a Smithsonian article pointing out that the US Forest Service estimates it only occupies some 227,000 acres in total — about 0.1 percent of the South's forests. Less infamous invasive plants like the Asian privet and Japanese honeysuckle cover around 14 and 45 times as much of the South's forests. Apparently, the collective fear around kudzu is stoked since the plant grows most effectively along roadsides, in these highly sun exposed areas. However, it does far less well in the shady interior of forests. So these landscapes we are biking past really overstate the true extent of kudzu. Okay, end of weekly botanical factoid.
We also saw some trash burning, the famous mother goose B&B in Hazard, and posed in front of an empowering sign.
After arriving in Hazard, we actually back tracked and drove a couple miles away to Paintsville (which I thought everyone was calling “Paint Spill” until I saw the signs). WE drove there to meet up with Franklin’s cousin who just so happens to live and work in Kentucky, not so far from Hazard! We ate a delicious dinner of Chinese food, and then we went back to Franklin’s cousins house to chat, explore their vegetable garden, and relax.
We drove back to Hazard after this sweet family get-together, and I went to sleep in a room surrounded by ducks. There are few things better. Enjoy just a taste of the ducks in this room (this is not all of them).