Day 21: Murph the Surf! (Serf?)

7/5/15: 36 miles, Owensboro, Ky., to Sebree, Ky.

Short day.

After waking up a bit groggy from drinking a case of Sierra Nevadas with John and Bryan, I slowly extracted myself from my tent and went over to jostle John from the garage.

“Do you remember last night when Bryan said he was going to make us breakfast?” John asked. I didn’t. But the prospect suddenly made me feel better.

Inside, sure enough, Bryan whipped together scrambled eggs, bacon, hash browns and coffee. He, Will and Josh then went to church. They invited John and I, but we politely declined the offer. In the meantime, we did a load of laundry, showered and tore down camp from their backyard. We planned to leave when they returned. In the meantime, I decided to empty out my handlebar bag and sort through the crap that accumulated in it. I cleaned it up:

Day 20: What's in my @ortliebusa handlebar bag. #Knolling #packrat

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In loading up his bike, John busted one of his bungee hooks, which Bryan fixed for him. Said our goodbyes and rolled out around 1 p.m. Since we were spent from a few days of long mileage, we made the day a half day.

Our first stop, a few miles out on our way out of town, was the World’s Largest Sassafras tree. We chatted with a couple, Karen and Brad, from Wisconsin.

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The first place we arrived was Beech Grove, basically a few gas stations at a crossroads. As John and I sat outside the gas station mart drinking cold Gatorades and eating gummy bears, a sun-baked character in a tank top rolled into the gas station on a riding mower.

It was Murph the Surf. (Serf?)

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He rolled up to us, roaring and yammering nonsense over his motor. “Hey, I’m Murph the Surf!” he yelled. He asked us where we were headed. When we told him California, he guffawed. “Holy shit, man!” A string of excited words spilled out the front of his head, and he encouraged us to take pics of him. When we approached him with our iPhones, he said his real name was Randy. But that name was “gay as shit” so people called him Murph, for some reason. We snapped a few shots and laughed as he filled up his mower and drove off.

In the next town, Sebree, we ran into another local character: Tommy McConnell. He rode around town on a scooter with his dog, Moose, in tow:

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Said he talked to lots of bicycle tourists, as the TransAm came through Sebree. He even knew my friend Laurie from Chicago, who had passed through about a week before me. He asked us where we planned to stay. We weren’t sure, exactly. We saw a campsite at a municipal park on the map, and mentioned that. Tommy assured us, in fact, that one of the churches in town had a nice hostel in its basement.

We followed his directions. Sure enough:

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We called a number posted on the door, and a few moments later, Monte let us in. In the basement of this Baptist church was a brand new youth event center, furnished with couches, pool table, kitchen, laundry, bathroom, TV, books, games, WiFi, A/C — the works. Five star treatment. Monte encouraged us to keep the door locked, however, because a few weeks before, someone broke in while two bike travelers were asleep and stole some of their gear. It didn’t scare us, although we heeded his advice and kept the place locked.

John and I watched the US Women’s soccer team defeat Japan 5-2, and I read through the travelers guestbook. People from all over the world. I donated my Ohio-to-Erie Canal paper maps to the communal shelf, in case someone heading was heading off the TransAm and north, from the way we came.

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