Friday, September 2, 2016

133: Thank God for the local folk!

What a day we had today!  For several days, we have been plotting our route across Tennessee, giving some thought to where and how we would climb the Cumberland Plateau. Some of the routes suggested by Google (for cycling) or other cyclists had two big climbs on them. We thought, "why climb it twice if you don't have to?" and decided to take a route that will lead us into northern Alabama for a bit, ostensibly to skirt the plateau a bit.
The kudzu will cover you if you stop!

So off we go this morning, about two miles into our ride, straight up the side of the bluff. And I mean straight up. We had already seen a big logging truck come down the road, so I was anxious about finding another one rumbling down upon us. And so, when I heard the low growling somewhere in the woods, my Freak-out-o-meter went up a notch. I knew it was getting closer when I heard the gears grinding just above us on the road. Trouble is, we were on a freakishly steep stretch of the road, right on the switchbacks. My Freak-out-o-meter was now literally blasting through the top of the scale. We were wobbling and weaving to keep the bike upright (Roger's Garmin was showing 19%) and I was imagining that truck coming around the corner and smacking us - I got off the bike and hollered at him to get out of the road, and he was hollering at me to get back on the bike, and then the truck came - pulled up in the apex of the switchback - ground his gears, then groaned and growled around the corner, just feet from us. Not content to have tons of timber on the truck, they are loaded with trees that hang 10 to 15 feet off the back. So there's that, also.  Yikes. After the truck cleared us, we had to push the bike around the point of the switchback, and then we climbed back on board.

There was more hard pulling to come, and then we finally reached the top of the plateau. The weather had cooled just slightly today, so it was actually very pleasant up top. The road up there was paved once, but at this point it was washed out gravelly washboard, or tarmac with big pot holes. Crazy!
Tritchler and Roberts

Something is not right with the rear derailleur, and since I needed to take a little break, we pulled over and Roger got the tools out to see if he could fix it. While we were stopped, two of the locals pulled over to see if we needed any help. We had a great time chatting with them. Mr. Tritchler had done some motorcycle touring - so he shared his stories about traveling around the country. And when we asked about the road that Google had plotted for us, Mr. Roberts said, "don't do it. It's dirt, and worse than the one you came up." They gave us an alternate route for getting off the plateau, which turned out to be crazy enough as it was - but at least it was paved - and so we are alive to tell the tale.
Evie runs the little store up top

On our final approach to our destination, we ran into some gravel on the shoulder and flatted. So for the first time in a long time, we had to patch a tire. At least, Roger had to patch it. I just help.
Roadside repair

So there you have it. Just when I thought things were getting so bland and there was nothing much to tell, along comes a day that ramps that dramatic tension right back up there!  We are hoping to get to Huntsville, Alabama tomorrow in time to find the bike shop open.
Hiker extraordinaire!

And here is a shot out to Kathy Finch, who is solo hiking the Great Eastern Trail. This is a 1600 mile trail that runs across the Cumberland Plateau and up into Kentucky. It's not as well developed as the Appalachian Trail, so she is really sort of a pioneering woman to tackle it.

Our milestone today: we crossed back into the Central time zone!

The day's report:  Spring City to Jasper, 78.5 miles/6453 to date

Our route


  1. I could totally play that scene out in my mind- you with your freak-out-o-meter and Dad with his head down not wanting to lose momentum. Good times. Central time zone! Woot-woot!

    1. We had to venture back into EDT today, to have the bike checked out since we were several days from a bike shop ahead of us. So - rode 55 miles or so but only advanced about 5 miles down the road.

  2. Hi Kathy and Roger -- yea, I found your blog!! Thanks for the shoutout. I'll be passing through Chattanooga over the weekend and into Georgia. Only 300 miles or so to go!! So glad that we "crossed paths" in Crossville, TN!!


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