Saturday, September 3, 2016

134: Pardon me, Roy. Is this the cat that chewed your new shoes?

If you get the reference to that old shaggy dog story punchline, you will have figured out that we are (were) in Chattanooga. Which we did not plan to be.

But that is part of the beauty and the mystery of bicycle touring. Change occurs, things happen. What happened today is that sometime in the night, Roger thought it would make more sense to come 25 miles or so into Chattanooga and hit a bike shop today rather than bust our guts trying to reach one in Huntsville, Alabama that might be closed when we got there.
Part of the Tennessee River system of dams and lakes

So we had a relatively short little ride into town, and when we reached the bike shop, he explained what was going on. Roger thought it might have something to do with the rear hub hanging up when we were rolling forward, creating a lack of tension on the chain. (It has been hanging loose as we coast, flopping about. It was really weirding me out.)  

Aaron at the bike shop took it all apart and came to a different conclusion: we have a very slight but honest to goodness bend in the axle. This causes enough of a wobble in that axle, particularly at high speeds, that it's creating the binding that's causing the chain to loosen up. Or something like that. I can appreciate the issue, but don't really have a good grasp on what is happening.
Thanks, Aaron!
In any case, the axle is not a stock part, as you might imagine. He could order one, but not before Tuesday (because Monday is Labor Day.) So the earliest he could have one is Thursday. We sat for a while trying to decide where we might best try to get this replaced. The bike is okay to ride as is; we just have to be aware of this issue and keep a bit of tension on the chain if we are coasting. Trying the bike shop in Tupelo (where we will be in a week or so) was no good - they are closed already for the weekend. It's not looking too good for getting this dealt with anywhere, anytime soon. When we hit the Natchez Trace Parkway, we will be cutting across Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi in the pretty-much-nowhere zones. 

We finally decided that we would stay on course, call the bike shop ahead on Tuesday, see what happens in the meantime, and that meant that after lunch in Chattanooga, we rode back over the shoulder of Lookout Mountain and came just about back where we started this morning. (We did go five miles further down the road, just so we weren't in exactly the same spot!) 
Road-building in Tennessee is complicated by the plateau, the rivers, and the lakes everywhere

Goodbye to Chattanooga (and Tennessee River)

I had to acknowledge it was disappointing to me. I realized I'd been hoping to stay in the big city, and at least try one of the local breweries. I thought there was a possibility we could see something of the city. We did not even have a beer for lunch - it's really hard to drink and then get back on the bike for a hot two hour ride in the sunny afternoon!  So this is a good time to explain something that I have been rolling around in my head for a couple of days:  

                   "It's not that kind of a trip!"

What does that mean?  Well, it means that even though you are just right there near Oakridge, you are not really that close in bike travel time and so you won't be going to the Nuclear Museum. Although you did ride right by the Watts Bar Nuclear Power Plant because, well - it was just right there near the road you were on. It means that the most beautiful campsite you ever could hope for is not where you will sleep tonight, because it's up a curving, climbing road 4 miles and that's just not where you want to go at 4:00 pm in the afternoon.  Particularly if there is not a restaurant or camp store with food near by. Because you don't have cooking gear anymore. Because you sent it home. Because it was too hard to get to those campsites.

It means that you didn't see the National Mall (because you didn't want to spend two days on approach to Washington DC and then navigate the city on a fully-loaded tandem) but you did see Voodoo Donuts in Portland (because your friends drove you into the city for a day while they were at work.) It means that you didn't go to Smoky Mountain National Park - even though you were right there (because it was at least a day's ride away.) But you stopped in to see Uncle Tom's Cabin because (who knew!) it was right there in the town you were riding through in Ontario. It means that you stay in towns that no one in your family or circle of friends have ever heard of because they are on the back roads that you are riding. But you don't go to any of the cities that folks will ask you about, because you aren't riding on the interstates and you really don't want to try to get through them, anyway.

It means that you eat a lot of meals (or what passes for meals) in gas station convenience stores because that is just all that there is out there sometimes. You stay in the Super 8 because it's right there on the secondary road you are traveling, and they have a free breakfast, and guest laundry machines, and dang! that's handy when you are washing your bike clothes out in your hotel room or campsite every night. 

It probably means that you won't go over to the Jack Daniels Distillery (even though you LOVE Jack Daniels) because it's quite a good bit off the route you planned to take . . . and it's a dry county, anyway . . . But you WILL have a celebratory pour somewhere here along the route just because!

This doesn't mean that you don't appreciate all the great suggestions from friends and family. Because maybe, just maybe, you will get to visit some of these places and that would be so cool. (So don't stop suggesting them!)  Just please understand that while moving your whole little world 60 miles or so each day, you simply don't have much extra time to sight see.

And yet you DO see so much!  You see sunrises, and clouds, and morning stars. You see the Milky Way when you camp. Shooting stars and lightning bugs. Butterflies, wildflowers and grasses, mountain ranges that just stand still for hours and hours and then finally begin to seem a little closer. You see the forests, AND the trees. And COWS!  You see cows all the time, everywhere. (We really love the cows!)

And while you may not get to see one of the better known attractions in an area, what you will do is stop at a roadside farm stand and get a couple of fresh peaches or a cantaloupe, and eat it right there. If you are lucky, you will see wild berries growing on the fence line and stop and pick some and eat them while you ride. You will pull off the road more times than you can count to take a tinkle behind the bushes, because you are on a road with no cars and no bathroom for miles to come. You will enjoy a beer at the end of the day because oh-my-God it just tastes so good and is so cold and so refreshing and takes the edge off the pain in your legs!  

You will try to figure out, day in and day out, how to get from point A to point B in a reasonably safe way, on a road with some features, and enough services to keep your water bottles filled. You will wrestle your bike and gear into a hotel room, or set up your tent, shower, wash your clothes out, find food, and fall asleep.  And then you will get up and do it all again tomorrow.

And - you will love it, probably. Most of the time! Because it really is such an amazing thing to be able to do. And because you basically love riding your bike. Even if you have to leave all sorts of other things left undone because you are riding your bicycle 6 hours a day. Because it is THAT KIND of a trip!

The day's report:  Jasper to Kimball, 56.8 miles/6510 to date.  We rode 56 miles to advance 5 miles down the road!

An unexpected benefit of our trip into Chattanooga - we got to ride through a couple miles of Georgia!  So there's our 21st state.


  1. I am impressed by your bike ride, but even more so by your blog. I found this post really interesting and well written. I'm not surpised that you can write but am surprised and impressed that you can do so after an exhausting day of cycling. Best wishes as you continue your journey and thanks for sharing it with us. -Mike Lynn

  2. I am impressed by your bike ride, but even more so by your blog. I found this post really interesting and well written. I'm not surpised that you can write but am surprised and impressed that you can do so after an exhausting day of cycling. Best wishes as you continue your journey and thanks for sharing it with us. -Mike Lynn

    1. Thank you! I find it helps me relax to put some of my thoughts down each day.

  3. Like Forrest said "I just felt like I ran".



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